June 2012

N.C. pastor shares inspiration behind new book

June 5 2012 by BR Staff

The Biblical Recorder recently interviewed Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., about his book Reformation in Responsibility: A New Ethic for a New Era. The book was released in March. He shared the inspiration behind the book and why he believes Christians should not only read it but respond to the message.
 
In the book, readers will discover that Varriale is originally from Schendactady, N.Y. He graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division from 1992-1996. Varriale served as a platoon leader and company executive officer and received the Outstanding Leadership award for U.S. Army Ranger Class 2-93, the Senior Parachutist Badge, and the Pathfinder Badge. In 1996, he entered the ministry.
 
He received a M.Div. from Campbell University Divinity School, a Th.M. from Duke University Divinity School, and a D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Since 1996 he has served three N.C. churches. Varriale lives in Shelby with his wife, Shannon. Go to rinr.org for more information about the book. Also visit amazon.com.
 
Q: What inspired you to write Reformation in Responsibility?
 
A: In January 2011, I read an article addressing the tensions between religious convictions and civil rights. The article expressed the views of Chai Feldblum (President Obama’s 2010 appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). In her discussion, Mrs. Feldblum used the example of a Christian couple that operates their privately owned bed and breakfast. 
 
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Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., is author of Reformation in Responsibility.


Feldblum believes that, regardless of the religious and moral sentiments of the Christian couple, the government has the obligation to force the Christian couple to provide lodging for homosexuals at their bed and breakfast. One might argue that such a move violates the separation of church and state, but Feldblum says that Christianity does not obligate one to start a public business. 
 
Thus, when a Christian starts a public business, he/she moves into the public square and is obligated to follow the rules of the state – not the rules of the church – with respect to discrimination and human rights. I was disturbed by her line of thought. It demonstrates that the concept of the separation of church and state has evolved into a separation of the general religious sentiments of the people and the public square. If this line of thought continues to evolve, then the state will dictate – in the name of human rights – what the church can and cannot proclaim. 
 
Nonetheless, the week after reading the article, I read another article from the BBC news about a judge in the United Kingdom that ruled in favor of a homosexual couple that was denied lodging at a privately owned Christian bed and breakfast. He ruled that the Christian couple violated the equality laws of Great Britain. 
 
In reading the decision of the judge, his reasoning was precisely that of Mrs. Feldblum. I was deeply moved at such anti-religious judicial tyranny. At the time, I was working on two other writing projects, but I felt like the Lord said, “Put them down and address this.” I have not touched either of those projects since January 2011.
 
Q: Share some thoughts on why people should read your book, and how you hope the book will challenge them.
 
A: People who are concerned about the direction our nation is going should definitely read the book. In order to reform our nation, we have to reform our way of thinking. Reformation is what this book is all about. However, the book is more than conceptual. Reformation in Responsibility is a call to action.
 
The book is structured for group discussion because communication and cooperation always proceed action. There are four chapters with five short essays in each chapter. 
 
Thus, the reader can go through one chapter during the work week, and over the weekend the reader can join a reading group, Sunday School class, or social networking site in order to discuss the chapter with others. 
 
After going through the book, the reader will understand how our societal dysfunction is the logical result of our philosophy, theology and public policy.
 
Not only will the reader be able to understand why our society is in such a predicament, he/she will also be able to identify and call out the irresponsible philosophies and theologies that have led to irresponsible and destructive public policies. ...  The ultimate challenge of this book is for the Church to speak out [and] act. 
 
Silence is no longer an option for the 21st century church. The Church must regain its prophetic voice in society. 
 
The recent passage of the Marriage Amendment in N.C. is a perfect example of what the Church can do when it fulfills its God-given mission to society. 
 
Q: If readers could pull one “nugget” or helpful suggestion from your book, what would that be?
 
A: Nothing will change until our way of thinking changes. Every era has what I call “trigger concepts,” that is, concepts that cause people to submit. 
 
For example, in the 1500’s, the Catholic Church was the most powerful institution in Europe. … What revolutionized Europe was the free thinking of the reformers. 
 
Men like John Calvin, Philip Melancthon, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli … stood up and called “time out.”
 
The reformers were promoting the idea that just because the Pope or the Church says something is biblical doesn’t mean it is biblical or that it has to be obeyed. This was a radical reform in the thinking of the people of Europe.
 
Likewise, we need a radical reform in our thinking today. In our era, the courts are the most powerful institution in our society. Our trigger concepts revolve around constitutionality. If the government wants to get the people to submit, they declare that something is unconstitutional and people stop doing it (e.g. prayer in schools).
 
What we need is for the people to call another “time out” and realize that just because the courts say something is unconstitutional doesn’t mean that it is and it doesn’t mean that it should be obeyed. 
When influential lawyers and judges say that it’s unconstitutional for the religious sentiments of the people to influence politics and public policy, the people should challenge such rulings on the basis that they are not true.
 
… We need to reform our way of thinking with respect to our rights and responsibilities. 
 
The rights of the individual are important, but they are not more important than the overall good of society. Thus, we need to reform our thinking from the belief that God and society are responsible for the happiness of the individual to the belief that individual is ultimately responsible to God and society – starting with one’s family. Hence, we need a reformation in responsibility.  

Related story
Reformation or Revolution?
6/5/2012 1:56:23 PM by BR Staff | with 2 comments



NAMB a finalist to receive free D.L. Moody property

June 5 2012 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

NORTHFIELD, Mass. – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has been named one of two finalists in a bid to receive a 217-acre Massachusetts private school campus built by evangelist D.L. Moody in 1879.

Purchased in 2009 by the David Green family – founders of the arts and crafts retail giant Hobby Lobby – the dilapidated property has since received more than $5 million in renovations. The Greens want to give the property to a ministry that will use it to further the gospel in North America.

