June 2009

Study: no major link between abortion, religion

June 10 2009 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Unwed young women who attend or have attended religious schools are more likely to have abortions than their public school peers, according to a new study.

The study also found “no significant link” between abortion and personal religiosity — defined by perception of religion's importance, frequency of prayer and other religious activities.

“This research suggests that young, unmarried women are confronted with a number of social, financial and health-related factors that can make it difficult for them to act according to religious values when deciding whether to keep or abort a pregnancy,” said the study's author, sociologist Amy Adamczyk, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

Published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study followed 1,504 unmarried and never-divorced women age 26 and younger from 125 different schools. While 25 percent of women in the sample reported having an abortion, that is probably an underestimate, according to Adamczyk.

The study found that conservative Protestants were the least likely group to report having an abortion, and that women in their 20s who attended school with conservative Protestants were more likely to decide to have a child out of wedlock than teenagers.

“The values of conservative Protestant classmates seem to have an abortion limiting effect on women in their 20s, but not in their teens, presumably because the educational and economic costs of motherhood are reduced as young women grow older,” Adamczyk said.

6/10/2009 5:26:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Survey: Megachurches attract many under 45

June 10 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Megachurches are most attractive to younger adults, and almost all who arrive at their sanctuaries have darkened a church’s door before, a new survey shows.

The study by Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research, released June 9 found that almost two-thirds (62 percent) of adults who attend Protestant megachurches are younger than 45, compared to 35 percent of U.S. Protestant congregations overall.

Most younger adults who attend a megachurch have gone to church before.

Researchers found that just 6 percent of those attending a megachurch — defined as a congregation attended by 2,000 or more each week — had never attended a worship service before arriving at their current church. Almost half (44 percent) had come from another local church, 28 percent had transplanted from a distant congregation and 18 percent had not attended church for a while.

“It appears that megachurches draw persons who want a new experience of worship — contemporary, large-scale, professional, high-tech,” said Scott Thumma, co-author of Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America’s Megachurches.

“For the nearly 30 percent coming from a distant church previously ... they want a place to plug in immediately to a community, missions and small groups.”

Thumma said he was surprised at how much megachurch attendees invite others to worship with them; just 13 percent said they had not invited anyone in the past year.

In comparison, a different survey by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that 45 percent of attendees of mostly mainline Protestant churches had not invited anyone in that same time frame.

“That is radically different from anything I have experienced in other churches,” said Thumma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary, “and goes a long way to explain why these congregations are growing at such rapid rates.”

The new study was based on responses to questionnaires by 24,900 attenders at 12 megachurches. Drawn from a possible total of 47,516, it had a 58 percent response rate, and was supplemented by researcher visits, interviews and staff surveys.

6/10/2009 5:22:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 1 comments



Draper illness: strep bacterial meningitis

June 9 2009 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — James T. Draper Jr.’s illness has been diagnosed as strep bacterial meningitis that entered his bloodstream during a myelogram June 3 at an outpatient clinic in Fort Worth, Texas.

Draper was moved from intensive care Tuesday morning, June 9, at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine, Texas, where he was admitted the day after the outpatient procedure.

Draper’s wife, Carol Ann, said he was “very, very ill when we brought him in, with no response on his part at all.”

“It’s been a miraculous turnaround,” she told Baptist Press June 9.

Draper was president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1991-2006 and president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1982-84. Prior to his service at LifeWay, Draper was the longtime pastor of the Fort Worth-area First Baptist Church in Euless.

“I’m doing better,” Draper said in a telephone message received at Baptist Press June 9 after what he described as “the first really good day I’ve had. I came in the hospital Thursday and the first thing I really remember was Sunday.”

The Draper family received a preliminary diagnosis of an allergic chemical reaction after the myelogram.

Doctors have said the strep infection is the most treatable form of bacterial meningitis, Carol Ann Draper said. During the crisis, she added, Draper’s vital signs remained stable.

As to how the infection occurred, she said, “They’re checking everything.”

Draper was stronger in walking Tuesday morning than the previous day, she said. “He knows everything he’s ever known,” except for the days after he was stricken, she said of his cognitive abilities.

