July 2018

Volunteers needed as Ridgecrest attendance climbs

July 25 2018 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center celebrated record attendance last year as approximately 70,000 guests visited the Blue Ridge Mountain retreat site.
 


Photo by Brian Raborn

“It was the most people we’ve seen in almost 30 years,” said Art Snead, executive director at Ridgecrest. “The fingerprints of God’s blessings are everywhere.”
 
With the blessing of extra guests comes the need for more help on campus. Leaders at the conference center are currently looking to deepen their volunteer pool, which they say plays a vital role in serving visitors.
 
“At Ridgecrest, we desire to see lives impacted for God’s glory,” said Chris Fenske, support staff coordinator. “We want to serve our guests with excellence and we need help to do that well.”
 
David and Judy Constance, Ridgecrest volunteers from Cleveland, Tenn., began serving at the conference center in 2011. During their first year, they assisted with landscaping around campus.
 
They’ve returned every year since and have served in catering, housekeeping, laundry services, kitchen work and have even assisted with a special assignment during a marriage retreat. This July, they’re working at the Nibble Nook, an on-campus ice cream shop and eatery.
 
“Everything we’ve done has been fun,” David said. “There are so many ways to serve here, and they let you change what you do. We don’t know of many other volunteer programs that are so flexible.”
 
The Constances represent some of the many retired individuals who invest in Ridgecrest.
 
“We don’t believe retirement is a time you’re supposed to sit back and just relax; we want to be used,” David said. “Being retired, we can’t give [monetarily] as much as we used to, so we try to give of our time.”
 
Ridgecrest volunteers typically serve a minimum of two weeks for about 30 to 35 hours a week. The conference center provides housing and some meals, and a laundry room is available on campus. While serving, volunteers reside either in on-campus housing or in their own RVs at a Ridgecrest campground.
 
Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Food services – preparing food, baking, hosting, running registers and serving food.

  • Hospitality and guest relations – greeting, driving trams and working in the retail shop.

  • Facility maintenance – carpentry, painting, landscaping and other tasks based on trade skills such as stonework, electrical and HVAC.

 
“During summer months and in October – our busiest times – we need around 50 volunteers,” Snead said. “We also need more volunteers to come for shorter amounts of time when we’re busy in the other months.”
 
Last year, nearly 340 volunteers served at Ridgecrest. That number includes Harold and Ruby Turner, who were first inspired to serve while on vacation at the conference center.
 
“While staying at Ridgecrest, we met a lot of the volunteers,” Ruby said. “They seemed to have formed a bond and loved what they were doing. We knew this was something we would love to be a part of, and so we came home and applied.”

Like the Constances, the Turners have served in many ways at Ridgecrest. This year, they’re acting as dorm parents for around 80 summer staffers, a role they also plan to assume this fall and winter for Ridgecrest interns.
 


Photo by Brian Raborn

Last year, Harold retired from being a full-time pastor and Ruby retired as an accountant. While retirement gives them more time to volunteer, their service at Ridgecrest began while they were both employed full-time.

“You don’t have to wait until you retire to enjoy this wonderful experience,” Ruby said. “We started volunteering at Ridgecrest on our time off while we were still in the work force and loved it.”
 
Fenske hopes to get more volunteers from all walks of life – from retirees to college students and teachers who can serve during breaks or time off for the summer.
 
“It doesn’t matter what age you are or what your skill set is,” Fenske said. “Volunteering can be life-changing, and God can use you in a mighty way at Ridgecrest.”
 
For information on volunteering at Ridgecrest, visit RidgecrestConferenceCenter.org/Volunteer or call 
1-828-669-3589.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/25/2018 11:10:58 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Expo to offer worship training for entire church

July 24 2018 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

A comprehensive training event designed for anyone involved in worship and music ministry in a local church is coming to North Carolina this fall.
 

The Renewing Worship Expo, a first-of-its-kind event sponsored by the Worship and Music Ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15 at Calvary Baptist Church’s West Campus, located in Advance, North Carolina.
           
The expo is a one-stop-shop of training for worship leaders, choirs, orchestras, musicians, technicians and more. The event will feature specialized training and equipping through a host of breakout session tracks. The tracks are designed for everyone in a church’s worship ministry.
             
“We are really excited for what this expo will offer the churches in our state,” said Kenny Lamm, who heads the BSC’s worship and music ministry and helped plan and develop the expo.
 
“While many of our workshops and trainings focus on the foundations of worship and leading worship, the expo has been carefully designed to provide specialized skills training for every aspect of worship ministry all in one place over the course of a weekend.”
 
Lamm said attendees will receive training from some renowned vocalists, musicians and worship leaders from around the country.
 
Mike Harland, a Dove Award-winning songwriter and worship leader who serves as director of worship at LifeWay Christian Resources, will provide encouragement to all attendees through times of worship and sharing from the main stage. Harland will also lead a special Friday evening session for worship leaders, as well as a choir retreat scheduled for Saturday.
 
Others leading training sessions include vocalist Sheri Gould, technician Doug Gould, Dove Award-nominee Richie Kingsmore, composer David Winkler and members of the Calvary Baptist Church worship band.
 
The expo will also include special retreats for choirs and orchestras on Saturday, which are designed so that a church may bring all of their adult choir or orchestra members for a day of inspiration, fellowship and learning. Attendees in these sessions will also have the opportunity to learn new musical arrangements that can be used in the attendees’ local church.
 