If chosen, NAMB would use the picturesque campus in Northfield, Mass., as a ministry, retreat and missionary training center. This would include missionary training, pastoral retreat and recovery programs and space for a variety of church activities. The campus would be utilized year-round and would provide Southern Baptists unprecedented access in the Northeast.

NAMB would sustain the property out of general operating funds with a plan for the property to gradually cover most of its expense through generated revenue.

“We’re grateful to the Green family for seeking organizations who share and are inspired by D.L. Moody’s vision to see people come to faith in Christ,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “It’s exciting that NAMB would be considered as a possible steward of such an amazing and historic resource. This is an opportunity that could give Southern Baptists an unprecedented presence in the Northeast.”

Established by Moody as an educational institution for the underprivileged, the school was divided into the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Northfield, Mass., and the Mount Hermon School for Boys in Mount Hermon, Mass. Both campuses provided rigorous academic training along with orthodox Christian doctrinal education.

The institution dropped compulsory theological education in the early 1900s.

The Northfield and Mount Hermon campuses consolidated in 2004 onto the Mount Hermon property six miles away in Gill, Mass., leaving the Northfield campus uninhabited.

Foreseeing the need for more extensive renovations and a desire to restore the property to its evangelical heritage, the Green family culled a list of possible tenants from among organizations with substantial financial backing and orthodox Christian beliefs.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
6/5/2012 1:47:24 PM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



N.C. churches, associations ready to partner long-term in Toronto

June 5 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

One year after launching a partnership in Toronto, North Carolina Baptists are responding to the need to come alongside church planters and engage in long-term partnerships.
 
Yet, with a population less than 2.5 percent evangelical and only 40 Southern Baptist churches serving 5.5 million people, a lot more help is needed.
 
Through its Office of Great Commission Partnerships, the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) partnership with the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) is focused specifically on the Greater Toronto Area. The partnership encourages N.C. Baptist churches to plant a church in Toronto, or to join groups of N.C. churches in partnering with a specific Toronto church plant.
 
Dan Collison, director of Toronto Church Planting and southern Ontario lead church planting catalyst for CNBC and the North American Mission Board, has learned that building relationships and serving the community are the best ways to create opportunities to share the gospel.
 
“Canada has always been secular. No one gives a second thought to what the church may say about a particular topic or issue,” he said.
 
“This forces us to begin understanding, on a much deeper level, how to be people of faith and how we communicate the gospel. You develop a stronger, practical understanding of how the church represents the gospel to the community.”
 
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BSC photo by Melissa Lilley

Mike Sowers, left, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, joins in a prayer for Jason and Kimberley McGibbon, church planters in Toronto.


Effective partners
Toronto church planters need partner churches in order to serve their community and reach people for Jesus Christ.
 
However, Collison urged potential partners to remember that church planting in Canada can be very different than in the United States.
 
“In Canada, it usually takes 8-10 years for a church plant to become fairly self-sustaining,” he said.
“The American statistic is 3-5 years, at most.”
 
This reality makes long-term partnerships all the more critical. If churches pull out too soon, after a couple of years, they leave the planter just as he really begins to hit his stride.
 
Collison said an effective mission team moves a church plant forward three to six months down the road.
 
“An effective mission team is a team that comes back,” he said. “When mission teams come to a location only once, they drain more energy out of the field than they contribute.”
 
The second year a team comes they help push momentum forward, by the third year things are falling into place, and after that “it’s friends helping more than a project being accomplished,” Collison said.
 
Churches are encouraged to help the church plant until it has planted a church of its own.
 
Effective mission teams are also teams that serve with the right “posture.”  “They come and fit themselves into the strategy of the church planter,” Collison said.
 
Hometown ministry
Jason McGibbon is a Toronto church planter ready to partner with North Carolina churches. McGibbon grew up in Hamilton, near the western end of the Niagara Peninsula and Lake Ontario, and for the past year has been working with The Hamilton Fellowship’s church plant.
 
About a quarter of the 550,000 people in Hamilton live below the poverty line. Hamilton includes many refugees and Muslim residents. Although once a “blue collar” town centered on steel mills, Hamilton now has a growing arts community and many young families and new residents.
 
Before serving as church planters in Hamilton, the McGibbons attended The Sanctuary Church in Oakville, which is about 30 minutes north of Hamilton. 
 
When The Sanctuary decided to plant a church in Milton, the McGibbons went to Milton to help with the plant. And when that congregation knew God was leading them to plant a church, McGibbon knew God was calling him to be the church planter. 
 
“We heard God clearly say, ‘Who are you waiting for? If you’re going to be a church that plants churches, what are you waiting for?’”
 
About 12-16 people meet in McGibbon’s home every Tuesday. He is praying for more house fellowships to be established and for the church to love its community and engage it with the gospel.
 
McGibbon knows church planting requires sacrifice. “Our sending church could have used a children’s minister five years ago. They gave up paychecks to keep church planting going,” he said.
 
Now is the time
Just as McGibbon answered God’s call to go, so are churches from Rowan Association. Director of Missions Ken Clark went to Toronto last year and again this year to learn how to help involve his association in Toronto church planting.
 
“Our plan as an association is to become a global impact network. We want to get to the point where we will have teams come up at least quarterly, so we have a constant presence there,” Clark said.

“If I can help tie smaller churches with larger churches, they can make an impact as well. The excitement will then spread.”
 
Through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, global impact networks are being established across N.C. A local church or association that serves as a global impact network serves as a missional center, helping connect other local churches and associations with partnering churches.
 
Three churches in Rowan are already committed to partnering in Toronto with Scott Rourk and Rendezvous Church. Rourk is on his third church plant in Toronto, all in very different and diverse settings. 
 