She said she hopes he will be able to leave the hospital in a couple of days.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
 

6/9/2009 10:40:00 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hunt predicts SBC will approve task force

June 9 2009 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Southern Baptist Texan

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Greater funding of the Cooperative Program will occur when Southern Baptists have greater confidence their gifts support the priorities of North American church planting, global pioneer missions around the globe and theological education, declared Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt in an interview with four state Baptist paper editors.

Hunt responded to critics who he believes have misjudged his motive in calling for a task force to examine the denomination “at every level” via his “Great Commission Resurgence” declaration. Far from having “a hidden agenda,” the Georgia pastor said his proposal seeks accountability for the investment of mission dollars.

BR file photo

Johnny Hunt

He predicted his call for a study will be approved overwhelmingly by messengers to the June 23-24 SBC meeting in Louisville, and endorsed an appeal from four state Baptist paper editors that meetings of the prospective task force would be as open and transparent as possible.

“I would be real open to say that we look forward to every meeting that there will be a state editor there to be able to document the meeting. We have nothing to hide,” Hunt told the editors from the Florida Baptist Witness, Georgia Christian Index, Illinois Baptist and Southern Baptist TEXAN in the June 3 conference call.

Great Commission Resurgence document
Since its initial release April 27 at www.greatcommissionresurgence.com, Hunt has adopted what he described as “a James 3:17 mentality” that regards “wisdom from heaven as easily entreated.” The feedback from SBC constituents prompted several revisions to the original draft of the 10-point plan “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence,” with the authors softening remarks that some found offensive. The allegation of “bloated bureaucracy” was removed one day after its initial release and a call to “rethink our Convention structure” has been replaced with an appeal for “valued partnerships of SBC agencies, state conventions/institutions, and Baptist associations to evaluate our Convention structures.”

What remains in the most often cited Article IX is Hunt’s motive in calling for a study “so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.” With those changes made, Hunt said he hopes critics will back off of repeating references to language no longer included in the declaration.

“When we felt that word ‘bloated’ was offensive, we removed it, but it continues to be used by the ones who asked us to remove it. That’s very un-Christ-like. I feel I responded in a Christ-like way (to remove it).”
             
Hunt: Keep the ‘teeth’ of Article IX
In spite of having restructured SBC entities a dozen years ago, Hunt said it’s not too soon to look at it again. “The question was even asked in an (SBC) Executive Committee report — did we really make a great enough commitment in 1997?” Hunt recalled.

“There’s a lot of fear out there because some have chosen to say that they question my intent, my motive. I would ask them to challenge me on the writing of the document, not the intent, unless they think I’m an evil man and if I am, I pray that same group will go ahead and run a candidate that has greater integrity.”

Instead, he wondered aloud if the openness to asking questions depends upon who is doing the asking. “Others have called for this same type of challenge, but with stronger words. So my question is can you ask this question as long as you’re someone else?”

He expects those who study the Convention will find “real celebration points” along the way. “I think they are going to say, ‘Gosh, we’re doing even better than we thought,’ and at the same time say, ‘We could do better.’“

Having made changes that provided a “win-win” result, Hunt said he would reject any appeal for removing Article IX calling for examination of the denominational structure. “That’s like saying let’s use this language we’re all familiar with, but take any teeth out of it that might challenge us. The major change that could happen is in number nine. It gives people greater passion and desire to support the Cooperative Program as long as we continue over the years to hold ourselves to greater accountability.”

The call for self-assessment is already gaining traction among some denominational entities, Hunt said, citing studies underway in his home state convention, at the North American Mission Board, as well as cuts in expenditures at the International Mission Board.
 
Disagreement with Chapman
Responding to Executive Committee President Morris Chapman’s contention in a May 29 Baptist Press column that “the slippage in Cooperative Program giving is at the local church level” where the percentage given has declined from 8.24 percent to 6.08 percent in the last decade, Hunt said the point is well taken.

