June 2014

Golden Gate gives awards and discusses relocation

June 20 2014 by Tyler Sanders, GGBTS/Baptist Press

An upcoming campus relocation was a main topic at a June 11 alumni and friends luncheon hosted by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore.

GGBTS President Jeff Iorg presented Distinguished Alumni awards to Col. Frank Rice and Henry Webb at the seminary’s alumni and friends luncheon.

“When I think about these two men who are being honored tonight, the word that comes to my mind is ‘distinction,’” Iorg said. “Both of these men have worked long and hard for the gospel and have done it with distinction.”


Rice is a native of Baton Rouge, La., and received both the bachelor of divinity and master of theology from Golden Gate. Rice joined the Air Force after two years at Louisiana State University, serving with the WWII European occupation forces and during the Korean War. He graduated from Louisiana Baptist College in 1954 and moved west to attend Golden Gate.

Rice also served as a pastor in California and worked in rescue missions in San Francisco during his seminary years. He then reentered the Air Force as a chaplain and served in the United States, Germany, Japan and Thailand. His last active duty assignment was as the command chaplain of the Air Force Communications Command, providing for the spiritual welfare of over 55,000 men and women around the world. He retired in 1985. He and his wife Margarete live in Charlottesville, Va.

Webb was born in Portland, Ore., grew up in Oklahoma and graduated from Golden Gate with the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees. In accepting the award, Webb said he enrolled at GGBTS after a series of “delays and detours” that hindsight has revealed to be God’s precise orchestration. The first delay involved a transfer from West Texas State University to Oklahoma University, where he met his wife Patti and received his call to ministry. The second delay put seminary off for a year, which led to campus ministry at Colorado State University and the University of Hawaii.

After arriving in Hawaii, Webb transferred again, but this time to Golden Gate to complete his master of divinity. At GGBTS, Webb felt a shift in his calling from campus ministry to pastoral ministry, and began to pastor Kalihi Baptist Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. While at Kalihi Baptist, he completed his Doctor of Ministry and helped found Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

Webb served 28 years at LifeWay in a variety of roles including director of pastoral ministries. He was on the team that developed the LifeWay Transitional Pastor Ministry and was a transitional pastor trainer for 13 years.

During the luncheon, Iorg reported on the seminary’s sale and relocation, focusing on most-frequently-asked questions.

“We have spent a considerable sum of money and time trying to develop our Mill Valley property. Despite these efforts, we have been stymied,” Iorg said, explaining the reasons for the move. “Recently, we have come to the conclusion that these barriers were not obstacles to overcome, but rather as signposts telling us to move in a new direction.”

The new campus will be on a smaller footprint in support of the school’s core mission, Iorg said.

“We will design our campus with the needs of tomorrow’s students in mind. In short, our campus will reflect our mission,” Iorg said. The seminary’s primary campus will be in Southern California, where population demographic projections indicate great growth over the next 40 years; while the Northern California campus will continue to serve the Bay Area as a commuter campus.

The relocation will not drain the seminary’s endowment, Iorg said.

“Golden Gate’s future is bright,” he said. “We are strategically, geographically, and financially ready to impact the United States and world like never before.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from report by Tyler Sanders of Golden Gate Seminary.)

6/20/2014 9:25:15 AM by Tyler Sanders, GGBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iraq conflict causes ‘double crisis’ for refugees

June 19 2014 by Ava Thomas, IMB/Baptist Press

Sudden intense fighting in Iraq has prompted a “double crisis” in the region, with Iraqi refugees compounding the already heavy burden of the Syrian refugee crisis, said Don Alan,* a Christian leader in the region.

Half a million Iraqis left Mosul last week when the city fell under attacks by extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), fleeing with their families into Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq and neighboring countries. Thousands more have flooded out of other parts of Iraq besieged by militants.

The thousands of Iraqi refugees join the overwhelming crowd of their Syrian neighbors – the 6.5 million people displaced within Syria and 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled to nearby countries in the four years since the Syrian crisis began.

“This creates a double crisis at a time when we can barely handle Syria,” Alan said.


Photo by Jedediah Smith
Syrian refugees cross the border from Syria to Jordan. The staggering refugee crisis in the region has been compounded recently by intense fighting in Iraq that has driven thousands of Iraqis from their homes.

Christian workers in contact with Iraqi refugees are providing water, infant formula and other provisions, he said. “The need for simple things like water, food and tents is what is pushing people right now. We have released some initial support and hopefully can mobilize some more.”

Right now, the need is staggering and resources are few, Alan said. And the fighting only continues to worsen.

ISIS, a group with strongholds in Syria, has moved into Iraq in recent days, taking multiple cities by force and marching swiftly toward Baghdad. As its militants have advanced, they have executed Iraqi soldiers in mass summary killings the U.S. government condemned as “horrifying.”

The insurgent group aims to create an Islamist-ruled area covering northern Iraq and northwest Syria, according to news reports.

“And now the fears of one really big war seem to be coming true,” David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote. “The ISIS serves as a de facto government in growing areas of Syria and Iraq. Extremist armies are routing the official Iraqi Army, even though they are outmanned by as many as 15 to 1. Iraq is in danger of becoming a non-nation.”