Breakout session tracks are also available for leaders of preschool, children’s and student choirs, as well as pianists and organists.
 
On Friday afternoon, there will be choral reading sessions by several major publishers and a master class for vocalists with Sheri Gould. Friday evening will feature classes for each instrument of a worship band, including acoustic, electric and bass guitars, keyboards and drums.
 
Saturday’s schedule is primarily dedicated to the breakout session tracks after registration and group worship that morning.
 
Each training track includes three breakout sessions which last an hour and a half each.
 
Lamm said the event was designed so that even if individuals could only attend Saturday’s portion, they would still receive several hours of quality instruction at an affordable price.
 
Pricing begins at $30 per person for all sessions on both days. Prices increase to $35 per person after July 31. Registration for the choir or orchestra retreat on Saturday begins at $20 per person with a discounted price of $16 per person for groups of 20 or more. All pricing options include lunch on Saturday.
 
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find comprehensive trainings for everyone involved in a church’s worship and music ministry,” Lamm said. “We’ve worked really hard to create an event that offers quality training at an affordable price.
 
“It’s also been great to partner with Calvary Baptist Church in this endeavor. They are a gracious host, and their worship team has a passion for encouraging and equipping other churches and their ministries.”
 
More information about the 2018 Renewing Worship Expo, including a complete schedule, pricing options, speaker bios and links to register, is available at renewingworshipexpo.com.

7/24/2018 1:38:39 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



James L. Sullivan; the tower is gone, legacy remains

July 24 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Thirteen years after the death of the man for whom it was named, the 11-story Sullivan Tower was imploded on July 21 in Nashville.
 

BP file photo
James L. Sullivan

But what continues are James L. Sullivan’s monumental legacy as a lifelong Southern Baptist and more than 60 record boxes of his papers in the Southern Baptist Library and Historical Archives.
 
Sullivan was president of the Baptist Sunday School Board (BSSB) – now LifeWay Christian Resources – from 1953 until his retirement in 1975. The following year, he was elected president of the SBC and served a one-year term.
 
The first two floors of the Art Deco-style building were completed in 1940; nine more floors were added from 1950 to 1956 and later named for Sullivan. The former 14.5-acre LifeWay site is being developed into a hotel, office buildings, restaurants, retail and entertainment venues. After selling the property, LifeWay relocated to a new facility, also in downtown Nashville.
 
Sullivan was “one of the truly great leaders in our convention.” said Jimmy Draper, who led LifeWay from 1991 until his 2006 retirement.
 
The SBC’s strength is “not only because of our devotion to the Scripture as the inerrant Word of God, but also because of spiritual giants who literally saturate the years since 1845 when the SBC was born,” said Draper, also a former SBC president from 1982-1984 and current ambassador for the SBC Executive Committee during its search for a new president.
 
Draper recounted in extensive comments drafted for Baptist Press, “When I came to be president of the Baptist Sunday School Board [which changed its name to LifeWay in the late 1990s], I had no better encourager or friend than James Sullivan. One of the great privileges for me was to have frequent visits with him over the 15 years I was there.
 
“Solid in his theology with a memory that was remarkable, he always brought words of support and counsel. … He always had a story of something that had happened in his lifetime. I told him one day, “Dr. Sullivan, you either have the greatest memory I have ever seen or you have outlived anyone who could challenge what you say.” With a smile he said, ‘Well, it is probably a little of both!’”
 
Draper acknowledged that he and Sullivan “differed on the need for the conservative resurgence” in the SBC’s stance on Scripture, “but it was never a point of contention or hostility.”
 

Screen capture from video by Wayne Mann
Thirteen years after the death of the man for whom it was named, the 11-story Sullivan Tower was imploded on Saturday (July 21) in Nashville.

“He believed that the culture of our SBC was like a football field. There were extremes in both end zones, but the majority of our convention was between the goal lines. … I felt strongly that we had drifted to the left toward liberalism and to a low view of Scripture. Although we differed, he was unwavering in his support for me and in his friendship was always strong.”
 
The Sunday School Board was one of the primary causes of an extraordinary doctrinal controversy that erupted in 1961 with its publication of a book under the Broadman Press imprint, The Message of Genesis by Ralph Elliott, an Old Testament professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Sullivan never became an ongoing lightning rod in the controversy though Elliott and his book were fiercely criticized by conservative pastors for discounting various historical elements of the Old Testament, such as Adam and Eve as real people and the global breadth of the flood.
 
Jerry Sutton, in his book on the SBC’s history, The Baptist Reformation, called it the “first modern crisis over Scripture among Southern Baptists.” A measure of resolution came through the convention’s adoption of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, though conservatives’ concerns continued and found traction in a multi-year movement that began with the election of Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers as SBC president in 1979.
 
Sullivan described Southern Baptists’ way of doing things – from local congregations and Baptist associations to the state and national conventions supported by churches’ gifts through the Cooperative Program – in his classic book, Baptist Polity As I See It, initially published in 1983 and expanded in a 1988 edition.
 
“Those of us in our 90s can remember what it was like before we had a Cooperative Program,” Sullivan, at age 91, told the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in 2001.
 