The Rendezvous church plant in midtown, in the Forest Hill neighborhood, is an area with affluent, working professionals who are mostly unchurched. The Rendezvous plant in the Parkdale neighborhood, however, will reach mostly immigrants of various religious backgrounds. 
 
“Our goal as a church plant is not just to plant a church, but to reach a city. Our hope is to plant 10 Rendezvous churches within the next 10-15 years in Toronto. In order for us to do that we need church planters for each and every one of those church plants,” Rourk said.
 
Clark is praying for partnerships to also lead to revitalization among North Carolina churches. “I have a lot of churches that think they are missional because they give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and support the Cooperative Program, and have a missions speaker. But they are not living missionally,” he said.
 
“I’m hoping they will see the difference between talking about missions and giving to missions, and committing themselves physically to doing missions,” Clark said. “And I hope that will make a difference in their own personal lives with Christ.
 
“We’ve got to get beyond waiting on someone else to do it. If God has impressed on you to do it, there’s no reason to sit back.”
 
To learn more about opportunities in Toronto, visit www.ncbaptist.org/toronto, necpcoalition.com or contact Michael Sowers: (800) 395-5102 ext. 5654, msowers@ncbaptist.org.
6/5/2012 1:39:26 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Budget, NAMB, annual meeting at forefront of BOD

June 4 2012 by BSC Communications, BR staff

During a regularly scheduled meeting May 22-23 at Caraway Conference Center, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Board of Directors heard reports and testimonies related to finances, this fall in Greensboro, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and of how God is using N.C. Baptists for Kingdom impact.
 
Although Cooperative Program funds are $11,289,455.98, which is 1.5 percent behind last year at this time, the Convention continues to operate “in the black,” according to a report by Beverly Volz, director of accounting services. The Board will vote on the proposed 2013 Cooperative Program budget during its September meeting.
 
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, updated the Board on the three staff committees helping study and make recommendations regarding the Vision Fulfillment Committee report. The communications and church planting/existing churches committees have completed their work, and the strategic development committee’s work is underway. A report to the Executive Committee is expected to be ready by August.
 
NAMB update
Hollifield also shared an update related to changes in the cooperative agreement between NAMB and BSC. Each state convention is in the process of negotiating new agreements with NAMB since it announced that it would redirect more of its funding to church planting efforts outside of the South.
 
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BR photo by K. Allan Blume

John McConnell, chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, shares about the changing landscape of health care with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Board of Directors. Stressing the importance of medical care, McConnell also emphasized the “Baptist” part of the center’s history.


The cooperative agreements in each state have traditionally included allocations for supporting church planting and evangelism programs in state conventions as well as associations. The cooperative agreements have also included allocations for individuals who are jointly funded employees. There are nine jointly funded employees on the BSC staff at this time.
 
While the new cooperative agreements vary from state to state, NAMB intends to reduce funds available for jointly funded staff, evangelism and other efforts. Though NAMB will continue providing the BSC funding, most of the funds will now be designated to church planting.
 
Hollifield clarified that there are no plans to eliminate any of the jointly funded positions at the BSC.
“We have reallocated dollars in the portion of the Cooperative Program budget that remains in state,” Hollifield said, “and that has allowed us to retain all our jointly funded staff.”
 
November meeting
Regarding the Convention’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Greensboro, Hollifield urged Board members to begin preparing now. This year’s theme is “Awaken,” based on Romans 13:11-14.
 
“The committee that helps plan this meeting has expressed such a concern and burden to see a great movement of God take place when we gather in November,” Hollifield said. “But we must do spiritual preparation before that.”
 
Hollifield asked the Board to consider hosting times of prayer in their church or association for spiritual awakening, and to utilize opportunities such as a church renewal weekend to help prepare for November. For more information go to ncbaptist.org/crj.
 
“I’m afraid the world is having a greater impact on the church than the church is on the world,” Hollifield said. “None of us knows how much longer we have on this earth, and we don’t know how much longer it is before Christ returns.
 
“Let’s come to Greensboro with a sense of expectancy that God is going to do something great.”
 
Great Commission Partnerships
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, challenged N.C. Baptists to consider the worth, and not the cost, when it comes to becoming strategically involved in mission efforts in North America and beyond.
 
N.C. Baptists have participated in two vision trips this year in Toronto and Boston. Spots are still open for the August trip to New York City.
 
Other upcoming events include safety/security training Oct. 2 in Cary. There also will be Southeast Asian Peoples Training Sept. 17-19 in Winston-Salem. For more information visit ncbaptist.org/gcp. A new church planting website necpcoalition.com is available to help connect N.C. churches with church planters in partnership areas.
 
North Carolina Baptist Hospital
Paul Mullen, church and community relations director for N.C. Baptist Hospital (part of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center), reported that Baptists have given more than $580,000 this fiscal year to the Mother’s Day Offering, which helps patients in need pay their hospital bills.
 
It’s a time of rapid change in the medical field, said John McConnell, chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He shared his appreciation for the ongoing relationship that the hospital has with the BSC, noting the Center’s Baptist heritage is an important part of its DNA and culture.
 
“The landscape of health care and health reform is increasingly complex,” he said.
 
“In the midst of this complexity and change we are grateful that some … truly important things remain stable. First and foremost … is our commitment to faith that forms the basis for who we are and what we do. Our name is Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.”
 
Since the hospital began in 1920, McConnell said, it has continued to improve and excel in patient care and research. About 300 of its physicians were recognized in the 2011-2012 “Best Doctors in America” publication, and U.S. News and World Report ranks the Medical Center among the nation’s best hospitals.
 
