June 2016

Asian fellowship to extend awareness of SBC

June 22 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Representatives from eight Asian nationalities have formed a national fellowship to expand their involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
The fellowship – to be known as A2CP2 for Asian-American Church Planting/Cooperative Program – met June 12 meeting in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis.
Leaders from Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Hmong churches formed the fellowship to draw on and reinforce each other’s strengths, Paul Kim, the organization’s founder, said.

Photo by John Stroup
Newly-elected president of the Asian American National Fellowship Ted Lam addresses the group’s inaugural meeting on Sunday, June 12 in St. Louis.

Kim, Asian-American relations consultant with the SBC Executive Committee, was part of an Asian-American advisory group that met for three years to formulate ideas to better address the needs and concerns of Asian-Americans. As the task force completed its work, a permanent Asian-American Advisory Council was formed, Kim said.
“I think all the Asian-Americans are getting together for the next generation,” Kim told the 40 or more in attendance at the meeting, which was preceded by a dinner hosted by LifeWay Global, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“This fellowship will help communicate the mission of the Cooperative Program and church planting,” Kim said, so that Asian-Americans can better understand who Southern Baptists are toward becoming more involved with God’s work through the SBC.
“We have 1,800 Asian churches in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Kim said. “They are proud to be Southern Baptist but they only know bits and pieces.”
To aid in understanding, the meeting included 15-minute presentations by Gihwang Shin with the International Mission Board, Jeremy Sin of the North American Mission Board, Hoon Im of GuideStone Financial Resources and Daniel Im of LifeWay.
Executive Committee President Frank S. Page and SBC President Ronnie Floyd welcomed the fellowship’s beginnings.
“It is an honor to be with you today,” Page said. “God is blessing our Asian churches. We thank God for you and what you bring to our convention. ... We recognize there is much to be done. If we are going to reach Asians for Christ, we need to reach out to the immigrants among us.”
Page commended the Asian leaders for reaching beyond their ethnic groups as they start churches and for their example of fervent prayer.
“I affirm your work and your increasing commitment to missions through the Cooperative Program,” Page added. “When we join together we can reach the entire world for Christ.”
Floyd spoke of the intellectual strength and economic power of Asian-Americans, who are the fastest-growing immigrant population in the nation.
“God has placed you where you are to make a difference for Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “Now is the time for our Asian churches to rise up intentionally to make disciples. Always He will be with you when you go and make disciples.”
Ted Lam of Oklahoma was elected president of the new A2CP2 fellowship, with Pao Ly of Morgantown, N.C., elected as vice president and Felix Sermon, general secretary of National Asian-American Fellowship, as chaplain.
“We have to go back to our state conventions and associations and work with them,” Lam said.
Providing insight into an immigrant mindset, Lam described the desire for visits “home” as lasting 20 to 25 years before an adult immigrant changes to thinking of America as “home.” For those who come to America as children, the change spans perhaps eight to 10 years.
Joon Choi, a second-generation church planter from San Francisco, said he attended the A2CP2 gathering because he was interested in being part of a nationwide network and in the fellowship to be found in it.
“This is cutting edge,” Choi said.
Gideon Lee, a bivocational college pastor at a Chinese church in Cambridge, Mass., said he didn’t identify with his ethnicity as much as with his employment as an MIT-educated engineer.
“I came to this country at 8,” Lee said. “It took five to 10 years to become American in my thinking.
“Now for 10 years I’ve been helping plant churches intentionally beyond Chinese,” Lee said. “We feel God is touching our heart to reach out to others. The future of the church in America is reaching out beyond our own ethnicity.”
The next A2CP2 meeting will be in June 2017 in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

6/22/2016 1:40:49 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Litton honored by ministers’ wives

June 22 2016 by Shannon Baker, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network

Ministers’ wives awarded Kathy Ferguson Litton the 2016 Willie Turner Dawson Award during the annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon in St. Louis on June 14 during the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting.
Each year, the Dawson Award recognizes a minister’s wife for making a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church and for her Christian character and service to others.
Jeana Floyd, who ministers alongside her husband Ronnie Floyd at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, nominated Litton, who is a native of St. Louis.

Photo by Van Payne
Kathy Ferguson-Litton, national consultant for ministry to pastors’ wives for the North American Mission Board, gives a speech after her acceptance of the Willie Turner Dawson Award at the annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon in St. Louis on Tuesday, June 14.