After being baptized at age 11 into Tylertown, Miss., Baptist Church, Sullivan said he received a box of offering envelopes divided into two sections – one for the church and one for various Baptist causes. He recalled trying to figure out how to divide in half his tithe of a nickel.
 
“It was a wonderful day when our pastor and people came back from the [1925] Southern Baptist Convention to report we had the Cooperative Program,” Sullivan said. “We would tithe one offering and then the church would decide how it would give.” He said Tylertown Baptist Church voted to send 40 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.
 
“When we put a dollar into the offering plate, it touches the world,” he said.
 
Draper said Sullivan also was:

  • “a remarkable businessman [leading] a huge business. It is the largest distributor of Christian materials in the world that has always lived on the funds that it produced from its materials. … It has never received Cooperative Program funds. It has been a strong supporter of all SBC activities and never more unselfishly than under James Sullivan.

  • “a believer in Baptist state conventions, and it was his leadership that brought strong cooperative agreements with the states,” Draper said. “He felt that if the BSSB helped the state conventions, they would be champions of Sunday School ministry in their states. I found that to be true during my presidency and, with his counsel, I had strong relationships with the state executive directors who lead those state conventions.”

  • a committed churchman. “He told me shortly after I came to the Baptist Sunday School Board something every Baptist needs to realize. He said, ‘When you left the pastorate of a local Baptist church to become president of BSSB, you took a step down.’ He believed that the local church was truly Baptist headquarters.” Both Sullivan and Draper served churches in several states before assuming their SBC leadership posts.

Screen capture from video by Wayne Mann
The former 14.5-acre LifeWay site is being developed into a hotel, office buildings, restaurants, retail and entertainment venues.

And he had a down-to-earth graciousness, said Linda Lawson Still, who retired in 2002 as LifeWay’s director of communications after 31 years with the entity, earlier serving as editor of Facts and Trends magazine for church staff, two magazines for teens and assistant editor of Home Life magazine.
 
“A lingering memory I have of James L. Sullivan is observing him eating lunch in the cafeteria while conversing with coworkers,” Still said in email comments to Baptist Press. “He didn’t look around for senior staff members to sit with. He seemed as comfortable talking with employees from editing components, maintenance or distribution as with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. Without fail, he treated each of us with kindness and respect. He loved to tell stories and never minded laughing at himself.”
 
Still told of once enlisting a high school senior from the Nashville area to interview Sullivan for an article in connection with his approaching retirement in 1975.
 
The student “arrived in my office determined but terrified of asking questions of the president of the Sunday School Board,” Still said. “I accompanied her to Dr. Sullivan’s seventh-floor office. He came out from behind his desk to greet her. After they sat down, he began asking her questions out of a genuine interest in his guest. I could see her visibly relaxing. The outcome of that meeting was an excellent article written from a teen’s perspective for Christian teenagers portraying a true Christian gentleman.”
 
Draper recounted that the last visit he had with Sullivan was in the hospital shortly before he died. “He was discussing his funeral with his daughter Beth. He told me in that visit, ‘You reach a place in life where death is your friend.’ He lived courageously, as his stand supporting the 1953 Supreme Court decision for desegregation caused him to be so harassed for that stand that he received many death threats. He had to move his family out of Nashville to a suburban area in order to get better security.
 
“I don’t think most folks in our convention ever realized what a true champion of biblical values and principles he was, even if it was controversial,” Draper said. “He stood strong as a Southern Baptist leader, and he died with complete confidence in the Lord he loved and served so faithfully.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/24/2018 1:03:02 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Culture, discipleship grow LifeWay event 25 years

July 24 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Race is not the issue of Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, leaders told Baptist Press upon the 25th anniversary of the event described as the largest gathering of African Americans in the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
Worshipers participate in the opening session of the 2018 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“It’s the culture,” said Jay Wells, a retired LifeWay Christian Resources executive who helped found the event during his tenure in 1993. “Each generation and each people group have culture and God created us with differences and uniquenesses. It’s not to say one is better than the other. It simply says this is just who we are.”
 
Wells spoke to Baptist Press after receiving the 25th anniversary plaque on the opening night of the motivational, educational, recreational and worship event hosted by LifeWay July 16-20 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
 
“When you look at people, you have to accept people for who they are and appreciate that and celebrate that, rather than devaluing it,” Wells told BP. The conference focuses on ways “to penetrate that culture with the gospel and having people mobilize themselves to advance the kingdom of God, which transcends all cultures.”
 
Mark Croston, LifeWay’s national director of Black Church Partnerships, said the conference’s survival in attracting a thousand or more attendees annually is a testimony of its relevance.
 
“It offers training that is geared toward the nuances of African American church culture. It offers worship that is in the African American church experience and it offers fellowship with other African Americans from across the country,” Croston told BP. “In some of our areas, to be black and Southern Baptist can be kind of lonely. And so one of the places you come just to get some fellowship with other people who are of your same experience is a place like this.”
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
Mark Croston, national director of LifeWay Black Church Partnerships, presents the July 16 opening prayer of the 2018 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C. 

Roy Cotton Sr., director of African American Ministries of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told BP he has attended the event 24 of its 25 years, annually since 1994.
 
“More than getting your plate filled, you get your cup running over at black church week,” Cotton said. “When people go, they want to come back because of all that is offered. … It’s just a plethora of resources to feed the quest in us to provide the very best for our churches.
 
