June 2012

Black pastors discuss ‘Great Commission Baptists’ descriptor

June 15 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – As Southern Baptists prepare to vote on the adoption of the descriptor “Great Commission Baptists,” African American pastors are adding insight on how well the reference will improve the convention’s cross-cultural attraction.

K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council, said the adoption of the descriptor would be a step in the right direction and could improve the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) effectiveness in kingdom building.

“I think it will be helpful, very helpful in expanding our capacity as Kingdom citizens to fulfill our biblical mandate issued by the Master,” said Williams, senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa. “It’s a clear declaration of who we are and what we’re about, namely the exaltation of the Almighty and the edification and evangelization of all nations.”

Williams said he would use the name on his church stationery and website and “would be proud to wave that banner as an identifier of who we are, whose we are and what we’re about.” His church’s membership is about 98 percent black.

Ken Fentress, in this screenshot from a video, discusses the proposed descriptor “Great Commission Baptists.”

In February, the SBC Executive Committee (EC) approved the recommendation brought by SBC President Bryant Wright who had appointed a task force to advise him on the advisability of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Based on their advice, Wright brought a recommendation to the EC that the convention keep its name but adopt an informal, non-legal “Great Commission Baptists” descriptor, to be used by any church that wishes to use it.

Task force member Ken Fentress, who leads multiethnic Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., has said the inclusion of “Southern” in the SBC’s name is a barrier to many in the African American community, who find the term reminiscent of the Confederacy.

“Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. recently summarized the history of the founding of our convention in 1845. In his eloquent recitation of the issues that led to the establishment of the SBC, we learned that the founders intended for the name to identify with the Confederacy in the years leading up to the Civil War,” Fentress said in his February address before the Executive Committee. “This signifies that the name has not only been a source of difficulty for church planters serving in areas outside the American South but also that the name has been a source of some difficulty among African Americans precisely because of its identity with the Confederacy.”

Robert Anderson, a Maryland pastor who is finishing eight years on the Executive Committee, used a baseball analogy in explaining the anticipated effectiveness of the proposed descriptor.

“In any game everybody likes to see a home run. If I could talk about this game of life and ministry that we have, I think this is a home run. This is not a home run that wins the game, or anything, but it is a home run in the game,” Anderson said. “Everybody wins, those who affectionately love the name Southern Baptist and would not want that to change. But also it helps those who would like to see a change for various purposes, better relating into ethnic communities, better relating to regions of the country that are not down South.”

While the SBC is predominantly white, Anderson pointed out the 3,500 African American churches in the SBC comprise some eight percent of the 45,700 membership congregations.

“I think with that in mind and the passion or interest that our denomination has to reach urban areas, this is going to help,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the SBC last year hit a significant home run when messengers passed an ethnic diversity report that encourages the SBC president, when he makes his various appointments, to “give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the Convention, and particularly ethnic diversity.” The report cites the “need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.” Anderson served on the Executive Committee communications workgroup which drafted the report.

It is significant that the convention could elect its first African American president, Anderson said, but added more work is needed.

“We have yet to see an African American leading as president of any of our seminaries. In fact, it would be encouraging to see more African American professors, and not just African Americans,” he said. “The point of the motion passed last year is … more Asians, more Hispanics… etc.

“We need more in places of leadership in our entities, particularly in positions not just leadership, but also significant leadership,” Anderson said. “You know ... it’s significant leadership when you have a significant budget ... you oversee.”

A.B. Vines, senior pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., said while the term “Southern” indeed has a derogatory history, referring to the SBC by another name will not demonstrate the group’s sincerity as much as placing minorities in positions of leadership among its various entities. Vines is current vice president and incoming president of the SBC’s National African American Fellowship, but emphasized his remarks are not on behalf of NAAF.

“To call ourselves Great Commission Baptists ... if we don’t show it in our convention, how can we say we’re Great Commission Baptists if we don’t show it in our leadership?” he said. “We have to look like a Great Commission convention. The Great Commission means everyone, every ethnos, every people group, not just in the lower echelon, but also in the top leadership.”

“Our convention needs to really become more like what the Bible says – every race, every culture,” Vines said.

Kevin Smith, senior pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., said that while the adoption of the descriptor may be helpful to church planters, any regional identity problems they face also can be reversed by placing a greater emphasis on state identity.