Committee Reports
Burwell Stark, a layperson from Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest, was appointed to serve the unexpired term of Greg Barefoot on the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee (CLPA).
CLPA committee chair Jarrod Scott also thanked the Board for supporting the marriage amendment, which passed by an overwhelming margin May 8.
 
“It’s the churches that spoke up,” he said. “We thank the Lord for this grassroots work.” 
 
In the coming months the committee will make available on its blog (blog.ncbaptist.org/clpa) resources to help churches reach out to people involved in a homosexual lifestyle.
 
The chairman of the Business Services Committee reported a change in the expansion plans for the conference center at Caraway. Original plans included a one-story facility with detached housing units beside it. However, after consultation with the architects, the new facility will be constructed as a three-story unit. This will allow the meeting rooms and housing accommodations to be under one roof. This committee reported this change will result in significant cost savings. 
 
The Christian Higher Education Committee reported that the tentative start date for the Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute scholarship is fall 2013. The two-year scholarship would be awarded to Fruitland students who, upon graduation from Fruitland, desire to continue their education at one of the educational institutions affiliated with the BSC. A maximum of two students at each affiliated institution would be eligible for the scholarship.
 
Miscellaneous Business
The Board approved two motions during the miscellaneous business session. Phil Addison, pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church, brought a motion that will give Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, opportunity to address the Board at least once a year.
 
The Board approved the Biblical Recorder’s governing documents, which have been updated to be consistent with those of the BSC. Last year, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Hendersonville also updated their documents to be consistent with the BSC. The Recorder’s governing documents will go before the Convention in November to be approved.
 
The Board also passed a motion for Fruitland’s Board of Directors to consider whether or not they should request the Convention to forgive Fruitland’s remaining $900,000 debt after construction of its chapel.
Branton Burleson of Christ Covenant Baptist Church in Hendersonville made the original motion to ask the Convention to forgive the entirety of the chapel debt. Perry Brindley, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Canton, later made the motion to refer the matter to Fruitland’s Board of Directors.
The next Board of Directors meeting at Caraway will be Sept. 25-26.
6/4/2012 2:33:35 PM by BSC Communications, BR staff | with 0 comments



State church leaders to share adoption passion in New Orleans

June 4 2012 by BR staff

For Matt Capps, adoption used to be an “abstract category” that didn’t really apply to his life. Then he and his wife, Laura, saw their world changed forever as the couple from North Carolina adopted their son, Solomon, – now 2 years old – from Ethiopia.
 
Even with Capps’ personal connection to the needs of orphans, he contends ministry among those children who do not have parents or are neglected should be on the radar of all followers of Christ.
 
“As Laura and I prayerfully decided to adopt, the orphan crisis became a life-changing reality,” said Capps, an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
 
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Contributed photo

Matt Capps, far right, seen here with his wife, Laura, and their adopted son, Solomon, will facilitate the Adoption & Orphan Care breakfast and panel discussion June 20 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La. Breakfast begins at 7 a.m., and the panel discussion starts at 7:15. Russell Moore, Johnny Carr, Tony Merida and David Platt will discuss the theological foundation for caring for the fatherless. The event is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Together for Adoption.


“Our son, Solomon, is such a blessing from God. My heart not only overflows with love for him, but the reality of our adoption in Christ sits deep within my soul like it never had before.”
 
Capps will facilitate the Adoption & Orphan Care Breakfast and Panel Discussion June 20 during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans. The free event will be held 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. in Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Together for Adoption. The purpose of the event, said Capps, will be to gauge the interest of Southern Baptists in the topic while also creating awareness of orphans and neglected children.
 
The panel will include pastor Tony Merida, co-author of Orphanology and pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh. Other panelists include Russell Moore, author of Adopted for Life and dean and a vice president at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Johnny Carr with Bethany Christian Services; and David Platt, an adoptive parent, author and pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
 
“I figured these four would be great to get on the panel to talk about what is the call for us as a convention,” said Capps, who will facilitate the discussion. “How are we supposed to respond as a convention? That’s the main aim.”
 
In 2009, Moore (one of the panelists mentioned above) brought before the SBC a resolution to promote adoption and orphan care. The resolution, which was overwhelmingly approved, states: “That we encourage local churches to champion the evangelism of and ministry to orphans around the world, and to seek out ways to energize Southern Baptists behind this mission.”
 
“In their book Orphanology, Merida and [co-author Rick] Morton argue that the church is the most powerful force in the world,” Capps said.
 
“That is an important point if we’re not only about proclaiming the gospel but also reflecting the gospel. We have to take serious the problems of the world and heed the call to orphan care.”
 
 Worldwide there are estimated to be about 145 million orphaned children, Capps said.
 
“That is about 40 percent of the U.S. population … children without parents,” he said.
 
In North Carolina, alone, there are thousands of children in foster care.
 
“The number changes weekly,” Capps added.
 
“Where I’m located right now there [are] approximately 800 children in foster care, just in one county.”
 
Capps contends the Southern Baptist Convention has the resources and people to make a difference with this issue.
 
“With the amount of Southern Baptist churches we have in the state, I think if every church adopted one child,” he said, “we could pretty much wipe out foster care.”
 
There also is an opportunity for church leaders to minister to couples who have or are planning to adopt.
 
“If you’re a church minister thinking about adoption, or just have a heart for orphan care, I think this is going to be a good equipping event just to kind of give you a basis of knowledge that you can work with,” he said.
 
“It’s been great to see this become something we’re at least willing to talk about in the convention.”  

