July 2019

North Carolina Ministries Combine Foster and Adoption Efforts

July 19 2019 by Blake Ragsdale, Baptist Children’s Homes Communications

Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) and Christian Adoption Services (CAS) have agreed to partner together to offer comprehensive foster care and adoption services to families throughout the state.
 

Kevin Qualls, left, President for CAS, greets Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO of BCH of North Carolina.

“This is an exciting day for us and the children and families we serve,” says BCH president/ CEO Michael C. Blackwell. “CAS is doing phenomenal work to place children with families standing ready to embrace them. BCH brings to the partnership a wealth of resources through our family foster care program as well as our cottage home care for children.
 
“Without question, the clear winner of this alliance between BCH and CAS is the children and families of North Carolina.”
 
BCH’s family foster care program, where the nonprofit works to train and license couples, is rapidly expanding throughout North Carolina. CAS, who has permanently placed more than 2,000 children with families, is able to facilitate the adoption process.
 
“Coming together with BCH in the areas of adoption and foster care means more boys and girls, who come from desperate circumstances, will receive the caring homes they deserve,” says Kevin Qualls, CAS President.
 
The two nonprofits made their partnership official on Monday, July 15 at a special celebration at BCH’s Mills Home campus in Thomasville. Staff and board members from both organizations were in attendance as respective leadership signed the Memorandum of Understanding.
 
David Powell, Pastor at Salem Baptist Church in Dobson and BCH trustee, opened the celebration in prayer. He and his wife, Lindsey, are foster parents.
 

Left to Right: Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO of BCH of North Carolina; Keith Henry, Chief Operating Officer for BCH; Jerry Jordan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for BCH; Joyce Ford, President of the Board of Directors for CAS; Laura Nichols-Virgilio, Executive Director for CAS; Kevin Qualls, President for CAS. 

“God, may we be moved and compelled to do whatever it takes,” Powell prayed. “Bless these efforts, dear God, for Your glory and for the good of those who need a home, and need a family.”
 
Qualls addressed the group and talked about his North Carolina Baptist roots. He served for 22 years in church ministry, in both North and South Carolina. He was the Next Generations Pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte for four years before joining CAS in March 2016.
 
“As CAS began pursuing the idea of providing foster services, we kept running into roadblocks. We shelved the idea about a year ago,” Qualls shared. “I said, ‘Lord, we’re going to trust You and Your divine time.’”
 
Because of his Baptist connections, Qualls was aware of Baptist Children’s Homes. He, Blackwell and Keith Henry, BCH Chief Operating Officer, connected with one another. That connection led to BCH referring families, who were interested in adoption, to CAS. The same held true when CAS received calls from families interested in fostering; they were referred to BCH.
 
“A wonderful relationship had begun,” Qualls said.
 
After numerous meetings and times of prayer between Qualls and Henry, it became clear that the time was right for forming an official partnership.
 
“As we move forward, BCH and CAS are walking together hand in hand in service of our Lord and to children and families,” Henry shared. “Up to now, each of us has provided a valuable piece of the continuum of care along a pathway filled with children looking for families and families looking for children.
 
Today, those paths are seamlessly connected working closely to eliminate the obstacles and to smooth that path for these children and families.”
 
The collaboration between the two nonprofits goes beyond supporting North Carolina children and families. Their efforts are also about providing quality placement options to the state’s child welfare system that is removing children from families at an alarming rate. In North Carolina, there are now 3,000 more children in foster care than in 2011.
 
“There are numerous reasons why the numbers of children being removed are rising. A major factor is parental substance abuse which involves the growing opioid crisis across our state and nation,” Henry explained. “These addictions by parents and guardians often result in the abuse and neglect of their children. For the children’s safety, the state is forced to take custody.”
 

Left to Right: Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO of BCH of North Carolina; Keith Henry, Chief Operating Officer for BCH; Jerry Jordan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for BCH; and Joyce Ford, President of the Board of Directors for CAS signed the Memorandum of Understanding at BCH’s Mills Home campus in Thomasville​ July 15.

In 2018 alone, 16,796 children were removed from their homes by NC Departments of Social Services. As a result, there are too many children in the system and not enough quality placement options.
 
“The state’s child welfare system is doing the best it can, but its resources are stretched too thin,” Qualls shared. “Identifying not only new options, but the best options, will help the state and ultimately benefit the children long term.
 
“This is why both CAS and BCH see our partnership as imperative and an integral part of providing that solution.”
 
Together, BCH and CAS have almost 175 years of experience in providing compassionate services to bring help and hope to vulnerable children. BCH was established in 1885 and oversees a variety of ministries for children, families and adults throughout North Carolina as well as orphans in Guatemala. The nonprofit’s administrative offices are located in Thomasville at its oldest campus. CAS is headquartered in Matthews and has assisted in the adoption process for thousands of children since 1979.
 
“This partnership is about God’s timing,” Blackwell said. “That means, when the door opens we walk through it. God is in this. It is, without a doubt, His timing, and we celebrate the lives that will be indelibly changed through the partnership, and friendship that has been forged between Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina and Christian Adoption Services.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Blake Ragsdale is the director of communications at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.)

7/19/2019 10:53:28 AM by Blake Ragsdale, Baptist Children’s Homes Communications | with 0 comments



Mandrell ready for LifeWay to ‘make an impact’

July 19 2019 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

New LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Ben Mandrell presented employees their first assignment under his leadership – seek to impact people for Christ.
 

Photo by Amanda Mae Steele
“I believe wholeheartedly in what we do and I will give you all of my heart,” new LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Ben Mandrell told employees during his first LifeWay chapel, July 17. Mandrell was unanimously elected as the organization’s 10th president by LifeWay trustees on June 28.

Mandrell issued this challenge to employees in his first chapel address held July 17 at LifeWay’s corporate office.
 
