June 2009

Update: Team home safely from Honduras

June 30 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

All 89 people representing seven North Carolina Baptist churches arrived safely home from Honduras June 29 after being in the capital city of Tegucigalpa during a military coup that overthrew the Honduran president.

Mike Sowers, (YouTube clip) who led a Deep Impact mission team for North Carolina Baptist Men, said in his office June 30 that his team never felt danger, although there were some anxious moments. He was in contact constantly with the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, which he notified of the teams’ presence as soon as it arrived in country.

During June 23-29 the Deep Impact Team, one of several large mission events coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men this summer, built a house for a widow and her four children, conducted three Bible clubs at churches and one at a school, held basketball camp at a school and a basketball evangelism team hung out at a public court. Three teams distributed 700 hygiene kits they brought with them from the states into neighborhoods.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Mike Sowers, with Richard Brunson in the background, discusses the Honduras Deep Impact.

The team is one of 21 going to Honduras this year. Though the official partnership between North Carolina and Honduras Baptists ended in 2006, teams continue to go, keeping relationships alive.

International Deep Impact youth are high school and college age. They train the first day in country, overcome their anxiety and by day three “they’re all over it,” said Sowers.

Door to door work distribution of hygiene kits resulted in 27 professions of faith, he said. Fifteen others occurred through the other outreaches.

Sowers said the team knew Hondurans were facing a referendum vote during the week they would be in the capital city. When the president fired his military chief June 24 and the other military leaders resigned in protest, Sowers started getting warnings from the embassy to stay alert.

Although the North Carolina team witnessed “heightened presence” of soldiers and an increase in military traffic, they were not forced to abandon any of their plans. In the midst of a showdown between the army and the deposed president’s supporters at the airport, the team did leave town early for the camp 20 minutes outside the city.

That was the only anxious moment for Joe Smith, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Faith, and the seven members of his church. A steady stream of information kept everyone informed and lowered anxiety.

“The trip was incredibly fantastic,” said Smith, who has been on about 20 such projects since 1993. “The kids…I don’t think they could have handled it any better.”

Young people who prayed God would permit them to lead someone to faith in Christ had their prayers answered, leading Smith to ask, “I wonder what my people back home are praying for?”

One woman came to Christ whose husband had been murdered a month earlier. Gang members often watched the young missionaries at work, but did not interfere, Smith said.

On site coordinators Steve and Elaine Stephens, who have been in country three years, were able to secure information not commonly available in the crush of communications to the Embassy.

“Everything the U.S. Embassy told us came to pass,” Sowers said, grateful for the connection and insights staff there provided.

N.C. Baptist Men’s Director Richard Brunson said experience, wisdom and connections is a big advantage that a larger mission-sending group like Baptist Men provides. “There is a constant flow of information and people on the ground know what’s going on,” he said.

On the one night the team left early for their camp, the power went out during worship. The darkness was appropriate as they started singing “Amazing Grace.”

After they sang, “I once was blind” lights came back on the instant the chorus reached, “now I see.”

“It was a reassuring sense that God was there,” Sowers said. “It allowed us to get up the next morning and go about our business and do what we were called to do.”

For other Deep Impact opportunities this summer, go here.
6/30/2009 10:07:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Floyd calls for 5,000 prayer volunteers

June 30 2009 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The chairman of a task force charged with helping improve Southern Baptists’ service to Christ through their Great Commission mandate has asked for 5,000 volunteers who will pray regularly on behalf of the committee.

Ronnie W. Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and The Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., will chair the 19-member committee, which was appointed June 24 by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt. Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., overwhelmingly adopted a motion to authorize the move June 23.

“I am very humbled by the request made of me by SBC President Johnny Hunt to serve as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force,” Floyd told Baptist Press in a written statement June 28. “The task before us is huge and without the Lord’s leadership and power will be impossible.

“This is why my No. 1 concern and request right now is that God raises up at least 5,000 Southern Baptists who will pray daily for our task force members and the work before us,” Floyd said. “Through prayer and due diligence, God will direct our path toward the future. Prayer is my No. 1 concern today; please pray for us. This critical assignment placed upon us can be accomplished when we pray.”

A web site will be created in the near future where volunteers can register their commitment to pray, Floyd said. Prayer points will be sent to those who register.

