July 2019

Credentials Committee elects Stacy Bramlett as chair

July 24 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The Credentials Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention held its initial meeting July 22 by video conferencing, electing Stacey Bramlett of Tennessee as its chair.
The nine-member Credentials Committee was repurposed during the SBC’s 2019 annual meeting into a standing committee to make inquiries and recommendations for action regarding instances of sexual abuse, racism or other issues that call a church’s relationship with the SBC into question.

Stacy Bramlett

Bramlett, senior vice president of Independent Bank in Collierville, Tenn., has been a member of the SBC Executive Committee (EC) since 2016, serving as the EC’s secretary from 2017-2019.
Bramlett is one of three members nominated by the Executive Committee. The Credentials Committee also includes the SBC’s registration secretary, the EC chairman and four members nominated by the Committee on Nominations. The nominations were approved by messengers June 11 in Birmingham, Ala.
In written comments to Baptist Press, Bramlett said, “I am humbled at being selected and I am approaching the role with much prayer and total dependency on the leadership of the Holy Spirit.”
She voiced gratitude “for a strong committee with a wide range of experiences in Southern Baptist life. We covet the prayers of fellow Baptists as the committee begins to chart a plan of action in preparation for dealing with any matters forwarded from the [EC] Bylaws Workgroup or other sources” in the days ahead.
In their bylaws vote, messengers in June repurposed the former Credentials Committee and created a new Registration Committee that will continue to be appointed by the SBC president for each annual meeting for the registration process of messengers.
In addition to Bramlett, the new Credentials Committee members named by the Executive Committee are Linda Cooper of Bowling Green, Ky., national president of WMU, and Mike Lawson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas.
Named by the Committee on Nominations were Jimmy Draper of Colleyville, Texas, a former SBC president and president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources; Cheryl Rice, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla.; Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and a former EC chairman; and Greg Fields, lead pastor of Nellis Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
The SBC registration secretary serving on the Credentials Committee is Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board; the EC chairman is Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga.
The repurposing of the Credentials Committee was one of two key actions by messengers addressing the issues of sexual abuse and racism. An amendment to the SBC constitution also was approved to specify sexual abuse and racism as grounds for declaring a church as “not in friendly cooperation.” The bylaws required a single two-thirds vote; the constitutional amendment will require a second two-thirds vote during the SBC’s 2020 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Further details follow about the Credentials Committee members. Once implemented, the nominated members will serve three-year rotating terms. The initial committee, however, has staggered one-, two- and three-year terms.

Stacy Bramlett

Bramlett is a member of Collierville First Baptist Church, where she has served on the finance committee, personnel committee, building finance committee, worship team and choir. She and her husband Andy teach an adult Bible fellowship class and a divorce recovery class.
As a senior vice president at Independent Bank, Bramlett manages the mortgage division and has more than 30 years’ experience in mortgage banking.
The Bramletts are lifelong Memphians with a son in law school and another son in high school.
Term of service: 2019-2022

Linda Cooper

Cooper is the 23rd president of national Woman’s Missionary Union, the first Kentuckian elected to the post, and is an ex officio member of the SBC Executive Committee.
She and her husband Jim are members of Forest Park Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., where she is a member of Women on Mission and has participated in various church-wide and domestic missions opportunities as well as outreach in Indonesia, Russia, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, Malawi, Jamaica and Ecuador.
She also serves as WMU director and chairperson of the Warren Association of Baptists’ missions committee and is a member of its administration committee.
As a dental hygienist, she has ministered to others through a 40-year career in the same office in Smiths Grove, Ky. The Coopers have an adult son and daughter, two grandsons and two granddaughters.
Term: 2019-2020

Mike Lawson

Lawson, who has served on various committees at the national, state and associational levels, is in his 20th year at First Baptist in Sherman and has been a member of the SBC Executive Committee since 2012.
He has been in the pastorate since 1985, serving in Sherman and two other north Texas churches, entering the ministry in 1981 as a youth minister. He holds M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
Lawson and his wife Kim have been married 29 years and have two young adult sons.
Term: 2019-2021

