June 2013

400 gather to pray for Kingdom advance

June 27 2013 by David Raul Lema Jr., Baptist Press

HOUSTON – About 400 Hispanic leaders and church members gathered for the Spanish “Revive Us,” or “Avívanos,” worship celebration in conjunction with this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Houston.

Coalo Zamorano, minister of music in the Hispanic ministries of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, led the worship service that concluded the “Avance Hispano SBC 2013” gathering at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Zamorano has worked since 1986 with composer and worship pastor Marcos Witt and CanZion Productions.

Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), challenged the group with four concepts from the Bible.

The first concept Elliff noted was “the uncertainty of this world and the time of the second coming. … [W]e need to work hard for the night is coming. We have very little time.”

Elliff’s second involved “the necessity. It is very important to be filled with the Spirit. We need revival in this land.”

The third concept Elliff relayed was “the reaction. We will go and share the Word with others,” while the final concept Elliff shared was “the notion of extremity. Jesus said ‘your witness will carry you to the ends of the earth.’

“Folks, it is time to get the job done,” Elliff said, after citing several examples of churches on mission. “There are 3,000 people groups that do not have a single witness.

“My prayer,” Elliff continued, “is that this will begin a new day in the relationship between the IMB and the Hispanic Baptists. My hope is that in the coming years we will see hundreds of Hispanics going as witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

Jason Carlisle, IMB Hispanic mobilization director and translator for Elliff, noted that “the IMB recently committed itself to sending 40 Hispanic missionaries in the coming year.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), recapped the Send: North America strategy that Southern Baptists are using to impact North America through evangelism and church planting. Joshua del Risco, Hispanic evangelism director for NAMB, translated for Ezell.

“I want to share from my heart about North America,” Ezell stated. “The population is growing exponentially faster than we are planting churches.” 

Ezell said NAMB has set a goal “of planting 15,000 churches in the next 10 years.” 

Ezell also asked attendees to make the prayer of Luke 10:2 their own, as he challenged them to join NAMB’s nationwide effort to pray daily at 10:02 a.m. and p.m. and “ask God for the next generation of missionaries.” He asked participants to specifically set apart Wednesday, Oct. 2 to pray and fast for this request.

Gerardo Custodio, who planted Iglesia La Familia de Dios in Ontario, Calif., also was one of the featured speakers. With Custodio as pastor, the church has planted six new churches since its inception in 1995.

Custodio’s message was based on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:22. He shared examples of the work that God is doing in Ontario, Calif., and the importance of all Christians to use the gifts God has given them.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Raul Lema Jr. is associate team strategist for theological education ministries at the Florida Baptist Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/27/2013 11:21:41 AM by David Raul Lema Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gay marriage prevails at Supreme Court

June 26 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a historic ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, but it stopped short of redefining marriage nationwide.
In one of two rulings regarding gay marriage, the high court struck down Wednesday (June 26) a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. 
In a breakthrough for homosexual couples, the court said in a 5-4 decision the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize gay marriages. The opinion means same-sex couples will have access to employee, Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.
In the other case about gay marriage, the justices appeared to provide a limited victory for same-sex marriage advocates. The court’s 5-4 ruling on a procedural question apparently will have the effect of allowing to stand a federal judge’s invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples.
In its opinions, however, the Supreme Court did not legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country or rule that states cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Southern Baptist leaders expressed remorse at the high court’s opinions, especially in the DOMA case.
Ethicist Russell D. Moore described the DOMA ruling as “far-reaching, with massive implications for family life and religious liberty.”
“The grounding of this decision in equal protection and human dignity means this is not simply a procedural matter of federalism. This is a new legal reality,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Appearing on CNN Wednesday morning, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said many dates in American history stand out as red letter days and “this is one of those days.”
“I think even as there are many people celebrating this, we recognize this is a major cultural divide over something as basic as marriage,” said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “It is, I think, something that will be very, very devastating for our country over the long term because what it means is the inevitable marginalization of marriage and the subversion of the most essential institution for human existence.”
Executive Committee President Frank Page called the DOMA decision in a written statement “a wrong decision with far-reaching moral and religious liberty implications. With one stroke of the pen, this Court has redefined the universal, historical, and biblical ideal of marriage as a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman.”
In contrast, same-sex marriage advocates were ecstatic at the developments. 
Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, described it as a “thrilling day.”
“[O]nce again, our world has changed,” he wrote on his blog. “We are two steps closer to the goal of full equality for [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans.”
President Obama applauded the court's DOMA ruling. 
In a statement, Obama said he had directed Attorney General Eric Holder “to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.”
On CNN, Mohler said he believes marriage “is a pre-political institution that God gave to all His human creatures and that it always has been and always must be the union of a man and a woman. To radically transform the institution of marriage is to change the definition of what it means for humans to exist together in community.”
In his statement, Moore told Southern Baptists and other Christians, “Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It's a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ And that’s good news.”
In the DOMA ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed lower court decisions that struck down only Section 3 of the law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996. Section 3 defines marriage as a heterosexual union for purposes of such matters as federal benefits and bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection principles” applied to the federal government, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. 
Kennedy seemed to indicate DOMA was “motivated by an improper animus or purpose.” It deviates from the tradition of the federal government recognizing state definitions of marriage and provides evidence of disapproving of a class of citizens, he said.
“The avowed purpose and practical effect of [DOMA] are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” Kennedy wrote.
No states had legalized same-sex marriage when DOMA was enacted in 1996, but 12 states and the District of Columbia now have done so.
DOMA’s purpose is to treat gay marriages recognized by states as “second-class marriages for purposes of federal law,” Kennedy said.
The law is unconstitutional because “no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” he wrote.
Joining Kennedy in the majority were the four associate justices considered the most liberal on the court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Stephen Breyer; Sonia Sotomayor; and Elena Kagan.
In his dissent, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said he is certain the majority’s accusations that Congress and Clinton acted maliciously toward same-sex couples are false. “To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution,” he said.
“[T]o defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions,” Scalia wrote. 
Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito also dissented.
In its other same-sex marriage decision, the high court did not rule on the constitutionality of a California amendment known as Proposition 8. Instead, it ruled Prop 8’s supporters – who appealed a lower court ruling after the governor and attorney general refused to do so – did not have standing, or the legal right, to make such an appeal. The justices sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and ordered it to dismiss the appeal. 
In the majority opinion, Roberts said the Supreme Court declined to break precedent in the case. “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” he wrote.
The ruling made for an unusual mixture of conservative and liberal justices on each side. Joining Roberts in the majority were Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. Dissenting were Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor. 
The high court’s action left a federal judge’s opinion striking down Prop 8 in effect. 
California Gov. Jerry Brown announced later Wednesday he had directed the Department of Public Health to “advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses” to same-sex couples throughout the state when the Ninth Circuit rules in response to the Supreme Court's order.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped defend Prop 8, contended, however, the amendment is still the “law of the land in California.” 
California voters approved Proposition 8 as an amendment to the state constitution in 2008 after the state Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage earlier in the year. The Ninth Circuit, however, affirmed a federal judge's decision striking down the amendment.
Defenders of the biblical, traditional definition of marriage expressed some relief that the Supreme Court limited the reach of its decisions.
The justices “could have gone much further and struck down the marriage amendments which are in 30 states,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in the same CNN interview with Mohler. “They did not do that. This only applies to California, and how it's going to be implemented we don’t yet know as we are still combing through the opinion.”
The 12 states that have legalized same-sex marriage are Connecticut; Delaware; Iowa; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New Hampshire; New York; Rhode Island; Washington and Vermont.
The DOMA decision is U.S. v. Windsor. The Prop 8 opinion is Hollingsworth v. Perry.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. With reporting by Erin Roach, assistant editor of Baptist Press.) 
6/26/2013 1:46:54 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Global Hunger Relief draws responsiveness at SBC