“If anybody goes to Black Church Leadership and Family Conference week, they shouldn’t come back the same,” Cotton said. “If you open your mind and your heart to receiving, and having it really impact your life, it will.”
 
More than 100 faculty members, pastors, speakers and coordinators led just as many breakout sessions and classes in various aspects of ministry, capped nightly with worship and preaching from noted Southern Baptist pastors. Classes spanned 29 educational tracks embracing church growth, law and security; evangelism; youth and children; gender specific ministries and missions; discipleship, worship arts and other concentrations. Attendance spans various ethnicities.
 
Cotton’s participation spans his denominational leadership formerly as director of African American Church Development with the Baptist General Association of Virginia and his founding pastorate of Centerpointe Church For The Communities in Red Oak, Texas, where he served from 2002–2015.
 
Cotton especially commends the children’s activities and youth ministry track. His sons, 35-year-old Roy Cotton Jr. and 31-year-old Justin Cotton, grew up attending the conference.
 
“That ought to be the very best training you get, is how are you going to train those children and the people who work with your youth,” Cotton said of church training. “We would be so excited just listening to our boys talking about what all they were learning,” he said of himself and his wife Inez, the July 18 Woman2Woman Bible study leader.
 
The event allows generations to benefit and grow in Christ, Wells told those gathered at the 2018 event.
 
“I’m just grateful to be able to have served in this capacity and seeing the generations of people who are continually blessed by being here on this mountain and in this place,” Wells said. “My heart is glad [as] I walked up to the campus and saw new faces that I had never seen before, because that says that what has started is going to continue.
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
Dan Garland, director of Church Partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources, honors Jay Wells, center, and Mark Croston, right, at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“The Lord starts it, the Lord’s going to finish it, and we just serve in the middle of it,” said Wells, who retired from LifeWay in 2012 as director of black church relations but has remained active in denominational life. “I’m grateful that He let me run one little leg of this race, and I’m grateful that He let me see who has picked up the baton to keep on running the same race.”
 
The conference began in 1993 as a Sunday School training event and has expanded to include additional ministries and outreach, Wells said in the event’s anniversary video.
 
“One of the things we have at this conference that helps all of us is to see how God has equipped the local church and equipped us with so much diversity of gifts that we now find room to use our uniqueness in ways that we may have never considered,” Wells said. “When they walk away, peoples’ eyes are wide open to all the possibilities that they can serve in ways that they may have never even considered before. That has been a plus.”
 
Dan Garland, LifeWay’s director of church partnerships, honored Wells and Croston for the conference’s longevity.
 
“Isn’t it exciting that God passed the baton from Jay Wells to Mark Croston,” Garland said at the event. “That’s a God thing right there. Both of these men are incredibly anointed.”
 
See BP’s earlier story on the 2018 event here.
 
(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.)

7/24/2018 1:02:51 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Uzbekistan’s religious liberty violations mount

July 24 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Two new requirements for religious organizations seeking government recognition in Uzbekistan are said to evidence the Central Asian nation’s continued restriction of religious liberty.
 
Comprising five former Soviet republics, Central Asia includes Uzbekistan and two other countries on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries of particular concern (CPCs) for religious liberty violations: Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Another Central Asian nation, Kazakhstan, has been recommended for inclusion on the State Department’s religious liberty watch list by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
 
In Uzbekistan, Government Decree 409 was adopted May 31, requiring religious communities to obtain government approval of their religious leaders’ education. The decree also requires religious educational institutions to obtain government approval of their leaders’ religious educations, according to Forum 18, a news service that reports on religious liberty violations in Central Asia and the surrounding regions.
 
The requirements for reporting religious leaders’ education are “at present impossible” to fulfill for some organizations, Forum 18 reported, because there is no official government office to recognize foreign religious education.
 
According to the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, Uzbek law “requires religious groups to register with the government and declares religious activities of unregistered groups to be illegal.” Unauthorized instances of evangelism, distributing religious literature and possessing religious materials – including the Bible – have resulted in “fines, corrective labor and prison sentences.”
 
Some 83 percent of Uzbekistan’s 32 million people have Sunni Muslim backgrounds, Forum 18 reported, and “followers of all religions and beliefs – with no exceptions – face freedom of religion or belief violations” as “part of the regime’s intentional systemic policy to control every aspect of society.”
 
According to USCIRF’s 2018 Annual Report, some religious liberty advocates were optimistic last year that newly elected President Shavkat Mirziyoyev would relax “the repression of religious freedom.” But despite some “changes in religious policies” – like easing some “restrictions on the practice of Islam” – the government “has not yet embarked on a major deviation from its overall policy of severe restriction of religious freedom, premised on the threat posed by Islamic extremism.”
 
Among religious liberty violations alleged by Forum 18 in Uzbekistan over the past year:
 

  • One member of a Baptist church in the city of Karshi was jailed and three others fined for meeting for worship without permission.

  • A Baptist couple’s 8-year-old son in the Navoi region was taken from school without his parents’ permission and questioned by government officials.

  • A Jehovah’s Witness in Urgench was tortured after the religious assembly he attended attempted to obtain state recognition.

 
Similar persecution allegedly persists in Central Asia’s other two CPCs.
 