Jimmy Draper

Draper served 35 years as a pastor; president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1982-1984; and 15 years as president of LifeWay Christian Resources. He served as “EC Ambassador” alongside the EC’s interim president/CEO, D. August Boto, during the EC’s search for a new chief executive.
In retirement, Draper remains active in preaching, leading conferences and mentoring younger pastors.
Draper and his wife Carol Ann have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Term: 2019-2021

Cheryl Rice

Rice is in her 35th year of ministry with her husband Willy, currently senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla. – “the church where my entire family met Jesus and where I met and married Willy in 1984.” She came to Christ in 1981 at age 16 from a non-practicing Catholic background.
Calvary is the couple’s fifth church. She has taught Bible to varied ages over the years; served as women’s ministry coordinator at different times and speaker at various events; and served as president of the Florida Baptist Convention Ministers’ Wives’ luncheons in Pensacola and in Clearwater.
A retired high school English and literature teacher, she and her husband have two grown daughters, a son and four grandchildren.
Term: 2019-2020

Roger Spradlin

Spradlin, who has served at Valley Baptist Church since 1983, has held a number of positions in Baptist life, including president of the California Southern Baptist Convention; 10 years on the SBC Executive Committee, including two years as chairman; a member of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message revision committee and the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force; and 10 years as a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, including two years as chairman.
Prior to his call to Valley Baptist Church, Spradlin had been a Baptist Student Union director and a church planter. He and his wife Ginger have two grown sons and a daughter; a fourth child, Charity, is deceased.
Term: 2019-2022

Greg Fields

Fields, lead pastor of Nellis Baptist Church, leads a multicultural congregation in the northeast area of Las Vegas that was organized in 1956 by members from the Nellis Air Force Base Chapel.
He retired from the Air Force in 2007 after nearly 21 years of service. He is currently completing a master of divinity degree from Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif., and holds an undergraduate degree in church ministries from Bethany College. He is a mentor in the Gentlemen by Choice mentorship program helping boys experience growth and maturity in leadership and personal development.
Term: 2019-2022

Kathy Litton

Litton was elected SBC registration secretary at the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham.
She has been on NAMB’s staff for eight years, currently giving leadership in care, coaching and training for planter spouses across North America. She was a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and has served on the SBC’s Resolutions Committee and Committee on Nominations.
She is married to Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile, Ala. The Littons’ lives took unexpected turns as they lost their former spouses in separate auto accidents.
The Littons share six grown children and 10 grandchildren.
Term: while serving as SBC registration secretary.

Mike Stone

Stone, the current Executive Committee chairman, has been on the EC since 2014 and is the immediate past president of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Now in his 23rd year at Emmanuel Baptist Church in the southeast Georgia town of Blackshear, he has been the senior pastor 17 years, previously serving as music minister.
Stone and his wife Andrea have two sons and two daughters age 16 and under.
Term: while serving as EC chairman.
As now stated in the SBC’s bylaws, the Credentials Committee will:

  • Review any information available when an issue arises during an annual meeting whether a church is in cooperation with the convention. The Credentials Committee shall either (a) consider the question and, when prepared, make a recommendation to the Executive Committee or (b) make a recommendation to the convention at the earliest opportunity, which will be immediately considered. One representative of the church and one representative of the Credentials Committee shall be permitted to speak to the question, subject to the normal rules of debate.

  • Review any information available when an issue arises between annual meetings. If the committee deems that a church is not in cooperation with the convention, it shall submit a report to the Executive Committee with the committee’s reasons. The EC, at its next meeting, shall consider the report to make a determination. The decision can be appealed to the convention at least 30 days prior to the annual meeting, when the matter will be considered as part of miscellaneous business on the afternoon of the first day of the convention.

  • Never attempt to exercise authority over a church in violation of Article IV of the SBC constitution in its queries to a church.

  • Facilitate reconsideration of a disfellowshipped church if the church asserts it has addressed the matters which led to its removal as a cooperating church, subject to a vote by the Executive Committee.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

7/24/2019 11:04:42 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former heroin addict finds Christ in fishing village

July 24 2019 by Lucy Campbell, IMB

“I believe this. I want to be baptized.” Mark was just one of the men recovering from heroin addiction at “The Well,” a rehabilitation center founded by Southern Baptist missionaries in sub-Saharan Africa.
His new start in recovery led to his new beginning in eternal life.