He noted his own church’s increase of another $50,000 for the Cooperative Program for the second year in a row at a time when the budget for First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was lowered. “It has got to begin with me. Are we using our resources best to be a Great Commission church?” Hunt said he has heard from other local pastors who have made similar commitments to increased CP giving.

Last year the Woodstock church reported nearly $17.5 million in undesignated receipts with $432,977 given to the Cooperative Program, amounting to 2.48 percent, according to the Georgia Baptist Convention. In addition to $57,500 sent to the local association, the congregation contributed $175,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and reported nearly $3 million for other mission gifts.

For critics to question Hunt’s own commitment to the SBC by focusing on his church’s percentage rather than the total dollars given is out of line, Hunt added. “Is there a point where you can’t say that about someone who is so Southern Baptist involved?” he asked, emphasizing that 128 families from his church are serving in ministry fields and 78 Southern Baptist church plants have been planted during his tenure.

“It’s something that really is not in writing that every church give 10 percent to CP,” Hunt said. Designating funds made it possible for them to underwrite a major outreach effort of the IMB in the Middle East, he said.

Hunt rejected the charge that he desires to redefine Cooperative Program giving to include designated gifts. “I never said that. I don’t feel that way and I’m not going to push for that. One day maybe there will be another way to celebrate those who choose to be more personally involved and go where their money goes and be involved in a different way in Southern Baptist life instead of really large CP dollars.” Pastors who lead those churches are committed to the SBC, he said, but “placed out there as non-missional.”

“Now the word has been changed that I’ll decimate the SBC,” Hunt said, making a passing reference to a letter Chapman sent to Executive Committee members. In the May 29 letter, obtained by the TEXAN, Chapman warned, “If this change is enacted by the task force to be appointed by the SBC president, the Cooperative Program will be decimated in only a very few years.”

Chapman also wrote, “If we jettison the Cooperative Program and go back to the societal funding model, we will get the same results we did before 1925 — bankruptcy and failure. If we bypass the trustee system by adopting presidential fiat, we replace our cooperative methodology with the vagaries of personality,” Chapman wrote. “And if we wed our autonomous partners together unintentionally by tying structure across the board to the preferences of a single committee recommendation bereft of thoughtful Executive Committee review, we render the entirety of the Convention and its kindred bodies vulnerable to the assault of any single attacker on any missiological, doctrinal, legal, philosophical, or functional front.”

Hunt told editors, “There’s pretty strong language when you say the president is trying to dismantle CP. How under heaven would I, as a pastor, lead my church to give $525,000 undesignated and $2 million to Southern Baptists causes? Why would I try to dismantle what I’ve led my people to give so much money to for so many years? If I do that I am the biggest fool that this convention has ever elected as president. That’s not my intent.”

He added, “I want to give him credit,” referring to Chapman. “I feel he’s leading the way he feels he should from where he sits as an executive officer and I feel like I’m leading from where I sit as pastor of a local church. I really do feel these initiatives are where grassroots Southern Baptists are.”

In a May 29 BP column Chapman also challenged Hunt for thinking “reorganizing the Convention is the road to revival,” characterizing Article IX as “divisive” and “distracting.”
“I pray that God sends revival,” Hunt responded. “If He were to begin to give Southern Baptists once again a great impetus for incredible growth both financially and numerically, we still need to ask questions. Are we doing as much as we possibly can in making the funds available to areas that have brought us together,” he added, referring to missionary enterprises.

“I think there are some things that if we address them now could move us forward with greater unity into the future,” Hunt said.

“If the denomination empowers me to appoint a task force, my thought was not to see it go beyond a year,” Hunt added. “It’s not like I’m on a witch hunt and want to find some stuff. I’m not out to reveal salaries. I’m about greater commitment.”

He clarified his motive for examining the bureaucracy, stating, “If we look back at 1976, it took less than 1 percent of the CP budget to fund the national headquarters and now it’s at 2.86 percent of a much larger budget,” Hunt said, referring to the Executive Committee. “Is there accountability in place? Is it fair to ask the question, ‘Can the bureaucracy quit getting bigger and bigger so that when the money gets bigger we’re able to send greater portions?’”

