July 2019

Proposed bylaw amendments address ‘serious misconduct’

July 12 2019 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) executive committee unanimously
approved proposed changes to the convention’s bylaws that would create a formal process by
which individuals could be removed from positions of leadership for behavior that would disqualify
them for service.

The committee voted to approve the proposed changes during a regularly scheduled meeting held
Thursday, July 11, at the BSC offices in Cary. The proposed changes will now go before the BSC’s full
board of directors for consideration at the board’s September meeting. Following any action by the
board, the measure would then go before messengers attending the BSC annual meeting in
November for final action and approval.

The proposed amendments specify that certain individuals serving in leadership positions with the
convention may be removed from office for “serious misconduct damaging to the people, mission,
or ministry of the Convention.”

The changes would apply to members of the state convention’s board of directors, non-board
members appointed to board committees, convention committee members, convention officers,
and members of the Fruitland Baptist Bible College board of directors.

The proposed bylaw amendments also authorize the state convention’s board of directors to adopt
and implement a separate policy that would outline the steps for addressing and acting upon
allegations of misconduct. The accompanying policy would include guidelines related to how
complaints, investigations, hearings, appeals and dismissals are handled.

A proposed policy that would accompany the bylaw changes was presented to the executive
committee, but it was not acted upon because its adoption is contingent upon final approval of any
proposed bylaw changes.

If the bylaw changes are approved, the BSC’s board of directors would consider the accompanying
policy at a later date, which would likely be the board’s regularly scheduled meeting in January of

Currently, the state convention’s bylaws only set forth objective criteria by which a board member’s
service may be terminated. Those standards include failing to meet attendance requirements,
moving outside of the region from which they were nominated to serve, or moving out of state.
The proposed bylaw changes and accompanying policy would give convention officials a formal
process to deal with other matters as they arise.

“The bylaw and policy have both been written from the perspective that the protection of the
Convention is more important than the protection of any individual in a Convention Position,” Don
, chair of the convention’s Articles and Bylaws Special Committee, wrote in a memo to
executive committee members.

“The policy identifies the objective reasons and speaks to the subjective reasons for removing an
individual from a Convention Position,” Goforth wrote. He added that the policy “seeks to provide
consistency to the process for removal.”

The Articles and Bylaws Special Committee developed the proposed bylaw amendments and
policy in consultation with convention officials and legal counsel at the direction of the BSC’s
executive committee.

In January of this year, the BSC’s board of directors approved a motion made by Curtis Williams of
Brown Creek Baptist Church in Wadesboro, N.C., for the executive committee to develop a policy
that would allow for the removal of a board member for actions that would disqualify them from
serving on the board. The executive committee referred the matter to the Articles and Bylaws
Special Committee during its meeting in March.

During an update to the executive committee and full board in May, Goforth said his committee had
developed a “working draft” of the bylaw amendments and accompanying policy that not only
included board members but also other individuals in positions of convention leadership.

The proposed bylaw amendments that Goforth’s committee presented and the executive committee
approved noted that the overarching goal of the change is “to provide an environment that protects
and promotes the Christian witness of the cooperating churches and their members.”

BSC Associate Executive Director-Treasurer Brian Davis said convention officials have had to
address misconduct issues with some convention board members and committee members in the

“Thankfully anytime that’s happened, they have voluntarily resigned,” Davis said. “But had any of
them not voluntarily resigned, we didn’t have a process to deal with that. Approval of this
(measure) would give us that process.”

2020 budget proposal approved

The executive committee also gave its unanimous approval to a $30.5 million budget proposal for
2020 that includes a 0.5 percent increase in the allocation to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
missions and ministry causes.

While the 2020 budget proposal is $500,000 less than 2019, Budget Special Committee Chairman
Rick Speas described the proposal as “reasonable and faith challenging.” Speas said the committee
took a “balanced approach” in trying to allocate funds among state convention ministries,
institutions and agencies, Fruitland Baptist Bible College and the SBC.

If approved, the increased SBC allocation would mark the 14th consecutive year that the BSC has
raised its support of SBC missions and ministry causes. The increase would bring the state
convention’s SBC allocation up to 42 percent of the total budget.

The budget recommendation will now go before the BSC’s full board of directors for consideration
at its September meeting before being presented to messengers at the 2019 BSC annual meeting in
Greensboro this November.