IMB photo
Fishermen in Sub-Saharan Africa pull in their nets to haul in the catch of the day. Fisherman such as these benefit from programs at “The Well,” a rehabilitation center founded by Southern Baptist missionaries.

Located inside a concrete building formerly frequented by heroin addicts, “The Well” serves those who live in the surrounding fishing villages. The name was inspired by the story in John 4 of the Samaritan woman, whose encounter with Jesus at the well not only changed her life, but also the lives of those in her town.
After being baptized and completing the program, Mark (whose name is changed for security reasons) returned home to his village. Typically, when addicts return home, it can be easy for them to slip back into old habits, and it is hard to maintain contact with their fellow classmates after they finish the program. But returning home also presents opportunities for relationships to be restored, broken families to be mended, and villages to be introduced to the gospel.
Awhile after Mark went home, missionaries from the center bumped into him. They began a discipleship group in his village and challenged the men to read through the gospel of John. Even one of the program leaders was challenged by seeing how Mark understood and applied what he had read.
Pray that Mark will lead people in his village to Christ so they may say, as people in the Samaritan’s village once said, “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42, CSB). Also, pray Southern Baptist missionaries and their national partners will have opportunities to follow up with new Christians after they leave the rehab center.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering make it possible for Southern Baptists to live among the fishermen in sub-Saharan African villages so they can share the gospel with those waiting to hear.
Learn more about Sub-Saharan African people here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lucy Campbell is a Journeyman serving in Eastern Europe.)

7/24/2019 10:59:49 AM by Lucy Campbell, IMB | with 0 comments

Sudan Christians may benefit from new accord

July 23 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A new power-sharing agreement to establish civilian rule in Sudan is potentially good news for persecuted Christians there, religious liberty watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) said.

Screen capture from BBC
Sudan military and civilian leaders signed a new power-sharing deal to establish civilian rule in the Islamic country, giving Christians hope for religious liberty.

“This could very well be a historic change for the country of Sudan and for its suffering Christian population,” Nathan Johnson, ICC regional manager for Africa, said in a press release. “If the new constitution does not guarantee freedom of religion for all, removing sharia as the guiding force, I fear that Christians will continue to live under tyranny and persecution.”
Christians, long persecuted in Sudan, have suffered during months of protests to establish civilian rule after the April ouster of dictatorial President Omar al-Bashir, a Khartoum pastor told ICC.
“The civil protests have really affected the church socially, emotionally and financially,” ICC quoted the pastor who requested anonymity. “We have been tied for months because of the running battles, extrajudicial killings, failed peace talks, and many people, including our church members, must skip work due to instability.”
Christians comprise just 3 percent of the 43.1 million people in the mostly Muslim country, according to the State Department. Sharia law is enforced.
“In such an environment where Islam is the main religion, anger and retaliation always fall back to the churches,” ICC quoted the pastor. “Many churches have been forced to close down during Sunday worship as a sign of showing support for the unrest.”
The Sudanese Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the civilian Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) announced a deal July 17 aimed at establishing civilian rule in just over three years. According to Reuters, the TMC and FFC must sign a constitutional declaration to complete the deal. Signing the declaration had been expected July 19 but was postponed, the AFP French news outlet reported.
“We hope that this positive start will bring relative calm,” ICC quoted the pastor, “open an environment of coexistence between all the people of Sudan and a wider space of freedom of worship.”
Details of the new agreement vary among news reports. The deal establishes three authorities, according to Middle East Eye, including a sovereign council, a council of ministers and a legislative council. Key is the sovereign council, which will include five military members and five civilians.
According to ICC, a military leader will lead the sovereign council the first 21 months, and a civilian will lead the next 18 months leading to a national election. The strength of the sovereign council remains unclear, ICC said.
“Now that the deal has been signed, it is time for the people of Sudan to ensure that the freedoms that they are calling for guarantee freedom for all, and not just some,” Johnson said.
Contention has surrounded whether the military will be held accountable for as many as 128 civilian deaths in a June 3 massacre during mass protests. Military leaders put the massacre death toll at 61. According to Middle East Eye, both sides agreed to an investigation by an independent investigative committee.
The pastor expressed hope, the ICC said, that the church would “be allowed to evangelize freely in the urban streets and also in the countryside. Missionary work and Bible distribution have been greatly affected in the recent past. We are asking for more tolerance.”
Christian persecution is high in the country that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has described as a “country of particular concern” since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act.
A South Sudanese pastor in Clarkston, Ga., has told Baptist Press Sudan is ripe for the gospel.
Abraham Deng, who helps lead a Sudanese congregation at Clarkston International Bible Church, told Baptist Press this month that he baptized three ladies who converted from Islam when he visited Sudan this past spring, where Deng’s family remains. He distributed 5,000 Bibles during the trip, he said.
Sudan’s population is 97 percent Muslim, primarily Sunni, with a range of Muslim minority groups and Sufi orders, according to State Department figures. Evangelicals are included among Christians that comprise 3 percent of the population, including Coptic, Greek, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox; Roman Catholic; Anglican; Presbyterian; Pentecostal; Seventh-day Adventist; and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/23/2019 11:30:02 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Jesus’ erased from N. Korea, Bae says at ERLC event