The growing instability is one of Alan’s greatest concerns.

“The biggest concern is that this will continue to further destabilize Iraq,” he said. “It’s been unstable but not tilting, but now I would say it’s tilting toward civil war or unrest.”

As things “tilt,” the refugee crisis will only worsen, Alan said. But he challenges Christians not to “grow weary from doing good.”

“It’s easy to look at another emerging problem and think, ‘This is too much – I’m done,’” he said. “I want us to be a people who persevere until the end, until His glory comes.”

A battle rages for the hearts, minds and souls of the people of Iraq and Syria, Alan said.

“We as the church have to step up to the challenge that this kind of darkness gives us,” he said. “It may be going or standing with our brothers and sisters financially.”

Christians need to be “on our knees asking the Father for mercy for those who are suffering and those who are in darkness,” Alan said. “We need to embrace the challenge before us. May we be God’s people for this hour. May we not stand back and think all is lost but claim glory to God when all is hopeless.”


  • Pray for Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, that they will have peace in the midst of the looming storm.

  • Pray for the Father’s mercy to meet the needs of those who are suffering from the Iraqi conflict and the Syrian crisis.

  • Pray for world leaders as they make decisions on how to respond to the crisis.

  • Pray for the gospel to spread and bring real hope to those who are hopeless.

World Refugee Day is Friday, June 20. To read more stories about the refugee crisis, visit eurasiastories.com for special refugee-related coverage.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.)
6/19/2014 10:18:25 AM by Ava Thomas, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Annie’s church transforms to reach Baltimore’s inner city

June 19 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Ryan Palmer admitted he was skeptical when he was called to pastor a dying church in Baltimore’s inner city, where storied missionary Annie Armstrong was once a member.
A theater major and attorney, Palmer had made other plans with wife Leslie, the two of them members of the Seventh Baptist Church that had then dwindled from a high of 2000 to only 17 members.

“And in 2003 I was actually called and asked to pastor the remnant. The previous pastor was burned out. He said, ‘Brother this is where God wants you. He sent you and I believe you are the next pastor,’” Palmer told Baptist Press. “And like Sarah, Abraham’s wife, I laughed. My idea was to be bicoastal. I was going to have a home on the East Coast and two aircraft, a home in L.A. and work in the entertainment industry.”

Palmer’s idyllic picture differed from the Baltimore he ministers to today, where openly homosexual and transsexual pastors lead churches a stone’s throw away from his. It’s also where heroin addicts, the homeless, prostitutes, alcoholics, committed blue-collar workers, affluent professionals, artists and college students all live within a two-mile radius of the architecturally rich church founded in 1845 and rebuilt after a 1919 fire.

On June 8, the Sunday prior to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) 2014 annual meeting, Palmer relaunched the congregation as Seventh Metro Church. Fred Luter, who had mentored Palmer in ministry, preached the service as one of the last sermons of his term as Southern Baptist Convention president.


Photo by Bob Carey
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church pastor Fred Luter of New Orleans preached the June 8 relaunch service at Baltimore’s Seventh Metro Church, in one of the last sermons during his term as Southern Baptist Convention president.

Luter commissioned Palmer and the 15 or so Seventh Metro members in ministry, joined on the occasion by perhaps 300 Southern Baptist friends and supporters.

“Father, in the name of Jesus, on behalf of the churches and messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, on behalf of NAMB – the North American Mission Board, God we right now want to pray and lift up the Seventh Metro Church,” Luter prayed. “Thank you for these committed and faithful members. Bless them God collectively and individually. God we commission them. We send them out from this day forth God to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ... We lift them up to you God. Give them the boldness and strength that they need God to go throughout the highways and the byways of Baltimore God, and compel lost men and women, boys and girls to come.”

Palmer baptized a young woman during the service. She had accepted Jesus a day earlier during the Crossover Baltimore evangelism initiative preceding the SBC annual meeting.

The membership of the church had risen to as high as 70 one month after Palmer began his pastorate 10 years ago, but with no leaders or staff to help, membership declined once again. Palmer was overworked, leading the church as a staff of one bolstered by his wife Leslie, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just two years into their 1998 marriage and is now legally blind.

“The problem that I ran into, I have no deacons, I have no trustees, I have no Sunday School teachers, no associate ministers, and these were all first-time believers” who needed discipling, Palmer said. “They were multi-ethnic and ... going in 70 different directions. ... I began to pull back a little bit.”

At his lowest point, Palmer said, he felt defeated and powerless to continue.

“The reality is I fell on my face in the pastor’s office and I cried out. And my honest response was, ‘God, I can’t do this.’ I said, ‘God I’ve never seen so many needy people in my life, and I’m so ill-equipped to do anything about it,’” Palmer said. “[God] took me to the book of Haggai. ... It kind of said, ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former days?’ And just like in Haggai, the folks who were here, we weren’t here in the days of [Southern Baptist leader] Richard Fuller and Annie Armstrong and [former pastor] Dr. John Henry Day.