Budget proposal seeks ‘balance’ between NC, SBC​
7/12/2019 2:34:56 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Budget proposal seeks ‘balance’ between NC, SBC

July 12 2019 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) executive committee unanimously
approved a $30.5 million budget proposal for 2020 that includes an increased allocation to the
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) through the Cooperative Program (CP).

The committee approved the budget proposal with no changes based on the recommendation of the
convention’s Budget Special Committee. The action came during the executive committee’s
regularly scheduled meeting held Thursday, July 11, at the BSC offices in Cary.

The budget recommendation will now go to the BSC’s full board of directors for consideration at its
September meeting before being presented to messengers at the 2019 BSC annual meeting in
Greensboro this November.

While the 2020 budget proposal is $500,000 less than 2019, budget committee chairman Rick
described the proposal as “reasonable and faith challenging.”

The proposal calls for a 0.5 percent increase in the allocation to the SBC, which, if approved, would
mark the 14th consecutive year that the BSC has raised its support of SBC missions and ministry
causes. The increase would bring the state convention’s SBC allocation up to 42 percent of the total

In spite of the overall budget reduction, Speas said the budget committee took a “balanced
approach” in trying to allocate funds among state convention ministries, institutions and agencies,
Fruitland Baptist Bible College and the SBC.

“Every (state convention) ministry area has shared in the absorption of the decreased overall
budget,” Speas said.

Speas said budget committee members met with representatives from the convention’s institutions
and agencies in May to discuss and consider their budget requests. Those organizations included
the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, N.C. Baptist Hospital, the N.C. Baptist Foundation
and the Biblical Recorder.

“We don’t want to cripple anybody,” Speas said. “That’s why we talked to them on the front end.
We’re not asking institutions to do something that we are not doing ourselves – tightening our

2020 challenge budget

The executive committee also voted to approve a 2020 “challenge budget” that would allocate
receipts in excess of $30.5 million to be split among the SBC, institutions and agencies, and state
convention ministry groups.

If the 2020 budget is met, 50 percent of receipts above $30.5 million would go to the SBC, 25
percent would be split among institutions and agencies, and 25 percent would go to state
convention ministry groups.

NCMO goal

The executive committee also voted to set the goal for the 2020 North Carolina Missions Offering
(NCMO) at $2.1 million, which remains unchanged from 2019.

NCMO supports a variety of missions and ministries including disaster relief and the 18 different
ministries of Baptists on Mission, church planting, mission camps, missions mobilization efforts and
missions projects in local Baptist associations.

Allocations from the offering to these ministries would also remain unchanged in 2020 with 41
percent going to Baptists on Mission, 28 percent to church planting, 15 percent to mission camps,
10 percent to associational projects and 6 percent to mobilization ministry projects.

Financial update

Beverly Volz, the BSC’s director of accounting, shared a financial update with committee members.

State convention CP receipts totaled more than $13.9 million through the end of June, which is
about 10 percent behind budget but nearly 4 percent higher than the same period as last year.

Additionally, Volz said receipts for special missions are trending at or above last year’s giving totals
for the same time period. Through the end of June, N.C. Baptists had given nearly $10.7 million for
the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, more than $5.1 million for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
and more than $517,000 to NCMO in 2019.

Bylaw amendments

The executive committee also unanimously approved proposed changes to the convention’s bylaws
that would create a formal process by which individuals could be removed from positions of
leadership for behavior that would disqualify them for service.

The proposed amendments specify that certain individuals may be removed from places of service
for “serious misconduct damaging to the people, mission, or ministry of the Convention.”

The changes would apply to members of the state convention’s board of directors, non-board
members appointed to board committees, convention committee members, convention officers,
and members of the Fruitland Baptist Bible College board of directors.

Other business

In other business, board President Clay Smith announced that executive committee members Noah
Crowe, Tracy Smith and Keith Stephenson have been named to Fruitland Baptist Bible College’s
nominating committee, and Crowe will serve as the committee chair.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the executive committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, which will take
place in conjunction with the regularly scheduled September meeting of the BSC’s full board of

Proposed bylaw amendments address ‘serious misconduct’
7/12/2019 2:21:57 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

New voices can positively shape SBC, Litton says

July 12 2019 by Carrie Brown McWhorter, The Alabama Baptist

In her new role as registration secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Kathy Litton will help shape the response of the convention to issues such as sexual abuse. “Shaping” is an important word, she said.