June 26 2013 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Many Southern Baptists care deeply about global hunger and are active in the fight to save lives.

That’s the upshot of more than 250 brief interviews conducted at the Global Hunger Relief booth during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Houston.

Global Hunger Relief is a new initiative involving the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund (WHF) that seeks to take the WHF’s unique “dollar in, dollar out” message to new and wider audiences – and challenge a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus’ love to starving souls, in both word and deed.

Visitors to the booth responded to two questions: “Why is fighting hunger important?” and “How is your church helping today?”

Several of the visitors shared inspiring stories about their own involvement. Julie Wilder of Frost (Texas) Baptist Church explained how her 10-year-old son Jacob has collected aluminum cans from church members for three years and donated the proceeds to the World Hunger Fund – a total of about $70 a year. George Kelly of Fort Hood, Texas, said he picks up coins he finds during his twice-daily walks and gives the money to the WHF. “One year I gave over $600!” Kelly recounted.

Other visitors talked about their churches’ participation in local food banks, soup kitchens, homeless ministries and halfway houses. Some talked about helping seasonal workers, single mothers and schoolchildren who don’t get enough to eat at home. Dan Harrison of Rowland, Ohio, said his local association of churches sponsors a 5K race each year, with proceeds going to hunger relief.

Photo by Thomas Graham
Billy Joe Calvert, center, pastor of First Baptist Church in Normandy, Tenn., his wife Kerri and their children visit the Global Hunger Relief exhibit at the SBC annual meeting in Houston. Quinton West tells the family about the Global Hunger Relief initiative of Southern Baptists’ World Hunger Fund. 

Visitors also said they send volunteers to participate in hunger relief efforts overseas, mentioning Guatemala, Honduras, Bulgaria, Uganda, India, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Haiti and Dominican Republic. Others recognized that their support of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, through the Cooperative Program and special offerings, helps combat hunger as those missionaries engage in gospel-centered hunger projects.

Church missions education groups were mentioned several times as well. Dennis Crowder of First Baptist Church in Waynesville, Mo., said the Woman’s Missionary Union there raises at least $1,000 a year on World Hunger Sunday, the second Sunday of October, with a soup and rice fundraising dinner for church members. Karen Spangler of First Baptist Church in Smithville, Texas, said the congregation’s Royal Ambassador and Girls in Action groups made clay offering bowls in which church members could collect gifts for global hunger.

Booth visitors also offered thoughtful and heartfelt responses to the question about why fighting hunger is important:
  • “Hunger is a problem that should not exist! God has provided on this earth plenty of food and water for every living individual ... it’s a distribution issue! We need to be better as the church at finding creative and practical ways to distribute what God has provided.” (Autumn Wall, Living Faith Church, Indianapolis)
  • “I could think of no greater way to tangibly express the love of Christ than to help feed those in need. If the gospel is to be preached to a hungry man effectively, the sermon must be wrapped in a sandwich. Meeting needs is what Christ does. To meet hunger needs is right, it is good and it is godly.” (Jeremy Pruitt, First Baptist Church, Garrison, Texas)
  • “The Bible says if you wish someone well but do not take care of his physical needs, what good is that? The Bible is full of admonition for the children of God to look out for the less fortunate. … The love of God should be shared both with words and with a tangible meeting of needs.” (Kristen Trawick, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas).
  • “It is important to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people because they are intricately related.” (Noah Adams, Calvary Baptist Church, Elgin, Ill.)
  • “Fighting hunger is a way to be Christ’s hands to those who are starving. We must rise up and share because we share Christ as well, where other humanitarians only help them physically but leave them starving spiritually.” (Leslie Diebold, First Baptist Church, Cameron, Mo.)
  • “Fighting hunger is important because it’s so overlooked in America today. We live in a country where people are self focused and blind/standoffish to the needs of others.” (Kayla Horton, Koinonia Bible Church, Kansas City, Mo.)
  • “Meeting people in need with basic life supply brings open doors to healing, faith and salvation.” (Ric Worshill, Crossroads Community Church, Port Barrington, Ill.)
  • “Because thousands of children dying of hunger die without Christ.” (Ed Tablazon, Triad Journey Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.)
  • “One of man’s greatest physical needs is to eat. I have met many people who live to eat, but the reality is that there are many people who are eating to live. As I pastor in a run down and neglected neighborhood, I have seen the effects of hunger on children. As a former school teacher, I knew that the kids were eating during the school year, but in the summertime they were not being fed. It was a problem that we could not ignore.” (Bob Richardson, Calvary Baptist Church, Waycross, Ga.)
Resources for fighting global hunger are available through the websites of the national WHF/GHR partners: Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, Baptist Global Response, Woman’s Missionary Union, LifeWay Christian Resources and the SBC Executive Committee.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)
6/26/2013 1:38:36 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

At SBC, Baptists mobilize for key cities

June 26 2013 by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Harry Barber was on a mission to bring missions back to his church.