“And [God] says, ‘Well how does it look to you now?’ And I paused right there and began to make an assessment. And when you keep reading [Haggai] it says, ‘Does it seem like nothing?’ I said, ‘[God], how did you know?’”

“And God continues in that text and He says look, the gold and the silver are mine. Once more in a little while I’m going to shake the nations and they’re going to come to you,” Palmer said.

The passage in Haggai 2 includes the 9th verse, “‘The glory of this latter house will be greater than the first,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Palmer displays the scripture on a banner above Seventh Metro’s pulpit.

“This is the home of Annie Armstrong. This is the home of Richard Fuller. This is the home of Dr. John Henry Day. We’re going to do greater things? It’s humbling, but it’s not out of reach,” Palmer said. “Look at what Annie has done. Look at all the letters she wrote. What would she have done if she had had the Internet? Look at all the materials we have at LifeWay. Look at all ... the social media that they didn’t have.”

While Fuller was an SBC founder who championed slavery as a biblically sanctioned institution, the Seventh Metro of today serves a diverse and eclectic community.

“We are a city and we are well past the day when the Sunday worship hour is going to be the most segregated hour. There is not one person, and again that leads to ‘Metro,’” Palmer said. “There’s not one ethnic group. There’s not one particular economic situation or educational background. We’ve got 14 colleges and universities in a two-mile radius. We also have heroin addicts, unemployed, homeless folk of all ethnicities. And so there’s not one homogeneous kind of ethnos here. It’s a city and so ‘Seventh Metro’ helps us to identify with that culture.”

Limited financially, Seventh Metro is still fully engaged in the community through several ministries and initiatives. Sunday School is known as the Fulfillment Hour. R.E.A.L. Men is an open Bible study to equip men as leaders. Ethos is a Friday night ministry to teenagers, offering workshops and an open mic, and reinforcing good moral behavior through acting, writing, the spoken word, dance and visual arts.

The Point is Seventh Metro’s outreach on the campus of Morgan State University and includes worship, fellowship and Christian instruction. Palmer also serves as the advisor to Morgan State’s Baptist Student Ministry.

The Edge is a weekly bible study and fellowship opportunity for young professionals who live in the Greater Baltimore area. The I.C.E. team is composed of key congregational leaders who work to “improve church excellence” by regularly meeting with Palmer and evaluating church activities.

Among discipleship ministries Palmer leads are the 13-week Life Institute life application Bible study, the 13-week congregational Evangelism Institute, and the quarterly two-day Leadership Institute focusing on leadership development, ministry team formation, effective communication and personality profile and spiritual gift assessments.

Palmer uses the term “third place,” envisioning a church that people readily want to attend after caring for their families and working on their jobs.

“I believe your first place should be home. I’d be a better pastor if I’m taking care of my wife, so that’s first place. Second place, by virtue of culture, we spend 40 or more hours a week at work. And so, when you realistically look at it, that has to be second place,” Palmer said. “Third place for us is when I’m not at home and I’m not at work, this is where I want to be. This is where I want to hang out. This is where I want to grow and connect and move and laugh and cry.”

In explaining the “third place” concept to his congregation during a meeting, he piped recorded music into the church.

“I said I think there’s this wonderful spiritual song that just kind of sums up what we’re saying, and we piped the music in,” Palmer said. It was the theme to the 1980s sitcom “Cheers.”

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?”

“And then they started laughing, but I said that’s what I’m talking about, a place where everyone knows your name. They’re always glad you came. That’s what third place means to us. This is where your community is. This is where life happened for you. This is where you laugh.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

6/19/2014 10:05:12 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Volunteers provide way out through building ramp

June 19 2014 by Carol Layton, NCBAM

Connie Clark’s home sits high above a peaceful tree-lined street in Lexington. Its broad and comfortable front porch is tidy and swept clean. Potted plants cozy up next to each of the old porch’s posts – peace lilies, anemones and hydrangea cuttings each enjoying their own slice of shade. Clark and her daughter Barbara sit with their faces full in the sun looking down onto the street.
The steps of this old porch have witnessed many stages of this family’s history – babes in blankets being carried carefully, toddlers climbing down backwards, and teenagers taking them two at a time. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren now continue the story when they visit.
Surprisingly, this mild morning does not contrast much to the years when Clark, now 87, and her husband Thomas raised nine children in this house. Four boys and five girls grew up here, attended nearby schools and walked to church services on Sunday. Another child, a daughter, died at birth.

When asked if raising a baseball team of children kept her and her husband busy, Clark chuckles – amused at the naiveté of the question. “No, we kept them busy! When they got big enough to work and help, we saw to it that they did.”
Daughter Barbara is also surprised by the assumption that a home with nine children means chaos. “It was always real peaceful. We weren’t rowdy or loud. We were taught not to bother the neighbors. And it wasn’t just the nine of us kids here; neighborhood kids played here, too. There’s no one like our parents. They raised us right.”


NCBAM photos
Connie Clark, 87, was one of the Lexington recipients April 26 during Rampin’ Up! as part of Operation Inasmuch, a two-day event focusing on building ramps through the N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry and N.C. Baptist Men.