“I think we should make a bigger deal about our state convention identity because that gives us the more contextualized, familiar terminology for our setting. But I have no problem with the Great Commission descriptor,” he said. “When I meet someone in evangelistic conversation, before they know I’m Southern Baptist, I mean, they know I’m Kentucky Baptist. We’re one of 2,400 churches cooperating here in Kentucky for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“I’ve not met people resistant to the gospel because our church is Southern Baptist or Kentucky Baptist,” Smith said. “People resist the gospel because they’re sinful and they don’t desire to repent of their sins. But again, I’m not in one of these New York City, high-impact areas, so if that’s a conceptualization problem for them, I think that descriptor can be helpful. But it would also be helpful if they would tell people they’re a New York Baptist and make sure that they make those state identifications.”

Smith, who is also assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said the SBC’s name signifies more than a region.

“I think I have been one of those people against any type of name change because I think Southern Baptist Convention says something organizationally, it says something historical and in the days we’re living in now,” he said, “it certainly says something theological. To say Southern Baptist is a theological statement as much as anything else.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)

6/15/2012 2:52:29 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

B21 panel topic: Conservative Resurgence

June 15 2012 by Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – The Conservative Resurgence will be the main topic for discussion by this year’s Baptist21 panel with Paige Patterson, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Fred Luter and others, held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in New Orleans.

The title of the panel discussion – “The CR, the GCR, & the Future of the SBC” – refers to the Conservative Resurgence within the SBC in the late 20th century and the Great Commission Resurgence of the early 21st century.

The luncheon is set for Tuesday, June 19, at 11:30 a.m. in the La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom A/B on the second level of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will be joined on the panel by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; and J.D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

Jonathan Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., and a B21 organizer, told Baptist Press, “It has been 45 years since Dr. Patterson and Judge [Paul] Pressler met in New Orleans, and the friendship they developed was the catalyst that led to the Conservative Resurgence.

“We want to be able to tell that important part of Baptist history to a younger generation that may not be as knowledgeable about it,” Akin said.

The goal of the discussion, Akin said, is to communicate why the Conservative Resurgence was necessary and what younger leaders need to learn from it as they move forward in ministry.

“We’re going to have some open conversation and questions to be answered about ‘What is the theology that we fought for and how can we be united around a common theology and a common mission to get the gospel that has been preserved for us to all peoples?’” Akin said.

“We want to talk through practically how we can do that and what are some of the challenges that threaten us and what are some of the next steps that we need to take,” he said.

Panelists include those of a generation who fought for the Bible, those who entered leadership positions in Baptist life as the resurgence was happening and those who are the recipients of what was secured in the struggle, Akin said.

“I think it’s going to be an important conversation, and I’d like for folks to be a part of it,” Akin said.

Register for the two-hour luncheon at baptisttwentyone.com. Tickets are $10, and the price includes lunch and books.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
6/15/2012 2:44:32 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Evangelicals, from left & right, call for immigration reform

June 15 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Southern Baptist leaders have joined in the strongest effort to date by evangelical Christians to bring about comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Richard Land, head of the SBC’s ethics entity, were among more than 20 Southern Baptist denominational leaders, academics and pastors who endorsed an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.” The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a new coalition, released the statement signed by 150 evangelicals at a Capitol Hill news conference June 12.

BP photo

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tells reporters June 12 the country is ahead of its leaders on immigration reform.

In the statement, the signers call for government leaders to work with the American people for a “bipartisan solution” on the controversial issue that:
“Respects the God-given dignity of every person;

– “Protects the unity of the immediate family;

– “Respects the rule of law;

– “Guarantees secure national borders;

– “Ensures fairness to taxpayers;

– “Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”

The signers acknowledge efforts to repair what many of them describe as a broken system that has resulted in polarization and a misrepresentation of “each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.”

While Land and other leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table have been promoting comprehensive reform for several years, the statement marks a significant expansion of evangelical endorsers in a cooperative effort. Notably, Focus on the Family took a stance on the issue for the first time when its president, Jim Daly, signed the statement. The coalition includes evangelicals from both the left and right.

The EIT “is diverse in its formation, but it is unified in its biblically mandated vision to help create a better life for immigrants” based on its stated principles, Land said at the news conference. Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Sojourners President Jim Wallis, known for his left-leaning politics, pointed to the agreement between his organization and more conservative groups such as the SBC, Focus on the Family and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Wallis told reporters. “An effort for immigration reform of this size and this diverse has never been attempted in the evangelical community.”