“It’s not about power but about partnership,” she said. “It’s about hearing from women about local church work and seeing the global work of the gospel through their lens. There’s love in that language because women are indispensable in Great Commission work.”
Litton is director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board and a member of Redemption Church, Saraland, where her husband, Ed, is pastor. She became the first woman elected to the position of SBC registration secretary in a close vote during the Tuesday afternoon session of the SBC annual meeting June 11.
She called this year’s annual meeting a “hopeful” one, noting the overall positive tone of the business meetings, panel discussions and related meetings, including the first-ever SBC Women’s Leadership Network gathering. 

‘Very grateful’

“I do love our denomination and am very grateful for its role in my life spiritually,” Litton said. “I think having more women’s experiences shaping our denomination is important.”
Litton is hopeful her voice, along with other diverse voices increasingly being included in SBC life, will continue shaping a positive future for the denomination so others can benefit.
In addition to her responsibilities related to registering messengers for the annual meeting, Litton will serve on the Credentials Committee, newly tasked with determining whether churches are in friendly cooperation with the SBC according to their approach to concerns within the church about sexual abuse, racism or homosexuality. The committee’s role is to respond to allegations, not to look for them, but the process is taking the convention to unfamiliar territory, Litton said.
“This is going to create tension for us at some level because we are local churches that have autonomy and are choosing to cooperate together. Autonomy driven too far can create some unhealthiness yet oversight is not who we are either.”
Recent SBC actions to address sexual abuse in churches have highlighted the collaborative approach of the convention, she said.
“Our mechanism for creating solutions has come from different places – the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is involved, the Sexual Abuse Study Group is involved – and in reality that brings the best of our worlds together to help create churches and environments where we’re more proactive about problems and we’re also suggesting solutions to prevent incidents from happening.”
That dual approach of prevention and accountability will help the denomination “engage in healthier ways on the issue of sexual abuse for the greater good of the kingdom of God, the safety of all the individuals who walk into the spaces of our churches and the reputation of churches in their communities,” Litton said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carrie Brown McWhorter is content editor for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, where this story originally appeared. Used by permission.)

7/12/2019 11:00:46 AM by Carrie Brown McWhorter, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Trade war could disrupt Bible supply, publishers warn

July 12 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

Americans could see a disruption in the nation’s Bible supply if President Trump enforces tariffs on printed materials from China, according to Christian publishers.
The 25 percent tariff on books – part of a long list of tariffs proposed by President Trump as tensions with China escalated in recent months – would effectively be a “Bible Tax,” according to Mark Schoenwald, president of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, which owns both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.
Trump put the book tariffs on hold in late June when he resumed talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But observers say the reprieve is tenuous – the countries’ differences that started the trade war haven’t changed.
The Bible printing process is highly specialized, as pages are printed on “unusually thin paper” and have complex features and illustrations, Schoenwald wrote in public comments submitted to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. No U.S. printer has the machines or skilled staff to print Bibles at that volume anymore – those processes have been unique to China for decades, and it would be too costly and risky for U.S. companies to try to fill the gap.
“We believe the Administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry generally, and that it never intended to impose a ‘Bible Tax’ on consumers and religious organizations,” Schoenwald wrote.
The Bible continues to be the best-selling book in the U.S. – HarperCollins estimates roughly 20 million Bibles are sold in the U.S. each year, according to the Associated Press. But if printed books stay on the list of products subject to tariffs – and the tariffs go into effect – publishers will reduce investment, prices will skyrocket and churches, schools, ministries and nonprofits will have fewer resources, Schoenwald said.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the tariff would make the ministry of Southern Baptist publisher LifeWay Christian Resources “infeasible” and would harm seminaries, ministries and missions organizations who couldn’t get the Bibles or other printed materials they need.
“The Bible is often the starting point for Christians to share the gospel with others,” Moore wrote in his comments to Lighthizer’s office. “Further, the Bible is often given as a gift to others for them to further study free of charge. Many religious organizations participate in low-cost Bible distribution programs, such as prison ministry, as part of their religious convictions. Physical Bibles are a crucial tool in this spiritual work as recipients in free or low-cost Bible distribution programs typically do not have reliable access to digital Bible services.”
Moore said the tariff would also hinder Christians from exercising their faith.
“The Bible plays a central role in the daily life of all Southern Baptists, and the ERLC is committed to ensuring that every person who seeks the Word of God has access to it,” he said. “Extending the tariffs to include the Bible will impact the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”
The full text of Moore’s comments can be accessed at regulations.gov/document?D=USTR-2019-0004-2392.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