The vote authorizing the task force charges them with studying how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

Besides Floyd and Hunt, other committee members are: Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Simon Tsoi, trustee of the International Mission Board and retired pastor; Donna Gaines, pastor’s wife at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn.; Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay Baptist Association.; Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Drummond, a layman at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla.; Harry Lewis, senior strategist for partnership missions and mobilization at the North American Mission Board; Michael Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla.; Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention.; Ken Whitten, pastor of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

6/30/2009 4:40:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Attendance higher, younger at SBC meeting

June 30 2009 by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Interest in the Great Commission Resurgence caused an attendance resurgence at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) June 23-24 annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., according to registration secretary Jim Wells. This year’s unofficial messenger count was 8,790, more than 1,500 over last year’s tally in Indianapolis.

“It was way above my expectations,” Wells said.

Kentucky had the largest state representation with 1,597 messengers, more than twice its 2008 delegation and almost twice as many as the next largest state, Tennessee. North Carolina registered the fourth highest participation with 537.

“It was also a younger convention,” Wells said. “I saw a lot of younger pastors and families.”

Wells said the large Kentucky numbers and the younger crowd could be attributed to the annual meeting’s close proximity to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Louisville.

As for next year in Orlando, Wells said he thinks he will see another boost in attendance.

“It’ll be way up,” he said. “I’m looking for a significantly larger group because it is such a family friendly destination.”

The unofficial state-by-state messenger registration numbers are as follows: Alaska, 8; Alabama, 526; Arkansas, 239; Arizona, 21; California, 122; Colorado, 25; Connecticut, 3; Washington, D.C., 13; Delaware, 4; Florida, 393; Georgia, 730; Hawaii, 20; Iowa, 13; Idaho, 4; Illinois, 287; Indiana, 347; Kansas, 53; Kentucky, 1,597; Louisiana, 210; Massachusetts, 2; Maryland, 86; Maine, 1; Michigan, 62; Minnesota, 7; Missouri, 354; Mississippi, 422; Montana, 2; North Carolina, 537; Nevada, 5; New Hampshire, 1; New Jersey, 1; New Mexico, 23; Nevada, 25; New York, 35; Ohio, 249; Oklahoma, 204; Oregon, 5; Pennsylvania, 14; Puerto Rico 2; South Carolina, 414; South Dakota, 6; Tennessee, 805; Texas, 389; Utah, 4; Virginia, 313; Vermont, 5; Washington, 12; Wisconsin, 4; West Virginia 66, Wyoming, 9; unassigned for various reasons, 78.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

6/30/2009 4:39:00 AM by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baker to become Messenger editor

June 29 2009 by BR staff

BSC photo

Doug Baker

Doug Baker, public relations director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina since November 2007, will become executive editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger Aug. 1.

Baker, who also is executive director of the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs, said he appreciates the Messenger’s “historic nature.”

“The historic nature of this paper is an opportunity to serve the churches of a great state convention,” Baker said. “Historically, this paper has guided Southern Baptists in their public witness and brought forth key theological ideals to help shape the future of Oklahoma Baptists and through them the entire denomination.”

Baker named historic figures with Oklahoma roots including B.B. McKinney, John Bisangno, Herschel Hobbs and W.A. Criswell.

 Baker’s appointment as editor includes responsibility as communications team leader for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“We could not be more pleased to have Doug Baker join our leadership team,” said Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “He is a Christian gentleman who brings a depth of experience that positions him well to take the Baptist Messenger and communications to a new level.”

 Baker, 40, brings experience in key policy and communications roles at several government levels, including corporate relations for the U.S. Naval Academy. He also was associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Alexandria, Va.

6/29/2009 10:10:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

The gospel according to 31,173 Americans

June 29 2009 by Charles Honey, Religion News Service

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Nearly nine months after it hit the road, Zondervan’s hand-written Bible Across America came home June 24 bearing Scripture verses  inscribed by 31,173 people.

Among them: a little girl who guided her blind sister’s hand; a father who flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles to write in it with his son; and Antoinette and Jim Barry, a couple from Palos Heights, Ill., where church leaders 44 years ago conceived of the New International Version Bible.

RNS photo by Paul L. Newby II/The Grand Rapids Press

Ronald Youngblood of San Diego, Calif., a member of the NIV committee on Bible translation, signs his verse in the final chapter of the Bible Across America on June 24 at Zondervan's headquarters in Cascade Township, Mich.

The Barrys’ daughter, Maureen “Moe” Girkins, is president of Zondervan, the mega Christian publishing house. Last year, she inscribed the first verse (“In the beginning ...”) from Genesis 1:1, and on June 24 penned the final verse from Revelation 22:21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

“It was just really impactful to them to know their daughter was involved in something like this, and they got to participate,” Girkins said afterward, wiping away tears.