She recognized Litton for her more than 40 years of investment in women and ministers’ wives across the nation and the world.
Most recently, since 2011, Litton has served on the staff of the North American Mission Board as national consultant for ministry to pastors’ wives. In that role, she has traveled to 36 states and visited 21 of NAMB’s 32 Send Cities to serve and encourage pastors’ and planters’ wives. She also developed “Flourish,” a ministry of encouragement to these wives.
In 2002, Litton needed her own encouragement. Married at the time to Rick Ferguson, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colo., she experienced tragedy in her family.
While on vacation, Rick lost his life in a car accident. Litton and her three children, Brett, Kate and Justin and members of Riverside Baptist Church were stunned and thrown into a season of grief.
Floyd said, “As a pastor’s wife, I tried to imagine how radically her life had changed,” and Floyd had a calling to “carry her” in her heart.
Three years later, pastor Ronnie Floyd, who had gone to school with Rick, invited Litton to speak at a women’s event at their church. That led into a job offer to lead the women’s ministry at Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., which Litton accepted.
“What developed from that was a deep friendship,” Jeana Floyd said. “Not everything was overshadowed by grief, but with lots of fun and laughter – and a blessing to have a friend who understood my life as a pastor’s wife. What Kathy showed me was the sufficiency of the Lord every step of the way.”
In August 2009, Ronnie Floyd and Pastor Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., officiated the wedding of Kathy Ferguson and Ed Litton, who also shared the experience of losing a spouse in a car accident. They now serve together at Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., where he is senior pastor.
On the denominational level, Kathy Ferguson Litton has served as member of the Committee on Committees (2009), Committee on Resolutions (2015) and the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (2009). She serves on the Pastors’ Wives Conference Advisory Board and was past president of the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon.
Floyd said Litton is definitely worthy of this honor. “To me, the greatest accomplishments of Kathy are recorded in the heavenlies ... In the face of grief, her faith did not decrease but has increased.”
Accepting the award, Litton quoted Elisabeth Elliott, whose husband Jim was martyred on their mission field: “The will of God is never what you expect it to be.”
“At the loss of Rick in 2002, my heart was crushed. There were dark days of grief. And I had to tearfully hand over the script I had written for my life and receive the script God had for me,” she said. “But God gave me a new life and a new love when I married Ed Litton ... Our story is about a God who redeems even the sting of death.”
The Willie Turner Dawson Award was established in 1963 when the ministers’ wives group posthumously honored Willie Turner Dawson, wife of J.M. Dawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Willie Turner Dawson was a teacher and lecturer who in 1930 successfully challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to give more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

6/22/2016 1:36:19 PM by Shannon Baker, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network | with 0 comments

Inaugural charity ride exceeds goals

June 22 2016 by Blake Ragsdale, Baptist Children’s Homes

More than 50 motorcycles braved rain and windy conditions along a 460-mile route as a part of “Ride to Clyde” – a new North Carolina Baptist annual event to aid Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
The May 4-7 charity ride consisted of a scenic tour that included stops at three of BCH’s locations. The route stretched from Oak Island to the mountain community of Clyde. BCH’s Broyhill Home is located in the Western North Carolina town and was the last stop of the trek.
Coordinators of the first-year ride said the event surpassed its goals.

Submitted photo
Bikers arrive at Baptist Children’s Home’s Broyhill Home campus in the mountains of Clyde completing the final leg of the three-day “Ride to Clyde” motorcycle charity ride.

“Riders more than tripled the $5,000 fundraising goal as we exceeded $19,000 in contributions for BCH,” said Brian Davis, Associate Executive Director-Treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “Participants heard, saw and even felt the power of the gospel along the ride. Numerous gospel conversations took place, and I was moved by the times of prayer that participants shared.”
“Ride to Clyde,” a partnership between BSC and BCH, grew out of a conversation between Davis and Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby. The idea was to generate support for BCH by challenging bikers to raise money while introducing them to BCH’s different ministries.
“It’s one thing to read about BCH or watch a video, but to actually go and interact with the children and leaders, hear their stories, and see where they live was a moving experience,” Varriale said.
Jody Yopp, pastor of Kellum Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and a group from his church were a few of the many Baptists who participated.
“The best part of the program is that it brings Baptists who help to fund this ministry to BCH’s campuses,” Yopp said. “I was telling someone that I felt uninformed because I hadn’t been to some of these places. It is something Baptists should do more often.”
Their first stop of the ride was Cameron Boys Camp in Moore County, a year-round residential wilderness ministry where boys live in campsites and shelters they build.
“As the bikers pulled up to Camp, we could feel the boys’ excitement and their anticipation,” Varriale said. “That set everything up for success.”
The campers and their counselors, known as chiefs, gave campsite tours to the bikers and described how they live day-to-day in the outdoors.
“Going to the campsite and hearing them talk through the process of building a new tent, cooking their meals, and seeing where they study was impressive,” Varriale says.
After staying overnight at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro, riders arrived the following day at Mills Home in Thomasville. There, more than three dozen children attending BCH’s Weekday Education program greeted cyclists.
Riders gathered around the front steps of the campus church to hear from former BCH resident Paulina Hanner who shared the impact of her six years in care at Mills Home.
“I was introduced to Jesus Christ by one of my houseparents,” Hanner shared. “Living here changed my life forever.” She shared how she has realized her dream of becoming a foster care social worker. “I’ve been given the opportunity to change the lives of others in the community the same way BCH changed my life.”
Bikers then traveled west to Ridgecrest Conference Center near Black Mountain. The next day, the group headed to Broyhill Home in Clyde.
The final leg of the ride on May 7 ended at BCH’s western campus in conjunction with the “Cookin’ for the Kids Broyhill Home Barbecue Festival.”
The barbecue festival, which is in its ninth year, is spearheaded by members of Ninevah Baptist Church in Waynesville and pastor Mike Leslie. The festival raised $26,892.00 – a record total.
“It’s amazing to see the commitment and investment of our NC Baptist friends,” said BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell. “We can’t wait to see what God has in store next year.”
The dates for the 2017 “Ride to Clyde” are May 10-13.
“We hope that participants will begin planning now for their fundraising efforts for the 2017 ride,” Davis said. “Most importantly, we hope next year’s participates will begin praying about inviting a friend who doesn’t know Christ to join the ride.”
For more information, find “Ride to Clyde” on Facebook or call Brian Davis’ office at 1-800- 395-5102, extension 5501.