Hunt expressed a degree of disillusionment with some of the response to his proposal. “It’s a little hurtful when you write a document that, from what I read, has some strong language when you try to question the motive of a man’s heart — and that’s in print.”

Although he has no further plan to respond to Chapman’s critique of GCR in Baptist Press, Hunt said the two men talked shortly before Chapman’s article was published.

“He feels he’s protecting the convention and I feel like I’m leading it to greater days,” Hunt added.
 
Bypassing Executive Committee
In his letter to Executive Committee (EC) members, Chapman also raised the question of whether Hunt’s approach violates SBC Bylaw 18, bypassing the EC assignment to advise the convention on questions of cooperation among entities and those of other conventions, whether state or national. While Hunt told editors he is seeking a system of checks and balances to ensure accountability, Chapman wrote that the EC exists for that purpose between annual meetings.

“The last thing I want to do is be in violation of a convention policy,” Hunt told the editors when asked about the charge. “We’re working on it now and it’s being studied.

If I find I’m in violation of something I will be brought in line rightly and desirously so. I’m a local church pastor and not a parliamentarian.”

Pressing the question further, Hunt asked, “Is there some checks and balances back to the local church on every level where I have to write as a local church pastor who supports this denomination — and we send a lot of dollars. They can use percentages ‘til hell freezes over, but the bottom line is everyone there is paid and every missionary is paid not by percentages, but by dollars.”

Insisting that grassroots Southern Baptists want to know the funds are being used for maximum impact, Hunt said, “We want to send more. I’m just trying to ask the question. It may come to the point where even the passion to try to do what I’m doing will be squelched. If so, I fear the reactions of this denomination if there is not some way the parliamentarian can tell us to ask the questions I’m asking and get good answers.”
 
Task force composition
Hunt previously stated that he anticipates leading pastors, a state convention executive director, a seminary president and a college president will be among the dozen people named to the task force. Asked if he would be open to allowing various groups to select their own participant in the study, Hunt said he’d give the idea some thought.

“I can’t just say I will let state executive directors pick a state executive director when I’ve got documents in files here where they said some very untruthful and hurtful things (about GCR).”

Hunt said he didn’t want a person with a critical spirit representing the concerns of Southern Baptists. “Not on my charge, if I’m the one who has the opportunity of appointing the committee.” Instead, he pledged to appoint “a very fair committee if it gets that far.”

He confirmed that he has agreed to meet with a group of state convention executive directors June 8 to further clarify his views and answer their questions. “I’m not sure who all is coming, but they asked if I would meet and I said any and all. I have no hidden agenda.”

“What if God chose to really give a phenomenal increase to the Body of Christ in the Southern Baptist context. I would like to hear it said that if some of our state conventions need extra help, maybe some have grown to a certain place where they send 50 percent now (beyond the state) and larger sums of that money continue on.” Hunt said that kind of generosity by state conventions “would keep us from being tempted in our churches to give designated gifts.”

“I’m really thinking not so much in terms of reshifting chairs on the deck as much as there being more chairs,” he said. After pastoring for 33 years, Hunt said he has good reason to dream, having seen great victory in local churches. “I want to challenge pastors to have a fresh encounter with God — have the capacity to believe God again and believe all that will flow out of that.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN.)
6/9/2009 10:27:00 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Southern Baptist Texan | with 0 comments



BCH will break ground for girls camp

June 9 2009 by Baptist Children’s Homes

ABERDEEN — Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) will hold a groundbreaking and picnic beginning at 2:30 p.m. June 13 on the site of Camp Duncan, its new wilderness camp for girls in Aberdeen. Supporters can come see the camp property during a day of music and family activities.
 
BCH has helped boys and their families at Cameron Boys Camp since 1980, where campers live outside year round in a highly structured, wilderness environment. Three staff members called “chiefs” supervise each group with the goal to help boys and their families overcome the challenges and obstacles in their lives and reunify the household.
 
Camp Duncan is named for the late Haskell and Gay Duncan. The Aberdeen residents and longtime BCH supporters made their 576-acre residential property available for a girls camp through their charitable foundation.
 