“I really want to see our church get out and get linked to another church in another city that needs our help,” said Barber, a longtime missionary who knows firsthand the power of helping a local church partner with, and serve, other churches across North America.

Thus, Barber, a member of Baker Road Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas, spent some time at the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) exhibit during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston.

Now part of a small church with little knowledge of missions and church planting, Barber wasn’t sure where to start. His visit to the NAMB exhibit, however, got him moving in the right direction. 

Photo by Susan Whitley/NAMB
Minnesota church planter Travis Hart talks with Southern Baptist Convention messengers Paige Burns, left, and Peggy Burns at the North American Mission Board exhibit in Houston.  

“Coming here and talking to these guys about what’s going on through Send North America is going to help us get connected and see what we can do,” Barber said in reference to the church planters, city coordinators and regional mobilizers at the booth from the five regions in NAMB’s Send North America strategy.

The exhibit featured cityscapes representing each of the regions as well as video information on the specific need for new church plants and partners in each of the 32 cities at the core of NAMB’s strategy to help reach key cities and regions with the greatest spiritual lostness and the smallest number of Southern Baptist churches. Visitors wishing to get involved in reaching one of the cities were given the opportunity to complete a “Mobilize Me” card, sharing their interest in a specific city with NAMB staff who will then follow up with them to connect them to planters and mission opportunities. 

After talking through the mobilization process with Maryland church planter Brad O’Brien, a mobilizer in the exhibit, Barber ultimately opted to receive information on connecting the Baytown church to serve in New Orleans.

“We’re really excited to see guys like Harry take the steps to mobilize his church to begin partnering with our brothers and sisters in New Orleans,” O’Brien said. “We represent different cities and regions, but we’re all serving under the same banner with the same goal – to see churches planted and lives changed through Christ.”

As increasing numbers of established churches partner with new church plants, NAMB’s goal is that every church plant will have a sending church.

“We’re here to have intentional conversations, share our stories and get more people in the field,” Minnesota area planter Travis Hart said. “We need more people and more partners to serve in cities like ours where Christ is desperately needed. That’s how we’ll reach North America.”

Churches and individuals interested in getting involved in missions and church planting through Send North America can visit namb.net/mobilize-me.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board.)
6/26/2013 1:34:22 PM by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Koreans to grow churches, increase giving

June 26 2013 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Korean Southern Baptists will work to plant 265 more Korean churches in the U.S. within the next five years and increase their Cooperative Program (CP) giving by 250 percent, leaders of the group told Baptist Press at the annual meeting in Houston.

Goals are to increase the number of churches from 735 to 1,000, and to increase CP giving from $140,000 to $360,000, leaders of the Korean Council of Southern Baptist Churches in America said, as more than 700 members from 32 states and five nations gathered at Seoul Baptist Church in Houston for the annual business meeting.

Newly elected Korean Council President Junsuk “Peter” Hwang, pastor of First Korean Baptist Church in Philadelphia, said he would like the group to be recognized as a “language convention” by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“My real desire is that the SBC should recognize Korean Council as a language convention, just like a state convention,” said Hwang, a member of the SBC’s Asian Advisory Council. “They don’t have to fear creating a language convention. We are all together at the same table for the Kingdom of God.”

As the Korean Council works to increase financial giving, it can function on a matching funds basis with the North American Mission Board, Hwang said.

“Then we can do more work for the Kingdom,” he said.

His goals also include restructuring the group; developing educational curricula written not only in Korean but also from within a Korean context; and developing a network of Korean churches around the world to gather perhaps every five years for global celebration, inspiration and motivation.

Worship during each of the Korean Council’s six sessions included fervent prayer, sermons and singing celebrating God’s work among and through Koreans, challenging members to love each other and share God’s love.


The Korean Council is organized similarly to the SBC, with a Domestic Mission Board, Foreign Mission Board, and Education Board, among other entities, which relayed reports to the group at the annual meeting.

The Domestic Mission Board (DMB) provides help for beginning churches and struggling churches, reported DMB director Kyung Tae Cha, pastor for 23 years of Bethany Korean Baptist Church of Layton, Utah. In all, 58 churches provided assistance in 2012 ranging from $30 to $600 to 44 pastors, Cha said, and the DMB gave $500 scholarships to 25 students.

“A mountain grows from one grain of sand,” Cha said, quoting an ancient proverb. He asked churches to increase their giving to the DMB in order to provide an increase from $200 to $400 for the neediest of Korean Baptist pastors.

The DMB has three goals, Cha said: to start more churches; lead in a World Mission Conference in each state convention; and to provide materials for doctrinal purity.

The Foreign Mission Board (FMB) supports the work of Korean missionaries in Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Turkey, China, Korea, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Africa, reported FMB director Sewon Suh, pastor of Orlando (Fla.) Central Baptist Church. Fifteen FMB members visited Nicaragua in December 2012 for mission exploration, Suh added.

The FMB decided in December 2012 to pay for life insurance for its missionaries at an expected monthly cost of about $1,500.

Through the work of the Education Board, about 200 people participated in Training for Trainers seminars for pastors, reported board director Haengbo Lee, pastor of Korean Unity Baptist Church of Nashville.