The first 200 attendees at the event will receive a copy of Orphanology by Merida and Morton, and Reclaiming Adoption, edited by Dan Cruver. 
6/4/2012 2:25:26 PM by BR staff | with 1 comments



Evangelist, 33, pleads guilty to voyeurism

June 4 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Sammy Nuckolls, a 33-year-old evangelist who spoke for years at Southern Baptist youth gatherings, has pleaded guilty to charges of video voyeurism in two Arkansas towns. He now is facing charges in Texas and has been granted extra time to accept a plea bargain on similar charges in Mississippi.

Nuckolls admitted in April to videotaping women in private situations without their consent in Waldron, Ark. His five-year prison term was suspended, he was ordered to register as a sex offender in the state of Arkansas, and he was asked to pay more than $1,600 in fines and fees.

In Gosnell, Ark., Nuckolls also pleaded guilty to video voyeurism after videotaping a woman undressing in her home where he was staying while preaching a revival last fall. He was put on probation there for three years.

In Seymour, Texas, Nuckolls was charged recently with one count of improper photography or visual recording with multiple victims. The case has been forwarded to the district attorney, and a grand jury will determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the case, a representative of Seymour’s police department told Baptist Press.

Nuckolls originally pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of video voyeurism in Olive Branch, Miss., with each count carrying a maximum sentence of five years. He was to face a June 25 trial date there and had until May 31 to accept a plea bargain.

Steven Jubera, the district attorney in the Mississippi case, told Baptist Press the case was continued until July 30 for a trial and July 19 for a potential plea.

“The reason for the continuance was that it’s the first trial setting, the defense counsel had filed motions that had not been heard yet regarding the case, the defense counsel had a conflict, and there has been extensive press coverage,” Jubera said of the May 29 proceedings. “For those four reasons, the court deemed it appropriate to continue the case.”

According to sources familiar with Nuckolls’ speaking schedule, an estimated 100 churches or groups per year were scheduling him to speak.

Among those that have used Nuckolls were LifeWay Christian Resources’ student camps, which terminated its relationship with Nuckolls when the charges were revealed last fall.

Nuckolls originally was hired to serve in the role of a camp pastor from 2003-06. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings. LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for those speaking at student camps, an April 4 statement from LifeWay noted.

“Police investigators in Mississippi have reported to LifeWay there was no evidence victims were filmed at any LifeWay events,” LifeWay said in its statement. “However, Mark Kimball, assistant chief of police of the Olive Branch, Mississippi, Police Department, has requested those who may be victims to contact him at 662-892-9400.”

Last October, Nuckolls was staying in the home of a youth minister for a church in Arkansas where he had been invited to speak. After Nuckolls emerged from the family’s bathroom, the youth minister’s wife went in and eventually noticed several of his items lying around, including his shaving kit, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 2.

The woman saw what appeared to be an oversized pen standing upright inside the shaving kit on the counter, and she continued in the bathroom. Later, when the bathroom was unoccupied, Nuckolls returned to retrieve his belongings, the newspaper said, citing a police report.

Once Nuckolls and the youth minister had left the house, the woman found the pen in Nuckolls’ room, took the top off and discovered a flash drive. She plugged it into her computer and saw a video of herself undressing, the Star-Telegram said. She called police, and when Nuckolls returned, he was arrested.

At the time, Nuckolls admitted to videotaping the woman without her consent and also admitted to two other instances of using a hidden camera in Olive Branch, Miss., the police report said. A police chief in Gosnell, Ark., searched Nuckolls’ computer and found several more videos dating to 2007.

The prosecutor in Mississippi said the women there were filmed in Nuckolls’ home and were his friends or acquaintances.

According to an Internet search, among the places Nuckolls spoke were the Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama in November 2009, Blue Mountain College in Virginia in August 2011 and churches in several states.

A non-denominational church in Southlake, Texas, where Nuckolls spoke to youth about a half-dozen times in three years, said he passed a required background check there, according to the Star-Telegram.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
6/4/2012 2:18:11 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Statement on Calvinism draws approval, criticism

June 1 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (UPDATED) A group of current and former Southern Baptist leaders has signed a statement affirming what they call the “traditional Southern Baptist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation, with the goal of drawing a distinction with the beliefs of “New Calvinism.”
 
The statement was posted May 31 at SBCToday.com and includes a preamble and 10 articles, along with signatures from two entity presidents (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Paige Patterson and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Chuck Kelley), five state executive directors (Georgia’s Bob White, Florida's John Sullivan, Mississippi’s Jim Futral, Louisiana’s David Hankins, Alaska’s Mike Procter), and in addition to Patterson, five other former SBC presidents (Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman and Bobby Welch).
 
The document was titled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” (Read the entire document at the bottom of this story.)
 
“For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but ‘non-essential’ theological matters,” the document reads in the preamble. “The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.”
 
The document further asserts that the “vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life.”
 
“We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology,” the statement reads. Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation.
 
Each of the 10 articles includes a statement of what the signers affirm and what they deny. For instance, on the article about the Grace of God, the document says:
 
“We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.”
 
The statement then adds:
 
“We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.”
 
Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., wrote an introduction to the statement at SBCToday.com. He is a signer of the statement.
 
“The concern of the developers of this statement was that the viewpoint of this majority was not well-represented by the term ‘non-Calvinist’ and that an instrument was needed by which that majority might articulate positively what they believe vis-à-vis Calvinism,” Hankins wrote. “... Its purpose is to engender a much needed Convention-wide discussion about the place of Calvinism in Southern Baptist life.”
 
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said he chose not to sign the statement.
 
“Southern Baptists have always found a way to work together, within the framework of historical Christian faith and Baptist doctrine, to support and promote our cooperative enterprises of global missions, theological education and benevolent ministries,” Page said. “While I fully affirm any group of Southern Baptists to express their deeply held convictions about doctrinal matters, especially a matter as important as the doctrine of salvation, I would prefer that any collective document to which I affix my signature be a consensus statement, developed jointly with those of various soteriological persuasions, that expresses our core commitments to those matters we hold in common. The Baptist Faith and Message is such a document.”
 