“The Duncans saw firsthand how the specialized wilderness services offered at Cameron Boys Camp helped boys overcome immense personal and family challenges,” said BCH President Michael C. Blackwell. “Like many others, they had a desire to see the lives of girls impacted in the same way.”
 
BCH will utilize the property’s existing facilities, including the Duncan home and two duplexes, for administrative offices, staff quarters, and other camp needs. Much of the work to prepare the facilities and property is by churches and volunteers.
 
Like Cameron Boys Camp, residential campsites will be created within the wooded areas. BCH will employ qualified female counselors as chiefs for the girls. BCH tentatively plans to accept the first group of girls in the fall.
 
Potential residents for the camp will come from a variety of sources. Children can be referred by the Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, the public school system, churches, and individuals. In fact, anyone who sees a need in their community can make a call of referral to BCH, which will accept girls from across the state.
 
BCH is seeking donor funds that will trigger a $250,000 match from the Duncan Foundation for start-up and operating costs.
 
“I tell people that supporting Camp Duncan is about investing in children’s lives,” Blackwell said. “It’s about helping a child rise above the obstacles she faces and achieving success. Camp Duncan is going to help foster that type of success for years to come.”

6/9/2009 10:12:00 AM by Baptist Children’s Homes | with 0 comments



Baptists urged to weigh risks of ‘majoritarian faith’

June 9 2009 by David Wilkinson, Associated Baptist Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Baptists in America — who find themselves members of a religious majority or plurality in many areas — would do well to remember their humble beginnings as a persecuted minority and to reconsider the dangers of a “majoritarian faith,” Baptist scholar Doug Weaver urged at a recent Baptist history conference.
 
While Baptists proudly point to religious liberty and church-state separation as their distinctive contributions to American history, Weaver said, contemporary Baptist heirs to that tradition may find it difficult to relate to their 17th-century forebears, who were part of a persecuted minority of dissenters to official state-supported denominations.
 
“We are used to being a part of the majority. We are the Bible Belt, maybe even the buckle of that belt. We are Baptists, the largest body of Protestants in the United States,” Weaver, a religion professor at Baylor University, said. “We have climbed the ladder of success numerically, socially and intellectually. We have an air of respectability. We are the majority; hear us roar.”
 
In contrast, he noted, it was the persecuted minority groups — the Anabaptists, Baptists and Quakers — that “pushed the Christian world in the 16th and 17th centuries to face the music and hear cries for complete religious liberty.”
 
Ironically, he added, many of those dissenters who fled to America to escape persecution in Europe soon used that hard-won freedom to persecute those in the New World who did not share their religious views.
 

Photo by Andy Rawls

Baptist historian Doug Weaver speaks at the Baptist History and Heritage Society annual meeitng.

Weaver said John Leland, the famous 18th-century Baptist advocate of religious freedom, noted that whenever you try to force a union between church and state in order to create a Christian nation, you have created a monster that denies liberty of conscience to anyone who dares to be different.
 
He delivered the sermon at the annual conference of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, held June 4-6 in Huntsville, Ala. The message received first-place honors in the group’s annual Baptist heritage preaching contest.
 
As part of a yearlong observance of the 400th anniversary of the global Baptist movement, speakers examined the tradition’s various historical contributions over the last four centuries. Sessions were held at Huntsville’s historic First Baptist Church, which is celebrating its bicentennial year.
 
Weaver challenged American Christians to re-read their Bibles from the perspective of a religious minority group. From Moses and the Exodus to Daniel in the lion’s den to the teachings of Jesus to accounts of the early church, the Bible is filled with examples of the persecuted minority, he said.
 
“Can we hear Bible passages in the way that persecuted minorities have heard them when they talk about freedom? Can we read Bible passages like persecuted minorities would when they were being denied religious freedom by the government or by a majority group that was defining how free they can be?” he asked.
 
“I wonder who really understands the implications of freedom,” he added. “Those people who don’t have it and desperately want it, or those people who are threatened that they might lose control of it?”
 