Tajikistan, according to USCIRF, continued in 2017 “to suppress displays of public religiosity as well as persecute minority communities. Persons sentenced to prison include alleged Salafists [members of a branch within Sunni Islam], a Jehovah’s Witness conscientious objector, and a Protestant pastor.”
 
Turkmenistan “is widely considered the most closed of the former Soviet states,” USCIRF stated, “and this is reflected in the government’s severe repression of religious freedom.” Many individuals convicted of religious crimes are presumed to be sent to the notorious desert prison Ovadan-Depe, “where prisoners regularly die from torture and starvation.”
 
USCIRF recommended Kazakhstan for the government’s religious liberty watch list “amid a general crackdown on dissent and nonconformity,” including 20 people sentenced to prison in 2017 “for the peaceful expression of religious beliefs.”
 
Central Asia’s other nation, Kyrgyzstan, is not on the State Department’s official list of the world’s worst religious liberty offenders. But the 2017 International Religious Freedom Report said authorities there have “imposed restrictions and heightened scrutiny on so-called ‘nontraditional’ religious groups” despite a constitutional provision of religious freedom.
 
(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.)

7/24/2018 1:02:33 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Seniors say yes to VBS

July 24 2018 by Chris Doyle, Oklahoma Baptist Messenger

Demonstrating that no one is too old to learn, Portland Avenue Baptist Church hosted a senior adult version of Vacation Bible School (VBS), July 9-12. By midweek, the church had nearly 20 seniors saying, as the popular VBS song goes, “Y-E-S to VBS.”
 


Photo by Chris Doyle
Jack Langston attended senior adult VBS at Portland Avenue Baptist Church. A longtime member of the church, Langston was a faithful Whiz Kids tutor.

Gina McKean, director of children’s ministries at the church located in Oklahoma City, Okla., said a church member went to a senior adult VBS at nearby Cherokee Hills Baptist Church last summer and asked her if they could do one at Portland Avenue.
 
“Of course, we never say no to VBS,” McKean said. “We say yes to VBS any time. So we decided to put it on our calendar and started promoting it. We weren’t sure what kind of turnout we would have, but they have responded well.”
 
Unlike a traditional VBS that meets for approximately four hours, this VBS met from 9:30-11:30 a.m. each day. However, each meeting had numerous similarities, including pledges to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. VBS attendees also participated in singing and doing the motions to songs that went with this year’s VBS theme of “Game On.”
 
“Most of our people were apprehensive about coming, but it has been a fantastic experience,” said Eli Sheldon, retired historical secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and member of Portland Avenue. “We have enjoyed every part of it. The organization of it is good, and the presentation of it is excellent.”
 
Like children who attend VBS, Sheldon said he and his VBS classmates have been learning the memory verse, 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
 


Photo by Chris Doyle
Pastor Walter Mullican leads the Bible study during Portland Avenue Baptist Church’s senior adult VBS, July 9-12.

Each meeting also has an emphasis on missions. On July 10, McKean introduced a video presentation of International Mission Board missionaries who are serving in Poland.
 
“We especially incorporate missions because we know how important the missions element is at Vacation Bible School,” McKean said.
 
Pastor Walter Mullican led a time of Bible study and had many participate and ask questions during his July 10 study on the raising of Lazarus. He was encouraged with the turnout of the senior adult VBS.
 
“I don’t think enough of us knew what it was, at first, in order to convey it to them,” Mullican said about starting the VBS for senior adults and whether or not people would be interested in attending. “This has been a great response. I think they get a flavor of what the kids have done [during regular VBS]. They now have a better understanding of the themes and songs, things that the kids experience at VBS.”
 
The senior adult VBS also featured refreshments and a recreation time. The recreation time involved parachute games, as senior adults held on to the ends of the colorful parachute and played the different games children at VBS play.
 


Photo by Chris Doyle
The senior adult VBS at Portland Avenue Baptist Church featured refreshments and a recreation time. On July 10, the recreation time involved parachute games, as senior adults held on to the ends of the colorful parachute and played the different games children at VBS play.

“It’s geared so well for us and such a unique experience,” Sheldon said. “I think if they offer it again next year, it will have a much larger outcome.”
 
The event concluded with a “tailgate party” featuring hot dogs and homemade ice cream.
 
Portland Avenue is not afraid to try unique functions. Mullican said these events help the church be involved with those who live nearby.
 
“One thing that we have done in trying to be a vital church is we’ve had to look for creative ways to try to connect with our community,” he said. “We just see it as an opportunity to be known in the community, and then that gives us opportunities to share the gospel.”
 
Portland Avenue has a monthly dental clinic and hosts a karate club. The church also hosted an obedience clinic for dogs. One of the longest-running community ministries Portland Avenue has is its Whiz Kids effort. The program, which has been operating for 12 years, focuses on helping children in the area learn to read.
 
McKean said two of the experienced Whiz Kid tutors – Jack and Betty Langston – attended the senior adult VBS. Jack is now 97 and no longer tutors, but Betty continues to serve in Whiz Kids.
 
Although Jack is no longer tutoring, McKean shared a story of one of the boys he helped in Whiz Kids. McKean said the boy had to repeat the second grade because his reading skills did not allow him to advance. “Mr. Jack” worked patiently and extensively with his student.
 
McKean said this young man went on to graduate from high school with honors and received a scholarship to go to college. At his high school graduation, the young man thanked “Mr. Jack” for working with him and said he would not be who he is today without “Mr. Jack.”
 