It appears there will be no attempt to move immigration reform in Congress this year. The political will does not seem to exist at either the White House or Capitol to pursue action on such a controversial issue before the November election. Yet, EIT members said it is time to promote reform.

“There may not be a vote on immigration reform in the Congress before November, but there are going to be a lot of votes in November,” NAE President Leith Anderson said at the news conference.

The positions of incumbents and challengers on immigration reform could impact the election, Land pointed out. He cited a Pew Forum survey that showed 70 percent of Americans said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backs comprehensive reform.

“That tells me that it’s time for the politicians to understand that the country has changed on this issue, and they believe it’s well past time for the government to get its act together and to pass immigration reform that is in line with these principles,” Land said. “And we as evangelicals are here to say to both parties, ‘Get with it.’

“We are absolutely convinced that the country is ahead of its elected leaders on this issue – in both parties,” he said.

The pastor of a Southern Baptist mega-church told reporters that immigration reform is “an urgent moral issue” for pastors and churches. About 30 percent of the congregation of Champion Forest Baptist Church, which is located on the northwest side of Houston, Texas, is Hispanic, said senior pastor David Fleming.

“In churches across America, we deal with the challenges and the failures of our current immigration policy on a regular basis,” Fleming said. “The people most affected by the current policy are not anonymous to us. We know their names and their faces, their hopes and dreams, their gifts and their skills. We recognize their inherent value and their great potential as human beings.”

Sometimes, it is impossible to help those in the church who are caught in an immigration system that does not account for changes in their circumstances, Fleming said.

The EIT’s statement does not propose precise policies, and one speaker at the news conference acknowledged, “Much, much work remains to be done on the specifics.”

Tom Minnery, a senior vice president for Focus on the Family, said, “As difficult as it was getting all these signers together, the next step – getting politicians together – is a much greater task.”

The EIT heads – which include Land, Anderson, Wallis and six others – met with White House officials and congressional members June 12 and 13. It also is sponsoring radio ads in Colorado and Florida.

The June 12 news conference capped more than a year of preparation.

In addition to Wright, Land and Fleming, the Southern Baptists signing the EIT statement included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; former SBC President James Merritt; Durham, N.C., pastor J.D. Greear; Robin Hadaway, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Daniel Sanchez, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The statement and the signers may be accessed online at http://www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/.

Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials secure the borders, and with secure borders, establish “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

Land has consistently called for comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship that would consist of such requirements as paying fines, undergoing a criminal background check, learning English, pledging allegiance to the American government, accepting a probationary period and going to the back of the line behind those seeking to enter the country legally.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
6/15/2012 2:35:55 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC church plants: up 27 percent in 2011

June 15 2012 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Last year was an encouraging one for church planting by Southern Baptists. According to new statistics released by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the number of plants reported by state convention partners grew by 27 percent – from 780 to 990 – between 2010 and 2011.
These figures represent the first two-year span using a new church planting reporting procedure instituted in 2010, whereby all NAMB-reported new starts were required to have received an SBC ID. Distributed by LifeWay Christian Resources, SBC IDs are usually obtained through Baptist associations, state conventions or the SBC Executive Committee and are essential to identify and track congregations uniquely.

“I think it is important for people to know that we take the task of tracking these new plants very seriously,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president for mobilization. “We have pastors’ names and emails so that we can contact them, encourage and support them. And we have the physical addresses of the churches to assist us in strategic placement of future new plants. We want to do whatever it takes to help them survive and thrive in the SBC long-term.”

This reported increase comes after NAMB announced a new goal of a net gain of 5,000 new congregations by 2022. To reach that goal, the number of church plants will have to continue to climb. Because an average of 880 SBC churches per year ceased to exist from 1999 to 2009, NAMB expects Southern Baptists will need to start more than 13,000 churches during the next decade to reach the 2022 goal.

The growth in the number of church plants in 2011 comes as a pleasant surprise to NAMB leadership. Coe expected the number of church plants to either remain the same or slightly decline in 2011.

“We thought our starting point might be 650 or so – instead it’s 990,” he said. “It’s way ahead of where we thought we would be. It’s a very positive sign.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell credited churches and state convention partners for the increase.