At the same time, Page also said he believes the convention needs a “consensus accord,” and said he will announce at the SBC annual meeting in June plans for putting one together.
 
“Given the depth of the fracture lines around the issue of soteriology across the Convention,” Page said, “I sense a need to assemble a representative group of Southern Baptists who can hammer out such a consensus ‘accord’ that will enable the majority of Southern Baptists to work together for the Kingdom purposes which initially bound us together, an initiative I plan to announce at this year’s annual meeting.”
 
The “Traditional Southern Baptist” document was widely discussed on Baptist-centric blogs in the hours after it was released. A post at SBCVoices.com quickly collected more than 100 comments. The comments section at SBCToday.com surged past 200.
 
Brent Hobbs, pastor of Severn Baptist Church in Severn, N.C., wrote at SBCVoices.com, “As a Calvinist, I barely recognize the theology they claim is Calvinism.”
 
David Rogers, son of the late Adrian Rogers and senior editor at the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, wrote at SBCVoice.com that he doesn’t know which group he’d fit in and that Southern Baptists are “likely never going to come to full agreement” on these issues.
 
“For the good of the work, the glory of the Lord, and the edification of the Body of Christ, though, I believe we need to agree to disagree over some issues, while constantly affirming that our agreement on the essentials trumps whatever disagreement we may have on more secondary (or tertiary) issues,” Rogers wrote.
 
Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., wrote at BaptistTwentyOne.com that he does not consider himself part of the “New Calvinism” and that he agrees with much in the statement. But Akin said the document is fighting “straw men,” such as implying that “‘New Calvinists’ believe that a person can be saved apart from personal repentance and faith.”
 
“I don’t know a single Calvinist in the SBC alive who would argue that a person can be saved apart from repentance and faith,” wrote Akin, who added he believes the statement is divisive.

The statement, he wrote, "inaccurately and unfairly describes the theology of the "New Calvinists." It implies that double predestination is the standard Calvinist position when it is "in reality" a minority position, Akin wrote.
 
“The SBC is big enough to include Calvinists and non-Calvinists,” Akin wrote. “We agree on far more than we disagree on, so let’s unite and fight a common enemy.”

Others, though, applauded the statement.

"Eric, thank you for your leadership, thoughtfulness and wisdom," Brad Whitt, co-pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., wrote at SBCToday.com. "This statement clearly expresses what I, and many other Southern Baptists, believe about the doctrine of salvation."

David Worley, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Greenfield, Tenn., also signed the statement.

"I love my Calvinists, Reformed Brothers and Sisters in Christ," he wrote at SBCToday.com. "I can work alongside of them, and worship with them, in the SBC. I do not want them to be kicked out, or left out of SBC life. But, I do agree with this document, and I think its a step in the right direction for SBC life."
 
Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), released a joint statement about the document. It read:
 
“As the heads of the two SBC mission boards (IMB and NAMB), we and all our personnel have already affirmed the BF&M 2000 as prerequisites for employment. We do understand the sentiment behind the proposed statement, but we believe the BF&M 2000 effectively conveys the doctrinal positions traditionally held by Southern Baptists. While alternate doctrinal statements may occasionally arise, it is both our role and our intention to consistently lead in a manner that reflects those doctrines approved by the convention we serve.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
 
Following is the full text of the statement, as posted at www.SBCToday.com:
 
A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of
God’s Plan of Salvation
 
Preamble
 
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.
 
While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism. Even the minority of Southern Baptists who have identified themselves as Calvinists generally modify its teachings in order to mitigate certain unacceptable conclusions (e.g., anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc.). The very fact that there is a plurality of views on Calvinism designed to deal with these weaknesses (variously described as “3-point,” “4-point,” “moderate,” etc.) would seem to call for circumspection and humility with respect to the system and to those who disagree with it.  For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but “non-essential” theological matters. The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.
 
We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, “Article IV.” While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinism. For almost a century, Southern Baptists have found that a sound, biblical soteriology can be taught, maintained, and defended without subscribing to Calvinism. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord. Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Baptists have been well-served by a straightforward soteriology rooted in the fact that Christ is willing and able to save any and every sinner.
 
New Calvinism presents us with a duty and an opportunity to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation. It is no longer helpful to identify ourselves by how many points of convergence we have with Calvinism. While we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement below in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family, we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life. We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology.
 
Below is what we believe to be the essence of a “Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” We believe that most Southern Baptists, regardless of how they have described their personal understanding of the doctrine of salvation, will find the following statement consistent with what the Bible teaches and what Southern Baptists have generally believed about the nature of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
 
Article One: The Gospel
We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.
 
We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.
 
Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9
 
Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
 
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
 
Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15
 
Article Three: The Atonement of Christ
We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.
 
We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.
 
Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2
 
Article Four: The Grace of God
We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.
 
We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.
 
Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19
 
Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner
We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.
 
We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.
 
Luke 15:24; John 3:3; 7:37-39; 10:10; 16:7-14; Acts 2:37-39; Romans 6:4-11; 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 6:15; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:18
 
Article Six: The Election to Salvation
We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.
 
We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.
 
Genesis 1:26-28; 12:1-3; Exodus 19:6; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 24:31; 25:34; John 6:70; 15:16; Romans 8:29-30, 33;9:6-8; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:11-22; 3:1-11; 4:4-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 7:9-10
 
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.
 
We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
 
Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17
 
Article Eight: The Free Will of Man
We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.
 
We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.
 
Genesis 1:26-28; Numbers 21:8-9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; Esther 3:12-14; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:20-24; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-24; 13:34; 15:17-20; Romans 10:9-10; Titus 2:12; Revelation 22:17
 
Article Nine: The Security of the Believer
We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.
 