7/12/2019 10:55:48 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Twitter bans hateful posts based on religion

July 12 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Tweets that dehumanize a person because of that person’s religion are no longer allowed on Twitter, the company announced July 9.
“Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk,” Twitter wrote on its company blog. “As a result, after months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion.”
The rule change is based on comments from more than 8,000 individuals in more than 30 countries who responded to Twitter’s request for customer ideas and perspectives in 2018, the company said. The change in the hateful conduct policy is aimed at public safety and is effective immediately.
“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or serious disease,” reads the company’s amended hateful conduct policy. “We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”
Posts found in violation of the policy will be removed, Twitter said. Additional penalties may include relegating an account to read-only mode for varying lengths of time, limiting the tweet’s visibility, hiding the tweet behind a message warning the public of its content, withholding the tweet or account in a particular country or permanently suspending an account. Offending tweets posted before the rule change may be deleted, but no other disciplinary action will be taken, Twitter said.
Individuals may report perceived violations at help.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser. Individuals may also appeal Twitter disciplinary decisions at help.twitter.com/forms/general?subtopic=suspended.
“Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation,” the company said. “Violence, harassment and other similar types of behavior discourage people from expressing themselves and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.”
Twitter averaged about 330 million active users a month in the first quarter of 2019, according to market data researcher Statista.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/12/2019 10:52:26 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor takes pro-life battle to city government level

July 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

City governments should be utilized in a grassroots effort to fight abortion rights still protected federally, Southern Baptist pastor Mark Dickson told Baptist Press (BP).

Photo from Facebook
The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, named in an unenforceable ordinance declaring abortion illegal in Waskom, Texas, is sponsoring interstate billboards near Waskom describing abortion as freedom.

“For so long, people have been going to the state capital and nation’s capital and focusing the efforts there,” Dickson said July 9. “The reality is that these are issues that affect our cities, our local communities and we’ve really all along needed to take things into our own hands.
“Abortion clinics come into our cities. Abortifacients are on the shelves of our stores,” said Dickson, senior pastor of SovereignLOVE Church in Longview, Texas, and director of Right to Life of East Texas. “We’ve got to tackle this on a grassroots level.”
Dickson has gained media attention since his initiative in June that led the Waskom, Texas, city council to declare itself a sanctuary city for unborn children. Waskom adopted an ordinance outlawing abortion within the city of 2,200 people and declared abortion providers and funders to be “criminal organizations.” The document expressly withholds enforcement “unless and until the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade ... and Planned Parenthood v. Casey ... and permits states and municipalities to once again enforce abortion prohibitions.”
Other cities interested in Waskom’s ordinance are situated across the U.S., said Dickson, whose group was founded in 1976 and is not affiliated with the statewide Texas Right to Life.
“There’s lots of discussions happening and you’d better believe we’re going to go from city to city and we’re going to do everything we can to help other cities outlaw abortion in their city,” Dickson said. “It has been quite overwhelming and so we’re working on getting a system in place where we can effectively help all those cities to give them the tools necessary to do this in their neck of the woods.”
He would not name specific cities.
“The last thing I want to do is give Planned Parenthood, NARAL (NARAL Pro-Choice America) and other pro-choice groups a heads up of where we’re going next,” he said, “just because it puts those cities at risk of some intense intimidation prior to the vote.”
Despite the ordinance’s lack of enforcement, Waskom passed the rule to discourage abortion providers from operating within the community, Waskom Mayor Jesse Moore said. The city has no national agenda, he said.
“We passed this ordinance with one thing in mind, to keep abortion clinics out of Waskom, that was it,” Moore told BP. “And what the other cities choose to do, that’s strictly up to them.”
The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, named in the ordinance as an abortion supporter, responded with two billboards that read “Abortion is Freedom,” displayed along Interstate 20 near Waskom.
Moore is not aware of an abortion provider ever offering its services within Waskom. The nearest abortion provider is Hope Medical Group for Women, about 20 miles away in Shreveport, La. Texas has 23 abortion providers, according to abortion tracking sites.
Dickson, who preaches the gospel on the sidewalk outside the Shreveport clinic, said he approached Waskom’s mayor after realizing there was nothing in place to discourage Hope Medical Group from moving to Waskom.
The clinic has never considered such a relocation, clinic administrator Kathleen Pittman told BP Tuesday.
“So there’s never been any intention of Hope Medical Group planning a facility across the Texas border, to my knowledge,” Pittman said. “Planned Parenthood has not had any plans to establish a facility there (in Waskom).”
Pittman questions the meaning of the sanctuary city designation.
“I would be interested, since they have declared themselves a sanctuary city,” she told BP, “if they are offering a place to stay and medical care for pregnant immigrants.”
Dickson is dismayed that Texas has not passed legislation spreading among the 50 states to limit abortion to mothers whose fetuses have not grown enough to register a heartbeat.
“We did not get any sweeping pro-life legislation accomplished,” Dickson said. “Everything was being shot down here in Texas.”
While Texas has not passed fetal heartbeat legislation, the legislature passed a bill in 2019 banning the state and local governments from contracting with abortion providers for abortions and other services. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill in June.
Dickson’s congregation, about 45 miles west of Waskom, offers spiritual and practical encouragement to potential Hope clinic customers. Housing, food, clothing, diapers, transportation and job placement assistance are among services offered, Dickson told BP.
“I offer true hope, because we all know at an abortion clinic, especially an abortion clinic named Hope Medical Group for Women, they don’t offer hope there,” he said. “I tell them that abortion is not God’s will for their life, that God has a plan and purpose for them and their child, that they can be a great mother to that child. They’ve just got to trust in the Lord.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/11/2019 2:12:43 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