To help employees live out this goal in their personal lives, Mandrell provided each employee an “impact card” and instructed them to list three unchurched people they can attempt to influence for Christ over the next year.
 
“I want to celebrate relationships and authenticity with one another and with non-religious people,” Mandrell said. “I want to celebrate the gospel of Jesus that has transformed our lives. As long as we keep that the [main] thing and create resources where people in every part of the world can experience it, we’ll never be without work to do.”
 
Mandrell and his wife, Lynley, shared how the gospel drew them to become church planters after realizing that, as a couple in ministry, they didn’t have any unchurched friends.
 
“Our kids were in a program at church where one night a year they were encouraged to bring an unchurched friend with them or, as a consolation prize, to bring three cans for the soup kitchen,” said Mandrell.
 
After three years in a row of driving to the grocery store to buy canned goods, the Mandrells realized the reason their kids didn’t have any unchurched friends was because they as parents weren’t modeling relationships with people outside the church. Mandrell said this realization served as a wake-up call to get them asking where God was leading them to step out of their comfort zone – a call that led them to become church planters.
 

Photo by Amanda Mae Steele
New LifeWay President and CEO Ben Mandrell and wife Lynley share with LifeWay employees how the gospel compelled them to move to Colorado and plant a church. And how God worked in their lives to prepare them for this new season of ministry.

In 2014 the Mandrells moved to Colorado to launch Storyline Fellowship, which grew out of a Bible study in their house to become a thriving church with 1,600 people in weekly attendance.
 
Mandrell shared three lessons church planning taught him that he believes will carry over to LifeWay: living on mission is central to Christians’ lives, ministry is supposed to be hard, and God can do great things when His people take great risks.
 
Mandrell told employees these principles are ones to embrace together as an “army of creatives.”
 
“Ministry is a team sport, and Lynley and I are jumping all in [at LifeWay],” he said. “If there’s one title I want to tout more than any other they’re giving me, it’s that I’m so glad to be the leader of team LifeWay. I believe wholeheartedly in what we do and I will give you all of my heart,” he promised employees.
 
Mandrell said he intends to foster an environment at LifeWay where people are known and loved and where creativity is celebrated. He also shared he wants to help LifeWay become more in touch with the culture in order to equip Christians to build relationships and take the gospel to unchurched people.
 
One of his first priorities as president of LifeWay will be focusing on the organizational health of the company by listening and learning from employees. Another priority will be analyzing how the LifeWay brand is perceived, especially among younger audiences. He also said he hopes to expand LifeWay’s influence outside of primarily the South and to serve the body of Christ scattered across the nation and around the world.
 
Mandrell ended his first chapel by praying with employees for God’s wisdom as LifeWay enters a new and exciting season of ministry.
 
“I believe in this room are some of the greatest ideas, some of the most talented people, and some of the most exciting visionary leaders on the planet,” he prayed, “Lord, give us a servant’s heart and help us to be willing to do whatever we need to do to make LifeWay what it needs to be.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

7/19/2019 10:49:30 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



‘Philosophical differences’: PPFA removes leader

July 19 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Planned Parenthood removed its president July 16 in part because of “philosophical differences,” a day after the Trump administration acted to begin cutting about 10 percent of the abortion giant’s government funding.
 

The boards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, PPFA’s advocacy arm, announced the departure of Leana Wen as president of both organizations only 10 months after she was named to the positions.
 
On Twitter, Wen said July 16 she had just learned the PPFA board “ended my employment at a secret meeting.” She also tweeted, “We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”
 
The differences reportedly were over Wen’s view abortion is a health-care issue. Planned Parenthood’s boards wanted a more political approach at a time when several states have enacted early bans on abortion, according to The New York Times.
 
Only the day before, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would immediately start enforcing a new regulation – labeled the Protect Life Rule – that would eliminate a reported $50 to $60 million in federal family planning funds for Planned Parenthood. PPFA and its affiliates collected $563.8 million in government grants and reimbursements and performed more than 332,757 abortions in the most recent year for which statistics are available.
 
Planned Parenthood confirmed July 15 it would not participate in the Title X program under the new regulation, according to news reports.
 
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said in a written statement, “Planned Parenthood has long claimed that healthcare encompasses the intentional killing of unwanted human persons, and [Wen] has consistently traded on her training as a physician to perpetuate Planned Parenthood’s falsehood that ‘abortion is healthcare.’”
 
Foster added, “If she has had a change of heart about the morality of killing thousands of babies each day, we will welcome her to our cause.”
 
The Planned Parenthood boards’ removal of Wen came only 10 days after she wrote for The Washington Post about her miscarriage in June. She did not indicate any change of heart on abortion when she said the experience has made her “commitment to women’s health even stronger.”
 
Abby Johnson – a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and now head of the pro-life organization And Then There Were None – encouraged pro-lifers via Twitter “to reach out to [Wen] in love. Let us also remember that she is a woman grieving the loss of a miscarried child. Let us treat her with care, not callousness.”
 
And Then There Were None helps clinic workers leave the abortion industry.
 
HHS announced immediate enforcement of the Protect Life Rule after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled July 11 the administration could enforce a regulation that eliminates Title X family planning funds for organizations that perform, promote or refer for abortions while the rule faces a legal challenge. The rule, issued in February but blocked by lower courts, requires “clear financial and physical separation” between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning.
 
This year in the states, Alabama has enacted a ban on abortion throughout pregnancy except in the case of “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” while Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio have passed prohibitions on abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six to eight weeks. Missouri has approved a prohibition on abortion after eight weeks of gestation, and Arkansas and Utah have enacted abortion bans after 18 weeks.
 
Several PPFA senior officials – including Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens – had left the organization during Wen’s tenure, The Times reported.
 