6/22/2016 1:23:47 PM by Blake Ragsdale, Baptist Children’s Homes | with 0 comments

Pastors on politics: biblical, not controversial

June 21 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Proclaiming Scripture instead of promoting controversy is their approach when addressing political issues, pastors said during a June 15 panel discussion at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Five Southern Baptist pastors explained to Ronnie Floyd, now former SBC president, during the afternoon session how they handle political issues in their churches. The panel discussion – titled “Pastors and the Church in American Politics Today” and moderated by Floyd – came during a tumultuous election season that has found many Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians dismayed at their presidential options from the major parties.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas (center) participates in the panel “Pastors and the Church in American Politics Today” during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 15.

“I do not try to be controversial; I want to be biblical,” said A.B. Vines, senior pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., and a past president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the SBC.
“I want to give them the Word of God,” Vines said, adding he teaches the people of New Seasons Church “to trust God in these moments.”
David McKinley, pastor/teacher of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., echoed Vines, saying, “I don’t want to add to the controversy. I want to help people to think biblically.”
He seeks to teach “that every one of us – Republican, Democrat, whoever we are – are to come under the authority of Scripture. And I think if we preach that and teach that, we will be an equal opportunity offender in what we do.”
Hance Dilbeck, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, said he hears “a lot of disappointment” from church members with their choices for president.
“It’s almost like an expression of grief,” he said. “I can see all the five stages, you know, anger and denial and bargaining and depression and acceptance.
“[W]hat they’re grieving is at least the loss of perceived cultural dominance, where Bible-believing people were a majority that could exercise political power and always win the day,” Dilbeck told Floyd.
While Americans have “tremendous political tools,” Christians “have so focused on those tools that some of our spiritual muscles have atrophied, and we’ve gotten weak when it comes to prayer and to purity and to proclamation of the gospel,” he said. “[Pastors] have this great opportunity to call our people back to the kind of biblical, spiritual influence that is always going to be our primary influence.”
The presumptive presidential nominees – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – have prompted some Southern Baptists and evangelicals to declare they can vote for neither major candidate. They find Clinton unacceptable because of her support of abortion rights and government funding of abortion, as well as other liberal policies. They reject Trump based on his inconsistent positions on such issues as abortion, religious liberty and immigration; autocratic inclinations; insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery.
Others have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election only because of the Democratic alternative, while a much smaller group appears to be prepared to vote for Clinton.
Refusing to vote is not an option, said Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
“You can’t sit this one out. You can’t say, ‘I’m not going to participate.’ The stakes are too high,” said Graham, a former SBC president.
“Isn’t it great to know, number one, that God is not in heaven wondering, ‘What am I going to do with Donald or Hillary?,’“ he said, adding, however, Christians are responsible to act in the election. “[W]e simply must not abdicate our responsibility to pray, to participate, to vote and, as pastors and leaders in our churches, to encourage others to do the same.”
He is focusing on three primary considerations in determining how to vote in this presidential election, Graham said: (1) A candidate who will seek God’s wisdom in making Supreme Court nominations; (2) someone who will support the sanctity of human life; and (3) a person who will defend religious liberty.
K. Marshall Williams, senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and another former NAAF president, said the church needs to be “passionately praying” for those in authority.
Also, he said, Christians should “maintain a collective, incarnational, redemptive presence in the church and in the culture.” The church should not only address such issues as the sanctity of life and religious freedom, but “attack systemic racism and injustice in our land,” Williams said, and “be concerned about the pipeline from school to prison, that one out of every three African-American men are tied to the criminal justice system.”
In addition to being biblical in his approach, McKinley said he seeks to be: (1) “instructional and not just emotional;” (2) “pastoral and not just simply be political;” (3) “convictional, not just informational;” and (4) “hopeful and not cynical.”
All five pastors encouraged Christians to run for local offices. He prays God “would raise up men and women to go into public office of moral courage,” Williams said.
Floyd opened the session by encouraging pastors and other Christian leaders not to be judgmental of one another during this election season. “Disagreement does not have to result in a strained relationship with a brother or sister in Christ, especially over politics,” he said.

6/21/2016 12:03:39 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB trustees conclude investigation

June 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustee recommendation and a messenger motion at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting were among the actions Southern Baptists took in St. Louis last week related to NAMB’s dealings with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD).
NAMB trustees adopted a recommendation June 13 stating they have conducted a “thorough examination and review” of the entity’s relationship with the BCMD and regard as “concluded” an investigation of complaints the convention, which is also known as the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, was mistreated.

Still, a messenger’s motion the next day at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting requested an “independent, outside review” of NAMB’s dealings with state conventions, including the BCMD. The motion was ruled out of order June 15, with Committee on Order of Business chairman Andrew Hebert stating, “A motion which seeks to have the convention, this annual meeting, exercise the authority of an entity’s board, is not in order.”
The NAMB trustee action and messenger motion occurred three months after Will McRaney, who resigned as BCMD executive director last June, and others began posting documents online alleging NAMB exerted inappropriate pressure on the BCMD regarding financial matters and McRaney’s continued employment.