It was one of many powerful moments along the Bible’s 22,000-mile journey to mark the 30th anniversary of the NIV, the most popular modern-English Bible translation.

Girkins was one of about a dozen people who wrote the Bible’s final verses in a ceremony at Zondervan headquarters. They included nine members of the Committee on Bible Translation, the original translators and continuing caretakers of the NIV.

“It is encouraging to see so many readers and users of the NIV scattered through the whole country,” said Ken Barker, a committee member since 1971. “It’s also an awesome privilege to be able to write a verse in it myself.”

The cross-country trek began Sept. 30 and traveled 22,000 miles across 124 cities in 40 states.

Writers included authors, NASCAR fans, farmers and soldiers who wrote verses on the Bible’s cross-country tour. Volunteers drove a motorhome and set up tents from Manhattan to the Rocky Mountains.  

As the RV pulled out on the first night, a homeless man ran up and asked to write a verse, Girkins said. “It became evident to us that all across this great country, people love the Bible,” she said.

Two original copies will be produced, one to be offered to the Smithsonian Institution and the second auctioned to benefit the International Bible Society, which holds the copyright to the NIV. A retail version will go on sale in October.

6/29/2009 7:35:00 AM by Charles Honey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Minister’s community of squatters defies odds

June 29 2009 by Judy Peet, Religion News Service

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — The vegetable garden is ready to plant, the washer and dryer will be hooked up soon, and Nina the Polish lady figured out how to make cheese from the milk of the new goat, named Molly.

But while residents of what has come to be known as “KP Tent City” search for 20 more chickens “so we have enough eggs to be self-sustaining,” local officials explore ways to “gently” roust what Mayor Robert Singer calls “a nightmare waiting to happen.”

Throughout the country, tent cities have risen in response to troubled economic times and, just as quickly, have been shut down for health and zoning violations. Even the tent camp in Sacramento, Calif., made a national symbol of the recession by Oprah, pulled up stakes in April.

Here in Lakewood, however, the tent city is now in its second year and becoming more entrenched every day.

The squatters — most chronically homeless — sank a well, rigged up a propane-heated shower and built a food shed.

There is a bathroom tent with a chemical toilet on a wooden platform. There are movies they can watch on a donated television powered by a donated generator.

About 25 tents, a half-dozen teepees and a pop-up camper sit on a few acres of pine forest on the edge of town.

“People are worrying about $400,000 homes and $80,000 cars and they’re just a couple of paychecks away from us,” said “Bootleg Jimmy” Dorsey, 65, whose nickname relates to his drinking habits. “I feel sorry for them. At least we’re used to being poor.”

RNS photo by Aristide Economopolous/The Star-Ledger

Minister Steven Brigham assists fellow camp resident Nina in milking their goat Molly at a tent city in Lakewood, N.J.

Like Bootleg Jimmy, many of the 20 to 30 residents at KP had been on the road most of their adult lives.

“Our goal is to be self-sufficient, responsible and a community,” said Steven Brigham, 48, a nondenominational minister who is the driving force behind KP Tent City. “We are also a reminder. We wouldn’t be here if there were better alternatives for the homeless.”

“Minister Steve,” as everyone calls him, sees himself as a “catalyst for change.”  The mayor, meanwhile, calls him an enabler.

“People feel good when they donate stuff to the tent city, but sitting out in our woods is not going to make the lives of these people any better,” said Singer, who has been in Lakewood government for 28 years.

“There is housing, but they need to obey rules, and they don’t want to obey rules.”

Bad things have happened — fights, homeless bashing, exploding stoves — at other encampments in and around Lakewood in recent years. Local workers estimate 15 homeless people have died in Lakewood in the past eight years. None were at KP.

The squatters clean up after themselves. It’s one of Minister Steve’s rules. Some tent interiors are neat, others almost pathologically messy. Health authorities worry about disease and the lack of refrigeration.

A former heavy-equipment operator, Brigham was ordained a decade ago and works with the Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church. Brigham drew on his boyhood camping in Michigan, and last fall, moved into one of the teepees.

The tent city operates on donated food, clothes, tents, furniture, equipment and about $20,000 a year in donated cash, he said.

Brigham holds Sunday services on the grounds but does not require attendance.  

No one questions Brigham’s sincerity, only his refusal to work within the system. He has only a few rules: People must get along, do their share, respect the camp.

What he does not do — and takes heavy criticism for — is insist on sobriety.