“The changes we’ve been making at NAMB have not yet fully impacted the field, but Southern Baptist churches and state convention partners are doing the work to start new churches,” Ezell said. “I can’t wait to see what God will do in the years ahead.”

Coe believes the increased convention-wide focus on church planting, a focus by NAMB on mobilizing bivocational planters and a more effective equipping plan for church plants and partnering churches will boost the number of plants over the goal in the coming years.

The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD), the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention all showed significant increases in the number of new churches with SBC IDs in 2011.

“We believe God is moving in Maryland and Delaware,” said David Lee, executive director of the two-state convention. Our motto has been: ‘Moving at the speed of God.’ He is really moving! To God be the glory.”

Lee says the BCMD believes new church plants are the best way to reach the unchurched in Maryland and Delaware. Lee hopes by strengthening existing churches and partnering them with church plants that plant churches they will establish a church planting movement in the region.

“We also believe that the success of these new churches will motivate our existing churches to re-dream their dreams of evangelism and missions,” Lee said.

NAMB missionary and church planter Brian Moon, featured in the summer issue of On Mission magazine, started one of those Maryland/Delaware churches with a new SBC ID in 2011. The young Korean church planter believes God led him to just the right location for his new plant in a North Bethesda, Md., neighborhood.

The church now hosts about 40 people from Japanese, Korean and American families on Saturday evenings for children’s activities, English classes and Bible studies. On the first Saturday night of each month about 50 people of various backgrounds attend a worship service at the church. Many of the Japanese families who have become involved in Life Mosaic Church come from a Buddhist background and have had little or no exposure to the gospel.

“I never thought [we’d reach the] Japanese,” Moon said. “It’s amazing to us. It just formed in our hearts that this kind of church was needed.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
6/15/2012 2:29:57 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC baptisms & churches up in 2011, membership declines

June 13 2012 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2011 reported an increase in the number of baptisms and total churches over the previous year, but declined in total membership, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.

Southern Baptist churches baptized 333,341 in 2011, a 0.70 percent increase from the 331,008 reported in the SBC Annual last year. The number of churches in the SBC in 2011 totaled 45,764 – a slight 0.08 percent increase over the previous year, even though primary worship attendance declined 0.65 percent in 2011, to 6,155,116.

Meanwhile, total membership in 2011, reported at 15,978,112, represents a 0.98 percent drop from 16,136,044 reported the previous year and is the fifth straight year of decline.

“An increase in baptisms is something to be celebrated,” said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay. “God’s Word is being proclaimed and God’s Spirit is continuing to move in the hearts of people, drawing them to repentance. This is something that should excite us as Christians who care about the Great Commission.”

While the SBC increased by 37 churches, Rainer noted this is one of the smallest increases in the last 40 years. Factoring in a decrease of 1.18 percent in the “church-type missions operating” category – 4,952 reported in 2011 after 5,011 in 2010 – indicates a decline in the growth of the number of congregations.

Rainer added, however, that “Southern Baptists continue to be a giving people, even in challenging economic times,” pointing to $1.33 billion in reported total mission expenditures, a $26.2 million increase from 2010.

Great Commission giving
The 2011 ACP included a new category called Great Commission Giving, which totaled $695,694,322 (with four state conventions not reporting). The category was added following the approval of a recommendation brought to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix in 2011 to add to the ACP each church’s financial commitment to Southern Baptist mission enterprises.

The recommendation also reaffirmed the SBC Cooperative Program (CP) and encouraged churches to increase their CP contributions by 2.5 percent of undesignated receipts by the end of the 2013 calendar year.

The Cooperative Program is a voluntary contribution from local churches that supports mission efforts in individual states, throughout the United States and around the world. CP also funds six seminaries, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and other SBC entities (except LifeWay and GuideStone Financial Resources, which are self-funding).

Totals for various categories of the ACP were affected by the fact that not all state conventions asked churches for all the information in a way that would allow proper year-to-year comparisons. The impacted categories and their 2011 totals include:

– Other membership additions: 303,881

– Undesignated receipts: $9,023,216,896

– Total receipts: $11,805,027,705

– Total mission expenditures: $1,328,672,872

– Great Commission Giving: $695,694,322
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin writes for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/13/2012 1:00:19 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

‘Sinner’s Prayer’ among proposed resolutions

June 13 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – The Sinner’s Prayer, same-sex marriage and civil rights, and “racist statements” in Mormon documents are among the topics being discussed in various media about resolutions that pastors state they submitted for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Resolution Committee to consider in preparation for the June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans.