NAMB trustees

The NAMB trustee motion was approved unanimously and without discussion in the board’s plenary session, the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal reported and NAMB confirmed to Baptist Press. A two-hour closed-door session preceded the vote.
Printed background material distributed by NAMB stated, “Representatives of this board have conducted a thorough examination and review of the dealings between NAMB leadership and the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network [MABN] and have fully reported those findings to the full Board of Trustees, who discussed the findings at length and considered them when making this recommendation.”
The background material continued, “In addition, the trustees were kept informed about challenges regarding the relationship between NAMB and MABN as the challenges developed, and NAMB’s executive leadership sought input from the chairman and other officers of this board regarding such challenges.”
The full text of the recommendation stated, “The trustee officers recommend that the Board of Trustees, by adoption of this recommendation, states that they are satisfied that this matter has been reviewed thoroughly and considers this matter concluded.”
McRaney tweeted an open letter to NAMB trustees June 13 stating, “What is on trial is the trustworthiness of the NAMB Trustees to do your duty to God and Southern Baptists and to extend justice.”

SBC motion

The SBC motion, offered by Steve Wolverton of Baltimore’s Canton Baptist Church, stated, “I move that the SBC Executive Committee and the NAMB board of trustees call for an independent, outside review of alleged strong-arming of state conventions,” including alleged “threats signed by [NAMB president] Dr. [Kevin] Ezell in particular regarding the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network and the dismissal of Dr. Will McRaney.”
Wolverton’s motion echoed concerns expressed in a May 16 petition posted on SBC Today, a blog owned and published by Connect316, a coalition of Southern Baptists who advocate what they call a “traditionalist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation.
Wolverton is among the 86 petition signatories calling for an “independent investigation” of allegations NAMB has “leverage[d]” Cooperative Program funds “to force state conventions into compliance with revised cooperative agreement terms or to influence personnel decisions.”
Strategic Cooperation Agreements contain “gag orders,” the petition stated, “that prevent our trusted and beloved state convention leaders from openly telling the truth about any and all ... negotiations.”
Wolverton’s motion made apparent reference to McRaney’s Feb. 3 allegation in a letter to NAMB trustees and other SBC leaders that Ezell linked “future SBC resources” for the Maryland/Delaware convention “to my removal” – a charge NAMB’s trustee officers attempted to refute two days later by noting, “Our total investment in Maryland and Delaware rose 26.3 percent in 2012 compared to levels before Kevin [Ezell] became president, and NAMB’s total funding has remained at that level or higher since that time.”
A Feb. 26 letter to McRaney from NAMB’s attorneys stated NAMB did not “cause your departure from your employment with the local convention.” Similarly, a March 24 statement from the BCMD categorized as “false” “any suggestion that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) or any of its officers influenced the separation of Dr. McRaney’s employment from the Network.”

NAMB’s state partnerships

In a blog post last month, Ezell affirmed the integrity and effectiveness of NAMB’s Strategic Cooperation Agreements with Baptist state conventions.
Ezell wrote in a May 17 post at NAMB.net, “It’s important for me to say that we are striving to ensure that NAMB’s partnerships are positive and working well.”
He added, “It’s a privilege to work with state leaders who are passionate about reaching people for Christ and committed to pushing back lostness in North America. The overwhelming majority of state executives we work with are very competent and strategic leaders. They deserve your full support and engagement at the state level. NAMB will stay focused on the task before us and not back up one inch on seeking excellence and accountability every step of the way when it comes to the stewardship of resources that God and Southern Baptists entrust to us.”
Ezell wrote that NAMB is “investing more money” in pioneer-area state conventions than it did six years ago when he became president, “but it is money that reflects our priorities” and includes “accountability.” NAMB has said on numerous occasions during Ezell’s tenure that its top priority is church planting.
The confidentiality clause in all Strategic Cooperation Agreements appears at the request of some state conventions, Ezell wrote.
“While I would prefer that Southern Baptists, and all the state conventions, know what the funding budgets are for the other states, NAMB has honored the request for confidentiality and will continue to do so,” Ezell wrote. “Any state, however, can opt to share its Cooperation Agreement and funding budget publicly by simply notifying NAMB.”
Ezell provided a link to NAMB’s agreement with the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI), indicating the Indiana convention granted permission to do so. The posted agreement does not include any funding amounts or formulas.
SCBI executive director Cecil Seagle stated in a May 18 Facebook post that he has not experienced “intimidation,” “strong arming” or “duress related to a perceived ‘gag order’ imposed by the North American Mission Board.”
“I can only speak for SCBI,” Seagle wrote, “but I must speak of us – NAMB is not in control, in fact, has never sought control of SCBI’s church planting. SCBI has a plan and is fully in charge with a strategic, engaged, reliable partner – NAMB. NAMB cannot fire me! SCBI Executive Board can!”

A longstanding discussion

NAMB’s agreements with partner conventions have been a topic of discussion among Southern Baptists since at least 2010.
That year SBC’s Great Commission Task Force (GCTF) recommended that NAMB phase out over a seven-year period its former model of “Cooperative Agreements” with state conventions and “establish a new pattern of strategic partnership with state conventions that will penetrate lostness and ensure greater responsiveness to the Southern Baptist Convention and greater effectiveness of NAMB in the appointment of missionary personnel and church planters.”
The GCTF argued Cooperative Agreements “return[ed] a tremendous percentage of CP monies back to the regions where Southern Baptists are most greatly concentrated and often [left] NAMB with insufficient mobility to appoint personnel directly and ensure missional focus.”
Messengers to the 2010 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., affirmed the GCTF’s recommendation – along with many of its other suggestions for the convention – by an estimated 3-to-1 margin.