July 23 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

North Korea’s decades-long attempt to eliminate Christianity has practically erased any knowledge of Jesus for citizens, attendees were told July 18 at a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Photo by Anna Meyer
Attendees at a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the Southern Baptist ERLC received an overview of North Korea’s decades-long attempt to eliminate Christianity.

The ERLC hosted the meeting on religious liberty under the dictatorial regime at a U.S. Senate office building as a side event on the third and final day of the State Department’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. “Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea” included a panel discussion, an interview with an escapee from North Korea and the premiere of a documentary film of the same name.
Kenneth Bae – imprisoned by North Korea longer than any other American citizen – told the audience he has met hundreds of people who have fled that country since he began his work with refugees in South Korea after his release in 2014. Never has he met a North Korean who heard the name “Jesus” in his or her home country, Bae said.
“The people who are about 50 and under never had a chance to hear about Jesus,” he said.
North Korea is “a country [in which] Christianity has been eliminated,” Bae said, though Christians still meet in underground churches. If the government learns a person is a Christian, it may not only kill that person but also his or her parents and children.
Government officials consider religious adherents, especially Christians, the “biggest threat to their existence,” he said.
The event was the latest in the ERLC’s efforts this year on behalf of religious freedom in the Asian country. ERLC staff advocated for religious liberty in North Korea and China in particular during the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Messengers at June’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting passed a resolution condemning the North Korean and Chinese regimes for their “extreme religious persecution.” They also pledged to pray for the end of persecution in China and North Korea and called on the United States and the international community to make religious freedom a top priority. In 2015, messengers approved a resolution calling for religious freedom and human rights in North Korea.
A one-family dictatorship has ruled North Korea since the country’s establishment more than 70 years ago. Kim Il-sung reigned until his death in 1994, followed by his son, Kim-Jong-il, and now his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Totalitarianism, religious oppression – especially of Christians – and economic deprivation have marked their rule.
“The situation in North Korea is absolutely dire,” said Olivia Enos, senior policy analyst in the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center.
North Korea “consistently ranks as number one” in studies estimating “the worst places in the world to be a Christian,” Enos told the audience. “[T]he Kim regime sees religion as potentially threatening to its leadership.”
North Korea has prison camps as well as political prison camps “that people typically go to, and they never leave,” she said. In political prison camps, a person can experience hard labor, torture and years of lacking necessary food and water for such offenses as reading the Bible and listening to South Korean music, she said.
Conservatively, 80,000 to 120,000 of the country’s 25 million people are in political prison camps, Enos told participants. It is believed millions may already have died in the camps, she said.
Steven Harris, a policy director for the ERLC, traveled to South Korea in March to meet with church leaders, activists and escapees from North Korea. The deep awareness of the “lack of not just religious freedom but just freedom of thought and conviction” stood out to him, Harris told attendees.
An escapee from North Korea told Harris in an interview during the event that his was “one of those generations brainwashed” to believe North Korea was “one of the best countries” in the world. The escapee – whose name is withheld for his safety – said he saw people dying of starvation on the street and knew others were fleeing to China only to be returned to North Korea.
He successfully escaped North Korea on his second attempt 15 years ago as a teenager and now lives in a democracy. Of North Korea’s future, he said, “We don’t know what is going to happen. I am not going to ask you why you came here today. I am going to ask you here how you are going to support us.”
Bae, a theological seminary graduate, had been taking Christian tourists into North Korea from China over a period of two years when he was arrested in 2012 for carrying a hard drive with western media material on it.
When it was learned Bae was a Christian missionary, the North Koreans told him he was trying to overthrow the government “through prayer and worship,” he said. They told him they were not afraid of American nuclear weapons, but “we are afraid of someone like you bringing religion into our country and then using it against us, and everybody will turn to God, and this will become God’s country, and we will fall,” Bae said. He was told, “You are probably the most dangerous American criminal we have ever had since the Korean War,” he said.
Since his release, Bae has started the Nehemiah Global Initiative to pray for North Korea, provide Bibles and rice to North Koreans and rescue refugees. From 1,000 to 1,300 North Koreans arrive in South Korea each year, he said.
God has reminded him, Bae said, “I still have not forgotten 25 million who never heard. I’ve seen their tears. I’ve heard their cries. I will restore them once again.”
Harris encouraged those in attendance to pray for North Koreans, advocate for them locally and nationally, and serve any refugees from that country who might be nearby.
Also speaking on the panel was Jin Shin, who gave an overview of North Korea’s history. He is a political science professor at Chungnam National University in Daejon, South Korea, and co-chair of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom and Belief in North Korea.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/23/2019 11:24:25 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New Iranian believer quickly begins sharing his faith