The Bible and church history call 21st-century Baptists to “look in the mirror of our ‘majoritarian faith’ and see its risks,” Weaver said. Among those risks are that:
  • “We cease to affirm religious liberty for all because we are now the majority.”
  • “We fear losing our status as a majority faith in an ever-increasing(ly) pluralistic world, so our response is to assert oppressive control only majorities can pull off.”
  • “We now become (like) the colonial Puritans and think that freedom is only for us and should be defined by us.”
  • “We hide behind the rhetoric of being a Christian nation to justify religious favoritism toward our majority viewpoint,” forgetting that “Baptists’ forefathers and foremothers were persecuted by so-called national churches.”
  • “We abandon — even denigrate — the separation of church and state that we desperately cried for when we were a minority faith in our infant years.”
  • “We forget that freedom is a gift from God and not ours to withhold.”
During an awards luncheon, Richard Pierard, professor emeritus at Indiana State University, was presented the W.O. Carver Distinguished Service Award, the history society’s highest honor. The group also honored Charles Deweese, who is retiring after 10 years as the society’s first executive director.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkinson is executive director of Associated Baptist Press.)

See Baptists' grass-roots identity spread key ideas

6/9/2009 10:05:00 AM by David Wilkinson, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists’ grass-roots identity spread key ideas

June 9 2009 by David Wilkinson, Associated Baptist Press

Photo by Andy Rawls

Carol Holcomb addresses fellow Baptist historians.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — While Baptists may not be able to claim sole credit as the originators of ideas such as religious liberty and the modern missionary movement, the denomination’s identification with common folk has often helped Baptists become “popularizers” of these and of other significant ideas, suggested Baptist historian Carol Crawford Holcomb.

Often dismissed, ridiculed and sometimes persecuted by the more educated and wealthier religious establishment in their early days, Baptists took advantage of their humble origins to “cast their lot with the common people,” Holcomb said. She noted that even the great preacher and writer John Bunyan, later praised as perhaps the most famous 17th-century Baptist, was widely considered in his own day to be little more than a “tinker and a poor man” — the title of one biography of his life.

In a keynote address at the annual meeting of the Baptist History and Heritage Society June 4-6 in Huntsville, Ala., Holcomb “sprinted” through 400 years of Baptist history to identify some of Baptists’ distinctive contributions to Christianity.

She offered four examples — one from each of the four centuries — to illustrate how Baptists’ hallmark contributions were grounded in their appeal to the grass roots:
  • Thomas Helwys and his influential pamphlet, “The Mystery of Iniquity,” during the battle for religious liberty in the 17th century.
  • William Carey, often considered the father of the modern missionary movement, during the campaign for global missions in the 18th century.
  • Ann Judson, missionary to Burma, whose name “became a synonym for faith and sacrifice in the cause of missions” and whose hand-written letters to supporters in America made her a pivotal leader in the women’s ecumenical missionary movement of the 19th century.
  • The remarkable combination of growth and controversy among Southern Baptists in America during the 20th century.
Historians, Holcomb said, are divided in their analysis of the Baptist role and contributions of the past century in America, especially during the last 30 years. No consensus has emerged, leaving many unanswered questions, she said.

“While denominational historians have been focusing on the demise of Baptists in the South, other historians have been noting the massive expansion of evangelicalism,” she said. “In fact, I would say the growth of evangelicalism after 1970 has been ‘the’ story in American religious history for nearly 30 years. But I’m not completely convinced that evangelical historians have painted the clearest picture of Baptists in their depiction of the movement. Perhaps we need a meeting of the minds to get a panoramic view of Baptists in the 20th century.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkinson is executive director of Associated Baptist Press.)

See Baptists urged to weigh risks of ‘majoritarian faith’
6/9/2009 10:01:00 AM by David Wilkinson, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Draper condition improves

June 8 2009 by BR staff and wire reports

James T. Draper Jr., a former Southern Baptist Convention president and president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991-2006, is showing signs of improvement after being admitted Thursday to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine, Texas. Draper remains in the intensive care unit but was able to sit up and speak over the weekend, according to family members.

The preliminary diagnosis is that he had a severe allergic reaction to a recent myelogram procedure.