6/21/2016 11:59:56 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bellevue sings of ‘King’ on Fox, Carnegie Hall

June 21 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The choir from newly elected Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines’ pastorate sang the gospel alongside Elvis hits in New York’s Times Square on Fox TV June 20 in advance of their concert tonight at Carnegie Hall.
An Elvis impersonator with the choir said the Memphis, Tenn., group loves to sing of “the King.”
“We always want to sing about the King,” said the impersonator, one of two Bellevue choir members who impersonated the rock star on the live broadcast of Fox & Friends just before 9 a.m. Eastern Time. “So, most times we sing about Jesus, sometimes we sing about Elvis. Whatever draws people closer to Jesus, man, that’s what we’re about.”
About two-thirds of the 250-member choir and 45 members of the orchestra are on a week’s mission trip in New York under choir director Mark Blair’s leadership. Tonight’s concert will feature Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning gospel artist Natalie Grant in her Carnegie Hall debut, Grant has noted on her website.
Gaines, elected SBC president June 15 at the St. Louis annual meeting, will give his Christian testimony at the Carnegie Hall concert, Bellevue Baptist Church director of communications Jim Barnwell told Baptist Press. Gaines will preach June 21 at Brooklyn Tabernacle during a 7 p.m. service featuring the Bellevue choir, Barnwell said, with both events planned months before Gaines’ SBC election.
At Carnegie Hall, the Bellevue choir will sing selections from two of its published choir books and corresponding CDs “Holding On to You” and “Praise His Name” from Prism Music, with arrangements by Josh Stewart, who also arranged 10 selections Grant will perform at the event.

Fox & Friends screen capture
Hannah Tetmeyer leads the Bellevue Baptist Church choir of Memphis, Tenn., in “Say Amen” in New York’s Times Square Plaza during a June 20 broadcast of “Fox & Friends.”

During Fox & Friends, Bellevue member Hannah Tetmeyer led the choir in a rendition of “Say Amen.”
“Yes there are bad things that happen, but God is greater,” Tetmeyer told Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt. “God is more powerful than anything that can ever come against us.”
A Bellevue Baptist Church member praised God as Tetmeyer and the choir sang in Times Square.
“We’ve all walked through the fire, and it’s just been fabulous to know we’re not alone. We can do anything with Christ,” the man told Earhardt. “We’ve got a pastor that preaches the Bible, and there’s no joking about it,” the man said of Gaines.
“We know exactly where we need to be, we know Who is with us, and He [Jesus Christ] is with us every Sunday when we walk in that church.”
In an earlier June 19 event, the choir sang in an outdoor concert and community outreach with a new church plant in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the Living Water Church.
A total of 280 Bellevue members and friends made the trip, Barnwell said.

6/21/2016 11:58:27 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

4 SBC leaders address messenger questions

June 21 2016 by SBC entity & Baptist Press staff

Questions were posed to four Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity presidents during time allotted for messengers’ questions during the leaders’ respective reports at the June 14-15 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
Following are accounts of the four entity presidents’ responses. Not all entity presidents were asked questions.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Photo by Adam Covington
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gives the entity’s report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), responded to two questions at the end of his report.
John Wofford, pastor of Armorel Baptist Church in Blytheville, Ark., questioned how someone in the SBC “can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians in America.”
Moore responded that it is not a difficult issue. “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody,” the ERLC leader said.
“[W]hen you have a government that says, ‘We can decide whether or not a house of worship is being constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,’ then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build,” Moore said.
The greater issue is not self-interest but the gospel of Jesus, he told the convention.
Having a government with “the power to outlaw people from assembling together” and confessing their beliefs “does not turn people into Christians,” Moore said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell. The answer to Islam is not government power. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.”
In May, the ERLC and the International Mission Board (IMB) defended religious freedom for all in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Muslim community in New Jersey that has been prevented by the local government from building a mosque.
In the second question posed to Moore during his report, Jason Dees, senior pastor of Valleydale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., asked how the ERLC is engaged in foster care and adoption issues.
The ERLC is fighting for religious liberty for Christian organizations to serve orphans according to their convictions, Moore told the messengers. It also is seeking to equip church leaders to talk to congregations about adoption and foster care, he said.
What pastors and other leaders should say is: “Everybody in the body of Christ is called to minister to widows and orphans in their distress – everybody,” Moore said, citing a variety of ways church members can be involved in such ministry. “We all have a [role] to play in this. We simply have to have pastors and leaders who are standing up and putting it on the table.”

North American Mission Board

Photo by John Swain
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, gives the entity’s report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Allen Calkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gray Summit, Mo., asked Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB): “Given the fact that NAMB is not part of the prime directive of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is international missions, why should NAMB continue to be spending the amount of Cooperative Program funds it does on domestic projects that are also being carried out by state conventions and Baptist associations? Can we still afford to spend Cooperative Program dollars on these redundant efforts when we have had to lay off over a thousand missionaries?”
Ezell answered: “As [IMB President] David Platt would tell you, 100 percent of the funding of the International Mission Board comes from North America. The stronger our churches are, and the more churches we have in North America, the stronger our ability is to go to into the uttermost parts of the earth. It is both/and, not either/or. We believe, and we can see, even from the class of 2010 – when I say class I mean just the churches that were planted in 2010 – last year gave over $3 million to missions. A state exec [executive director] in a Northeast state recently told me that if we do not continue to plant churches we will not exist. The world has come to us. We have to be strong all over North America, not only to reach this country, but it is imperative if we are going to reach the world. If our churches go down – and we are decreasing, we lose 800 to 1,000 churches as an SBC convention every year – [we will go down]. We are trying to plant 1,200 churches just to keep breaking even. We believe the stronger North America is, the stronger everything will be as we try to reach the world for Christ.”