July 23 2019 by Rae Hamilton, IMB

Dry and dusty. Rocky and hard. Much of the soil in the Middle East is like this.
But the soil of Iran is rich and fertile, even so from a spiritual perspective.

IMB photo
The spiritual soil of Iran is rich and fertile – Iranians are embracing the gospel and sharing it with others.

Amir*, a young Iranian man with a ponytail, received the Book of John and heard the gospel from a group of believers. Amir was so interested, he met with an evangelist that evening to learn more.
The next day the same group of believers saw Amir on the street. He wanted another Gospel of John to give to a friend. Amir took the book and stood in a building doorway with his friend. He excitedly told the friend about the book as they looked through the pages together.
A while later, Amir came back to the group and asked for more books. He had gathered more friends on the street, and they needed this message too. Amir came back even later and asked for several more books to take home and give to friends.
What the group of believers didn’t yet know was that Amir had accepted Christ as his Savior the night before while talking with the evangelist. He had been a believer for less than a day but was already sharing the gospel with his friends.
Pray that this kind of passion for Jesus and the work of His gospel will characterize all believers, whether they are 20 hours or 20 years old in their faith.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists in Central Asia who work to disciple new believers – who, in turn, share the gospel with others who have never heard it.
To learn more about Central Asian people, click here.
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rae Hamilton is a writer for the International Mission Board.)

7/23/2019 11:21:20 AM by Rae Hamilton, IMB | with 0 comments

Middle Eastern men delve into God’s Word

July 23 2019 by IMB Staff

He is a local believer who is faithfully leading a Bible study for a group of his friends in the Middle East.

IMB photo
A group of men in the Middle East meets regularly for worship, prayer and Bible study. They practice retelling the Bible stories they learn so they can share them with others.

These men all grew up following the teachings of Muhammad, but now they have made the life-altering decision to follow Christ. They face persecution and discrimination because of their choice.
When they gather to study God’s Word, Nasser* and his friends first talk about how they are growing in their faith. They then move into a time of worship, followed by a time to share prayer requests. Nasser then leads them in the study of the Word.
The believers learn what the Bible teaches about forgiveness, persecution and abiding in Christ. They practice retelling the Bible stories they learn so they can share them with their families, friends and community.
They end the meeting with prayer, and they ask God to help them be faithful witnesses to their friends. They also pray for their children, who have been harshly questioned at school for not knowing the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam).
Pray Nasser will continue to grow as a leader.
Pray the group will have the courage to witness to others, to grow in their faith, and to face persecution with discernment.
Pray for God’s protection over their children.
Pray that all the people in their community will hear the gospel and respond.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists living and working in North Africa and the Middle East. Baptist workers help new believers grow in their faith and share the good news of God’s Word.