5 years without a pastor, church retains ‘high hopes’

July 11 2019 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

Sometimes if a train comes through town at just the right time, the service might start at 11:15 instead of 11. Or they might start a little late if it takes a minute to get all the children to sit down.

Submitted photo
Helton Memorial Chapel Missionary Baptist Church remains “a sweet, sweet fellowship” despite five years without a pastor in the northeast corner of Alabama.

But no matter what, Helton Memorial Chapel Missionary Baptist Church opens its doors every Sunday morning and gets started eventually.
In recent years they’ve “only missed two services and that’s because of flooding in the area,” church member JoBeth Gamble said.
That in and of itself is an amazing sign of God’s provision, she said.
Mid-July will mark five years that the little church in Stevenson has been without a pastor in the northeast corner of Alabama.
“It’s in a very, very remote setting but they’ve never missed church because they didn’t have somebody to preach,” said Dwight Everett, director of missions for Tennessee River Baptist Association.
The church, which backs up to a mountain, was built in 1900 after local doctor Pleasant H. Helton passed away and his wife donated the property to build a church. The building has the original bell, and until a couple of years ago its water source was a gravity-fed spring off the mountain.
The church is on the North Alabama Hallelujah Trail, a list of 32 churches that are at least a century old, still stand on their original sites, are accessible to the public and still hold services. Round Mountain Baptist Church in Cedar Bluff also is on the trail as is Church of the Forest in Houston.
Helton Memorial “is a sweet, sweet fellowship,” Everett said. “They’ve said they have always known they were a starter church for young preachers, but young preachers just don’t come this way anymore.”
Their last pastor stayed as long as he could, preaching from a stool behind the pulpit until his health wouldn’t allow him to anymore. Now others, including Everett, fill in each week.
Gamble said she feels like God is still blessing the church.
“We’re there for a reason,” she said. “We have high hopes God is going to send us another pastor.”
It’s a small congregation but they have some young families, and last year with the help of other churches in the association they conducted Vacation Bible School.
The association also jumped in to help rebuild some of their classroom floors after flooding caused them to rot.
“It’s totally amazing the way God has provided – I just have to sing His praises,” Gamble said. “We can still pay the bills and there are still people coming. I love that place and I know it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton writes for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

7/11/2019 2:06:48 PM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

7th- & 8th-graders experience a VBS of their own

July 11 2019 by Sue Sprenkle

Imaginary waves lapped at their feet as the young teenagers surveyed an obstacle course dotted with blue papers. The goal was to walk on water – the blue paper – without falling into the sea.