Five proposals have been publicized and posted through three media outlets – The Christian Index provided coverage for Eric Hankins’ “A Sinner’s Prayer” on May 31; the Florida Baptist Witness carried a news story on Chris Roberts’ “Resolution on a Spirit of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism Despite Theological Differences” and a blog site, SBC Voices (www.sbcvoices.com), posted three proposed resolutions by Dwight McKissic, one of which was co-authored by Eric Redmond.

Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, differentiated resolutions that will be proposed by the Resolutions Committee at the annual meeting from those released to the public by their respective writers.

“No resolution submitted to the Resolutions Committee has ‘standing’ with the convention until it is first considered and then introduced by the committee to the messengers at the SBC annual meeting’s Wednesday morning session. There is no certainty that any proposal, even those being discussed in the media prior to the annual meeting, will be brought forward by the committee.”

According to SBC Bylaw 20, the Committee on Resolutions “shall prepare and submit to each annual meeting of the Convention only such resolutions the Committee recommends for adoption.” It also states, “Only resolutions recommended by the Committee may be considered by the Convention, except the Convention may, by a 2/3 vote, consider any other resolution properly submitted to the Committee.”

A proposal titled “On the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’” by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., was publicized by The Christian Index in Georgia. Hankins notes there is “no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ the prayer of repentance and faith,” yet it is “biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation.”

A sinner’s prayer, Hankins states, “is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the gospel.”

Hankins would have the convention go on record affirming the use of a sinner’s prayer as a “biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church.”

In an article posted May 31, Gerald Harris, editor of The Index, quoted David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., as saying at a recent conference, “Many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we have sold them as the gospel. [For example], ‘Pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life.’ Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament?”

Platt, in comments to Baptist Press (BP), said, “Any cautions I have expressed about what many have called the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ … are deeply motivated by a concern for authentic conversion and regenerate church membership – convictions that are central tenets of Baptist theology. ... Do I believe it is ‘wrong’ for someone to pray a ‘prayer of salvation’? Certainly not. Calling out to God in prayer with repentant faith is fundamental to being saved (Romans 10:9-10).”

God desires “all people’s salvation (2 Peter 3:9),” Platt told BP. But he is concerned about a relatively large number of people in churches who “thought they were saved because they prayed a certain prayer, but they lacked a biblical understanding of salvation and were in reality not saved.”

“This ... leads me to urge us, as we go to all people among all nations with the good news of God’s love, to be both evangelistically zealous and biblically clear at the same time (Matthew 28:18-20),” Platt said.

Other potential resolutions circulating in Baptist papers and other media include:

– A “Resolution on a Spirit of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism Despite Theological Differences” by Chris Roberts, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla. Noting that the nation and world “continue in a state of moral and spiritual crisis,” Roberts celebrates Southern Baptists’ cooperation in the work of missions.

If Roberts’ submitted resolution is brought forward to messengers in its current form, it would affirm “the right and responsibility of individuals to read and seek to understand their Bibles” and affirms that the convention “cannot dictate what churches must teach and believe.” The proposal affirms the autonomy of local congregations to hold “confessions of faith which may address matters not contained in, yet consistent with, the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Roberts told the Florida Baptist Witness the goal of the proposed resolution is to “reduce some of the tension that currently exists” in the SBC, and he acknowledged that Calvinism is the “primary issue behind” the resolution.

“The resolution would help accomplish this goal by providing a public declaration that Southern Baptists will cooperate with other Southern Baptists even if we do not see eye-to-eye on all matters of theology,” Roberts said.

The Witness described Roberts as a Calvinist who pastors a predominantly non-Calvinist church. The church affirmed the statement submitted as a resolution.

“It is my hope and prayer that the Southern Baptist Convention continues to leave Calvinism as a matter of conscience, where fully cooperating Southern Baptists are free to be Calvinists or non-Calvinists,” Roberts told the Witness.

– A “Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Rights,” jointly written by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and Eric Redmond, pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md., was posted at the SBC Voices blog site.