Learn more about North African and Middle Eastern people here.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was first posted by the International Mission Board’s communication team at imb.org.)

7/23/2019 11:14:45 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Annual meeting to emphasize ‘God’s Great Work’

July 22 2019 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

God’s Great Work” is the theme for the 2019 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting and will focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

This year’s event is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 11-12 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. Following are some selected highlights of this year’s meeting and why you should make plans to attend.
Learn more about this year’s annual meeting and reserve a room at the host hotel at a special convention rate by visiting ncannualmeeting.org.

Church planting celebration

A special church planting celebration service will be held Monday evening. This service will highlight the need for new churches to be planted in North Carolina, how new church plants are engaging others with the gospel and making disciples, and how your congregation can be a part of what God is doing through church plants in our state.

President’s address

BSC President Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, will deliver the annual president’s address Monday evening in conjunction with the church planting celebration.
Scoggins plans to preach from Nehemiah 6:3 and will highlight the significance of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

‘Who’s Your One?’

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) executive committee, will preach during a special service on Tuesday evening related to the ‘Who’s Your One?’ evangelistic initiative taking place across the SBC.

EDT address

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, will deliver his annual address and report to messengers on Tuesday morning. Hollifield’s stated vision for the BSC is “by God’s grace, we will become the strongest force in the history of this convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Strategy update

Messengers will hear an update on progress that has been made toward the BSC’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making” that was implemented in 2014. 

Budget and business

Messengers will adopt a Cooperative Program budget for 2020, elect convention officers and conduct other convention business.

ERLC panel and breakout sessions

Representatives from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention will conduct a panel related to sexual abuse prevention in local churches.
A number of other breakout sessions featuring convention staff members and ministry leaders will also be held throughout the meeting.
A complete list of breakout session titles and descriptions will be posted online at ncannualmeeting.org by the early fall.

Pastors’ Conference

Come to the annual meeting early and attend the 2019 N.C. Baptist Pastors’ Conference, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, Nov. 10-11, at the Koury Convention Center.
The theme of this year’s pastors’ conference is “One” and will explore what it would look like if the church were truly to become one in Christ.
This year’s speakers include: Mike Cummings, pastor of Deep Branch Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C.; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham; James Fisher, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.; speaker and author Daniel Ritchie; Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist church in Blackshear, Ga.; Alvin Summers, pastor of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail’s East Campus; and J.J. Washington, campus pastor of Woodstock Church at Austell, Ga.
Learn more at ncpastorsconference.org.

Pray for 30 Days

N.C. Baptists are invited to join in a special 30-day prayer emphasis during the month of October leading up to the annual meeting.
A prayer guide featuring daily scripture readings, devotionals and prayer prompts will be available by early fall.
Individuals may also sign up to receive prayer prompts through text messages and devotional emails each day in October.

The prayer guide and more information will be available at prayfor30days.org.

7/22/2019 4:59:11 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

ERLC video on N. Korea: Churches meet despite risks

July 22 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

North Korean followers of Jesus continue to worship in underground churches despite the totalitarian regime’s ongoing effort to eradicate Christianity, according to a new documentary film produced by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Screen capture from ERLC video
North Korean followers of Jesus continue to worship in underground churches despite the totalitarian regime’s ongoing effort to eradicate Christianity, according to a new documentary film produced by the ERLC.