 International Mission Board

Photo by Matt Miller
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, gives the IMB’s portion of the Joint Mission Presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis Wednesday, June 15.

Dennis Shaw, a messenger from Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, N.C., and director of missions for the Yadkin Baptist Association, asked IMB President David Platt: “For those missionaries that have retired, who would I be able to contact to see if any of those retired missionaries are interested in doing interim, part-time vocational ministry in our churches?”
Platt answered that IMB established a transition team, which can be contacted at transitionteam@imb.org, to help missionaries transition from the field to places of service stateside. Platt encouraged Shaw to contact his state Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), as WMU has been helpful in making such connections and has lists of missionaries who are nearby who have agreed to share their contact information with local churches. Platt also suggested contacting the state convention, noting how North Carolina has worked to set aside funding to fuel church planting among unreached peoples in the state. Or, Platt said, if neither of those avenues meet the need, the messenger can contact IMB directly.
In a second question posed to Platt, Aaron Colyer, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Roswell, N.M., stated that he has a friend who is looking at a work contract with an oil and gas company in Asia and is asking whether any training is available for his potential move in 18 months.
Platt answered that training is available, and people can connect with IMB’s training team at training@imb.org or online at training.imb.org. The mission board is exploring new ways for multitudes to go overseas, and “especially as we investigate ways to send more people, we in no way want to lower the bar,” Platt said. “We don’t want to dilute our mission force, so we want to be sure to provide good, strong, biblical, ecclesiological, missiological training.” That means IMB needs to customize training for professionals who don’t have eight weeks to come to IMB for training like traditional missionaries have done, he said, noting that IMB has created weekend modules and six-month curriculum for training Christians who are going overseas.

LifeWay Christian Resources

Photo by Bill Bangham
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, gives his report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at America’s Center in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 15.

Scott White, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., asked LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer to explain the process used to review authors and books sold at LifeWay Christian Stores.
Rainer said publishers do not even present LifeWay with many books, because they understand LifeWay’s biblical standards.
“But there are times when a book will be presented to us that goes to a theological review, which is a team of people who look at a book and ask if it passes the theological vetting,” Rainer said.
“If there are still questions, and particularly if there is some type of controversy over a book, many times it will even come to the executive level, and we will make the decision.”
In a second question posed to Rainer, Kyle Howard, a messenger from Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., prefaced the question expressing appreciation for LifeWay.
“LifeWay has been instrumental in my own sanctification and of many people I know,” Howard said before asking Rainer if LifeWay sells books by health, wealth and prosperity gospel preachers that he described as poisonous to the African-American community.
Rainer answered firmly, “We do not intentionally have health, wealth and fame authors.”
“We look at every book individually,” Rainer continued. “If in the past [an author] has had some type of relationship with that type of theology, we will look at it closely. But in the event the book passes our theological grid, we put it on the shelf.”
Reiterating that LifeWay does not sell prosperity gospel books, Rainer assured messengers, “We are doing our very, very best. We’ll make mistakes, and we’ll hear from you when we do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by the communications staff of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.)

6/21/2016 11:56:47 AM by SBC entity & Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Sumners honored upon retirement

June 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In 1979, Bill Sumners visited Nashville for a meeting of the Society of American Archivists and paid a visit to Southern Baptists’ denominational archives while he was in town.
As he stood in the Baptist Sunday School Board’s Dargan-Carver Library, the precursor to today’s Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA), he remembers thinking, “This is really where I want to be” professionally. There was no job opening at the time. But eventually his dream was fulfilled.

Photo by Jim Veneman
Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, was honored Wednesday, June 15, during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis for his 33 years of service. Sumners is retiring in July.

Now, 37 years later – and after 33 years of service to Southern Baptists – Sumners is retiring effective July 29 as the longest-tenured director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) library and archives since its establishment in 1953.
The SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, which oversees SBHLA, honored Sumners June 15 at the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, giving him and his wife Donna a certificate of appreciation along with a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.
Sumners “has watched over our history and our heritage,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Council of Seminary Presidents. “... Thirty-three years is a long time. It’s enough time that Bill Sumners has not only been able to record the history. He’s been able to make some of it and watch it happen as well. And 33 years of service is never to go without thankfulness and gratitude wherever it is found in the cause of Christ.”

‘The best place’ for Baptist research

Photo by Jim Veneman
Since Bill Sumners came to Southern Baptists’ denominational archives in 1983, the collection has expanded to 12,000 linear feet of material.

After serving as archivist at the Dargan-Carver Library from 1983-88, Sumners became SBHLA archivist in 1988 and director in 1990. SBHLA moved its holdings out of the Dargan-Carver Library in 1985, and Sumners oversaw both collections for three years before transitioning to full-time work with the library and archives.
Under Sumners’ leadership, the archives have expanded from a modest collection to 12,000 linear feet of archival material, including 8,000 linear feet of records from SBC entities and 4,000 feet of manuscript material from Baptist pastors, evangelists, missionaries and organizations.
“He has made this the best place to conduct research on Baptists,” said Taffey Hall, current SBHLA archivist and Sumners’ successor as director upon his retirement.
A key moment for Sumners’ expansion of the SBHLA collection came in 1985, when the SBC building moved from its former location on James Robertson Parkway in Nashville to its present location at 9th and Commerce. He surveyed SBC entity records kept in the old building’s basement and was permitted to have all the records he requested, doubling the size of the denominational archives overnight.
Another expansion occurred in 1997, when the SBC’s Covenant for a New Century reduced the number of convention entities from 19 to 12 and records of some closed entities were transferred to SBHLA.