Alexis McGill Johnson, former chair of the PPFA board, was named acting president of both Planned Parenthood organizations. Planned Parenthood said a search for a new president would not begin until early in 2020.
 
Various scandals have plagued Planned Parenthood the last two decades. Most recently, undercover videos were released beginning in 2015 that appeared to provide evidence the organization was trading in body parts from aborted babies.
 
Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization’s “immoral agenda and practices.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/19/2019 10:45:07 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Netflix cuts ‘13 Reasons Why’ Season 1 suicide scene

July 19 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Netflix cut a graphic suicide scene from Season 1 of “13 Reasons Why” on the streaming platform’s website, drawing praise from groups including Christians and mental health professionals.
 

Netflix video screen grab
Netflix has cut a graphic suicide scene from Season 1 of the controversial series “13 Reasons Why.”

But the Parents Television Council (PTC), among those lauding the move, continues to call on Netflix to remove the series altogether.
 
Netflix on July 16 cut much of the scene showing a lead character slitting her wrist and dying in a bathtub of bloody water. About to enter its third season, the series’ storyline expanded in Season 2 with gun violence, bullying and gang rape including male perpetrators against male classmates.
 
“The PTC has repeatedly urged Netflix to reevaluate leaving 13 Reasons Why on its platform until the show could be proven not to be harmful to children,” the PTC said in a press release Tuesday. “Ahead of Netflix’s most recent annual shareholders meeting, the PTC wrote to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and each member of the Netflix Board of Directors to request that the company pull 13 Reasons Why from the platform in light of National Institutes for Health research that linked 13 Reasons Why to a 30 percent increase in suicides among children ages 10-17.”
 
The National Institutes for Health (NIH) funded a study that reported a 28.9 percent increase in suicides among 10- to 17-year-olds the month following series’ release in 2017, the NIH said in April.
 
“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” study author and clinical scientist Lisa Horowitz said in April. “All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.” But the NIH acknowledged the study could not definitively link the increased suicide rate to the series.
 
The PTC called Netflix’s edit of 13 Reasons Why a first step in what must be a continuing process of protecting children.
 
“Netflix has finally acknowledged the harmful impact that explicit content, such as the graphic suicide scene in 13 Reasons Why is capable of inflicting on children,” the PTC said. “While we applaud Netflix for making this responsible decision, we call on the company to redouble its efforts to protect children from harmful content.”
 
Rated MA for Mature Audiences, 13 Reasons Why is explicitly marketed to teens and set at a fictitious Liberty High School. The controversial series offers resources including anti-suicide information at 13reasonswhy.info, which were added to the website in advance of the show’s second season.
 
“If you are struggling, this series may not be right for you or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult,” Netflix warns at 13reasonswhy.info.
 
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) also applauded Netflix for removing the suicide scene.
 
“The portrayal of suicidal struggles and suicide is complex and research shows people respond to entertainment content in a variety of different ways,” AFSP said in a press statement. “The same content that can lead to increased awareness and interest, and even empathy in many – can lead to worsening of mood, anxiety or self-image for others who are vulnerable or struggling….
 
“If the vulnerable individual sees a fictional character struggling and then dying by suicide,” AFSP said, “the vulnerable viewer can become more at risk of imitating this suicidal behavior.”
 
In 2017, adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 had a suicide rate of 14.46 percent, the AFSP reported, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The highest rate in 2017 was 20.2 percent, found among adults between 45 and 54 years of age.
 
Brian Yorkey, 13 Reasons Why creator, said the series is more important than any one scene.
 
“Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it,” Yorkey tweeted. “No one scene is more important than the life of the show and its message that we must take better care of each other.”
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission explains a Christian, Bible-based perspective of suicide at erlc.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/19/2019 10:36:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Missouri Baptist university urged to clarify faith statement

July 18 2019 by Missouri Pathway Staff

Southwest Baptist University’s (SBU) Statement of Faith has not been implemented effectively across the fabric of the university, according to an external peer assessment committee that completed its work there in June.
 

Mbcpathway.com photo

The committee, which was commissioned by SBU late last year, was led by David Dockery, chancellor of Trinity International University. In particular, the committee evaluated the key elements of Baptist distinctiveness that inform SBU’s identity as a Missouri Baptist institution.
 
According to an SBU press release, the committee also reported that, due to the lack of a clearly implemented Statement of Faith, the doctrinal position of SBU has been perceived as ambiguous.
 
“This lack of clarity has led to an erosion of trust between the University and Missouri Baptists,” the press release stated. “SBU and the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) must work together to restore that trust.”
 
The committee completed its review and “responded appropriately to the SBU administration” in late June, Dockery told The Pathway in a June 26th email.
 
“The committee worked together for five months with the hope of providing help, guidance, and encouragement to the SBU community,” he said. “We trust that the recommendations from the committee will be helpful for President [Eric] Turner and the SBU administration.”
 
Dockery added that the committee “will be glad to work with the SBU administration to comment further on our work when the SBU administration thinks that it would be helpful for us to do so.”
 
Mark Rains, chairman, SBU Board of Trustees, noted, “We appreciate the work of Dr. Dockery and the Peer Assessment Committee. We will now continue their work by digesting this assessment and working with SBU Administration to respond in a deliberate fashion.”
 
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees will publicly release an executive summary of the review after it has been shared internally. With many employees not on campus during the summer, it will take a few weeks to accomplish internal communication.
 
SBU President Eric Turner also praised the work of the committee and is committed to lead the efforts needed to ensure the spiritual vitality of SBU.
 
“Dr. Dockery and the committee have accurately and effectively surmised the situation in which SBU has found herself,” Turner said. “Over the coming weeks and months, you will see evidence of SBU’s thoughtful response to this assessment.”
 