The ERLC premiered the 10-minute video – “Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea” – during a July 18 Capitol Hill discussion regarding conditions in the Asian country. The Southern Baptist entity hosted the conversation at a U.S. Senate office building as a side event on the third and final day of the State Department’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C.
The United States government and non-governmental organizations typically rate North Korea as one of the world’s worst violators, if not the worst violator, of religious liberty. Yet, Christians continue to gather, a female escapee from the country says in the documentary.
“There are underground churches built in North Korea even now, which are not known by the North Korean regime and many North Korean people,” says the woman, who is not identified and whose face is hidden. “There are people worshipping there.”
A North Korean who now lives in South Korea says in the film, “I saw how North Koreans believe in Jesus. I saw how the providence of God was affecting” Christians in North Korea.
“I had no idea about the existence of underground churches,” says the man, who also is unidentified. “So it was very surprising for me. [L]iving with faith in North Korea means risking one’s life. There are people worshiping in the mountains, along rivers, and in the field while working in groups of two or three.”
A personality cult involving one family has dominated North Korea since the country’s establishment more than 70 years ago. Kim Il-sung ruled until his death in 1994, followed by his son, Kim-Jong-il, and now his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Totalitarianism, religious oppression – especially of Christians – and economic deprivation have marked their reign.
The ERLC has made the effort for religious freedom in North Korea a policy priority this year, and messengers to June’s annual SBC meeting passed a resolution condemning the North Korean and Chinese regimes for their “extreme religious persecution.”
ERLC President Russell Moore said of the documentary, “This short film tells the story of God’s people in North Korea, but it does more than that because the story of God’s people turns earthly power upside down.
“The anguish of the journey our brothers and sisters in Christ took to escape the horrors of the Kim Jong-un regime is what gives this film its force,” he said in an ERLC news release. “Biblical courage redefines power and reshapes community. Those of us who belong to Christ find [our] power in the spirit of God and, as these brave Koreans teach us, that ought to embolden us to stand, even against a despot who denies our humanity. These men and women are a gift to the church and I hope many will learn from their example of courageous faith.”
While the regime has not eliminated Christianity, it has prevented most North Koreans from learning about Jesus and the gospel.
“When I was in North Korea, I never heard of the word ‘church,’” the female escapee says in the documentary. “I did not know what church was about, and I had never heard of the word ‘Jesus Christ.’ In North Korea, I was brainwashed by the ideology of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. We all worshiped the idols of Kim Il-sung and Kim-Jong-il, not God. We worshiped Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il as God.”
She met the true God when she fled to China, the woman says in the video.
“I believe that the only way to the unification of the two Koreas – to understand and to love each other – will be the gospel,” she said.
Another woman in the documentary explains she was repatriated to North Korea three times before ultimately escaping to freedom. She not only was imprisoned but had her baby forcibly aborted on one occasion.
The North Korean regime “does not recognize as a citizen a child of mixed blood,” says the woman, who also is unidentified in the video. “So they forced abortions on female, North Korean defectors who got pregnant abroad, without exception.
“I underwent a forced abortion. And the surgery was without anesthesia. It’s by God’s grace that I am able to tell my story,” she says. “It broke my heart. So after losing my baby, I got to know God’s heart.”
She wants the international community to know the truth about the lack of human rights in North Korea, the woman says in the documentary. “Then, they can care for people in North Korea who are still suffering from the repression of human rights, and care for people who have no freedom of religion,” she says.
The documentary, which provides captions of the interviews, is available at ERLC.com/northkorea.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/22/2019 3:37:58 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Augusto Valverde, longtime Hispanic leader, dies at 71

July 22 2019 by David Raúl Lema Jr. and Art Toalston

Miami pastor Augusto Valverde, a longtime leader in the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches (Confraternidad Hispana Bautista Nacional), died Wednesday, July 17. He was 71.