Photo by Sue Sprenkle
The challenge of walking on water was placed before junior high students during VBS at First Baptist Church in Satanta, Kan. The lesson dealt with Peter walking on water until he lost his focus on Jesus.

It wasn’t a straight and easy shot. The course zigged, zagged and went on top of second-hand (maybe even third- or fourth-hand) worn-out furniture. When Oscar San Juan’s foot touched blue, the paper slid across the floor, spilling him into the imaginary sea and back to the start. After several attempts, San Juan tiptoed from paper to paper with arms stretched out to keep balance and finally crossed the finish line.
“I love Jesus, and I love VBS!” the seventh-grader shouted, pumping his fist in the air to celebrate.
This was the second year for Vacation Bible School for junior high students at First Baptist Church in Satanta, Kan. VBS director Crystal Taylor decided to step out of the norm and instead of having seventh- and eighth-graders serve as volunteers at the annual VBS, the church provided a class for the young teenagers.

“We had so many junior high kids just showing up randomly to hang out every year. It was almost too many to keep them busy and out of trouble,” Taylor said with a laugh. “Some of them wanted to keep going to VBS, so we started a class.”

Photo by Sue Sprenkle
One of the main differences between VBS for junior high and elementary school is the deeper Bible lessons, as Oscar San Juan, left, and Kelan Flores discuss the stories and meanings in a small group.

Taylor found that a student curriculum for youth VBS was available from LifeWay Christian Resources. It was natural to schedule it at the same time as the elementary-aged VBS, so that decorations could be shared as well as some of the stations – recreation, snacks and missions.
The much deeper Bible study impressed Bethany Wood as she prepared to teach it.
“It provided a fun way to mentor and do discipleship,” Wood said. “This age group needs a solid foundation like this. I would have loved this when I was their age.”
This foundation and bonding as a youth group normally happens at church camp. But with more than half of the school district’s students receiving free or reduced lunches, most can’t afford camp. Youth VBS was an affordable way for the small church of 40 people to create a similar experience: small group Bible studies, crazy games and recreation, music and time spent with friends, which all led to a closer relationship with Jesus.

Photo by Sue Sprenkle
Junior high VBS provided a chance to dig deeper into the Bible for seventh- and eighth-graders in Satanta, Kan.

Sitting around the table eating snacks, the junior high students discussed their favorite things from the week. One student said music time was her favorite, and everyone nodded in agreement. Another said recreation time was his favorite. Everyone agreed again. One seventh-grader held up a mini corn dog and announced that snack time was his favorite.
“I’m a growing teen,” San Juan explained.
Everyone laughed and cheered.
“But seriously,” San Juan continued, “I just love learning about Jesus and being with my friends.”
Eighth-grader Kara Kunselman echoed the feelings and quickly added how she will miss VBS next year.
“I can’t believe this is my last year,” she lamented. “Maybe ... just maybe, the church will decide to do VBS for high schoolers.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sue Sprenkle is a writer based in Kansas.)

7/11/2019 1:53:54 PM by Sue Sprenkle | with 0 comments

N.C. pastor charged with child sex crimes

July 10 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Stephen Morris, pastor of Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church in Four Oaks, N.C., was arrested July 5 and charged with five counts of statutory rape and five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The victim, now 19 years old, reported the crimes to police last month. The victim was 13 at the time of the abuse that allegedly occurred between June 2013 and June 2014. 

Stephen Morris

According to WRAL, authorities did not disclose whether any of the alleged acts occurred at Oliver’s Grove or through its programs or ministries.

ABC11 reported Morris is “off of the job” and remains in the Johnston County jail under a $2.5 million bond.

Earlier this year, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) committed to act in accordance with a “Statement of Principles on Abuse” as part of an effort across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to prevent sex abuse and care for victims. Churches can contact BSC consultants for assistance with safety and prevention procedures.

This year, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and SBC President J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group launched the Caring Well Initiative, a curriculum designed to equip congregations to prevent sexual abuse and care for victims. Greear, who leads The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., formed the advisory group in July 2018 to assess how Southern Baptists are handling sexual abuse cases.