Turner noted the university is “currently working to clarify, boldly articulate and implement our Statement of Faith that will further align and strengthen our Baptist identity and Christian faith.
 
“Since my arrival at SBU, I have recognized the need for SBU to strengthen our relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention and its churches. This assessment affirms that position,” he said. “We must collectively work together to rebuild trust between SBU and Missouri Baptists.”
 
MBC Executive Director John Yeats is encouraged by SBU’s response to the committee’s assessment.
 
“In the life of every institution with denominational roots, there are those moments in history to reinvigorate the core Biblical beliefs within the context of the educational environment,” Yeats said. “Dr. Dockery and his team, at the invitation of Dr. Turner, have assessed and provided a recommended framework to bring doctrinal and missional revival to SBU.”
 
Yeats noted he is “deeply encouraged that decisive and strategic implementation is characteristic of Dr. Turner’s leadership.
 
“This peer assessment is a welcomed tool for him and the SBU Board of Trustees to use as a guide in the days ahead,” Yeats said. “Pray for SBU as they work diligently to establish bold initiatives that demonstrate their alignment with Missouri Baptist churches.”
 

Committee formed amid expressions of doctrinal concern

 
Last December SBU announced the formation of this peer assessment committee for fostering “dialogue regarding faith and learning,” including “deeper conversations and evaluations regarding orthodoxy” within the university.
 
According to the university’s “strategic planning process,” which was instituted after Turner began his presidency at SBU last fall, conversations regarding matters of faith and learning were intended to begin in the fall of 2019.
 
But plans changed after the Nov. 28, 2018, termination of Clint Bass, a tenured associate professor in SBU’s Redford College of Theology and Ministry.
 
According to the SBU administration, Bass was terminated because of alleged violations of the SBU Faculty Handbook and the “ethical and professional canons of the teaching profession.” In January, the Educational Policies and Personnel Committee of SBU’s board of trustees affirmed the administration’s decision and reasoning for his termination.
 
But Bass disputed these claims, saying he was fired for defending theological conservatism. Prior to his termination, he alleged last year that some faculty members in the Redford College – including the college’s dean, Rodney Reeves – contradicted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) by denying biblical inerrancy and by affirming what Bass described as problematic doctrinal views. Similar allegations were soon posted online and on social media. In response, Reeves and other Redford College faculty members denied the allegations.
 
Nevertheless, as a result of these doctrinal and confessional concerns, SBU moved up its timeline for starting conversations on faith and learning, and commissioned the external peer assessment committee.
 

SBU to clarify Statement of Faith

 
After completing its work, the peer assessment committee advised that, for the long-term health and faithfulness of the school, SBU must clarify its Statement of Faith to be a clear and compelling theological framework.
 
SBU’s governing documents do not list the BFM 2000 as its Statement of Faith. In fact, the school’s Statement of Faith was adopted in 1921 – four years before the Southern Baptist Convention drafted and adopted its first version of the Baptist Faith and Message in 1925.
 
According to an SBU press release, the school’s current Statement of Faith was reaffirmed by MBC messengers in 2012.
 
After Missouri Baptists approved a revision of the MBC’s governing documents in 2017, the MBC requested that SBU and other entities amend their own governing documents in several respects, such as identifying the MBC as a “corporate member” and by affirming the BFM 2000. These conversations between SBU and the MBC have been on-going for several years.
 

SBU, MBC leaders work to strengthen bonds

 
Currently, SBU and MBC leaders are actively working to strengthen their shared relationship.
 
Turner noted he is “grateful to Dr. Yeats and the Missouri Baptist leadership in our collaborative conversations regarding these issues.
 
“Our collective efforts are intended to ensure Southwest Baptist University will be the exemplar Christian University providing a transformative and holistic educational experience for years to come,” he said.
 
Over the course of its assessment, the committee met with SBU administration, faculty and staff, SBU trustees, and MBC leadership. The committee’s conversations and research led to findings that were presented to the SBU administration and the Executive Committee of SBU’s board of trustees.
 
Dockery said the peer assessment committee is “particularly grateful to the leaders of SBU and the Missouri Baptist Convention for their openness with the committee and their shared desire to strengthen the work of the SBU community in the days ahead.
 
“I am thankful for the dedicated work of the other committee members, who join with me in offering prayers for God’s help, guidance and blessing for SBU for the months and years to come,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article was first reported by The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

7/18/2019 12:39:40 PM by Missouri Pathway Staff | with 0 comments



Henard to transition from West Virgina executive director

July 18 2019 by WVCSB Staff

William D. “Bill” Henard, executive director-treasurer of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists since 2015, has accepted a call to pastor First Baptist Church in Athens, Tenn., the convention reported in a July 17 news release.
 

WVCSB photo
Bill Henard

In a letter to the administrative committee of the convention’s Executive Board, Henard stated, “I have made the decision that it is time for me to return to the pastorate. It has not been an easy decision but one to which I believe God has led me.”
 
Henard wrote he had missed “transformational preaching and pastoral ministry. I missed the fellowship of the local church. While I enjoyed and saw fruit from my work at the WVCSB, the Holy Spirit was tugging me in a different direction.” He had been “the theorist; now I become the practitioner,” Henard wrote. “I have been the general at headquarters stirring the troops to battle; now I return to the frontlines.”
 
The news release stated that Henard’s announcement “was met with expressions of heaviness of heart from leaders across West Virginia, along with words of celebration for his accomplishments and admiration for following God’s call back to the pulpit.”
 
Allan Thompson, director of missions for the Mountain State Baptist Association, said Henard has done “an outstanding job of turning around a large operation toward fiscal strength and a forward trajectory in his four years at the helm, and has assembled a solid staff in Cleve [Persinger], Tim [Turner] and Danny [Rumple]” who serve the convention respectively in partnerships and communications; evangelism and discipleship; and church planting and missions.
 