For more information about VBS for senior adults and Portland Avenue, go to portlandavenue.org
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/24/2018 1:02:20 PM by Chris Doyle, Oklahoma Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



Baptist leader’s arrest sparks responses

July 23 2018 by BR Staff

Mark Aderholt, a Southern Baptist leader who formerly worked for the International Mission Board (IMB) and the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), was arrested July 3 on charges of sexual assault against a minor in the late 1990s, according to news reports.
 

Mark Aderholt

He resigned his position as SCBC associate executive director and chief strategist June 15, according to the state convention.
 
Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director-treasurer, said in a June 19 statement that he accepted the resignation “with a heavy heart” but did not release details about why Aderholt left.
 
SCBC executive board chair Tommy Kelly and SCBC president Marshall Blalock published an open letter July 18 that said convention leaders learned “the nature and seriousness of the charges” when details about allegations against Aderholt were made known in reports by the Star-Telegram, a news outlet in Fort-Worth, Texas.
 
The alleged crimes took place in Arlington, Texas, in 1997, according to the Star-Telegram.
 
Aderholt was taken into custody in South Carolina. News reports said he was booked into the Tarrant County, Texas, jail on July 9 and later released on $10,000 bond. Texas law sets no statute of limitations on sexual assault or indecency with a child. Aderholt denies the allegations, according to Kelly and Blalock.
 
Kelly and Blalock thanked Hollingsworth in their letter for his “effective leadership” in the time leading up to Aderholt’s departure. According to them, Hollingsworth conducted a “comprehensive background investigation” when he hired Aderholt in 2016, including a criminal history check and employment references, which were described as “impeccable.”
 
Aderholt had resigned from the IMB in 2008 after serving eight years as a missionary.
 
That resignation followed an internal investigation by the IMB that was prompted by the same allegations for which he is currently facing criminal charges – that he had sexual contact with a minor while on staff at a Texas church and enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Anne Marie Miller told the Star-Telegram that in the 1990s he pursued a romantic relationship with her in a predatory manner – commonly called grooming – which led to sexual activity. She was 16 years old at the time; Aderholt was 25.
 
The IMB told Baptist Press (BP) it learned of allegations against Aderholt in 2007.
 
An IMB team concluded after its investigation that Aderholt had “engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship” with Miller in 1996-1997 and that she “suffered as a result.”
 
They scheduled a report of their findings at the organization’s next trustee meeting. He resigned before the meeting took place.
 
The trustee board had sole authority to fire missionaries at the time, the IMB recently told BP, but the policy has since been revised to include senior leaders.
 
After resigning from the IMB, Aderholt went on to work at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., before joining the SCBC executive team in 2016.
 
IMB leaders did not report the allegations to law enforcement in 2007, a spokesperson told BP, because Miller was an adult when she came forward [in her 20s] and she said on “multiple occasions” that she did not want to alert authorities.
 
Miller told the Star-Telegram that she felt anxious and stressed during the interviews with IMB, even experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts.
 
“I told myself, if I can’t handle this informal internal interview, there is no way I can face this man in court ... I will not survive if I do that,” she said.
 
The IMB told BP, “We were more than willing to support such action at that time, but she stated that her desire was not to file charges.
 
“While some want to exclusively call out IMB for not reporting, keep in mind that neither her parents, her husband at the time, two trained clinical counselors or several other friends with intimate details of what happened reported the matter to police, including several individuals who actually live in Texas where the alleged events took place. We can only assume they approached this matter in the same fashion we did: that, as an adult, this was Ms. Miller’s story to share with local authorities when she was ready. We fully support her taking this step now, and we are cooperating with authorities.”
 
Miller disputed the IMB’s account in an email to BP. She said she did not decline “multiple times” to report the abuse and the IMB is not “supporting” her. In addition, the notion that others could have reported “does not let the IMB off the hook, especially with their in-depth knowledge of my abuse,” she wrote.
 
Miller told the Star-Telegram she decided to press charges after she was asked to speak at a church about sex abuse in early 2018. She had previously written about her experience without revealing names or detailed information.
 
“I realized I could no longer in good conscience say, ‘I can’t do anything’ because I can,” she told the Star-Telegram. “Now that I have a daughter of my own, I need to do something about this.”
 
The IMB said it is cooperating with an ongoing criminal investigation and does not plan to share information that could interfere with that investigation.
 
SCBC leaders also said they do not plan to release further information at this time.

(EDITOR'S NOTE – This story was updated July 24. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Miller was a member of the youth group Aderholt led in the 1990s.)

7/23/2018 1:53:33 PM by BR Staff | with 1 comments



Adoption agency protection moves forward in Congress

July 23 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Legislation to prohibit government from discriminating against adoption and foster care agencies over their religious or moral convictions has taken an initial step toward potential passage in Congress.
 
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee included the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) in a spending bill it approved July 11. The committee first passed the measure as an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education funding bill in a 29-23 vote. The panel then forwarded the amended version of the bill in a 30-22 roll call.
 
The proposal, H.R. 1881, would bar the federal government – as well as any state or local government that receives federal funds – from discriminating against or taking action against a child welfare agency that refuses to provide services in a way that conflicts with its religious beliefs or moral convictions, such as placing children with same-sex couples. If enacted, the legislation would require HHS to withhold 15 percent of federal funds from a state or local government that violates its ban.
 
Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and other advocates for the bill have called for a federal solution to the growing pattern of state and local governments requiring adoption and foster care agencies to place children with gay couples or shut down such services.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore expressed gratitude for the committee’s support for the measure.
 
“Protecting the rights of those who are dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable among us only ensures that more children have access to the love and support they so desperately need,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “This is precisely what the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would do.
 
“Far too many children are waiting, right now, either for adoption or foster families,” Moore said. “Our government must not stand in the way of those seeking to care for them. The CWPIA would not only guarantee faith-based child welfare agencies are not discriminated against, but would further the goal of seeing vulnerable children united with loving families.”
 
The ERLC included enactment of the CWPIA as a priority in its 2018 legislative agenda and organized a July 3 letter with nearly 70 signatories that urged the Appropriations Committee to add it to the Labor, HHS, and Education bill.
 
Nine states have laws that require child welfare agencies to place children with same-sex couples in adoption, foster care or both, according to Reuters News Service. They are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
 
Meanwhile, nine other states have enacted measures that protect the right of agencies to abide by their religious or moral convictions in adoption and foster care: Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
 
The division in the states and threats to agencies in some jurisdictions call for federal action, the ERLC and its allies said in the July 3 letter.
 
“Given the heavy investment of the federal government in child services and the woefully inconsistent territory across the states, we believe this problem justifies a federal solution through the [CWPIA],” they wrote.
 
In an apparently barrier-breaking decision July 13, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled the city can require adoption and foster care agencies it has contracts with to place children with gay couples, according to NBC News. The decision is the first of its kind by a federal court, NBC reported.
 
Catholic Social Services (CSS) had brought suit after Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services stopped cooperating with CSS and Bethany Christian Services because they refused to place children in same-sex homes.
 
In another case, Catholic Charities of Fort Worth has been sued for declining to place children with a same-sex couple.
 
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who introduced the CWPIA as an amendment to the funding bill, said after its adoption his goal was “to encourage states to include all experienced and licensed child welfare agencies so that children are placed in caring, loving homes where they can thrive. We need more support for these families and children in crisis, not less.”
 
Aderholt is co-chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption.
 
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the country’s largest political organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights – criticized the committee’s action.
 
“Any member of Congress who supports this amendment is clearly stating that it is more important to them to discriminate than it is to find loving homes for children in need,” said David Stacy, HRC’s director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign.
 
The ERLC-led coalition letter pointed to the pressure brought on the adoption and foster care system by the opioid epidemic among adults. “Now is an especially terrible time to reduce the capacity of state governments to efficiently place children in safe, loving homes,” the letter stated.
 
In addition to Moore, the letter’s signers included Chris Palusky, president, Bethany Christian Services; Albert Reyes, president, Buckner International; Daniel Nehrbass, president, Nightlight Christian Adoptions; David Nammo, executive director, Christian Legal Society; Penny Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Kelly Shackelford, president, First Liberty Institute; David Christensen, vice president, Family Research Council; and Joseph Kurtz, chairman, U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty.
 
(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.)

7/23/2018 1:53:21 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Missouri DR deploys after 17 killed at Branson lake

July 23 2018 by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway

Seventeen people, including children, died July 19 after a sudden violent storm capsized a “duck boat” on Table Rock Lake near the tourist hotspot of Branson, Mo. The tragedy prompted a response from Missouri Disaster Relief (DR) today, as well as from other Southern Baptists in the region.
 

Screen capture from CNN
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief deploys after 17 people, including children, died when a sudden violent storm capsized a “duck boat” on Table Rock Lake near the tourist hotspot of Branson, Mo.

Branson is known among tourists for its “duck boats,” which can travel both on land and in the water. Two boats were still in the water yesterday at Table Rock Lake, when a fast-moving storm brought winds in excess of 60 mph and caused three-foot waves on the lake.
 
One of the boats was able to make it back to shore but another – carrying 31 passengers – struggled amid the waves and was finally capsized.
 
The 17 who died included people from 1 to 70 years old, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Four adults and three children were hospitalized, and two remained in critical condition last night, according to Fox News. Other passengers had only minor injuries.
 
“Our hearts grieve for those people and families involved in the tragedy in Branson last night with the capsizing of one of the ‘Ducks,’” John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said in a written statement to MBC staff this morning.
 
“Pray for these folks and pray for churches in the area. Some of the victims on board were not from the Branson area. Pray for those families and for the churches where they lived that grief ministry may occur. This is a tragic loss,” Yeats said.
 
Ron Crow, associate state director for Missouri DR, arrived on scene late this morning to assess needs following the accident. He is joined in Branson by DR chaplain Ann Stevenson, a member of First Baptist Church in Richland, Mo., with her trained therapy dog Steele.
 
Phil Shuford, associational mission strategist (formerly director of missions) for the Tri-County Southern Baptist Association, said many Baptists in the region were involved directly with relief efforts in the aftermath of the tragedy.
 
“If you are like me, your heart is breaking over the tragedy that occurred so suddenly yesterday evening on Table Rock Lake in the southern part of the Tri-County Baptist Association,” Shuford wrote in an email message to his association this morning.
 
