June 2019

SBC sex abuse study unveils ‘key findings’

June 8 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Executive Editor

J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG) released its initial report today (June 8) as part of an ongoing process to assess current needs and develop recommendations for Southern Baptist churches regarding sexual abuse.

The 52-page report, described as a “first step,” includes first-hand accounts from survivors of sexual abuse, as well as calls to “illuminate the evil” and “lament the wrong that has been done.”

Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worked with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in 2018 to launch a two-year study in response to revelations of sexual abuse in the SBC.

The group admits specific failures among Southern Baptist churches:
  • “Failing to adequately train our staff and volunteers – on the national, state, and congregational levels – to be aware of and respond appropriately to abuse;
  • “Using church autonomy improperly to avoid taking appropriate action;
  • “Failing to care well for survivors of abuse;
  • “Failing to take disclosure seriously and to believe the survivor;
  • “Failing to report abuse to civil authorities;
  • “Recommending suspected perpetrators to new employment;
  • “Promoting political, institutional, and congregational leaders whose language and behavior glorifies mistreatment of women and children.”

The document highlights “key findings,” including the need to place survivor care as the “top priority” and the value of best practices for recognizing and preventing sex abuse. It also addresses specific topics such as clergy abuse.

“Moving forward, we must determine to no longer allow our church structure or its leadership to hinder justice or healing for survivors of sexual abuse,” the report said. “We, instead, must utilize our Convention to encourage policies and practices that protect the vulnerable, ‘maintaining the witness of Christ in the holiness and safety of his church.’”

The SAAG urged all Southern Baptist congregations to participate in the “Caring Well Challenge,” an eight-step program to equip churches to be environments that are “safe for survivors and safe from abuse.”

Download the full report here.

6/8/2019 8:50:46 PM by Seth Brown, BR Executive Editor | with 0 comments

‘Caring Well Challenge’ on abuse launched

June 7 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist effort to address sexual abuse in churches has taken another step with the launch of the “Caring Well Challenge,” a joint call for congregations to become equipped to prevent predatory behavior and to care for survivors.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study announced the cost-free initiative June 6. They issued an invitation to all Southern Baptist churches to participate. All the convention’s entities, more than 35 Southern Baptist state conventions, and many Baptist associations and colleges have endorsed the “Caring Well Challenge,” according to an ERLC release.
The ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study – which was named by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear – also have collaborated with LifeWay Christian Resources to produce “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused.” The new, free multimedia resource is a comprehensive training curriculum that consists of a handbook with 12 video lessons from experts in a variety of areas.
Regarding the “Caring Well Challenge,” Greear makes an appeal to churches to participate in a video on the initiative’s website, caringwell.com.
“The ‘Caring Well Challenge’ provides your church with a pathway to start engaging the problem of abuse,” Greear says. “This is an opportunity for you to say, ‘Yes, yes, our church is ready to do whatever it takes to confront the abuse crisis and to care for the abused.’”
ERLC President Russell Moore acknowledged in a news release announcing the challenge, “There is no quick fix for an issue as complex as church sexual abuse. But this initiative is an outstanding step designed to join our churches together in a common cause.
“Over the last year, I’ve spoken with hundreds of pastors and leaders who are determined to make this issue a priority in their churches, but are looking for tools and training,” Moore said. “That’s exactly what this challenge is designed to provide. It has been a joy to partner with so many survivors and experts across many fields to design training that will give churches tools to act immediately.” 
A commitment to the challenge means a church will take these eight steps during the next year:

  • Commit to the “Caring Well Challenge.”

  • Build a “Caring Well” team to lead the church’s effort.

  • Launch the “Caring Well Challenge” on Aug. 25 or a similar date.

  • Train your team at the 2019 ERLC National Conference, which is Oct. 3-5 in Grapevine, Texas. The conference theme is “Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis.”

  • Equip leaders through the “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused” curriculum.

  • Enhance church policies, procedures and practices related to abuse.

  • Dedicate Sunday services on May 3, 2020, or a similar date to address abuse.

  • Reflect on the “Caring Well Challenge” at the 2020 SBC annual meeting.

On the eve of this year’s SBC meeting, the ERLC and the advisory study will co-host June 10 in Birmingham a panel discussion on sex abuse in the convention. The panel will feature Greear; Moore; attorney, advocate and abuse survivor Rachael Denhollander; Bible teacher Beth Moore; and Susan Codone, senior associate dean of academic affairs at Mercer University School of Medicine.
About a month after his 2018 election as SBC president, Greear announced in July the formation of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study to address the problem. He is collaborating with the ERLC in the work of the advisory study, which has been receiving input from abuse survivors and their advocates, lawyers, pastors, law enforcement officials, counselors and denominational leaders – a majority who are women.
Sexual abuse already was a significant issue in the SBC, but an ongoing investigative series by the Houston Chronicle, joined by the San Antonio Express-News, that began in February revealed further some of the extent of the problem in the convention and its churches. The initial articles in the series found 220 pastors and other leaders in Southern Baptist churches who had been convicted of or taken plea deals in sex crimes involving more than 700 victims. More abusers in churches, as well as some who served as missionaries with the International Mission Board, have been reported since then.