Ryan Navy, president-elect of the WVCSB Pastors’ Conference and lead pastor of New Huntington Church, said, “Every pastor needs a pastor. Dr. Henard has been that for me. As a young pastor with lots of questions, he was always a text message away. Dr. Henard was a fantastic executive director. We are sad to see him go, but thrilled to see him continuing to follow God’s call through this transition. Congratulations to FBC Athens!”
 
During Henard’s nearly four years as WVCSB executive director, key accomplishments include:
 

  • 14 churches have joined the convention.

  • 12 churches have planted with 100 percent success rate.

  • Cooperative Program (CP) giving has exceeded budget for the past two years. Currently, CP giving is above budget by 8 percent and is exceeding last year by 13 percent.

  • Increasing the convention’s giving to national and international CP ministries from 40 percent of receipts from the churches to 41.5 percent.

  • The Ola Cox State Missions Offering has met its $100,000 goal for three consecutive years, with the news release noting that WVSBC churches “are increasing in generosity.”

  • With a rise in church reports for the Annual Church Profile, baptisms showed a 38 percent increase last year.

  • A new mission statement for the convention focuses on strengthening and sending churches through training opportunities and building relationships.

  • WVCSB annual meeting attendance has continued to grow over the last four years, marking a 33 percent increase.

 
Before serving as WVCSB executive director, Henard was senior pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and a professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
He has served as a first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention; a trustee with Lifeway Christian Resources, including two years as chairman; and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He is the author of several books, including his most recent, ReClaimed Church: How Churches Grow, Decline, and Experience Revitalization with B&H Publishing Group.
 
Henard holds a Ph.D. degree from Southern Seminary; D.Min and M.Div. degrees Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas; and an undergraduate degree from the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.
 
Henard has been married to his wife Judy for 43 years. They have a daughter, two sons and seven grandchildren.
 
In his letter to the WVCSB administrative committee, Henard wrote, “Thank you for letting me serve you. I am thankful that I am leaving the WVCSB in better shape than how I found it, and I am confident that the next Executive Director can build upon the work accomplished and take this convention to greater heights. Remember 1 Samuel 16 and how God chose David. Let God lead as He reveals His choice. Great success will come as a result.”
 
The administrative committee of the Executive Board will appoint an interim executive as well as a 15-person search committee with every association represented. The convention will provide more information about the position and nationwide search in the coming weeks.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.)

7/18/2019 12:35:01 PM by WVCSB Staff | with 0 comments



Vietnamese Baptists to aim for year-round ministry

July 18 2019 by Tobin Perry

The Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America celebrated their largest-ever annual meeting – 1,500 attendees – when they gathered for four days in Atlanta.
 

Photo submitted
A record 1,500 Vietnamese Baptists gathered for their 35th annual meeting in Atlanta, embracing a new name, the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America.

In their 35th annual meeting, the group adopted a new name, the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America, from the previous Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America.
 
The union’s president, Chien Thang Uc, said the new name reflects a desire to be more than just a yearly meeting focused on fellowship.
 
“[We’ve] just come for the conference, and we haven’t worked closely together between the churches other than during the annual meeting,” said Uc, who serves as the international minister at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
 
“Now that we’re changing our name, it just means that we want to work closely to plant churches, but not only in America, but we want to plant churches around the world where Vietnamese people are living.”
 
The meeting’s theme, “Serve Like Jesus,” was drawn from Mark 10:45. Johnny Hunt, the North American Mission Board’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership development, was among the featured speakers during the July 4-7 gathering at the Hilton Atlanta Airport Hotel.
 
During the meeting’s business sessions, the union also voted to update the language in its constitution and elect officers.
 
Among those who will serve for the coming year: president, Chien Thang Uc; vice president, Chuyen Luu Tran of Redeemer Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; general secretary, Phu Dang Do of Emmanuel Vietnamese Baptist Church in Lake City, Ga.; and general treasurer, Hung Viet Nguyen of Vietnamese Love Baptist Church in Germantown, Md.
 
Uc said this year’s meeting marked the 60th year since the first Southern Baptist missionary went to Vietnam to begin planting churches.
 
About 40 Southern Baptist missionaries were in Vietnam by the time Americans were evacuated in 1975 at the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Many of the missionaries who left Vietnam returned to the United States to start churches among Vietnamese refugees. Uc said the first Southern Baptist Vietnamese church in the United States was planted in California later that year.
 
Cao Bai Tai, the union’s outgoing vice president, said the annual meeting is “a time for us to gather together to do missions and to encourage each other in ministry. It’s the only venue where we can gather coast to coast with people around the world.”
 
Asked about highlights of his time at the annual meeting, Tai noted several of the speakers he heard and the record attendance.
 
“We heard pastor Linh Lee [of Vietnamese Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla.] share about how, as a pastor, God brought him from nothing and now his church is one of the strongest in our Baptist union,” Tai said. “This year we also had a festival night with music and heard a good message about how technology could take over our family and church time.”
 
Tai, pastor of the Vietnamese Baptist Church in High Point, N.C., said about 500 English speakers were at the annual meeting, most of them second- and third-generation Vietnamese. He also noted that attendees celebrated the graduations of six students from the Vietnamese Baptist School in Dallas.
 
“My prayer is that God will continue to use us to share the gospel, not just with the Vietnamese but other languages as well – and He will bring our second and third generations along to participate and be a part of our team,” Tai said.
 
Uc said it can be difficult to bridge the gap between older first-generation Vietnamese Christians and younger second- and third-generation Vietnamese Christians.
 
“Many of the elderly Vietnamese who came over from Vietnam still hold their traditional views, but the second generation and the third generation have grown up in America. They don’t know the old culture,” Uc said. “We are still struggling to understand how the two can work together in the same building and the same churches.”
 