A Korean Council exhibit hall filled with displays and items for Koreans was a major attraction at the annual meeting. So too were meals, with a traditional Korean eight-course meal served three times a day provided by churches in Union Baptist Association.

Fourth-graders through high school seniors met for the annual high-energy “I’m a PK” program led by Jay Kim of First Virginia Baptist Church of Springfield, Va. Children through the third grade had their own age-graded day camp-style activities.

“All of us gathering together is the best part,” said Jon Kim of New Song Baptist Church in Carrollton, Texas.


Chongoh Aum was re-elected in a run-off as executive director of the Korean Council. He and Jangho Rho, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., had garnered the most votes from an initial field of four. The executive director is the only paid member of the Korean Council; the position is up for re-election every four years.

Hwang, former first vice president, was elected without opposition to a one-year presidential term, as were Jong Soo Han, pastor of Irvine Baptist Church in Irvine, Calif., as first vice president; Sangki “Sam” Kim, pastor of Bansuk Korean Baptist Church in Newport News, Va., as second vice-president; John Kim, pastor of Korean Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ga., as secretary; Young Gi Han, pastor of Disciple Baptist Church in Carrollton, Texas, as treasurer; and Timothy Kim, pastor of Lighthouse Korean Baptist Church of Cliffside Park, N.J., as auditor.

Other business

The council adopted a 2014 budget of $680,000, an increase from this year’s $660,000. The new budget includes anticipated offerings of $410,000 designated for domestic, foreign and education concerns.

After some discussion, a committee was formed to examine the beliefs of Intercorp, a missions organization based in Korea that wants to expand into the United States. Seven denominations in South Korea recently determined Intercorp practiced heresy. One pastor at the Korean Council said he had used their materials for years and didn’t have a problem. Another pastor spoke of his objection to the materials.

The committee to study Intercorp will consist of two pastors selected by the council’s executive director, president and vice president, and three theological professors, Joe S. Kwon, director of the Korean Council’s department of theology; Jonathan Kim of Dallas Baptist University; and Dongsun Cho of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Other activities

The June 11 morning session allowed participants to attend two small group presentations from a selection of 18 sessions featuring both personal and pastoral growth topics, including “Motherwise,” to help women experience the fullness of their faith; “Pastor’s health,” which encouraged pastors to be fit in order to be the most effective for God; “Training the Trainer” for pastors to enable their members to lead.

The council’s exhibit hall included displays from each of the six Southern Baptist seminaries and a display from Washington Baptist University in Annandale, Va., organized 35 years ago for Koreans, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nine fields and a doctorate in ministry.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, news journal for the 1,600 Southern Baptist churches in America.)
6/26/2013 1:27:28 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texting & driving ‘epidemic’ evident among teens (& adults)

June 26 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – This spring at some high schools, students used simulators to learn how dangerous it is to text and drive now that texting has surpassed alcohol as a greater risk for teens on the nation’s roadways.

Russell Moore, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said there is a biblical angle to the problem of texting while driving.

“The Bible calls us to discernment, to see how our actions might harm our neighbors. Texting and driving seems innocent enough, bantering back and forth about some light matter, until we see the horrible possibilities of wreckage and death,” Moore told Baptist Press.

Alcohol use among teen drivers has decreased by 54 percent since 1991, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, due in part to an increased stigma after years of educating teens on the dangers.

Texting while driving, however, has skyrocketed in the last five to seven years, with half of high school students of driving age admitting to the practice, according to a recent study.

Baptist Press, in its ad for the SBC’s annual meeting in Houston June 11-12, cautioned readers about using technology and texting while driving.

A team of researchers led by Andrew Adesman at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, in a survey of nearly 9,000 teenagers aged 15-18 nationwide, found that an estimated 49 percent of boys admitted to texting while driving compared with 45 percent of girls.

“A person who is texting can be as impaired as a driver who is legally drunk,” Adesman said, according to Newsday May 8.

As early as 2009, Vicki Courtney, an author and speaker who addresses teen issues – particularly among girls – was warning of the need for parents to have some control over their teens’ texting habits.

“While most of us don’t have teens who are logging 35,000 text messages a month (the average is 1742/month among teens 13-17), we would still be wise to have some boundaries in place to ensure that our tweens and teens don’t become so focused on texting that they miss out on life,” Courtney wrote on her blog.

Texting while driving, Adesman said, is in the same risk category as other hazardous activities such as lack of seatbelt use, drinking and driving, binge drinking, drug and tobacco use, unsafe sex and tanning devices, Newsday reported.

Yet it appears everybody’s doing it.

“We have very strong taboos against drinking and driving. Kids don’t drink and drive every day. But some kids are out there texting and driving seven days a week – and they admit it,” Adesman told Newsday.

And of course the practice isn’t limited to teenagers. With the wide availability of smartphones, adults of all ages have made a habit of reading and sending texts while behind the wheel. As the adage goes, no one expects an accident.

“Technology, including texting, can be a great blessing, keeping parents and children in touch with one another,” Moore noted, “but that is only true when we teach our children the limits of this technology. Immediate conversation and so-called multitasking can give us the illusion of omnipresence, but the sad carnage left behind reminds us we are mortals, who can hurt and be hurt.”

Courtney, author of the new book Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos, wrote on her blog than when it comes to helping teenagers establish a healthy texting balance, a good question to ask is “Who is in control?”

“In other words, does your teen control the phone or does the phone control your teen? Many of our texting teens have been conditioned to sending a text and immediately receiving a reply, but we need to encourage them to put their phones on silent at times and learn to enjoy the moment at hand,” Courtney wrote.

Among her suggestions for achieving a texting balance was to consider having no-phone-zones. “Set some firm rules on the front end where texting is not permitted,” she wrote. An example of this could be behind the wheel of a car.

“I want my kids to know that it’s okay to not be available sometimes,” Courtney wrote. “... By resisting the urge to immediately return a message, they will slowly begin to condition their friends that it’s not always a guarantee that they will receive an immediate response.”