We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.
 
John 10:28-29; 14:1-4; 16:12-14; Philippians 1:6; Romans 3:21-26; 8:29,30; 35-39; 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:19; 3:2; 5:13-15; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 13:5; James 1:12; Jude 24-25
 
Article Ten: The Great Commission
We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.
 
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5
6/1/2012 2:14:34 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 2 comments



ERLC trustees reprimand Richard Land, halt radio program

June 1 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Two reprimands have been issued to Richard Land by the trustee executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
The ERLC trustee executive committee also is terminating Land’s weekly call-in radio show – the venue where Land made comments about the Trayvon Martin killing that ignited intense controversy, prompting the formation of a trustee ad hoc investigative committee.
 
The ERLC, led by Land since 1998, must “redouble our efforts … to heal re-opened wounds,” the executive committee said of Land’s on-air comments about the intrusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case and his references to President Obama and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by name.
 
At the outset of its reprimands and broadcast termination, the trustee committee stated that Land’s statements “were very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and to many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists. Damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
The two reprimands of Land by the ERLC trustee executive committee state:
 
“We reprimand Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It was appropriate for Dr. Land to issue the apology he made on May 9, 2012 and we are pleased he did so. We also convey our own deepest sympathies to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss they have suffered. We, too, express our sorrow, regret, and apologies to them for Dr. Land’s remarks. We are particularly disappointed in Dr. Land’s words because they do not accurately reflect the body of his work over a long career at the ERLC toward racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and American life. We must now redouble our efforts to regain lost ground, to heal re-opened wounds, and to realize the dream of a Southern Baptist Convention that is just as diverse as the population of our great Nation.
 
“We further reprimand Dr. Land for quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry, and we acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment. We examined Dr. Land’s written work during the investigation, and we found no instances of plagiarism in any of Dr. Land’s written work. As a Christian, a minister of the gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard. We expect all future work of the ERLC to be above reproach in that regard,” the trustee executive committee said regarding plagiarism allegations against Land over material he failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.
 
Regarding the call-in radio show, the ERLC trustee executive committee stated:
 
“… we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program. We hereby announce that the Richard Land Live! radio program will end as soon as possible within the bounds of our contracts with the Salem Radio Network.”
 
Land, in a statement issued to Baptist Press after the release of the reprimands and broadcast termination, stated:
 
“I have said on numerous occasions that I believe in trustee oversight and governance. I am under the authority of the trustees elected by the Southern Baptist Convention. This whole process was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen.
 
“I look forward to working with them and their fellow trustees and the ERLC staff as we seek to continue to minister the gospel of our Savior across our great land,” Land said.
 
In his May 9 apology, Land apologized “for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The five-part, two-page apology followed a May 2 meeting when Land met with 11 other SBC leaders, including several prominent African American pastors. As a result of the meeting, which lasted nearly five hours, Land said, “I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.”
 
For the Baptist Press story on Land’s May 9 apology, which includes the full text of the apology, click here.
 
Among those in attendance May 9 were Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; James Dixon Jr., president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.; and K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa.
 
The ERLC trustee executive committee that issued the reprimands and broadcast termination is led by Richard D. Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark. Piles, on May 21, replaced Steve Faith as ERLC trustee chairman after Faith, a retired pastor and director of missions from New Albany, Ind., resigned citing a need to assist his local church that is currently without a pastor.
 
In addition to Piles, other members of the ERLC executive committee are Donald L. Mason, a Georgia layman; Stephen W. Long, a director of missions in Ohio; Christopher L. Slaughter, a West Virginia layman; and Stephen G. Veteto, a Colorado seminary educator. The committee includes the ERLC trustee officers and the chairmen of the trustees’ three subcommittees.
 
On May 9, Faith followed Land’s apology with a statement that the ad hoc investigative committee was working “with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC Executive Committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC Executive Committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.
 
“It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the Convention,” Faith said. “The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the Convention and to the watching world.”
 
Additional Baptist Press reports on the controversy over Land’s comments can be accessed at www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37804; www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37620; and www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37619.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
 
The full text of the June 1 statement by the trustee executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission follows:
 
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees
of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee
 
June 1, 2012
 
On March 31, 2012, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (“ERLC”) made statements during the Richard Land Live! (RLL) broadcast which were very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and to many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists. Damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention. We announced our regret for those remarks, and we also commissioned an Ad Hoc Investigation Committee to address allegations of plagiarism that were made related to those same remarks and to commentary made in another RLL broadcast. The investigation proceeded with diligence. Dr. Land exhibited a very compliant spirit and was fully cooperative during the investigation. We thank Dr. Land for that.
 
The Ad Hoc Investigation Committee has completed its work and reported its findings to the Executive Committee. On May 29, 2012, the Executive Committee of the ERLC met in Nashville, Tennessee to consider the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as other related matters, and to review those findings with Dr. Land. The Executive Committee unanimously agreed to, and hereby undertakes, the following actions:
 
We reprimand Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It was appropriate for Dr. Land to issue the apology he made on May 9, 2012 and we are pleased he did so. We also convey our own deepest sympathies to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss they have suffered. We, too, express our sorrow, regret, and apologies to them for Dr. Land’s remarks. We are particularly disappointed in Dr. Land’s words because they do not accurately reflect the body of his work over a long career at the ERLC toward racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and American life. We must now redouble our efforts to regain lost ground, to heal re-opened wounds, and to realize the dream of a Southern Baptist Convention that is just as diverse as the population of our great Nation.
 