Today more than 160 churches are affiliated with the Vietnamese Baptist Union throughout North America. Uc said Texas (particularly in the Dallas area), Georgia and North Carolina have the most churches in the union.
 
The union is looking for ways to partner with Vietnamese Baptist churches worldwide in church planting efforts, Uc said, noting, “There are so many leaders from Europe, from Australia, from Vietnam, too. They want to work with us. I’m writing to many of the churches and telling them what happened at the conference and also what we are going to do in the future, urging them to work together with us. “
 
Uc said he hopes the union can provide training later in the year to help Vietnamese churches start new churches in North America, Vietnam and other places where Vietnamese people live.
 
Next year’s Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America meeting will be in Washington D.C., July 2-5. Registration will open at the beginning of 2020 at daihoibaptit.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a freelance writer online at tobinperry.com.)

7/18/2019 12:31:38 PM by Tobin Perry | with 0 comments



Cambodian Baptists regaining generational unity

July 18 2019 by Tobin Perry

Seang Yiv has been part of the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship for nearly 30 years, but he’s never heard a prayer quite like the one shared by Timothy Sieng at the fellowship’s recent meeting.
 


Photo submitted
A renewed spirit of unity emerged in the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship during its meeting in Georgia.

“He expressed his love for his parents and grandparents – and his desire for people in his generation to be reconciled and to work in partnership with the older generations of Cambodian Baptists,” Yiv said.
 
“It was the most powerful prayer I’ve ever heard at one of our fellowship meetings. I was in tears as I listened to him.”
 
The prayer came more than a decade after a division between the fellowship’s first-generation and second-generation split the group and led to most of the younger participants not returning. The fellowship had been trying to rebuild its youth participation since that time. Reconciliation between the older and younger Cambodians was important, Yiv said, because many of the group’s older participants are dying off.
 
As Cambodian Southern Baptists gathered to fellowship, worship together and learn from one another, they focused on the theme of reconciliation during their June 26-29 meeting at Poston Road Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga.
 
Sieng, 22, has attended the fellowship’s meetings since he was a child and understands the unique needs of younger and older members to be reconciled. He had seen frustrations on both sides.
 
“I desire what the Lord desires,” Sieng said. “Since He desires reconciliation, that’s something I prayed for, in general, but in that specific moment for the older Cambodian people and the younger Cambodian people to be reconciled. I was just expressing that to the Lord.”
 
Caleb Soch, who serves as the director of the next generation for the fellowship, said the message of reconciliation at the fellowship’s meeting was important for first- and second-generation participants.
 
“If we don’t have unity, we’ll be out of order,” said Soch, who pastors Christ Cornerstone Church in Long Beach, Calif. “It’s important that the first- and the second-generation come to a point where we move forward from our differences and move toward the actual plan and the calling God has for our group.”
 
As part of the fellowship, attendees participated in a variety of workshops to strengthen churches and help participants grow. For example, Yiv taught a workshop on memorizing the Bible.
 
“I knew it was important for our people to be anchored in the Word more deeply and take root in the Lord,” Yiv said. “Many Cambodians, the older generation especially, don’t memorize the Bible. The Bible teaches we should hide God’s Word in our hearts in Psalm 119:11. My presentation gave them four or five methods for retaining more verses in the Bible. This way, even when we meet people on the street, we’ll be able to recite those verses as we share the gospel.”
 
For Sieng, participating in the fellowship has been an encouragement. Though he enjoys gathering with any group of believers, it’s a unique opportunity to worship and fellowship with other Cambodian Baptists.
 
“I think it’s something you don’t get anywhere else, just to be around that many Cambodians,” Sieng said. “Just to be immersed in that culture, to be able to eat the food every day, to be able to relate to people in a way that you can’t really relate to your Caucasian or African American or Hispanic friends, is a great experience.”
 
The Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship, now encompassing 35 to 40 churches, began in 1985. Many of the first Cambodian churches in Southern Baptist life started in the 1980s as Cambodians moved to North America after the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown in 1979 after having killed more than 2 million people since 1975.
 
“The Cambodian Fellowship is just a tiny group of believers, smaller than most Asian fellowships within the SBC,” Yiv said. “However, she is precious in the eyes of the Lord. Yet, the bonds between us are very strong. Strong because we are all victims of the Killing Fields, going through similar sufferings, hungers, hard labors, and everyone losing a lot of family members.”
 
The Cambodian Killing Fields represent the large mass graves throughout the country where victims of the Khmer Rouge were buried.
 
In 2005, Yiv and his wife donated land in Macon, Ga., to the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship to build “The Blessing Field,” a place for the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship to meet and to remind future generations of the suffering experienced by that first generation of Cambodian immigrants.
 
“I thought it would impact the young people, the next generation especially,” Yiv said. “It would be a place where they could remember the killing fields, for them to remember the suffering of the parents and for the place to really document the past tyranny that occurred in Cambodia. It would also highlight the grace of God, that He kept us alive with our children.”
 
Yiv said after they donated the land, the fellowship picked the name, “Blessing Field,” because they felt they were blessed that God had given them a second chance in a country of freedom.
 
“It’s just a name, but it represents something important in our hearts,” he said.
 
Yiv said The Blessing Field is in need of some repairs to comply with city codes, which is why the fellowship couldn’t meet there this year. He’s praying that God would send some Southern Baptists to help with the repairs. They’d also like to expand the property so that more people can visit The Blessing Field.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a freelance writer online at tobinperry.com.)

7/18/2019 12:28:26 PM by Tobin Perry | with 0 comments



Hurricane leaves Louisiana thankful for less impact

July 17 2019 by Brian Blackwell and Philip Timothy, Baptist Message

The devastation from Hurricane Barry was less than anticipated in Louisiana based on forecasts, but for those who sustained damage it does not lessen the impact they felt.
 