“This accident, that has touched the heart of the nation, hits especially hard at home,” he added. “Many of the first responders involved in rescue, recovery and assessment are fellow believers and are either members of (or family members of) Tri-County churches. Theirs is an unimaginable burden. ...
 
“FBC Kimberling City’s student pastor Sean Gaspar, an EMT with Stone County, was on the scene of the accident last night. Many others also are involved. It’s the kind of situation you can’t prepare for.”
 
Shuford told The Pathway, the MBC’s news journal, that he’s on standby to help Missouri DR as ministry needs are identified. Meanwhile, he encourages Southern Baptists to pray for families involved in the accident, as well as for first responders.
 
Last night, the Branson police department’s chaplain asked area pastors to gather at Branson’s city hall, where they could be available to pray with and minister to those affected by the tragedy. Monty Dunn, pastor of Friendly Baptist Church in Branson, was among those who answered the call.
 
Dunn told The Pathway that his was simply a ministry of “presence.” Alongside multiple other pastors, he made himself available until about midnight and then gave his phone number to first responders in case he was needed later.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/23/2018 1:53:04 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway | with 0 comments



Church’s roll purge incites media ‘circus’

July 23 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Kentucky Baptists are defending a church slammed in secular media outlets over its practice of church discipline.
 

Photo from Google
Kentucky Baptists are defending a church slammed in secular media outlets over its practice of church discipline.

Cave City, Ky., Baptist Church, some 90 miles north of Nashville, sent a letter July 16 to nearly 70 members it alleges were not attending “habitually,” giving “regularly” or sharing in the congregation’s “organized work” as required of members in the church’s bylaws. The letter stated, “Cave City Baptist Church cherishes you as a member of this fellowship,” but “your name has been removed from the membership roll,” according to a photo of the letter published on Facebook.
 
The letter added, “The doors of Cave City Baptist Church will always be open to you.”
 
Within two days, newspapers and television stations had reported on the letter in Nashville; Louisville, Ky.; Lexington, Ky.; and Bowling Green, Ky. Headlines included: “Church members furious after pastor revokes memberships” and “Kentucky church sent letters kicking out members over common transgressions.”
 
Cave City Baptist pastor Ryan Broers told Baptist Press via text message he is “weary of the media circus” and that “lots of lies and half-truths are being told.”
 
“I really wish this thing would have remained a private issue,” Broers said. “The only reason I commented publicly is that it became public knowledge when a man who has not been to the church in 20 years made it public on Facebook. This is a church discipline issue and we are following our bylaws. Many attempts for several years were made both in letters and in person when people could be located and were willing to speak. If anyone feels they received the letters in error, they are welcome to call and have a conversation with me.”
 
Among Baptists to defend the church, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Hershael York said in a series of tweets that he asked the Lexington Herald-Leader staff member who reported on Cave City Baptist “if the Rotary Club dismissing members for non-attendance and non-payment of dues is noteworthy.” York, dean-designate of Southern’s school of theology, added that a fair headline would be, “Church requires members to take their commitment seriously.”
 
York, who also serves as pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, told BP he tweeted in response to the Herald-Leader’s coverage because “I don’t want churches to be afraid to do church discipline well and do church discipline right because they fear a reaction.”
 
David Prince, pastor of Lexington’s Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, tweeted that the Herald-Leader was “outraged a church would care about its members enough to hold them accountable. Where’s their outrage over other groups that have standards?”
 
Broers said sending the letter was a collaborative decision made by him, associate pastor Steven Wilson and the chairman of deacons, with “the deacons’ support.”
 
Broers has pastored Cave City Baptist for only about a year, but the process of contacting absentee members has spanned the past eight years, he said. At least three letters have gone out, and home visits have been attempted, the pastor said, noting shut-ins receive pastoral visits and are not subject to church discipline for failing to attend.
 
In hindsight, Broers told BP, “I wish we would have worded the letter differently.” Still, he added in a Facebook post, “I know it [the letter] won’t make me popular (none who preached the truth in the Bible were thought well of) but I am not in a popularity contest. I’m trying to point people to Jesus and the inherent responsibilities that come along with being a follower of Christ.”
 
Among disgruntled letter recipients, Samantha Esters told Bowling Green’s WBKO television station she attended Cave City Baptist three weeks prior to receiving the notification and did not “ever want to go back to that church.”
 
Lynn Traylor, director of missions for the Liberty Association of Baptists, with which Cave City Baptist cooperates, wrote in a July 20 email to the association’s churches that social media and news outlets “are telling only one side of the story.”
 
“I personally spoke with the Pastor at Cave City, who assures me that this is not a unilateral action on his part (as has been wrongly communicated) and that the church did due diligence in contacting and communicating with members prior to the mailing which was publicized by many who were not in contact with or members of the church,” Traylor wrote.
 
The church, he added, “has received calls and prayers of support from across the country, and perhaps God can use this to share His name and the gospel.”
 
Some commonly cited Bible passages on church discipline are Titus 3:10-11 and Matthew 18:15-18. The Matthew 18 passage instructs believers to confront a sinning brother or sister one-on-one initially. Then if the person doesn’t repent, they are to be confronted again by a group of two or three fellow believers. If they still do not repent, they are to be confronted by the church body as a whole and excluded from fellowship in the absence of repentance.
 
(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.)

7/23/2018 1:52:45 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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