On Friday LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer called upon fellow employees and friends of LifeWay to pray for Draper, his wife Carol Ann, and the Draper family. “Jimmy Draper is one of most beloved Christian leaders of our time,” said Rainer. “All of us at LifeWay love him and consider him very much a part of our family. We are asking the Lord to give him strength, the doctors wisdom, and the family courage in the days ahead.”
 

6/8/2009 6:35:00 AM by BR staff and wire reports | with 0 comments



Merger not on NAMB board palette

June 8 2009 by Steve Devane and Norman Jameson, BR staff

The chairman of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) says the board’s trustees are not looking at a possible merger with the International Mission Board (IMB).

Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said last month in a story reported by the Florida Baptist Witness that he believes the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) should have a “singular world mission agency.”

In a telephone interview with the Biblical Recorder, Patterson said he was asked a specific question about the issue and gave his personal perspective about it.

“I was not speaking for the trustees in any way,” he said. “I was not speaking for the North American Mission Board.”

NAMB president Geoff Hammond told the Recorder that Patterson did not talk with him before he made the statement about combining the two mission boards.

Patterson said the idea of merging the two mission boards has been talked about across the Convention for years. He said the issue was considered when NAMB was formed as a combination of the Home Mission Board, Brotherhood Commission and Radio and Television Commission as part of an SBC restructuring in 1997.

“I don’t know if this will work,” he said. “I don’t have any authority to make it happen.”

Patterson said he doesn’t expect the NAMB trustees to discuss a potential merger. The only way a merger would happen is if the SBC directed it to happen, he said.

“We’re not even considering that,” Patterson said. “We’re dealing with our own agency.”

During their meeting May 19-20 in Jackson, Miss., NAMB trustees unanimously approved a resolution describing the entity as “crucial to the weaving together of Southern Baptist partners to fulfill the Great Commission,” according to a NAMB statement.

Patterson said his response to a question about the merger was in the context of his signing of a “Great Commission Resurgence” declaration. The 10-point statement written by SBC president Johnny Hunt and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin, has generated considerable discussion among Southern Baptists.

Hammond said Hunt spoke in chapel at NAMB June 4 and specifically said he did not have a combined mission board in mind when he put together the Great Commission Resurgence document.

“That was good for our people to hear,” Hammond said.

Hammond sees conversation about the declaration as “an opportunity to say how important it is to have a North American Mission Board and how the United States is a mission field.”

“It takes a North American mission board thinking about sending missionaries into this culture and thinking of missionary behaviors and patterns,” he said.

Hammond said he doesn’t believe his own commitment to the Great Commission and that of his staff is in question.

“The issue is what will it take to refocus and be even more effective and efficient to win the world for Christ,” he said.

Hammond talked to NAMB trustees about his call for a North American Great Commission Task Force. He said the task force would seriously study the actions and activities that will impact this continent for Christ in more effective ways. In a conversation with the Recorder acknowledging that has always been NAMB’s task, Hammond said, “From time to time it is good to get partners around the table to ask, ‘How are we doing?’”

When asked about his timing to name such a task force in the wake of the Great Commission Resurgence document and study committee sure to follow, Hammond said the timing was right because the Great Commission is suddenly at the  top of many conversations.

It is an opportunity to “refocus” with our partners, working together, he said.
 

6/8/2009 5:14:00 AM by Steve Devane and Norman Jameson, BR staff | with 2 comments



$141M Lottie Moon offering short of goal

June 8 2009 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Despite financial hardships caused by the economic downturn, Southern Baptists gave $141 million to support the work of missionaries through the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. But the total, which fell nearly $30 million short of the $170 million goal, is not enough to fund many of those who are ready to go.

The $30 million shortfall is equivalent to what it costs to support the work of approximately 667 international missionaries for a year. The final figure for the 2008 offering is $141,315,110.24, which is more than $9 million below of the record 2007 offering of $150.4 million.

“We are grateful that in these difficult economic times Southern Baptists displayed amazing generosity in giving $141 million to the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” said Jerry Rankin, International Mission Board (IMB) president.