Photo by Matt Miller
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents Bill Sumners with a certificate of appreciation along with a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, was honored Wednesday, June 15, during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis for his 33 years of service. Sumners is retiring in July.

The archives contain most correspondence and minutes on file from the International Mission Board and its precursor organization, the Foreign Mission Board. Sumners said there is more material from the North American Mission Board and its precursor, the Home Mission Board, than any other entity.
Among Sumners’ favorite collections is the papers of J.M. Frost, founder of the Sunday School Board. It contains letters from Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and others.
“Everybody who was anybody was going to write J.M. Frost about what was going on in the convention,” Sumners said. “... The quality of the people corresponding with J.M. Frost was always kind of illuminating to me.”
Sumners also enjoys the papers of Una Roberts Lawrence, a Home Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union staff member, because of the broad exposure they provide to early 20th-century Southern Baptist missions. The papers of Samuel Starnes Day, a missionary to India, Sumners said, include his correspondence with Adoniram Judson, one of the first international missionaries from America.
In recent years, Sumners has acquired the papers of Emmanuel McCall, an African American pioneer in race relations within the SBC, and Richard Land, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
A campaign to digitize SBHLA holdings has made available online all SBC Annuals, all Baptist Press stories from 1948-1996 and all issues of Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal from 1835-1939 and 2000-2008.
But more than archival collections, Sumners said he values the people he’s come to know through his work.

‘Do it together’

For instance, he credits the late Sid Smith, a consultant with the Sunday School Board’s Black Church Development department and later a staff member with the Florida Baptist Convention, with helping him “gain an appreciation of the African American Baptist heritage.” At Smith’s urging, Sumners, who is white, joined the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network.
“Sid taught me more than an appreciation for African American Baptist history,” Sumners said. “He taught me the understanding of servanthood and how denominational work must be done with an attitude of service.”
Sumners also fondly remembers interviewing former president Jimmy Carter about his faith and serving as vice chairman of a planning committee for the Baptist Heritage Celebration in 2007 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first Baptist association in America.
The five-year planning process for the Baptist Heritage Celebration was difficult because it involved numerous Baptist groups with significant differences in their theology and practice, Sumners said. The experience was rewarding, however, because it underscored his conviction that “while the differences among the folks called Baptists are serious, our commonality is rooted in our shared history, and we need to join in celebrating that heritage, and if possible do it together.”
In retirement, Sumners plans to travel and spend time with his three granddaughters. Throughout his career, he said his opinion of the SBC’s denominational archives persisted: It was always where he wanted to be professionally.
“I don’t know if I ever envisioned staying here forever,” he said. “But I must confess, I never looked for anything else.”

6/21/2016 11:46:47 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hawkins spotlights GuideStone uniqueness, services

June 20 2016 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins relayed the entity’s 98th report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention on June 14. Citing GuideStone’s upcoming centennial in 2018, which will be celebrated with messengers convening in Dallas, Hawkins noted GuideStone’s uniqueness among the convention’s boards.
“Most all of the entities in Southern Baptist life focus on the message of the gospel,” Hawkins said. “We’re the only entity in Southern Baptist life that has a primary focus on the messenger of the gospel.”

Photo by Van Payne
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, gives his annual report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis Tuesday, June 14.

Hawkins reported on GuideStone’s Supreme Court challenge and its operational areas, including health care reform, property & casualty, investments and Mission:Dignity.


Hawkins cited the good news coming out of the Supreme Court in regard to GuideStone’s litigation against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its contraceptive mandate, which would require some ministries served by GuideStone to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices to women in their health plans or face crippling fines. Churches and integrated auxiliaries of churches and conventions of churches were exempt from the mandate.
In May, the Supreme Court ruled against the government, vacating lower court decisions, and requiring the government to come up with another plan to protect the religious liberty of ministries.
“Most media outlets completely got it wrong because they kept saying we were up there [in Washington] suing HHS over contraceptives, but that’s not true,” Hawkins said. “We were suing them because they demanded that GuideStone provide abortifacients, ... do it for free and to pay for it.
“We told them we were never going to do that.”
Hawkins emphasized ministries remain protected from penalties under the mandate and that GuideStone and its legal advisers are cautiously optimistic as the case progresses.

Health care reform

Hawkins cited published media reports that indicate some medical insurers in state health care exchanges are either exiting the market or indicating the need for rate increases as high as 65 percent in Texas, with similar rate increases in Virginia and Indiana.
While emphasizing GuideStone does not expect its medical rate increases to be that high, Hawkins emphasized churches, regardless of their health plan provider, should be prepared for higher rates in 2017 as a result of the continued impact of the Affordable Care Act.
“GuideStone is continuing to work diligently to provide good products with lower costs,” Hawkins said. “We know affordability is the issue.”
GuideStone will notify churches of its health care rates for 2017 in September.
Hawkins also encouraged messengers to stop by the GuideStone wellness center. An annual tradition at the Southern Baptist Convention, the wellness center provides free screenings, valued at up to $150, looking at cholesterol, glucose, weight, body mass index and blood pressure. As of the close of business on Monday, nearly 360 messengers had visited the booth for screening.


Hawkins emphasized markets continue their volatility, and may for the foreseeable future. Despite the markets’ continued roller coaster ride, Hawkins said retirement plan investors should continue to be aware of their time horizon – how long they have before needing their money in retirement – and risk tolerance and to remain focused on those long-term goals, and not the markets’ short-term news.