Baptist Message photo
A large oak tree fell on this vacant house in Rapides Parish as remnants of Hurricane Barry passed through Louisiana on July 14.

Several Louisiana Baptist churches reported that facilities suffered from floodwaters and winds as Barry subsequently trekked through the state as a tropical storm and then a tropical depression.
 
In places the storm dumped more than 20 inches of rain and produced sustained winds of 75 mph with even higher gusts.
 
As of July 15, reports had been received from four congregations that experienced damage:
 
– Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church in Houma lost portions of its roof, windows were broken, cemetery fencing was lost and a gazebo damaged.
 
– Immanuel Baptist Church in Morgan City experienced roof and siding damage and multiple fallen trees.
 
– First Baptist Church in Franklin lost siding and had begun removing tree limbs downed by winds.
 
– Trinity Baptist Church in New Iberia reported damage to the roof and steeple.
 
Gibbie McMillan, disaster relief coordinator for Louisiana Baptists, said a joint response team from the Eastern Louisiana and Washington Baptist Associations had been deployed to make roof repairs to Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church. Meanwhile, a team of Baptist Collegiate Ministry students was in Moss Bluff, which received 15 inches of rain since Sunday afternoon, helping homeowners with cleanup and restoration.
 
Before Barry made landfall on Saturday, July 13, in Intracoastal City, La., some weather sources projected up to 25 inches of rainfall in parts of the state. But many areas experienced much less, mostly due to dry air from the north that kept Barry disorganized, according to multiple meteorological reports.
 

Baptist Message photo
The digital sign at Trinity Baptist Church in Pineville, La., cautions drivers of the potential for flash flooding as a heavy rain shower passed through the area. Many parishes in south and central Louisiana were under a flash flood warning as the remnants of Hurricane Barry continued to dump up to 20 inches of rain.

Steve Horn, executive director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told the Baptist Message he was convinced that prayer made a difference.
 
“We wake up a thankful people this morning,” Horn said. “Certainly, we sympathize with our brothers and sisters who are still dealing with flooding rains this morning. We continue to pray that God will protect life and property. We are in communication with people around the state to see how we might best assist them to minister to their communities.
 
“We also take our stand on God’s Word as in places such as James 5:16,” Horn said: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
 
Horn emphasized that “nothing is too difficult for God” who can do all things. “Whether it is to destroy a storm or deliver us from the destruction of a storm, God is able,” he said.
 
John Hebert, Louisiana Baptists’ missions and ministry director who oversees disaster relief operations, echoed Horn’s praise to God for minimizing the effects of Barry.
 
“We are blessed to have escaped this disaster,” Hebert said. “Thanks to the Lord for His hand of protection.
 
“Churches in Bayou, Gulf Coast and Evangeline Associations seemed to be affected more than others, with Bayou Association’s Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church being the worst,” Hebert said.

Though we knew this storm was not real organized and barely hurricane strength, there is always potential for severe damage due to flooding and accompanying tornadic activity.”
 
Barry, as a tropical depression, was located 70 miles west-northwest of Little Rock, Ark., as of Monday at 10 a.m., but still was producing heavy rainfall in parts of southwest and central Louisiana. As of July 16, its remnants were moving across Missouri.
 
The National Weather Service in Lake Charles issued flash flood warnings for nine parishes on July 15: northwestern Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles and Beauregard parishes; central Calcasieu and Evangeline parishes; northern Jefferson Davis and St. Landry parishes; and southeastern Rapides Parish.
 
Oakdale and Oberlin in Allen Parish have both received the largest accumulations of water and are facing serious flooding, according to the weather service. Radar and gauge measurements indicate some areas in the parish had received nearly 17 inches of rain, with widespread totals of 6 to 12 inches of rain since Sunday evening.
 
Moreauville in Avoyelles Parish “has some really serious flooding right now, which is affecting a lot of people,” Jacob Crawford, director of missions for the Louisiana Baptist Association, reported. “It is a miracle there has not been more flooding than what there is right now.”
 
Crawford noted that the mission center in Simmesport had some minor flooding and church planter Reggie Arvie at St. James Baptist Church in Bunkie had some flooding in his home.
 
Gil Arthur, pastor of the First Baptist Church in DeQuincy in Calcasieu Parish, told the Baptist Message, “Last night (July 15) was one of the worst nights I have experienced with the rain, wind, lightning and thunder, but we are doing well here. As far as I know, by God’s grace, we have been spared.
 
“We have folks ready to go out and help, but so far no one has requested assistance,” Arthur said. “The water is high, but none of our members have reported flooding in their houses. There is no flooding at the church.”
 
Jerry Johnson, director of missions for the Mt. Olive Baptist Association in Allen Parish, told the Message, “I sent a text to all pastors in Mt. Olive to check on them and none have responded back so I’m assuming all is good with them.”
 
Kevin West, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, told the Message he was unable to reach the church property because roads into the city were blocked. However, Garland Foreman, publisher of the Ville Platte Gazette newspaper, said a bayou that runs by the church had overflowed its banks, and water was around the church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell and Philip Timothy are the staff writer and managing editor, respectively, for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

7/17/2019 5:21:17 PM by Brian Blackwell and Philip Timothy, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



Refugee crisis: NOBTS students share gospel

July 17 2019 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

Amid the fading beauty of central Athens, not far from the ancient ruins that draw so many tourists, a monumental refugee crisis persists. Along with suffering and uncertainty, the unfolding crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity for gospel witness among Muslims.
 
And for the past two years, members of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) community have traveled to Europe to minister among the refugees.
 