Barbara is the fifth-born and now cares for her mother fulltime. Most of the surviving children live nearby and visit frequently. On this morning, two of Clark’s children stopped by – first, a son with a few bags of groceries, and later, another daughter with lunch for everyone.
Clark and her husband Thomas met at church, wed after his military service in World War II and were married for 60 years. A stroke in 1998 left him in a wheelchair. One of their sons built a ramp for him alongside the tall porch – the porch Thomas had bounded up for decades with all the stuff of life – groceries, mail, lunch bags for his workday at Coble Dairy, and many times with a baby or toddler.
Their son’s well-made ramp served Clark’s husband until he passed away in 2007.
When Connie Clark began using a wheelchair two years ago, the ramp was again put into use. However, 15 winters had weathered the boards and made the ramp difficult to maneuver.
Barbara explained the need for a new ramp, “After Mom took a spill on the old ramp, it made her not want to go out; she was scared of falling again. When we would push her over the big hump, she would hold on tight to the arms of the wheelchair, afraid it might topple over. She got to where she wanted to just stay home.” 
Connie Clark’s social worker put her in touch with the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) for a needed ramp. NCBAM was able to connect Clark’s family with Keith Mendenhall and his ramp-building team from First Baptist Church of Welcome.
On April 26, Rampin’ Up! teams rose before the sun, loaded pickups with lumber and saws, and headed out to spend the day building wheelchair ramps. The biennial Rampin’ Up! event sponsored by NCBAM and N.C. Baptist Men (or Baptists on Mission) impacted hundreds of lives as North Carolina Baptists served as the hands and feet of Jesus to make life better for church members, neighbors and strangers in need. One of the many to be blessed was Connie Clark.
The steep front yard and driveway at Clark’s home posed unique challenges for Mendenhall’s team. It wasn’t possible to replace the existing ramp in the same location and meet current building codes. The new ramp exits the opposite side of the porch, slopes to a platform, turns 90 degrees, and then slopes to the sidewalk. Mendenhall and his team took care to provide a solution that would work well for Clark and her family.
Mendenhall appreciates the additional opportunities for ministry that Rampin’ Up! provides. “We hope this ramp gives Ms. Clark and her family piece of mind to safely get her to vehicles or just beyond the front porch to enjoy being outside.”
Mendenhall’s crew from FBC of Welcome included Tom Angell, Stan McCann, Jeremy Sweat and Chris Spaugh. A family – Danny and Christina Hutcherson and their children, Christopher, Nathan and Lauren – from Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville also helped to complete the project.
The new ramp allows her to connect more frequently in her community, this pleasant neighborhood in which Clark for decades was a lively part. Clark can now leave her home safely and without fear. “I was a knockout in my day,” she laughs – the sparkle in her eyes shaming the morning’s sun. As her laughter subsides, she takes a deep breath and softly closes her eyes – perhaps remembering the years she and Thomas spent living, loving and keeping nine children busy in their home high above the street.

6/19/2014 9:56:28 AM by Carol Layton, NCBAM | with 0 comments

Panelists debate theology, agree on evangelism

June 19 2014 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay/Baptist Press

Participants in a panel discussion held during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Baltimore shared their disagreements concerning theology and evangelism, but agreed about the urgency to evangelize.

The breakfast meeting was sponsored by The Gospel Project, a LifeWay curriculum series, and drew more than 500 people for an honest and spirited discussion about how differing views of salvation impact the way Christians do ministry and mission.

Ed Stetzer, general editor of The Gospel Project, hosted the panel discussion on soteriology entitled “Salvation and the Mission of God.”

He started the conversation by asking Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, about his book, The Trouble with the TULIP, which warns that too much Calvinism is bad for evangelism.


Photo by Carol Pipes
Panelists debated various hot-button topics at a breakfast meeting during the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore. Panelists included (left to right) David Platt, author and pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project; Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee and Ed Stetzer, general editor of The Gospel Project and LifeWay’s vice president for research.

Page said he especially worries about the concept of “irresistible grace,” the idea that God compels some people to accept the gospel. Taken to an extreme, Page said, that concept could lead Christians to believe that sharing Christ doesn’t matter.

“I do believe there is an extremism that kills passion for evangelism,” he said at the June 10 meeting.

During the discussion, Page was asked if the rise of Calvinism among Southern Baptists was to blame for the ongoing decline in baptisms. Page said no. Instead, he said, Baptists of all theological stripes seem to have less enthusiasm for sharing the gospel.

He pointed to the Crossover Baltimore event, an evangelistic outreach held on June 8, before the SBC annual meeting. Page said he watched to see how many of his Calvinist and non-Calvinist friends would participate. Few did, he said.

“I am seeing a lessening of evangelistic passion across the board,” he said. Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, agreed.

Wax said many non-Calvinist Christians practice what he called a “fuzzy inclusivism” by acting as if evangelism isn’t an urgent matter. That can be as problematic as extreme Calvinism, he said. “The result of both those trajectories is no evangelism,” he said.