Property & casualty

Citing GuideStone’s partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, Hawkins indicated that 99 percent of property & casualty business, which renews annually, is retained by GuideStone and almost 70 percent of proposals GuideStone responds to turns into sales.
The industry-leading rates are testimony to GuideStone’s understanding of the unique needs of churches, Hawkins said, noting, “We know more about how to protect your church against risk than anyone.”


Hawkins reported on GuideStone’s ministry that provides financial assistance to retired ministers and their widows in financial need. Each year, the fourth Sunday in June is set aside as Mission:Dignity Sunday across the Southern Baptist Convention to raise awareness and funding for the ministry. Last year, 7,156 churches celebrated Mission:Dignity Sunday; this year, that number is expected to be more than 8,200 churches.
While June 26 is set aside for Mission:Dignity Sunday, materials provided free by GuideStone are undated, so churches can use them during other times of mission emphasis. Visit MDSunday.org to order materials.
Each year, GuideStone honors three churches with the Harold & Judy Vick Church Award for their support of Mission:Dignity. Hawkins honored First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, which has supported Mission:Dignity for 32 years; Fellowship in the Pass of Beaumont, Calif., which has supported Mission:Dignity for 22 years; and Ritchey Baptist Church of Granby, Mo., which has supported Mission:Dignity since August 1984.
Hawkins noted that GuideStone and Mission:Dignity remain committed to their original purpose of caring for ministers and their widows during their declining years, making a special note for pastors in the audience.
“If you’re sitting there by that precious partner of yours who has stood with you, served with you, worked with you and wept with you through these years, if God calls you home, I want you to know that we’ll be there as Christ’s hand extended to her until we all get to heaven together again,” Hawkins said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/20/2016 12:41:54 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

California Christian colleges must drop view of sexuality

June 20 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, World News Service

A bill pending in the California legislature seeks to strip faith-based colleges and universities of the centuries-old tradition of interweaving academics with religious doctrine. SB 1146 would force Christian schools to relinquish their fidelity to Scripture as a distinguishing characteristic of their institutions or risk lawsuits for religious and sexual discrimination.
The state’s Equity in Higher Education Act (EHEA) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. The new bill removes its exemption for faith-based schools. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, authored the bill and called the exemption a “loophole” and a “license to discriminate.” If passed, only seminaries would be eligible for the exemption.
Opponents argue the impetus for drafting SB 1146 is a baseless presumption of wide-spread and systemic discrimination against LGBT students on Christian campuses. The emotionally charged allegation stands in contrast to the bill’s threat to constitutionally protected religious liberty and indicates an ignorance of the role faith-based schools play in a pluralistic society.
“We are not willing to forego our biblical and covenantal convictions regardless of what laws are passed,” William Jessup University President John Jackson told me. “Jessup continues to believe we are to submit to Scripture and operate in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights that includes the First Amendment providing for freedom of press, association, and religion.”
Another provision of the California bill would require schools receiving a Title IX waiver to disclose that information to the California Student Aid Commission, students, and staff. Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU), supports transparency but continues to press for the exemption. Thirty-four of the 78 schools AICCU represents would be affected by the bill should it become law.
SB 1146 passed the state Senate on May 26. The state Assembly postponed its vote until next week – an encouraging sign, Soares said. She met with Lara on June 10 in an ongoing effort to convince the senator to amend the bill to keep the exemption in place for all faith-based schools. She said convincing Lara, who is gay, of the significant role religious freedom plays in the operation and mission of faith-based schools has been her main talking point.
“[Religion] is infused in the entire institution. You can’t parse it out,” Soares said. “You can’t draw a line down the middle and say this part is religious and this is not.”
According to Soares, Lara said he does not want his legislation to penalize students who want to attend faith-based schools. But SB 1146 does just that by denying schools their constitutionally afforded right to inextricably link academics and doctrine, she said. The bill also conflicts with the guaranteed free exercise of religion afforded by the California and U.S. constitutions.
“There’s a disconnect,” said Lee Wilhite, a Biola University spokesman. “To deny students the opportunity to come to a distinctly faith-based school – that’s not right.”
According to a five-page statement drafted by Biola, SB 1146 “would change the face of Christian higher education in California as we know it today.”
The bill is a solution in search of a problem, Wilhite said.
But Lara cites as evidence to the contrary an increase in the number of universities and colleges requesting exemption from Title IX compliance in the past three years. In 2014, President Barack Obama drastically altered the meaning of the 1972 federal legislation prohibiting sex-based discrimination by any school receiving federal funding. The term “sex,” according to the Obama administration, now includes gender identity. Unable to affirm that interpretation, Christian schools across the nation that had not requested a Title IX waiver in decades sought new relief.
Eighteen months after applying for its first exemption in 31 years, Biola University is still waiting on a response from the U.S. Department of Education. Wilhite said Biola wants the freedom to care for all students as the Bible, not the U.S. Department of Education, dictates.
Biola students who are same-sex attracted and committed to living by the school’s biblical position on human sexuality meet with designated staff members who support students in those efforts, Wilhite said.
About 420 miles to the north, William Jessup University students are similarly exhorted to live according to the biblical covenant they voluntarily sign at admittance.
“When we have students who struggle with any issue, including human sexuality, we humbly and with great grace encourage our students to live in submission to the word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit,” Jackson said.

6/20/2016 12:36:57 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, World News Service | with 0 comments

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