“One of the reasons these people were living out of junk cars to begin with is that they don’t want to be clean and sober,” Brigham said. “Our rules are: No drugs in camp, and don’t drink to the point of being a nuisance. Beyond that, I’m not telling them what to do.”

Many of the squatters receive public assistance: Social Security, disability or welfare. They are expected to contribute toward food — canned goods supplemented by meat — and help with the daily chores “the best they can,” Brigham said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Peet writes for The Star Ledger in Newark, N.J.)

6/29/2009 7:30:00 AM by Judy Peet, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Ecuadorean prostitutes offered ‘way out’

June 29 2009 by Dea Davidson, Baptist Press

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — Cheap thrills are easy and the cost is minimal in a port city like Guayaquil. Women on the street corners of Ecuador’s largest city are regarded by residents and visitors alike as a $5 commodity.

International Mission Board missionary Barbara Rivers, however, takes a different view.

Rivers, from Houston, and a group of Ecuadorian women also walk the city streets, mingling with the working women. But instead of miniskirts, halter tops and high heels, these women sport colorful polo shirts with a message of hope embroidered over their hearts: Jesucristo Señal de Salida (Jesus Christ is the way out).

María’s father was an abusive alcoholic, so she left home intending to live with her grandmother in another city. A family friend agreed to help her — for a price. By the time she arrived in the city she was no longer an innocent 12-year-old girl. Her grandmother had her placed in jail where she learned to drink liquor, smoke marijuana and use drugs.

María ended up in a brothel and was forced to hand over her prostitution earnings. She escaped from that situation but took up with a man who fathered her first two children. Living on the streets, she had two more children with another man.

BP photo

Missionary Barbara Rivers, left, greets Susana and Mercedez who are finding their way off the streets in Guayaquil, Ecuador, through the support of the Jesucristo Señal de Sailda (Jesus Christ is the way out) ministry.  

Then someone invited her to church. Not interested at first, she remained in her old life. Some female believers, however, told her about God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, so she decided to give church a try. When the pastor invited her to pray a prayer of faith, she gave her life to Christ.

“Jesus filled the emptiness of my heart and changed my life completely,” María said. “My old life is in the past.” Now, she is married and works in a vegetable market.

“I can talk with other women who live in situations similar to mine and tell them that God wants to give them a new life,” Maria said. “I believe that God is using me to take His word to others.”

María and others like her are living stories of redemption who bring hope to the streets as they minister alongside Rivers and Norma de Campos, an Ecuadorian pastor’s wife who began the work in 1998. The women introduce themselves, share scripture and tell the prostitutes about God’s love.

“For most of them, no one has ever told them they love them or told them God loves them,” Rivers said.

When a prostitute repents, she may still find herself in the same house and same neighborhood with many of the same people.

To aid the new believers, Rivers, de Campos and their team hold events for the women’s families and offer getaway retreats to teach about redemption.

About 30 women attend two Bible studies offered each week.

Although they turn to Christ, some will still return to the streets, struggling to move from lives of bondage to a full understanding of who they are in Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Davidson covered this story as an overseas correspondent for the International Mission Board.)

6/29/2009 7:27:00 AM by Dea Davidson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Younger ministers flock to Louisville

June 25 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A younger generation of ministers cannot be expected to support a denominational system that doesn’t advance their church’s mission, a panel said at a June 23 forum on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Church leaders in what has been described as a post-denominational generation who don’t normally attend the SBC annual meeting made their way in droves to this year’s June 23-24 convention in Louisville, Ky., looking for a place in a religious body viewed by many as preoccupied with doctrinal infighting and out of step with today’s culture.

Jim Wells, the convention’s registration secretary, said this year’s registration of 8,790 messengers exceeded last year’s Indianapolis crowd by more than 1,500. Wells said an unusually large number were younger than in recent years.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know if there is not a generation coming behind you there is no future,” SBC President Johnny Hunt said at Tuesday luncheon sponsored by Baptist21, a ministry affirming conservative theology and Southern Baptist heritage while trying to voice a relevant witness in today’s culture.

Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, a department of the SBC publishing arm, said he was encouraged to see so many young faces at this year’s annual meeting, a marked contrast to recent years when younger messengers were notably absent in increasingly smaller and aging convention crowds.

“I’m encouraged, because in the not-too-distant future the baton will be handed to you and it will be your time to run with it as the older leaders in the SBC,” Stetzer said.

LifeWay Research projects that if current baptism and membership trends continue, total SBC membership will decline by nearly half — from 16.2 million to 8.7 million — by 2050.