Panel members didn’t shy away from discussing other hot-button issues. David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., explained his concerns about the use of the “sinner’s prayer” in evangelism. Platt said the gospel calls people to repent and believe in Christ. But he voiced concern about reducing salvation to a formula.

Platt said he doesn’t simply proclaim the gospel in sermons and then watch and see what happens in a passive way. “We are not presenting, preaching and sharing the gospel if there is not a pleading to respond in faith,” he said. “This is not for information. There is persuasion, there is pleading here.”

Despite the weighty topics, panel members laughed together as they talked, and gave each other some good-natured teasing.

Having healthy conversations about theological differences is important, Stetzer said.

“We can all come in here and say, ‘hey we all love each other,’ but there are issues we need to discuss.”

While addressing how God’s sovereignty intersects with human free will, Page told the panel he believes human beings can thwart parts of God’s will, especially when it comes to evangelism. There are consequences, he said, when Christians don’t share the Good News. “I believe there are people in hell today who should not be in hell,” he said.

Platt disagreed, instead stressing the sovereignty of God. “There’s no question – God loves the whole world ... at the same time, not everybody is saved,” Platt said.

Wax said panel members were “wrestling with the biblical tension” over doctrines about God’s sovereignty and free will. “We are trying to put together what we mean when we say God is in control and humans are responsible,” he said.

Wax added that his belief in God’s sovereignty makes it easier to evangelize. Sometimes Christians share the Good News out of guilt, he said, or feel entirely responsible for the success or failure of their evangelism

“It’s freeing when you realize the power is not in the presentation and packaging – the power is in the gospel itself,” he said.

Page emphasized that panel members have compatible but not identical theological views, which means they can cooperate in ministry, even if they don’t always see eye to eye.

One thing they all agreed on is a need for urgency in sharing the gospel. “At the end of the day, will you come witnessing with me?” Page said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine.)

6/19/2014 9:42:55 AM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

B21 panelists ponder challenges facing SBC

June 18 2014 by S. Craig Sanders, Baptist Press

Cultural Christianity is dead, and Southern Baptist churches face a host of challenges as a result, including same-sex marriage, declining baptism rates and church revitalization, panelists at the Baptist21 luncheon said June 10 in Baltimore.

Nearly 1,000 packed the conference room for the sold-out event, with some attendees lining the walls and sitting on the floor at the Baltimore Convention Center. The annual panel, which takes place during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, featured R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources; Matt Chandler, lead pastor at the multi-site Village Church in Texas and president of the Acts 29 Network; David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Alabama; and Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“A generation is coming that was never deceived by cultural Christianity,” said Mohler, describing how previous generations felt a social and professional compulsion to attend church regularly. “Every single new believer is going to be hard won by the old continual task of telling people the gospel story.”


Photo by Adam Covington
Jonathan Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., moderates a Baptist21 lunch panel at the Baltimore Convention Center discussing Southern Baptist Convention issues. The panel was held during the SBC annual meeting June 10.

Akin noted the signs of decline for some churches but praised the efforts of the North American Mission Board and SBC church planters engaging metropolitan areas and seeking out unbelievers.

“The key for us right now,” he said, “is hold the line on biblical truth – we cannot compromise on this – we all see the tides coming on issues related to universalism, inerrancy [of Scripture] and gender understanding. We must speak the truth, but we speak the truth in love.”

Jonathan Akin, co-founder of Baptist21 and moderator of the discussion, asked the panelists to respond to the controversy surrounding New Heart Community Church of La Mirada, Calif., which embraced homosexuality after the pastor affirmed his gay son.

“As a gospel people, we should be thankful for the Bible’s specificity on what sin is,” Mohler said, denying the possibility for Southern Baptists to create a so-called “Third Way” between condemnation and acceptance of homosexuality. “It’s not kindness to throw people into the pits of hell – it’s kindness to know that we’re sinners and ultimate kindness to say, ‘There’s a remedy for that sin, and His name is Jesus.’”

Arguing for a pastoral approach to homosexuality, Chandler urged pastors to recognize that someone in their congregation could be struggling with sexual orientation, and not to dehumanize the issue from the pulpit.

“When you talk condescendingly or ignorantly and lack compassion, you push people who struggle into themselves so they feel unsafe to confess, unsafe to seek out help, unsafe to be honest,” Chandler said. “You create an environment in which the healing of people by the power of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Word becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

Jonathan Akin also questioned Mohler on the pastoral response to sexual abuse in light of the case involving a youth worker in a church in the Sovereign Grace church network convicted of child molestation that allegedly had gone unreported to authorities.

“If you get any report of any kind sexual abuse, certainly involving a minor, be committed that before you leave that room, you’re going to dial 911,” Mohler said to loud applause. “We’re not in the position of being investigative agents.”

Calling it a “gospel ministry stewardship imperative,” Mohler said churches need to “create a safe place where people can come and report this kind of thing, knowing we’re going to respond in the right way.” While churches in the past didn’t understand the issue, he said “there’s no excuse right now for not knowing what you’re going to do before you have to do it.”

Jonathan Akin set forth his perception to the panelists that the recent success of church planters in North America has led to a lack of interest in young pastors to revitalize established Southern Baptist churches.