Courtney reminded parents that texting is a privilege and not a right, and if a teen’s texting is excessive, the parent has the right to limit the use of the phone.

“I know one mother who canceled texting all together when it got out of hand and began to impact her daughter’s grades,” Courtney wrote. “... Teens who know their parents are mindful of their texting habits are less likely to abuse the privilege.”

To combat what AT&T calls “an epidemic,” it and other cell phone service providers Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign called “It Can Wait,” calling people to pledge never to text and drive.

The campaign, at itcanwait.com, will focus on the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which are known as the 100 deadliest days on the roads for teen drivers, AT&T said.

“Texting while driving is a deadly habit that makes you 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash,” AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, said.

The campaign will focus on the stories of people who are living with the consequences of texting while driving, including a boy who was 5 years old in 2010 when he was struck while crossing the street by a young woman texting while driving – and now he’s paralyzed from the waist down.

AT&T will continue a texting-while-driving simulator tour, planning about 400 events this year to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving. Participants have to navigate busy streetscapes while a cell phone connected to the simulator flashes incessantly with notifications of a new text message.

Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, also are working to raise awareness.

“I’m going to take the pledge,” 18-year-old Henry Bardales told the Orlando Sentinel. “That split second does matter. It takes that one mistake to change your life.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
6/26/2013 1:21:28 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trafficking report downgrades Russia, China

June 26 2013 by Beth Byrd, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The U.S. State Department downgraded Russia and China June 19 in its annual trafficking report due to the two countries’ lack of efforts in combating human trafficking.

Russia and China shifted into Tier 3, a category shared by countries such as Syria, Cuba and North Korea. The downgrade occurred after the State Department received criticism for delaying this transition. According to the State Department’s website, Tier 3 includes “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

Last year, Russia and China were in Tier 2 but should have been downgraded, said Holly Burkhalter of the International Justice Mission in a written testimony for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Countries in Tier 2 are not in full compliance with the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act’s minimum standards “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards,” according to the State Department’s website.

An estimated 27 million people worldwide currently are enslaved and held against their will in brothels, factories and fields, according to the United Nations.

“Human trafficking is an assault on our most dearly held values of freedom and basic human dignity,” said John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State. “American leadership means protecting those values at home and working to advance them around the world.”

The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report stated that “China is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” a problem significantly impacting the country’s migrants. 

Although Chinese government officials made efforts to improve the conditions, the report stated that the government:
  • perpetuated the human slave trade in at least 320 state-run institution.
  • failed to provide all-inclusive victim protection services.
  • offers little insight into the punishment of those guilty of trafficking.
“China has become the sex and labor trafficking capital of the world,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J. “As a direct consequence of the barbaric one child per couple policy in effect in 1979, China has become the global magnate for sex traffickers.”

Surveying governmental responses to human trafficking in 188 countries, the report also defined the Russian government’s response to human trafficking similar to China’s, as “[p]rosecutions in Russia during the reporting period remained low compared to estimates of Russia’s trafficking problem.”

“This report is not about pointing fingers,” Kerry said, as the U.S. itself ranked in Tier 1 for meeting only minimal TVPA standards. “Rather, it provides a thorough account of a problem that affects all countries. It also lays out ways that every government can do better.”

Under U.S. law, Tier 3 countries could be sanctioned for not taking proper measures to curb human trafficking. Sanctions could include denying these countries loans from the International Monetary Fund and desisting with certain types of foreign aid and cultural and educational programs.

President Obama must decide by September if the U.S. will carry out potential sanctions, according to a New York Times online article posted June 19.

“We are going to keep working with our partners across government and across the world in order to improve our response at home, and we’re doing this not just to pass judgment on other people but because we know that we can advance this cause,” Kerry noted. “We can make a difference. We’re going to keep working with those partners around the world in order to develop new approaches and new practices. And we’re going to keep engaging with governments on this issue because modern-day slavery affects every country in the world, including the United States.”

The trafficking report is available at http://www.state.gov/g/tip.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Beth Byrd is a staff writer at Baptist Press.)
6/26/2013 1:18:13 PM by Beth Byrd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Churches urged to prepare for marriage issues

June 25 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Pastors and churches need to be prepared to address same-sex marriage in biblically faithful, Christ-like ways, new ethics entity head Russell D. Moore and other panelists said at a discussion preceding the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), moderated the “Marriage on the Line” breakfast panel June 11. The panelists addressed the issue during the same month the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release decisions in two cases related to same-sex marriage. The event also came in a year when the number of states legalizing homosexual marriage has reached 12, plus the District of Columbia.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches are not ready – “tragically so,” he said – for a legal redefinition of marriage or what appears to be the growing cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Churches must teach Christians “to be kind and gentle and generous” and to understand there is no “Christian America,” if there ever was one, Patterson told the audience of about 300 at the ERLC-sponsored discussion.

Photo by Hannah Covington
David Platt, left, author and pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, were part of a “Marriage on the Line” panel discussion preceding the SBC annual meeting in Houston.   

“We are now living in a foreign environment, and so we have to adjust to that. We have to be a minority opinion that is a solid biblical opinion,” while “at the same time we respond to people in a Christ-like way,” Patterson said.

J.D. Greear, senior pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, said there is a danger of Christians either under-reacting or over-reacting.

Some Christians, especially younger ones, say, “We just need to kind of recognize that [homosexuals] should have equality even if we don’t agree with it,” Greear said of those who under-react. 

Government’s recognition and promotion of marriage “has been a great blessing to our society. And so to simply watch that go, I think, is going to have devastating consequences,” Greear said.

A “sense of love of neighbor” provides motivation for Christians to defend the biblical definition of marriage if they “really believe that the state doesn’t define marriage,” Moore said. 

“[W]e would say the state can’t redefine [marriage], and if it tries to, what we’re going to end up with is a sense of something that is morally wrong but something that is deeply disappointing for the people who want it,” Moore said.

At the opposite end of those who under-react, Greear said, are some Christians who “tend to over-react as if this one thing signals the end.”