The authors acknowledge that marriage “is an institution established by God rather than simply a human social construction” and that “homosexual behavior is sinful, including what this current age calls ‘same-sex civil unions’ and ‘same-sex marriage.’”

They also note that “support of same-sex civil unions has been portrayed as a Civil Rights issue akin to the overturning of slavery and security of equal treatment under the law of African Americans.”

The resolution, if brought to the messengers in its current form, would have Southern Baptists “reject the notion that race, as a by-product of birth given by the Creator’s design, and gender-orientation, as a behavioral choice made by individual persons, are to be compared as equal social issues, or that acceptance of the equality of races necessitates the equality of sexual preferences.”

– In a second proposal posted on the site by McKissic, “Resolution on Racist Statements in Mormon Source Documents,” McKissic says the Mormon Church has “denied and denounced racism” but has “yet to denounce the racist teachings” contained in books they hold as authoritative. McKissic specifically mentioned The Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.

Baptist Press asked Tal Davis, a former interfaith witness consultant with the North American Mission Board and now executive vice president of MarketFaith Ministries (http://www.marketfaith.org) of Tallahassee, Fla., for comment.

“It is certainly true that the extra-biblical scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) contain divine curses as indicated by dark skin,” Davis stated. “It is also clear that evangelicals reject the historicity and authority of those extra-biblical sources. That being said, in LDS ecclesiology any revelation(s) received by the church’s living prophet (president) supersedes anything in their scriptures. In 1978 then-LDS President Spencer Kimball supposedly was told by God that the curses were no longer in effect and that ‘all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.’ I fear the proposed resolution will be perceived as casting undeserved aspersions on LDS members and hinder Baptists reaching Mormons with the true gospel.”

– In a third proposal from McKissic, “Resolution on the Recognition of Black Minister, George Liele, as America’s First Missionary,” he challenges the familiar accounts of Adoniram and Ann Judson being the first American missionaries. Liele, an African American, left the United States to start a church in Jamaica 30 years before the Judsons left for Burma.

Liele, according to McKissic, “became the first Black Baptist in America” and “became the first Protestant missionary to go out from America to establish a foreign mission.”

Resolutions Committee members, in their organizational meeting in early May, agreed not to discuss the subject or substance of any submitted resolution until they had opportunity to review it together and determine whether to present it to the SBC annual meeting in its submitted or an amended form. The committee does not release advance copies or comment on the proposals until it brings its report to the messengers.

Bylaw 20 stipulates that proposed resolutions must be submitted no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, and any submitted resolution must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting “certifying that the person submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.”

The titles of all properly submitted proposed resolutions, including the name and city of the person submitting it and the disposition of each submission will be printed in the Convention Bulletin.

SBC President Bryant Wright named Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., as chairman of the 10-member Resolutions Committee, which will deliberate in the days immediately prior to the June 19-20 annual meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
6/13/2012 12:49:35 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christian comic producer reacts gay Green Lantern

June 13 2012 by Joni B. Hannigan/Florida Baptist Witness

LEESBURG, Fla. (BP) – In light of DC Comics revelation that it will re-launch one of its oldest superheroes as a gay man, a Christian comic company has pledged to continue to produce content with a biblical worldview.
DC Comics said it would re-launch the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott) as a gay man in the “Earth 2” series. But DC Comics isn’t the first to cause a stir. At the same time President Obama made clear his support of gay marriage in early May, Marvel Comics and Archie Comics caused heated debate as they revealed plans for superhero gay couples to be married in gay weddings.

Whether comic book companies are simply looking to make money on “the whole gay theme” or doing their best to reflect popular culture, remains to be seen, according to Art Ayris, CEO and president of Kingstone Media. What Ayris is certain of is that comic books, graphic novels and other ventures his company produces will not follow suit.

“It is more frontal assault on impressionable kids who are trying to figure it all out,” said Ayris, who is also the executive pastor of First Baptist Church in Leesburg, Fla.

Since it began production in 2010, Ayris’ company has released more than 20 faith-based comics and 10 graphic novels in digital and print formats. Its “Book of God” just opened in Sam’s Club’s top 400 stores, and many of its releases are already on shelves in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and in Christian bookstores.

While the comic book developer said the announcements by Marvel and DC didn’t really surprise him, Ayris said the news that Archie Comics had written gay characters into the pages of “good, old wholesome Archie ... rocks me on my heels a little bit.”