Church planting and church revitalization “should not be in conflict with one another, and they certainly shouldn’t be in competition with one another,” Rainer said, emphasizing that church growth and church health are inseparable.

“The reality is we are reaching less people for Christ. There can be no doubt about that,” Rainer said, noting that some churches are either not reporting baptisms or refusing to baptize nominal believers.

“Our theology should drive us, compel us, to share the Good News of Christ,” Rainer said. “There is evangelistic dearth taking place, and less evangelistic health.”

Despite the decline of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches, the most rapid growth in baptisms is among children. Mohler noted, “The vast majority of people who have ever been baptized by our churches are our own offspring.”

But Platt cautioned pastors to assess children’s understanding of the gospel message. “We want to always affirm what God is doing in children’s lives,” said Platt, who advocated walking children through the basics of faith before baptizing them.

“Keep encouraging this posture of repentance and faith in a child’s heart and life, but be wise with the public expression.”

Pastors and messengers who registered for the event received more than a dozen free resources, including a DVD of W.A. Criswell’s classic sermons and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Church Planting Survival Guide.

For more information on the Bapist21, including a video recording of the panel, visit www.baptisttwentyone.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – S. Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)

6/18/2014 11:38:47 AM by S. Craig Sanders, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Associational leaders’ involvement grows

June 18 2014 by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press

After a year of breaking in a new name and structure, the future looks bright for the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL), reports Johnny Rumbough, conference “team leader” and executive director of South Carolina’s Lexington Baptist Association.

“It’s a great day for associations,” said Rumbough, who welcomed more than 150 associational directors of missions, executive directors and missionaries to SBCAL’s annual meeting, June 6-8, ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore. Encouraged by the associational leaders’ highest attendance in recent years, Rumbough said the meeting was characterized by a Holy Spirit-led atmosphere of cooperation and earnest desire to invest in Southern Baptist churches.

“There’s more collaboration going on today than I’ve ever seen among DOMs and associations because we realize that we’re in this together,” Rumbough said, “when it comes to helping churches make disciples.”

The DOMs organization formerly was known as the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions.


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter speaks June 7 at the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders at the Baltimore Inner Harbor Holiday Inn. The meeting preceded the SBC annual meeting, scheduled for June 10-11 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“For those who think our name is long now, well – they don’t remember the other one,” Rumbough said with a smile. The change wasn’t cosmetic but strategic, aimed at expanding the reach of those being equipped beyond DOMs, he noted. Internal structural changes were designed to broaden leadership within SBCAL, moving from a few top-tier posts to 20 leaders, including representation from SBC entities.

“We have great partners – NAMB, IMB, WMU, LifeWay and GuideStone,” Rumbough said. “And as we think about helping the churches get ready for the harvest, the collaboration we’re experiencing is exactly what we need. … The table is now round, so everybody’s at the table.”

After working through some of the challenges of the transition, Rumbough said SBCAL is now poised for a banner year. Associational leaders were introduced to SBCAL’s 2015 missions emphasis – “Ready churches, ready harvest” – which Rumbough hopes will give associational leaders some of the tools they need to make a significant impact on churches in their associations.

Ed Stetzer told SBCAL that associations that have a future are associations that understand they need tools in their box to be able to help churches know what to do. And they’re going to need to coach churches on how to use those tools,” Rumbough said of Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research and one of this year’s featured speakers.

SBCAL began its meeting with a banquet June 6 followed by two days of breakout sessions covering a broad range of topics, from association funding and biblical conflict resolution to equipping disciple-makers. They also heard from leaders across the convention, including International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, outgoing SBC President Fred Luter, GuideStone chief executive O.S. Hawkins and Blackaby Ministries’ Rick Fisher.

Fisher spoke to associational leaders about the “love relationship” God desires with every believer.

“Our role as leaders of influence is to be a living display of what’s on God’s heart and what’s on God’s mind,” Fisher said. “I believe the most significant and profound way that God wants to shape spiritual leaders is through the love relationship that we have with Him, and that relationship is best expressed as we pray.”

Fisher also cautioned SBCAL members of the dangers of working outside that prayer-based love relationship.

“It occurs to me that there any many times in my life where I have sent myself out,” he admitted, often with very limited success. “We live in a culture where it’s much easier to do things for God than to spend time with God.”

Hawkins briefed SBCAL on the health of GuideStone’s various ministries and asked for their help with “Mission:Dignity,” which provides financial assistance for retired Southern Baptist ministers and their spouses living at or near the poverty line.

“Associational leaders are key to identifying those who are in need,” Hawkins said. “In last 16-plus years, we’ve been able to mail out over $100 million to these pastors and their widows. Not one dime came from any GuideStone funds. We don’t get any Cooperative Program funds. Every bit of that money was raised from individuals and churches.”

Hawkins asked associational leaders to promote GuideStone’s upcoming Mission:Dignity Sunday, June 22.

“Not even the stamp that goes on the envelope that sends the check to those people is taken out of a gift that anyone gives,” Hawkins said. “What a privilege it is to be Christ’s hand extended to these precious, godly men and women.”