The church has a “unique opportunity” as the “world around us is collapsing” in many ways, Patterson said. “We just have to be sure that we speak about sinfulness and rebellion against God in ways that make it clear that we’re not angry at the people involved.”

Moore asked David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., how he would respond to a married, same-sex couple with an adopted child who told him they believe the gospel and want to know what it means for them to follow Jesus.

A shepherding process would ensue that would include the call for repentance by the couple, Platt said. 

Regarding marriage, “[W]hat we are saying is, ‘Biblically, no matter what the government says, this is not marriage,’” Platt said. The question that would follow, he said, is: “[O]K, how can we work toward either a picture of singleness that is glorifying to God or a picture of marriage that is glorifying to God? And neither one of those are in this circumstance.”

Repentance, Platt said, would mean the two people would need to acknowledge “what we have said is marriage is not marriage.”

Moore said he thinks “everybody in this room is going to face that very soon.”

“[W]hat we have to say is, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me, which means that you have to acknowledge part of what it means to repent of sin is to acknowledge what God as Creator has created me to be, which this is not it,’“ Moore said . “‘This is not the picture of the gospel, which means that we have to separate and we have to start living out a life under the discipleship and accountability of the local congregation and to acknowledge that this is going to be difficult.’“

Churches also must restore a culture of biblical marriage, panelists said.

Bible teacher and women’s ministry leader Susie Hawkins said Christians have lost “the whole big picture of the beauty of the institution of marriage and what it brings to a culture and a church.” Years ago, marriage was understood “as a covenant of the community and of the church body to promote” that marriage and home, she said.

Moore said churches need to establish “congregations that hold one another accountable for marriages that actually reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/25/2013 3:52:44 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC seminary presidents report to messengers

June 25 2013 by Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were reminded of the importance of theological education through reports from the convention’s six seminaries during the June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.


Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, opened his report on Tuesday morning with a citation from Psalm 96. The Psalmist says that the Lord is “greatly to be praised for everything,” Akin said. “Well, we are greatly praising the Lord for his faithfulness to us at Southeastern Seminary.”

Akin said Southeastern recently surpassed the 3,000 student enrollment mark. Considering its 1992 enrollment of 550 students and its academic probation, Akin said Southeastern has blossomed by God’s grace into a fruitful and abounding seminary.

“Southeastern is a Great Commission seminary, which means that every professor is a Great Commission professor, every classroom is a Great Commission classroom, every student a Great Commission student, and by God’s grace, every graduate becomes a Great Commission graduate.”

Akin said that Southeastern could only take this stance as a Great Commission institution because the seminary rests on an infallible and inerrant Word.

Akin also commented on the declining numbers for the Southern Baptist Convention over the past several years, but he believes it is a great responsibility – alongside the other five seminaries – to train “hot-hearted, mission-minded, fervent and evangelistic pastors who expound the Word of God and teach others to do the same.”

Southeastern is committed to serving pastors who see their churches as basecamps that help train “green berets for Christ,” Akin said, “whether these individuals are going across the street or across the globe to share the gospel.”

“And Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary could not do what we do,” Akin said, “to train Great Commission students without the support of you all, so thank you very much!”


Reporting for the first time to messengers of the SBC, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen emphasized the school’s commitment to serve the convention by training pastors and ministers for the local church. Allen was elected by the seminary’s board of trustees last October and inaugurated May 1.

During his presentation, Allen provided an update on recent institutional accomplishments, including a newly completed chapel project on Midwestern’s Kansas City, Mo., campus – a complex with a 1,000-seat chapel, a banquet hall, classrooms and a welcome center.

“I am grateful to the many hundreds of Southern Baptists that have given of their time and financial resources to bring this ambitious project to a close,” he said.

The spring semester at Midwestern brought the highest spring enrollment in seminary history, Allen said. The seminary hosted the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission for accreditation reviews, passing “with flying colors.”

“Our vision is simple, yet full,” Allen, Midwestern’s fifth president, said. “Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary exists for the church.

“We bear a moral stewardship to our Southern Baptist forbears and a contemporary stewardship ... to focus our instructional efforts and academic programs to train pastors, ministers and missionaries, especially for Southern Baptist churches,” he told messengers.

Allen said he felt an urgency for the seminary to provide pastors to the SBC’s 45,000 local churches, especially in light of recent convention statistics showing decreasing numbers in church attendance and membership.

“In light of this, we unapologetically make priority number one to be strengthening the preaching and teaching capabilities of the ministers we train,” Allen said. “So goes the pulpit, so goes the church; and so goes these offices, so goes the equipping of the saints for the service of the church, the progress of the gospel and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.”

Looking at denominational demographics, the dearth of pastors accentuates the need to train men for the church, Allen said.

“Our love for the lost, our love for the nations, our love for the Gospel and the spreading thereof through the fulfilling of the Great Commission heightens our urgency to train pastors, teachers and evangelists for the church,” he said.

Allen announced significant academic expansion at the seminary, including a new dual major program at the undergraduate level that was developed to prepare bivocational ministers and missionaries for their service overseas on a business platform. He also highlighted a renewed focus on the master of divinity degree with new concentrations in pastoral ministry and preaching, biblical and theological studies and Christian ministry. The seminary added a new doctorate in counseling.

“For the Church. This is the vision that called me to Kansas City. It is the vision that is being renewed and is reverberating across our campus,” Allen said. “It is the vision that we, with appropriate institutional self-confidence, are declaring across this denomination and beyond. We are confident because Christ is building His church, and in as much as we are faithful to serve His church, He will be faithful to us.”

Allen concluded his report asking the convention’s messengers for prayer as well as continued support through the Cooperative Program.

“Pray for us, partner with us, support us, send us your men and women to train for ministry. Stand with us in solidarity of spirit, shared conviction and gospel aspiration,” Allen said. “And, I say, hold us accountable.”

Golden Gate

Biblical, missional and global are the three watchwords of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, President Jeff Iorg said in his report to the SBC.