Kingstone, he said, pledges to be different.

“If Kingstone is the only comic book company in America doing it, we will stand for the things God says are godly and stand against things that clearly fall under the category of sin,” Ayris said. “Content will always be biblical worldview. Period.”

Different does not mean dull, however. Kingstone comics are glossy, colorful and sometimes even edgy – without going over the top. They have been featured in Publisher’s Weekly and are produced by top-notch artists, and writers and editors of “concrete-solid faith.”

Readers can be assured Kingstone is not in the business of re-launching as a gay man a hero like the original Green Lantern who debuted in 1940 as a married father of two.

As long as his “heart is beating,” Ayris said, no such thing will happen to a Kingstone character.

“If our evangelical forebears 50 years ago would have seen the power of media, I think now we could have had a studio and media corporation that would rival any of the major studios,” Ayris said. “People of faith have got to come to terms how penetratingly persuasive media is. If we band together we’ll be a strong force. If we splinter and argue, we’ll lose the war. We feel called to build God’s comic company and engage in that arena.”

For more information on Kingstone Media, visit www.kingstonecomics.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.)
6/13/2012 12:39:56 PM by Joni B. Hannigan/Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments

Deadline extended for compensation survey

June 13 2012 by Baptist Press

DALLAS – The deadline for completing the biennial Southern Baptist Convention Church Compensation Survey has been extended to June 30.

More than 12,000 surveys had been completed as of May 21, with the highest number of completed surveys from North Carolina and Alabama. As many as 17,000 surveys have been completed in the past.

The survey benefits participating churches by providing an accurate baseline of compensation among similar-sized churches in their state convention. Customized reports allow administrators, personnel/finance committees and minister search teams to better determine adequate compensation for ministers and staff. That can be essential information for thousands of churches.

The survey, at www.GuideStone.org/CompensationSurvey, can be completed in five to eight minutes on average.

Church ministers and staff need to have access to information regarding their salary, benefits, their church’s estimated weekly worship or Bible study attendance, resident membership and annual budget. All information is kept confidential and no data from individual responses will be released.

The compensation survey is provided through the joint efforts of Baptist state conventions, GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources. GuideStone and LifeWay compile the submitted data and provide all users with access to the results. Survey results will be released later this summer.

A printed version of the survey may be obtained by contacting GuideStone at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST Monday-Friday or by calling state convention offices.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
6/13/2012 12:31:52 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Modest gain marks 2011 Lottie Moon offering

June 12 2012 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

“Extremely grateful.” That’s what International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff is saying about Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, which reached $146.8 million last year — the fourth highest total in the offering’s 123-year history. 
“I’m extremely grateful for Southern Baptists’ faithful giving and praying to undergird the thousands of missionaries they’ve sent from their churches, through IMB, to the farthest corners of the earth,” said Elliff.
“And all for a single, eternal purpose – making disciples in the name of Jesus.” 
Though short of the $175 million goal, the 2011 offering is a $1.1 million increase – nearly 1 percent –over the $145.6 million Southern Baptists gave in 2010.
The largest Lottie Moon offering in history was given in 2007, totaling $150.4 million, shortly before the 2008 collapse of the U.S. housing market and the global economic recession.
“Southern Baptists continue to show that they have a heart for the world,” said David Steverson, IMB vice president of finance. “In an economic environment where unemployment remains high, our economy continues to drag, our stock market experiences broad swings and there is unrest in all of our financial markets, Southern Baptists continue to respond to the Great Commission through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We are grateful for this increase of almost 1 percent, which represents the fourth largest offering in our history.”

IMB missionaries pray over a mother and child suffering through famine in the Horn of Africa. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering enables these missionaries - like Lottie herself 140 years ago - to live and work at the forefront of lostness, extending Southern Baptists’ witness through their full-time ministry.