Buoyed by the success of this year’s conference, Rumbough said he’s already making plans for the 2015 SBCAL in Columbus, Ohio. Based on feedback gleaned from participants, he wants more breakout sessions and more time for networking.

“These guys love talking to each other, they love learning from each other,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had as many expressions of appreciation for the conference and for the leadership and all that’s taken place – a lot of affirmation.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.)

6/18/2014 11:29:10 AM by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor’s shift on sexuality confronts SBC

June 18 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Los Angeles-area Southern Baptist pastor has said he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful, leading to a split in his church and leaving some Southern Baptists wondering whether the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will withdraw fellowship from the congregation.

“I recently revealed to the elders that I have changed my stance on homosexuality,” Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church said in a Feb. 9 sermon posted on YouTube that gained national attention through a blog post at patheos.com on May 29 and one by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. on June 2.

Cortez acknowledged that his endorsement of homosexuality “is a radical shift from the longstanding belief of our church. This is a radical shift from our statement of faith, aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Article III of the SBC Constitution states, “Among churches not in friendly cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” The SBC Executive Committee (EC) is monitoring developments in the New Heart situation and could consider the matter during its September or February meetings. Depending on how the facts unfold, the EC could also make a recommendation regarding New Heart to the 2015 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

One complicating factor in a potential withdrawal of fellowship is that New Heart is classified as a “mission” rather than as an independent church in Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile database. But that classification was apparently reported years ago, making it difficult to ascertain whether New Heart ever formally constituted as a church. Even if it turns out that New Heart is still a mission, Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention told Religion News Service that “the parent church had no knowledge of the changes happening.”

New Heart did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for comments.

Some New Heart members believed Cortez’s position is unbiblical and thought he should be terminated, a letter from Cortez posted at patheos.com said. According to Cortez, the congregation voted May 18 not to dismiss him. Instead it opted to become a “Third Way” church that will “agree to disagree and not cast judgment on one another,” Cortez wrote.

Earlier this month, a group of church members who believe homosexuality is unbiblical reportedly separated from New Heart.

In his sermon, Cortez argued that Romans 1 does not condemn all homosexual acts but only those committed in a spirit of violence or unbridled lust. He said modern homosexual relationships are different from the grotesque forms of homosexuality Paul was referencing. Cortez said he learned about ancient homosexuality by immersing himself in “homoerotic literature.”

Cortez also explained that his son is gay and said his own change of mind led to the “most meaningful moment” he has ever had with his son.

At the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore, New Heart was mentioned twice. On one occasion, messenger Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif., moved that the SBC’s newly elected officers lead the convention to discipline Cortez and New Heart. The motion was ruled out of order because it directed officers to act outside the scope of their duties as established by the Article IV of the SBC constitution, which says, “While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.”

During the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary report, Drake asked President Daniel Akin how the SBC can discipline New Heart. Akin replied that local churches are responsible for their own discipline.

Though the SBC cannot discipline a church, it can withdraw fellowship from a congregation and has done so on three occasions – all in response to churches’ affirmations of homosexuality.

  • In 1992 the convention withdrew fellowship from two North Carolina churches: Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, which voted to bless the “union” of two homosexual men, and Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, which licensed a homosexual to the ministry.

  • In 2009, the convention ceased its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which had five openly homosexual members at the time, including some serving on church committees.

The process by which the SBC can “withdraw fellowship” from a church (an action tantamount to removing a church from participation in the SBC’s annual meeting, terminating receipt of benefits that come from inclusion, and prohibiting further identification with the convention) can take various paths.

The starting points for those paths include motions on the floor of the convention, complaints reported or actions taken by cooperating state conventions or local Baptist associations and even notice of press accounts. Consideration of those reports or motions by appropriate committees including the SBC’s Credentials Committee and/or the Executive Committee happens along the way, with final determination usually made by the messengers of the convention, frequently in a vote to approve a recommendation after a study of the facts and an opportunity for both sides of the issue to be presented.

The California Southern Baptist Convention would presumably follow its own process for withdrawing fellowship from a church, but Whittaker did not respond before press time to BP’s request for comments.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

6/18/2014 11:19:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Priscilla Shirer: ‘God is able’ and sovereign

June 18 2014 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

An overflow crowd of more than 1,200 women examined God’s sovereignty during the 60th annual Southern Baptist Convention Ministers’ Wives Luncheon, held June 10 during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Baltimore.

The luncheon featured speaker Priscilla Shirer, author of several books, including One in a Million, The Resolution for Women and most recently God is Able.

Shirer is the daughter of Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas. Evans grew up in a row home just 10 minutes away from the Baltimore Hilton, where the luncheon took place.

In her message, Shirer shared a familiar passage about the fisherman and future apostle, Simon Peter, as detailed in Luke 5. Peter had just invested his time and energy into fishing all night but was coming up empty, Shirer said.


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Priscilla Shirer, author, national speaker and founder of Going Beyond Ministries, speaks at the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon June 10 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Hundreds of ministers’ wives attended the annual event during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 10-11.