“We are your seminary in the American West, but the scope of our ministry touches the world,” Iorg said of the multi-campus seminary based in Mill Valley, Calif. “This past month, our 8,000th graduate walked across the stage and into Kingdom service. He was a master of missiology student, personifying the reason for our existence – getting the gospel to as many people as possible.”

Golden Gate launched several new degree programs in the past year, Iorg said, including bilingual Korean-English master of divinity and master of theological studies degrees, a master of divinity with a concentration in chaplaincy and a doctor of ministry in chaplaincy.

The “changing nature of educational delivery methods” is the biggest challenge in seminary life, Iorg said.

“As a result, Golden Gate continues to expand its online delivery system,” he said. “We now offer the master of theological studies degree fully online. We anticipate receiving accrediting approval later this summer to offer the master of divinity fully online. We also offer several certificates – including youth ministry and Bible teaching – fully online.”

Opposition to the Christian worldview will increase in the coming decades, Iorg said, but Golden Gate will train students to take the gospel to unreached people amid a hostile culture.

“Thank you Southern Baptists for standing with Golden Gate Seminary all these years,” he said. “Next summer we will celebrate 70 years of service to you and for you. Thank you for praying for us, for sending us students and for your steady support through the Cooperative Program.

“We are delighted to be the only Southern Baptist Convention-owned entity in the western half of the U.S. and proud to represent you at our campuses in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Denver and Phoenix. We are committed to doing our ministry in the U.S. and around the world. Thank you for your support and for standing with us for the gospel.”

New Orleans

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley delivered a word of determination, innovation and growth to SBC messengers in his annual report June 12.

Kelley challenged Southern Baptists to remain faithful and trusting, even in difficult times, such as New Orleans Seminary faced with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“It doesn’t matter what the news might read,” Kelley said of hard times. “It’s always good, because when the sun sets and the darkness of life falls, we know sunrise is coming. Our God will remain.”

New Orleans Seminary has witnessed God’s faithfulness firsthand, Kelley said, in the now almost eight years since Katrina.

“Last year, we had one of our all-time record enrollments. In many of our programs, enrollment is right back where it was before Hurricane Katrina,” Kelley said. “We had our largest M.Div. enrollment in our history.”

Commencement numbers, academic workshop attendance and Internet enrollment are at all-time highs, Kelley said.

“God is showing us that nothing ever finishes the work of God as long as His people remain faithful in their task and in their calling,” he said.

New Orleans Seminary now offers a completely online master’s degree, Kelley said, as well as options for completing an undergraduate degree fully online. The school also offers a non-residential doctor of philosophy program with a variety of focus areas.

New Orleans Seminary’s expansion of its certificate program is helpful for ministers whose responsibilities or callings have changed over the years, he said. Seminary leaders have divided the school’s curriculum into concise certificate programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. From apologetics and children’s ministry to preaching, church planting and missionary service, NOBTS offers focused certificates to fit a variety of callings, Kelley said.

For pastors and other ministers who already have a master’s degree but would like to do additional study to help lead a church out of plateau or decline, Kelley pointed to the seminary’s professional doctoral program. He believes the doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry degrees are two of the “most strategically important degrees we offer.”

“We have to be prepared to do the things God wants us to do,” Kelley said, adding, “New Orleans Baptist Seminary is determined to be your partner on that path. We listen to you, we listen to our students and we are shaping what we do in order to fit the context of what God is doing in your life and in your ministry.”

Kelley thanked Southern Baptists for faithfully giving through the Cooperative Program and described how one “sweet Baptist family” recently gave $1.5 million to provide for a several existing and new initiatives, including a new community center on campus to house the seminary’s homeschool program, which has nearly 100 students.

The gift also will fund a new professor of church and community ministries to train students how “to mobilize a congregation to get involved in meeting the needs of the community,” Kelley said.

Updated classroom technology, a new entry point on the east side of the campus and scholarships for bivocational and African American students are among the other projects to be funded by the gift. Two scholarships were named after SBC President Fred Luter: the Fred Luter Scholarship Fund and the Fred Luter Jr. Ph.D. Fellowship.

Considering where New Orleans Seminary was just eight years ago, the story of its recovery and advancement is a testament to God’s faithfulness, Kelley said.

“Don’t quit. ... The work is hard. Just get your arms around that. There is no easy church. There is no easy field. The work is hard for everybody. Don’t quit. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be afraid,” Kelley said. “For our Jesus will prevail whatever the circumstances may be.”


During his report to the SBC, R. Albert Mohler Jr. recounted for messengers several pledges that he made to Southern Baptists at his first convention as the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. He said that the seminary, then engrossed in controversy, is now the seminary intended at its founding in 1859.

“Twenty years later, I am able to come back to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention and say, ‘You gave us a commission, you gave us a charge,’” Mohler said. “I came and made several commitments to you, and by God’s grace, I’m able to say as I come back 20 years later that we’ve kept those commitments. And those commitments are not now fulfilled; they are reaffirmed.”

Mohler spoke also about the year of transition at the Louisville, Ky., seminary. He pointed specifically to two executive leaders who each assumed the presidency of a Southern Baptist entity: Jason Allen at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Russell Moore at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Mohler then introduced to the messengers Randy Stinson, senior vice president of academic administration, and Gregory Wills, dean of the school of theology.

He closed by thanking Southern Baptists for giving to Southern Seminary the stewardship of theological education within the convention.


Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson addressed messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 11, inviting them to come experience the evangelistic and doctrinal zeal on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus. Patterson said the seminary reflects many of the same convictions held by the Swiss and south German evangelical Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation.

“Nestled in the picturesque valleys of south Germany and Switzerland, there lived a people during the days of the Reformation that have not come to be known nearly so widely as Luther and Calvin,” Patterson told messengers.

“The reason they did not come to be known so widely was not because they were far behind in numbers. It’s because they were cut off by the sword and other means. These were remarkable people who lived back then.”