Augusto Valverde

Valverde, the fellowship’s current president, had served in the post nine times since the early 2000s and also served several years as its executive director.
He was one of the founding members of the new Southern Baptist Hispanic Leaders Council, which held its first national gathering prior to June’s SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
Recently celebrating his five decades as an ordained Baptist minister, he had health issues in recent months and died at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.
Valverde was senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Un Nuevo Amanecer, which he founded nine years ago in the Miami Baptist Association.
He previously was pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurreccion in Miami for 24 years, leading the church in planting 15 churches in Florida, in his native country of Argentina and in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Valverde was active in all levels of Southern Baptist life, in the Miami Baptist Association, including serving as the moderator and numerous other positions, and in the Florida Baptist Convention’s ministries, serving on several convention committees.
In addition to the National Hispanic Fellowship, he also was active in local and state Hispanic fellowships.
Valverde seldom missed any of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meetings and related well to SBC leaders and fellow pastors.
A native of San Juan, Argentina, whose parents and grandparents were committed Christians, he made a profession of faith and was baptized at Primera Iglesia Bautista de San Juan in September 1963. He and his wife Eunice were married in 1970, and soon thereafter he was ordained as a pastor. He served several churches in Argentina before coming to the United States to pastor in 1986.
In Argentina, Valverde served as part of the leadership team of the Luis Palau evangelistic organization for many years. In the U.S., he was involved in the Hay Vida en Jesus (“There Is Life in Jesus”) revival movement.
Bobby Sena, Hispanic relations consultant for the SBC Executive Committee, said Valverde was “an extraordinary minister – a brother and friend of each member of his congregation ... whether they were older or younger.”
“His house was a refuge for many,” Sena said. “When he made friends, and he had many, he spared no effort to be helpful to them in an uncommonly empathetic and loving relationship. There was not the slightest bit of hypocrisy in him.
“He was an energetic man, but humble – with little use for positions and privileges,” Sena continued. “He was passionate about the work, always generating new projects. His vision was always that the center of Kingdom purpose is the church, not in structures. When he made a mistake, he was able to recognize it and ask for forgiveness.... Certainly, he said what he thought ... because he did not believe much in cultural patterns, but in the freedom of expression of ideas and feelings.”
Julio Fuentes, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in West Park, Fla., and a colleague with Valverde in the Hispanic fellowship, said one of Valverde’s church members once remarked, “When you meet Valverde, it is impossible not to believe in God.”
Valverde maintained a “solid spiritual life for all the years of his life. The reading of the Word and devout and fervent prayer to which he dedicated long periods of the day – those were his great passion. To his friends, when together, he would get us up at dawn to pray and read the Word.
“I do not remember meeting a congregation that loved its pastor more,” Fuentes said. “Like his Master, he was always willing to give his life for his sheep. Who was hurting that Pastor Valverde did not hurt with that person? Who was experiencing joy that Pastor Valverde did not join in celebration of that joy?”
Valverde brought his involvement in evangelistic crusades in Argentina to the U.S., Fuentes said, “and promoted them until the last days of his life. It began with its own church organizing crusades, the first had 1,500 professions of faith. He must have participated in recent years in more than 30 events of this type.”
Fuentes said the crusades “contained the elements that motivated him: prayer for the unconverted and relational evangelism long before the crusade, where volunteer missionaries came from other states and countries to bless the churches with their work. The effectiveness of the method has been proven. Thirty missionaries can reach 300-400 people for Christ in a week.” Valverde also helped organize Hispanic outreach for numerous Crossover evangelism efforts prior to each year’s SBC annual meeting.
Elias Bracamonte, also a former president of the National Hispanic Baptist Fellowship, said, “It was an honor to do God’s Kingdom work alongside Pastor Augusto Valverde. His kind words of encouragement were always uplifting. As a mentor, I recall that he would say, ‘May I please suggest the following....’ His passion for Hispanic people was twofold: his call for church unity to do God’s Kingdom work and reaching the present generation with the gospel.”
Valverde, in a 2018 Baptist Press story, described unity as “always important and vital to accomplish great things. I believe that we are stronger when we are united, that’s the heart of Jesus.”
Whenever criticism and division occur among Hispanic leaders, “we need to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness and learn to love and respect each other to reach this intrinsic unity that we need so much as the people of God,” Valverde said.
“We must not see the victories of our partners as rivalries. Let’s join in their joy. Their triumph should be my triumph and their defeat should be mine too.”
Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, said the state’s Baptists “have been richly blessed through the faithful and dynamic ministry of Pastor Augusto Valverde. His influence and impact is great in South Florida. We join together thanking God for this anointed servant and praying for peace and comfort for his family.”
Emanuel Roque, Valverde’s son-in-law and Hispanic church catalyst for the Florida convention, said the family is grateful “for the prayers, thoughts and support of so many brothers, friends and family who have prayed and blessed us in these days.... The hope of Christ for eternal life is made real for all who believe.”
In addition to his wife, Valverde is survived by his daughter Roxanna Roque; his son Esteban and daughter-in-law Mercy; and four grandchildren.
A celebration of life service will be at 8 p.m. today at the Florida Baptist Southeast Regional Center/First Baptist Church, Hialeah, with visitation at 7 p.m. A funeral service will be at noon Saturday, July 20, at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Park South in Miami.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Raúl Lema Jr. is professor of missions and south regional coordinator for Florida for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

7/22/2019 3:26:17 PM by David Raúl Lema Jr. and Art Toalston | with 0 comments

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

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