We further reprimand Dr. Land for quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry, and we acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment. We examined Dr. Land’s written work during the investigation, and we found no instances of plagiarism in any of Dr. Land’s written work. As a Christian, a minister of the gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard. We expect all future work of the ERLC to be above reproach in that regard.
 
Finally, we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program. We hereby announce that the Richard Land Live! radio program will end as soon as possible within the bounds of our contracts with the Salem Radio Network.
6/1/2012 2:05:54 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



A first: Appeals court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

June 1 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

BOSTON – A federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in a unanimous ruling Thursday (May 31), becoming the first appeals court ever to rule against the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
 
The three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed a lower court’s ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional because it denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.
 
The ruling, which will be appealed, would force the United States to recognize same-sex marriages from the seven states and the District of Columbia where it is legal, and by extension grant federal benefits, such as tax breaks and federal employee spousal insurance, to same-sex couples.
 
DOMA was passed in 1996 by a bipartisan 84 percent of those in Congress and signed by President Clinton. The appeals court ruling did not overrule another major section of DOMA that gives states latitude in defining marriage. That section was not challenged.
 
The ruling struck down Section 3 of the act, the part defining marriage for federal purposes.
 
“Invalidating a federal statute is an unwelcome responsibility for federal judges; the elected Congress speaks for the entire nation, its judgment and good faith being entitled to utmost respect,” the court said. “But a lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings.”
 
6-1-12Appeals.jpg

In 2010, a U.S. district judge ruled concerning DOMA that government cannot constitutionally distinguish between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage.
 
In the appeals court ruling, Judge Michael Boudin, appointed to the bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, wrote, “If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress’ will, this statute fails that test.”
 
In reaching the judgment, the court said Congress was not necessarily hostile to gays.
 
“The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization,” Boudin wrote.
 
“... For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute.... But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.”
 
DOMA limits tax and social security benefits to couples in opposite-sex marriages, the court said, and in cases where one partner in a legally recognized same-sex marriage is a federal employee, the act prohibits the other partner from receiving provisions for retirement and medical care, which are, “in practice, the main components of the social safety net for vast numbers of Americans.”
 
Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), said society should protect and strengthen traditional marriage rather than undermine it. ADF, a Christian legal group, has worked to defend DOMA.
 
“The federal Defense of Marriage Act provides that type of protection, and we trust the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the First Circuit’s erroneous decision,” Schowengerdt said in a statement.
 
The ruling stemmed from a pair of lawsuits from Massachusetts, one by the state’s attorney general and another by the homosexual group GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders).
 
“In allowing one state to hold the federal government, and potentially other states, hostage to redefine marriage, the First Circuit attempts a bridge too far. Under this rationale, if just one state decided to accept polygamy, the federal government and perhaps other states would be forced to accept it, too,” Schowengerdt said.
 
Congress banned polygamy in the 19th century, and it “has the authority to step in against this attempt at marriage redefinition as well,” Schowengerdt said.
 
The ruling comes less than a month after President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage, telling ABC News, “I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
 
Last year Obama announced that his administration would no longer argue for DOMA’s constitutionality, and since then the Justice Department actually started filing legal briefs arguing that the law should be overturned.
 
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley praised the ruling by the appeals court.
 
“Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification,” Coakley said. “It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second-class marriages, and it does harm to families in Massachusetts every day. All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”
 
The Alliance Defense Fund noted that marriage has a 15-year record of winning at the ballot box.
 
“Even as President Obama announced his support for changing marriage into something else, he recognized that it was up to the people of each state to decide, just as voters in 31 states have already done in overwhelmingly protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Schowengerdt said.
 
“The First Circuit’s support of this same principle suggests that it is constitutional for California’s voters to enact Proposition 8 – and that all of the other state constitutional amendments and statutes defining marriage as a man and a woman are constitutional as well,” Schowengerdt added.
 
Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, a Clinton nominee, and Judge Juan Torruella, a Reagan nominee, joined in the opinion.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –  Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
6/1/2012 1:57:27 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



China tries to shut down large church

June 1 2012 by Baptist Press/Radio Free Asia

WASHINGTON (BP) – Authorities in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan are pressuring a large Christian church to halt its activities, according to the pastor.
 
The move comes as Chinese authorities are cracking down on unofficial churches and intensifying their harassment of Christians. Click here to see earlier Baptist Press story.
 
“The authorities have asked us to end our family church congregations, calling our gatherings ‘illegal,’” Pastor Li, leader of a 1,500-member house church in the city of Langzhong, told Radio Free Asia.
 
“They … still haven’t taken direct action against us, but this has worried churchgoers,” Li said.
 
6-1-12China.jpg

The government warning arrived on May 18 in a notice delivered to the home of a church member, but was not sent to their meeting place, Li said.
 
“Our prayer meeting of that day had about 20 believers,” Li said, noting that, with the large size of the congregation, church meetings are held in small groups in area villages.
 
On May 5, a church meeting in Shijiazhuang in China’s northeastern Hebei province was broken up by police who declared the gathering illegal. Officers took worshippers’ names and told them to pray instead at government-approved churches.
 
And on May 22, a church staff member in Nanyang in the central province of Henan said authorities had ordered local house church members to join official churches.
 
“But we categorically refused to do so,” the man, surnamed Xi, said. “They want to control us.”
 
“The severity of the crackdown on family churches varies in different places,” said Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese Association of Christian Family Churches who is active in preaching in central China’s Anhui province.
 
“In places where there are many family churches, the local government may have a better understanding of them, and officials will be more prudent,” Mingxuan said.
 
“But in places where you have only a few believers, local authorities will treat them as an ‘evil cult.’”
6/1/2012 1:52:45 PM by Baptist Press/Radio Free Asia | with 0 comments



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