“When many families are hurting financially and churches are experiencing a decline in giving, faithfulness to the support of the International Mission Board reflects the high priority given to global missions and our responsibility to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ.”

BP file photo

In the wake of economic hardships and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering falling more than $9 million short of the 2007 offering, IMB President Jerry Rankin said the opportunity to take the gospel to a lost world has never been greater. According to the IMB’s 2008 Annual Statistical Report, 565,967 people were baptized and 26,970 churches were started overseas through Southern Baptist missionaries and their partners.  

The final offering results follow a May 19-20 IMB trustee meeting in Denver during which trustees approved the suspension of new appointments to the International Service Corps and Masters programs. They also approved reducing the number of new appointments to the career, apprentice, associate and journeyman programs.

New appointments will continue on a more selective basis, involving the most strategic assignments.

The IMB spends 71 percent of its total budget, including the Lottie Moon offering and a major portion of funds received from the Cooperative Program, on missionary support, encompassing salaries, housing, medical care and children’s education. It averages approximately $43,000 annually per missionary.

By the end of 2010, the IMB’s missionary force of 5,656 is expected to fall to a level “compatible with financial resources,” Rankin said. The reduction will occur through retirements and completion of service.

“We will not be able to replace short-term personnel completing their assignments and will have to restrict the number of new personnel that can be appointed,” he said.

Just a year ago, the IMB celebrated the offering hitting a historic mark. Cumulative gifts to the offering, which was initiated by the Woman’s Missionary Union in 1888, topped $3 billion.

“We are grateful for the sacrificial giving of Southern Baptists to missions,” said Wanda Lee, executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union. “This year’s giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering may be more sacrificial for some than ever before considering the level of unemployment and loss of income experienced by many in our churches. And yet, Christ’s command to go into all the world compels us to give in support of our missionaries during these challenging times.

“I believe if we keep our hearts focused on the mandate of the Great Commission, God will be faithful in providing the people and financial resources needed to reach a world desperately in need of the hope found in Christ,” Lee said.

In November 2008, IMB trustees adopted a $319.8 million budget for 2009 — $10 million of which was earmarked to offset the rising cost of support for the missionaries already on the field. Now, though the number of Southern Baptists who want to go — and are qualified — keeps growing, there are not enough funds to support them.

With the growing number of job losses and the decline in financial markets, IMB treasurer David Steverson said the organization’s situation could have been far worse.

“When you consider the number of our constituency who have lost jobs and are directly affected by this economy,” Steverson said, “we are grateful that the offering experienced only a 6 percent decline,” which nevertheless is the largest dollar decrease in the history of the offering.

Over the years, the Lottie Moon offering has consistently reflected a heart for missions on the part of Southern Baptists. In the past 75 years, including this year, it has only been down four times. Totals since 2000 have been:
  • 2008 — $141,315,110
  • 2007 — $150,409,654
  • 2006 — $150,250,000
  • 2005 — $137,939,677
  • 2004 — $133,886,222
  • 2003 — $136,204,648
  • 2002 — $115,015,216
  • 2001 — $113,709,471
  • 2000 — $113,175,192
Rankin said the stakes have never been higher for Southern Baptists to take the gospel to a lost world.

“Never before have we seen such unprecedented response to the gospel and opportunity to disciple the nations,” he said. “God is moving through global events to open opportunities to share the gospel as never before.”

According to the 2008 IMB Annual Statistical Report, 565,967 people were baptized and 26,970 churches were started overseas through IMB missionaries and their Baptist partners. The gospel also was shared among more than 1,190 people groups — 100 of these groups heard about Jesus for the first time.

“We need to realize that God has blessed Southern Baptists with numbers and resources to be His instrument to fulfill His mission to the ends of the earth,” Rankin said. “One day we will stand accountable to Him for how we have used our resources.

“It breaks my heart that God-called people want to go — and millions need to hear the gospel message from them — yet we don’t have the funds to send them. I pray this situation will convict our hearts and challenge His people to do whatever it takes to get the gospel to the whole world.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, visit imb.org/main/give.)

6/8/2009 5:11:00 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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