Photo by Gary D. Myers
Members of the NOBTS mission team pray for the residents of two squatter apartment complexes in central Athens. Refugees in Athens have few housing options and many occupy previously abandoned buildings as they await action on their immigration status.

Muslim refugees, driven from their homelands by war and political upheaval, reportedly began converging on Europe in 2015. Four years after the initial wave of refugees arrived on the shores of Greece, the crisis continues throughout Europe.
 
This year’s NOBTS team experienced an unexpected openness during a week-long evangelism trip to Athens. At the end of the trip, the team witnessed the baptisms of four new believers who grew up as Muslims.
 
After a successful evangelism trip to Naples distributing “The Savior” film in 2018, Mike Edens decided to lead a mission team to the Greek capital, which is reportedly home to more than 100,000 refugees. Edens, distinguished professor of missions and theology at NOBTS, expressed excitement about the collaborative effort taking place in Athens.
 
Southern Baptist ministries in Athens have partnered with five Greek Evangelical churches to address the refugee crisis through compassion ministries and gospel witness.
 
Edens noted he was pleased to see “the interweaving of the Greek Evangelical churches, the SBC partners and ethnic believers.”
 
“They were really functioning as the body of Christ in the cauldron that is Athens,” he said.
 
As with the Italy trip the year before, the evangelism strategy focused on the distribution of “The Savior” film to Muslim refugees.
 
“The Savior” is a feature-length movie filmed by Robert Savo in the Middle East, using Middle Eastern actors. The script, Edens said, not only has Middle Eastern viewers in mind, it effectively addresses many Muslim objections to Christianity without compromising the gospel. The film tells the story and counters Muslim objections utilizing the Gospel of Luke along with two additional accounts from John.
 
Savo and his team distribute the film to Muslims on small Secure Digital (SD) memory cards designed to play on Android cellphones. In addition, the team has secured broadcast deals to show the film on national television networks in a variety of places.
 
The 12-member NOBTS team distributed SD cards containing the film to Muslim-background shopkeepers in central Athens each morning. In the afternoon, small groups set up distribution tables at strategic locations around Athens. The seminary volunteers were joined by local translators. The translators were all professing Christians, most of them whom grew up in Muslim families. The day before the distribution began, team members prayer walked in the areas with high refugee populations.
 

Hopelessness abounds

 
Long before the refugees arrived in Greece, hopelessness had taken root in Athens.
 

Photo by Gary D. Myers
A woman sleeps on a bench near the Acropolis in Athens. Homelessness is common in the Greek capital and the problem is not limited to the refugee population.

Shackled by a decade-long economic crisis, many Greek people are reportedly without work and the government has been forced to impose stringent austerity measures. Nearly every block in central Athens appears to have an abandoned shop, hotel or apartment building. The once-grand buildings of central Athens, occupied or not, are covered with graffiti and protest posters.
 
The fragile economy buckled under the mass migration of refugees. Thousands of refugees are living as squatters in the abandoned hotels and apartment buildings which dot central Athens, according to media reports. All but a few reportedly lack the proper paperwork to work in Greece or immigrate to another country – they are simply stuck in Athens.

The influx of outsiders has appeared to change the landscape of Athens. Just a short walk from the Parthenon and the Greek parliament building, the streets are lined with shops catering to a wide range of cultures – slowly replacing Greek-focused cafes and shops. And while many Greeks are sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, native Athenians are weary from the rapid cultural changes.
 

Seeds planted in good soil

 
The refugee crisis first gained worldwide exposure when Syrian refugees – fleeing the Islamic State group and their own government – began arriving by boat on Greek shores. Edens expected to encounter more Arabic speakers during the trip. And while many Arabic speakers are still in Greece, many have found their way to other countries, some have returned to Syria.
 
Up to 70 percent of the refugees that that NOBTS team encountered were Farsi speakers from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, according to the team’s report. Most were highly-educated and worked in prestigious jobs before leaving their homelands. Some left due to sectarian struggles; many of the Afghanis and Iraqis were forced to flee due to their support of the coalition forces fighting against terrorism.
 
Edens noted the “seed is being sown, and we saw the seed fall on some really good soil.”
 
“There is an open door in Athens,” he said. “The gospel could go from Athens as a hub, throughout the world. The gospel is moving in the Farsi-speaking world in tremendous ways.”
 
While the Farsi speakers seemed to be especially open to the gospel, the mission team found receptive hearts in every segment of the refugee community. Some refused the offer of an SD card when the team explained that the movie was about Jesus. But rejections of the free movie were rare, the team reported. In just four days, the team distributed approximately 1,600 copies of the film.
 
Some who watched the movie came back with a completed survey about the film. Those who returned the survey received a small gift, but they also left contact information for the follow-up team working with Savo. The film was particularly moving to one Pakistani man who wrote in his survey, “this movie should be shown throughout the world.” His other survey answers revealed a heart that was open to the gospel.
 
While no one made a commitment to Christ during the distribution, members of the NOBTS had many gospel conversations with refugees. On several occasions, refugees allowed team members to pray for them in the busy, public square. The prayers always included a request that God would reveal the truth of the gospel to that individual.
 

The end goal – baptized believers

 
Just before the team left Greece, a Southern Baptist partner in the region invited the NOBTS team to participate in a baptism service for four former Muslims who had accepted the gospel after arriving in Athens. The new believers were baptized in the ancient port of Cenchrea, which sits on the Saronic Gulf just five miles from ancient Corinth. The Apostle Paul embarked from Cenchrea in Acts 18:18 on his way to Ephesus.
 
In this historic setting, four believers proclaimed their commitment to Christ. One woman who was baptized said that before she fled her country, she had everything the world could offer except true hope. Now, stripped of all the material things she once enjoyed, the woman praised God for the new hope she has in Jesus.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is the director of communications at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

7/17/2019 5:12:33 PM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments



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