“Business as usual among Southern Baptists has not been working,” said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We have been losing ground for decades.”

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he and many others from his generation “grew up thinking that God was a Southern Baptist” and viewed themselves part of the Southern Baptist “tribe.” Mohler said he still appreciates the Southern Baptist legacy but confessed the old SBC became a “tribal idol” that younger Baptists don’t — and shouldn’t — seek to re-create.

Mohler advised younger pastors today to “make every single contribution you make in your local church’s work in mission and ministry earn that support, and just look at it in terms of long-term deployment.”

Both panelists and audience members at the forum at Sojourn Community Church described a “Great Commission Resurgence” task force — approved by a majority convention messengers but opposed by traditionalists who question church-planting methods they view as compromising the gospel message — as a referendum for the future of the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics.

One of the task force’s assignments will be to evaluate the convention’s structure, which duplicates and overlaps ministry functions at the associational, state and national levels, all voluntarily funded by local churches over and above their own direct ministries.

Akin, who preached a sermon that inspired Hunt to propose the Great Commission Resurgence, said he hoped such a study would not result in good people losing their jobs but rather in finding jobs that better serve the kingdom of God.

“If in studying what we need to do would involve shutting down Southeastern Seminary and indicating that Danny Akin do something else that would actually be an impetus and an aid to the Great Commission, then that’s fine,” Akin said. “God doesn’t need Southeastern Seminary. God doesn’t need Southern Baptists.”

Daniel Montgomery, founding and teaching pastor of Sojourn Community Church, a Louisville congregation started in 2000 targeting prospects aged 18-25, encouraged younger ministers to bear with existing denominational structures in order to improve them.

“We have at times given very, very, very little, both locally and state(wide), and we realized that we don’t have a voice because of that,” Montgomery said. “I think a lot of people just don’t know how the system works and how to go about reform.”

Mohler said whether the division of Cooperative Program funds between state and national conventions is good stewardship varies, and as a an SBC employee it would be unfair for him to comment on what a local church should do in a particular state.

“I would say for Southern Seminary and for the Southern Baptist Convention, don’t give a dollar that you don’t think is well deployed in ministry,” he said. “And then hold us all accountable for what we do with those mission dollars.”

Stetzer, who has worked as a researcher with several SBC entities, said he decided years ago in analyzing data, “It’s not my role to try to save the SBC.”

“I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. “I’m not impressed with the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not seeking to get my identity from it.”

As a pastor and church planter, however, Stetzer said, “I still believe” in the SBC.

“For me, I’m kind of at the place now where we’ve got to make some substantive changes,” he said. “The voices of division are becoming more shrill at the same time as we are coming together, but I really believe if we can come together over the next few years that in the process of doing so we’ll have a better allocation of where our finances go with more focus on local missions and church planting in the United States.”

Stetzer said he recognized that as a matter of stewardship younger pastors on the fence will not wait forever for the Southern Baptist Convention to adapt to changing times.

“I do not think now is the time for you to pull the resources out of the established system,” he said. “Now is the time you can engage that system and to fix that system.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

6/25/2009 4:46:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Akin answers question about Acts 29 movement

June 25 2009 by Baptist Press

BP photo by Matt Miller

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivers the seminary’s report June 24 during the last session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin delivered his report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting June 24. During question-and-answer time he was asked about the seminary's relationship with the church planting movement Acts 29, which was founded by Mark Driscoll, controversial in some circles.

"There is no relationship between Acts 29 and Southeastern," Akin said, adding he has spoken at an Acts 29 event once, on the subject of expository preaching.

"We do have on our campus from time to time men that we may not necessarily agree with on everything," he said. "… They're doing certain types of ministry that we think our students could benefit from hearing."

Akin said he'd be happy to correspond with the messenger's church and give them any information they need about "what we're doing, why we're doing."

"We're an open book. I'd simply ask that you come to me and ask me what we're doing rather than reading what someone else says I'm doing," he said.

6/25/2009 4:39:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seminary president calls Chapman to task

June 24 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Louisville, Ky. — The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary called comments in a speech by Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Morris Chapman “disingenuous” and “shameful” during a panel discussion hosted by B21 at an Acts 29 church start.

“I wish to apologize to my Calvinist brothers and sisters who are here for the horrible misrepresentation of your position this morning,” said Akin, one of six participants in a panel to discuss with young pastors the viability of continuing involvement with the Southern Baptist Convention.