North Carolina’s mandatory reporting laws require any adult to alert authorities if they suspect the abuse or neglect of a person under 18 years old. 
7/10/2019 1:38:26 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

Camp Fire relief winds down; churches ‘still here’

July 10 2019 by David Roach, California Baptist

Months after the deadliest wildfire in state history destroyed her home, an 86-year-old woman in Northern California’s Butte County was forced to leave her temporary residence at Motel 6 when her federal aid expired. So she asked Magalia Pines Baptist Church in Magalia for help.

File photo from Facebook
Magalia, Calif., Pines Baptist Church responded to November’s deadly Camp Fire by serving 300-500 meals per day to the community, including a Christmas Eve dinner with hundreds of pounds of brisket.

That very day someone donated a fifth-wheel trailer to the church, and members began setting it up on her property as a temporary residence.
“There are a thousand stories like that,” Magalia Pines Pastor Doug Crowder said, referencing both needs in the community and God’s supernatural provision.
The Camp Fire scorched some 240 square miles last November, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, leaving at least 85 people dead and destroying nearly 20,000 structures. Formal relief efforts are winding down, but local churches say needs remain great. Attempting to meet those needs, they say, has left them challenged but also with a sense of God’s presence and power.
Now area churches are determining whether they have the resources to persist in helping communities recover.
“I don’t know what tomorrow holds,” said Robert Sorensen, pastor of Paradise Ridge Southern Baptist Church in Paradise, a town of 27,000 people that was nearly destroyed by the Camp Fire. He described the community as “kind of like a third-world country.”
Mike Bivins, California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) Disaster Relief director, said disaster relief chaplaincy efforts following the fire transitioned in January to a ministry of assisting homeowners with personal property recovery. Between January and March, disaster relief volunteers helped recover valuables and personal items at more than 300 sites.
“Almost every single home we helped with, the Holy Spirit was there with us,” Bivins said. “You could sense it. You could feel it. The people who assisted felt compelled to do more.”
By April, many burned homes had been cleared by work crews. So disaster relief volunteers focused on removing trees from residents’ property with chainsaws. All CSBC Disaster Relief work was completed by June.
Churches also are shifting their ministries as formal disaster relief work closes.
Magalia Pines phased down its feeding ministry from 750 meals per day to fewer than 200 as restaurants and stores reopened, Crowder said. Water has returned in Magalia. But while it was off, Magalia Pines was distributing 12 tons of bottled water per day at one point – fueled by donations from across the country.
Donations of food, water, recreational vehicles, tools and other items began pouring in after a Baptist Press article in November reported on Crowder’s harrowing rescue of some 30 locals from the fire.
Worship attendance at Magalia Pines is back to its pre-fire level of about 100 on Sunday mornings, though most attendees are new and many church members have moved out of the community.
“About 30 of the people who are here now were here before the fire,” Crowder said, noting the church has seen seven baptisms in recent months. It’s like they are “planting a church.”
In Paradise, there still was no potable water by mid-June and electricity gets shut off in high winds to prevent another fire from downed power lines. Restarting regular church activities has proved difficult at Paradise Ridge, Pastor Sorensen said. The pre-fire worship attendance of 60-65 was down to eight one Sunday in June, and most church members have dispersed across the country.
His pastoral work includes sharing the gospel with area residents and helping people move their trailers when officials force them to evacuate temporary parking places.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Sorensen said.
First Baptist Church in Paradise is letting evangelical churches of other denominations meet in its building as those sister congregations seek to rebuild. Following the fire, First Baptist closed the elementary school it operated. But in partnership with Magalia Pines, the school will reopen this fall as a campus of the Christian school operated by the Magalia church.
Charles Woods, director of missions for Sierra Butte Baptist Association, said a “coherent sisterhood of churches” in the association has been key to fire recovery.
“This particular situation has drawn us closer together,” Woods said, “especially the churches in the area.”
Emotional pain over the past seven months has been intense at times, Crowder acknowledged, but to see God’s power manifested amid ministry, “it’s so worth it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach wrote this article for the California Southern Baptist,  csbc.com/news, monthly news journal for the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC).)

7/10/2019 1:06:00 PM by David Roach, California Baptist | with 0 comments

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