“A large number of you know how it feels to invest your time, ... yourself ... into a ministry, a marriage, ... and you feel quite discouraged because you are coming up empty,” said Shirer, of Going Beyond Ministries in Cedar Hill, Texas.

And yet, even though Peter was frustrated, tired and irritated, Jesus saw him, Shirer said.

“Your God sees you,” she said. “He knows all about your fishing trip” and sees all “your tears,” “every bead of sweat,” and “every moment awake at night.”

Rather than giving up, Peter cleaned his nets, “which implies he had the intention to use them again,” Shirer said. “There is no rebuke for you to step aside and ‘wash your net.’”

But she cautioned against doing it alone. This passage talks about fishermen, plural, rather than fisherman, singular, she stressed.

In the biblical story, Jesus, pressed by the crowds, went to Peter’s boat and got in – an obvious contrast to Peter, who wanted to get out of the boat.

“The very thing that Peter was discouraged about was the perfect thing for Jesus to get involved in. He will use the part of your life that seems the most useless ... it has not been a waste. Our greatest mess will be our greatest message,” she said, noting, “God makes useful what seems useless.”

Shirer went on to say the sovereignty of God means “He’s got it in His hands.” In other words, He is able. He’s got it.

She applied the concept of God’s sovereignty to the Luke 5 passage. “Peter was getting more and more discouraged ... but Jesus was not,” she said. He knew he needed “a place to stand” in the water where His voice would be amplified for the pressing crowds who came to hear Him.

“God allowed the empty [boat] so there would be margin for Him,” she said, pointing out that He wouldn’t be able to use a boat “full of flipping, flopping fish.”

“God will put you in such a scenario on purpose ... so you can see what it’s like to see Him plant His feet into the situation.”

Such was true for Peter, whom witnessed an overflowing amount of fish “after he went to the deep place with Jesus.” He was blown away by God’s goodness and provision, Shirer concluded, saying, “He wants you to go deep, too” – to show He is able.

Donna Avant, president of this year’s luncheon and wife of John Avant, senior pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., said she had picked the theme long before she learned the name of Shirer’s latest book.

“As we were praying through the theme, Priscilla’s book was already at the printers!” she said. Each attendee at the conference received a copy of the book.

Officers for the 2015 luncheon in Columbus, Ohio, with the theme “Radiant,” are Mary Cox, of Lawrenceville, Ga., president; Charlotte Barbo of Columbus, Ohio, vice president; Audrey Davidson of Alexandria, Va., as recording secretary-treasurer; and Joanie Buster of Plano, Texas, correspondence secretary.

Next year’s featured speaker at the June 9 luncheon will be Angie Smith, the wife of Todd Smith, lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah. He also is the author of Mended, I Will Carry You and What Women Fear.

The SBC Ministers’ Wives Luncheon dates back to 1955 when two Georgia pastors’ wives realized the importance of that state’s ministers’ wives’ conference and decided that the national convention would benefit from such an organization. They made plans for a tea at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City during the 1956 convention and were overwhelmed by the response.

Always held on Tuesday during the SBC annual meeting, the luncheon is open to wives of all ministers, including pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)

6/18/2014 11:06:29 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Google restricts porn in ads, apps

June 18 2014 by Kiley Crossland, World News Service/Baptist Press

Google is cracking down on sexually graphic content with two recent policy changes, one implemented in March and one that started in June. The new rules take steps to eliminate explicit material in Google's advertisements and apps.

Google will no longer accept advertisements through Google AdWords that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts, according to an email the company sent to advertising accounts in early June. Morality in Media, a national organization opposing pornography, published the letter. The new policy will restrict ads containing or linking to explicit content.

The policy revision came after a May meeting in Washington, D.C., between Google and anti-pornography advocates including Morality in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

"We are grateful that they are realizing that their profits from porn are not worth the devastation to children and families," Morality in Media said in a statement. The group said other organizations like Facebook and Comcast also have taken steps to clean up explicit content on the Internet.

Google's advertising approval process includes three status labels: approved; approved (non-family); and approved (adult). Non-family and adult ads don't appear if someone has the Google SafeSearch filter activated. Under Google's new policies, more ads will be given a non-family or adult label or be disapproved. Google says the change will affect all countries.

In March, Google beefed up its policies for apps sold through Google Play, prohibiting those containing or promoting sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles or descriptions. Since the announcement, Google has taken down several apps that violate the new policies.

Anti-pornography activists still encourage Google to eliminate graphic content from Google Search, Google Images and YouTube.

PornHarms.com, an offshoot of Morality in Media, named Google one of its 2013 and 2014 Dirty Dozen organizations for contributing to sexual exploitation in the nation. When the site announced the 2014 list prior to Google's recent policy changes, Morality in Media said, "Google's empire thrives on porn. ... We encourage Google to improve their efforts to protect children and all who wish to be porn-free."

Other organizations on the 2014 Dirty Dozen list include Verizon, Barnes & Noble and Cosmopolitan magazine.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland is a writer for WORLD News Service. Used by permission.)

6/18/2014 11:00:13 AM by Kiley Crossland, World News Service/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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