B21 is a loose network of persons “seeking to be Baptist in the 21st century.” Acts 29 is a network of church planting churches whose foundational documents are clearly Calvinistic.

Many member churches are dually aligned with both Southern Baptists and Acts 29. Sojourn Community Church in Louisville hosted the panel discussion, attended by 400-500 filling the main meeting space and an overflow room. The majority of participants were the young pastors, leaders and students whose participation in SBC life is coveted by SBC leadership.

Earlier in the morning Chapman brought his annual address to the 8,450 messengers registered at the time for the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Although he never uttered the word “Calvinism” he spoke directly both to it and to the “emerging church” in his remarks.

“Man’s system will be inferior to God’s system now and forever,” he said. “The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

“If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN (his emphasis) to be reconciled to God — then it is no doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man both are taught in the Bible. Both are necessary elements in the salvation experience.”

He referenced previous controversies over Baptist identity and said, “While the controversy raged and theologians were arguing about Baptist identity, Lottie Moon was boarding a boat to the distant shores of East Asia.”

“The church did not — upon receiving the Spirit of God (at Pentecost) — write a theology text, or form a committee or establish a bureaucracy or construct a building or engage in idle arguments about the extent of the atonement or the nature of election.”

Akin said the next day that he has never heard a Calvinist say that man’s response to the urging of God’s Holy Spirit is not a necessary ingredient for salvation. He said Calvinist theology has always been present in Southern Baptist life, at varying degrees. The difference between the Calvinist view of salvation and the traditional Baptist view is a matter of emphasis, he said. Both agree God’s sovereignty and man’s response are essential elements of salvation, but each party emphasizes one of those elements.

Meeting June 23 in Louisville, home of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose president Al Mohler is a Calvinist and has returned Southern to what he believes are its founders’ Calvinistic roots, the young crowd at the B21 panel discussion likely had a strong Calvinist bent.

After Akin’s opening apology, frank discussion was more about reasons young pastors should stay within the Southern Baptist framework, and financially support a system they do not fully agree with. Panelists included Akin, Mohler, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer, Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., host pastor Daniel Montgomery and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Akin, Mohler and Stetzer are trusted figures among young pastors and, with SBC President Johnny Hunt, have done much to invigorate active discussion among them about reasons to stay involved with the SBC.

Mohler told the pastors and students “Don’t look for too much out of the Southern Baptist Convention. Don’t find your identity here.” He encouraged them to minister in their churches, find their identity in Christ and plug into the SBC for connections and resources.

Mohler said the SBC has done good things, but growing up in SBC churches, attending SBC schools and seminaries and moving on to lead SBC churches and entities “produced a tribal identity … rather than a gospel centered identity.”

While Acts 29 is a “fascinating model” Mohler said, he warned the audience against “developing a tribal identity.”

Mohler said pastors “can find many platforms” and it is “wrong to think ‘either or’” when picking a partner. While he said he hoped pastors could identify with the SBC and other ministry partners, “there were hints this morning that’s going to be hard.”

His comment was understood to be in reference to Chapman’s remarks, and to the steady stream of messengers moving to limit SBC involvement with Mark Driscoll, a plain speaking Seattle pastor whom many young pastors admire.

Several panelists declined to answer, “Why should we support our state Baptist convention?” but eventually Mohler said pastors and churches “forfeit the right to speak into the situation if you don’t support it financially.”

 He encouraged them to “make every single contribution you make in terms of mission and ministry support earn that support. Don’t give a dollar you don’t think is well deployed in ministry and then hold us accountable.”

Akin said it was easier to support the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina where Southeastern Seminary resides because “it is moving in the right direction” in terms of “incrementally” providing more Cooperative Program dollars for ministry beyond the state.

Stetzer, who has worked for three national Baptist agencies and has “seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said he is “not impressed with the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not getting my identity from it.”

“Now is the time to engage and fix that system,” he said. “But don’t be fooled. The voices of division will become more shrill before we come together.”

Platt, whose church is large and fast growing, reminded the audience that even churches “are not spending money that in every way is accomplishing the Great Commission.” He said he knows that even in his own church money is spent on self serving items.

Montgomery, pastor of the host church, said his church “owed the structure for the existence of our church,” although he said six weeks after it started he was already “taking hits” for doing things differently.

“There is a need for the emerging generation to be schooled in gospel humility,” he said. “There is a need for the generation before us for humility to let us fail.”

He said if Stetzer, who “found” and encouraged him to start a church, had not responded with humility to Montgomery’s early failings, “I would have left the relationship.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 9:34:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 8 comments

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