These Anabaptists, Patterson said, agreed with Martin Luther and John Calvin that salvation is by grace through faith alone but challenged them on the practice of infant baptism and held high the doctrinal conviction of believer’s baptism. These radical reformers also advocated for religious liberty and felt “called to evangelize the world” and “reach people with the saving message of Jesus Christ.”

“I want to tell you that the vast majority of them died for their faith,” Patterson said. “They were cut off, and no one cared enough to write about them in an accurate way for many years. But the spirit of Anabaptism and its very doctrines live on at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary today. We still believe those very same things. We still hold high that witness. If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we are going to introduce you to your Anabaptist forefathers and make you love them profoundly.”

Patterson said the Anabaptists’ zeal for reaching people for Christ burns brightly at Southwestern.

“If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Patterson said, “you’re going to come into an atmosphere where every student is expected to share his faith on a regular basis, where every professor is expected to share his faith on a regular basis. As far as I know, there are not many places in the world that require their professors at least once every four years to be involved in an overseas missionary situation, not speaking to another seminary but actually going and rolling up their sleeves beside the students and serving with them there on the mission field.”

Patterson told of the seminary’s desire to cultivate a biblical view of the Christian home, which is emphasized in classwork and conferences.

“If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, you are going to study the intense theological insights of the Word of God until you know the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, have an understanding of it that is able to be translated into preaching ... with conviction and an invitation given,” Patterson said. “If you want to become a part of a great revival movement, we welcome you to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reports from Michael McEwen of Southeastern Seminary, Tim Sweetman of Midwestern Seminary, Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Seminary, Frank Michael McCormack of New Orleans Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Seminary. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/25/2013 3:40:20 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Native Americans to foster church leaders

June 25 2013 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – More than 70 percent of Native Americans live in urban areas but 90 percent of ministry to the people group takes place on rural reservations.

This is what the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) now realize, leaders from both organizations said at the June 10 annual meeting of FoNAC, held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.

“We [Southern Baptists] don’t think about urban Indians,” said Leroy Fountain, national coordinator for church mobilization at the SBC’s North American Mission Board and a speaker at FoNAC’s meeting.

FoNAC President Emerson Falls agreed.

“When Southern Baptists think about a mission trip to reach Native Americans, they always want to go to reservations,” Falls said. “They still have that romanticized ideal of who we are.

“Good things happen [on mission trips to reservations] but we don’t see lasting fruit that remains,” Falls said. “Empowerment happens when we see we don’t have to be dependent on others, because what we do remains.”

Photo by Heather Pendergraft
Emerson Falls, president of the Fellowship of Native American Christians, speaks during a meeting of the organization June 10 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. There are about 450 Southern Baptist Churches that worship in the Native American context. 

FoNAC is developing a strategy to reach Native Americans utilizing those who are already Christians, in partnership with others, to develop Native American leaders to serve among their people.

“FoNAC is the connector,” FoNAC Executive Director Gary Hawkins said. “We’re going to ask healthy churches to adopt struggling churches, and eventually work ourselves out of a job there.

“The time for being idle is past. We welcome help: prayer, financial support and hands-on – with long-term commitment – so Native Americans can grow churches for Native Americans,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins spoke of watching a neighbor plant banana trees in northeast Oklahoma every year. The trees looked to be healthy and appeared to be strong at first, Hawkins said, but they never grew to full maturity nor ever produced one banana worth eating.

Most churches planted for Native Americans by people outside the tribe or by people who don’t understand the tribe have been like those banana trees, Hawkins said: “Unique and beautiful in appearance, but never reaching their full potential because they’re planted with a worldview foreign to theirs and not contextual to their culture. They’re Anglo churches in Native American soil.”

Falls spoke of the needs of the 90 percent of Native American pastors who serve bivocationally.

“They have no time for seminary,” Falls said, noting that pastors of healthy churches are sorely needed to come alongside these Native pastors, to provide one-on-one mentoring to enable them to grow healthy, multiplying churches and new leaders.

“The key is, we need ministry partners, Native churches, Anglo churches and individuals – to step up and partner with us,” Hawkins said.

The need in urban areas is acute, Falls said.

“In Long Beach, Calif., we have 71,000 Native Americans and no [church plant],” Falls said. “In Denver, [there are] 42,000 Native Americans and not one good evangelical work among them.”

A team of Oklahoma Native Americans went to Denver last July to gauge the potential for a Native American church in a locale where, as in other large cities, Natives blend into the background.

“Indians know where Indians are, even in a place with 3 million population,” said Falls, who was part of that team. The Oklahoma team, in cooperation with the Denver Association of Southern Baptist Churches, advertised free Indian tacos and the giveaway of a Pendleton blanket.

“Sixty-two came ... and 34 signed cards indicating their interest in a Southern Baptist church of Native Americans,” Falls said. “We’ve already had five churches say they want to help support a new work there. ... We’re going to be successful because we’ve got a great God. I hope your church will say, ‘We want to partner with a new Native American church.’”

At FoNAC’s annual meeting, Roger S. “Sing” Oldham, vice president for communications and convention relations for the SBC’s Executive Committee, spoke of the SBC’s strides toward ethnic inclusiveness over the last several years. One example: four Native Americans are serving on various SBC boards and entities.

“We now have a higher sense of understanding and vision that we are a convention that is very diverse,” Oldham said.

During FoNAC’s business session, treasurer Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C., reported that paperwork has been filed for the organization to be designated a 501 C-3 nonprofit. Chavis said several churches have responded to the need to financially support FoNAC; as a result, the organization is able to operate in the black, but not by much.

The Native American Women’s LINK – Living in Neighborly Kindness – announced the retirement after 16 years of LINK founding director Willene Pierce, a member of Crittenden Indian Baptist Church in northeastern Oklahoma, and the appointment of incoming director Augusta Smith of All Nations Missions Center in Muskogee, Okla.

Neal and Joanna Thompson of First Indian Baptist Church in Houston led worship at the FoNAC meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal for the 1,600 Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/25/2013 3:33:57 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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