‘Above and beyond’
When the first Lottie Moon offering was collected in 1888 (though it was not yet known by that name), the $3,315 raised by Southern Baptist churches was enough to send three more single female missionaries to help Moon in China. The 2011 Lottie Moon offering totaled $146,828,116.05. Today, in conjunction with the Cooperative Program, it helps support a network of nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the globe, providing salaries, housing, medical care and children’s education. The cost averages about $49,800 per year for each missionary.
“[Southern Baptists] go above and beyond to take care of their personnel. … There is no complaining [here],” said Anthony, a newly appointed IMB missionary who grew up in Waynesville, N.C. He and his wife, April, will travel to Mozambique to work among a Muslim people group in July.
While the $175 million goal needed to support IMB’s missionary force might seem overwhelming to some, Anthony said, churches working together make reaching that amount a possibility.
“It seems so unattainable to the blue-collar American,” said Anthony, challenging smaller churches to partner together – even if that means raising just enough to send one missionary.
“Fifty thousand dollars is a much more manageable amount,” said Anthony, noting the average annual amount it takes to support one missionary. “We’re thinking millions, but let’s start thinking in the thousands.”
Walter* and his family – who have lived in western N.C. most of their lives – will travel to South Asia later this year. He, his wife and two children will share the love of Jesus in the slums of their assigned city among many who have had little to no access to the gospel.
“There are [more than] 3,000 people groups that haven’t [been] exposed to the gospel,” he said. “There’s a lot to be done.”
According to IMB’s most recent statistical report, the Lottie Moon offering has enabled missionaries and their national partners to present the gospel to more than 2.2 million people, baptize 333,823 new believers and start 28,873 new churches.  
“That tells me that Southern Baptists still see missions as a priority,” Elliff said. “It also tells me that Southern Baptists are keenly aware that there are still billions of people who desperately need to hear the gospel, and they are eager to get that message to them.”
“I think that when people look at these statistics, Southern Baptists have every reason to rejoice,” Elliff said. “And it ought to be a sign that we could certainly accomplish much, much more if more was given. We could send out more missionaries, we could partner with more nationals – there definitely would be a direct impact in terms of evangelism and church planting.”
Missions offerings represent one of the unique aspects in Southern Baptist life, said Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). “As a former missionary, it was a great comfort to my husband and me knowing we could truly focus on the ministry God had called us to without concern about financially supporting our family,” she said. “As Southern Baptists, it is our collective responsibility and privilege to remember those who have committed their lives to following the Great Commission so that the gospel may be proclaimed among all people.”
“The faithfulness of Southern Baptists to give more to support international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as compared to last year is to be commended. WMU is grateful for churches that continue to keep missions education and involvement at the forefront and for members who understand we have been called to sacrificially give of our resources so that all may know the true source of hope and peace.”
The task remains
Elliff pointed out that 3,328 of the world’s 11,000-plus people groups are both unengaged and unreached by the gospel. An unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) means that evangelical Christians make up less than 2 percent of the people group’s population and that there are no current evangelical church-planting efforts among them. Those 3,328 UUPGs represent more than 266 million people who may know little or nothing about Jesus.
In addition to Lottie Moon gifts, Elliff also thanked churches for their response to IMB’s Embrace challenge. Currently, 1,280 churches and Southern Baptist Convention organizations have indicated their willingness to explore a long-term commitment to evangelize a UUPG. IMB’s goal is to ensure there are no remaining UUPGs on the planet.
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is IMB senior writer. Biblical Recorder staff contributed to this report.)
6/12/2012 4:07:30 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Wells to be re-nominated for reg. secretary

June 12 2012 by Baptist Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Jim Wells, Cooperative Program state missionary for strategic partners for the Missouri Baptist Convention, will be re-nominated for another one-year term as Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) registration secretary during the June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans, a Missouri pastor has announced.
Wells was diagnosed in 2010 with a form of cancer, a sarcoma malignancy in his left hip muscle, and will miss this year’s meeting due to a June 18 procedure his doctors say is necessary, said Josh Hall, pastor of the Selmore Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo. Once the procedure is behind him, Wells’ prognosis is excellent, Hall said.

Hall said he will nominate Wells.

John L. Yeats, the SBC’s recording secretary and the executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, said Wells has done a fine job as registration secretary. Yeats and Wells work together in Missouri.

“I join with thousands of Southern Baptists praying for Jim and Judy,” Yeats said. “Throughout the year there is so much work to this position beyond the annual meeting, and Jim has everything delegated and ready for the convention in New Orleans. While he must cooperate with his medical team, Jim is the right guy to get the work done for registration secretary.”

Wells was first elected as registration secretary in 2002. He formerly was director of missions for Missouri’s Tri-County Baptist Association in Nix.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
6/12/2012 2:31:03 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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