6/7/2019 10:03:56 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Dew presents vision for first year in office

June 7 2019 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Jamie Dew presented a vision for his first year as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) president in a press conference following his unanimous election by the NOBTS board of trustees on June 5.

Photo by Boyd Guy, NOBTS
Jamie Dew takes questions during a press conference following his election as the ninth president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, June 5.

Dew noted NOBTS’ untapped potential and pointed to the seminary’s unique opportunity for “theological education and ministerial preparation.”
“In this city you have the best of everything – culture, challenge, opportunity for ministry, a religious pluralistic context that our students could learn in,” Dew said. “If you can learn to share the gospel here, if you can learn to minister to the poor, the broken, the needy here, then that is incredible preparation for wherever God’s going to take you.”
A virtual press conference via video conferencing was held at the seminary’s Leavell Center for Church Health and Evangelism with media in attendance, some online, and with one press corps member viewing from assignment outside the country.
Tony Lambert, board of trustees chairman, opened the conference saying, “It is an incredible day for NOBTS. It’s an historic day for our denomination.”
Responding to questions were Dew, Tara Dew – Jamie Dew’s wife – Lambert, and Frank Cox, chairman of the presidential search committee.
Jay Adkins, SBC Voices, asked Jamie Dew about the future and potential of NOBTS’ Leavell College.
Dew outlined a four-pronged vision for NOBTS and Leavell College in his response. Leavell College would be “priority number one,” Dew said, noting that NOBTS and Leavell College were “dripping in potential.” He continued saying enrollment – which he noted included admissions, completions, retentions, financial aid, and student success – would also draw his attention, with marketing and communications as a third priority, and building denominational relationships, as fourth.

Photo by Boyd Guy, NOBTS
Trustees pray for Jamie Dew and his family on June 5 after announcing his election as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s president.

When asked about NOBTS’ strengths, Dew praised the seminary’s “incredible footprint” and regional impact through its significant alumni base serving in ministry. New Orleans is a city provides a cultural preparation that equips leaders for ministry, Dew said.
Dew praised the faculty and its rich diversity of thought and pointed to it as an example for Southern Baptists.
“We need to find a better way of interacting with each other and loving each other and standing under the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Dew said. “The diversity on the campus provides us the opportunity to do that well.”
Brian Blackwell, The Baptist Message of Louisiana, asked Dew what he wished to say to Louisiana Baptists.
“I can’t wait to meet you,” Dew responded, adding that he looks forward to serving alongside them and hearing their needs, compassions and concerns.
“We need to have an ear for the convention,” Dew continued. “Our job is to serve them and equip them.”
In a lighthearted moment, Tara Dew responded to Adkins’ question regarding how the children felt about the move. The Dews have two sets of twins, Nathan and Natalie, 12, and Samuel and Samantha, 9.
Tara Dew explained that their older son, Nathan, remembered that the Israelites obeyed God by following the cloud He provided for direction and told the family, “It looks like the cloud is moving – we need to obey.”
She noted their younger son, Samuel, then said, “I was getting kind of tired of Cam Newton, anyway. I can cheer for (New Orleans Saints quarterback) Drew Brees.”
“This is a family effort,” Tara Dew said. “We are going to love this campus together. We are going to love this city together.”
She added, “When God calls you somewhere, He’ll be very faithful to meet you there.”
Jamie Dew said he looks forward to getting to know faculty, staff and students and hopes to have plenty of “face-to-face” time with them. Dew noted that the NOBTS family is now their family.
“I want to be ‘all in’ immediately,” Dew said. “We will share life together. I want to be in the trenches with the people I love.”
Prior to his election, Dew shared his testimony with faculty and trustees and told of heartache and pain in his childhood and teen years. “A defining wound” came at age seven, Dew said, when his father walked out on the family. Cox noted Dew’s testimony when he gave an overview of the search committee’s work.

Photo by Boyd Guy, NOBTS
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees welcome Jamie Dew and his wife Tara Dew and children Nathan and Natalie, 12, and Samuel and Samantha, 9, following his election as NOBTS president. 

Cox said, “When (Dew) walked in the room, it was a God moment,” Cox said. “God’s spirit permeated that room. He answered every question as if it came from God’s heart to our ears.”
A search committee member, Cox said, pointed out that Dew’s life prior to coming to faith in Christ was hard and not like his own background, but added that Dew’s testimony would resonate with many who come to seminary today and are called to ministry out of difficult situations.
“He comes from brokenness,” Cox said of Dew. “He understands brokenness. He understands hurt. He understands redemption. He is a leader. Our campus, at this time, needs Jamie Dew.”
The committee’s work, Cox said, began with fasting and prayer and “a commitment to find God’s man for New Orleans Seminary.” Cox noted the committee surveyed NOBTS faculty, staff and students, and then accepted nominations from Southern Baptists convention-wide. Twenty candidates were seriously considered, Cox said, adding that each of four final candidates were “excellent” choices.
God directed the committee to the right man, Lambert said.
“We believe God has given us a man who will follow the Lord and the Lord only,” he said. “We are praying that He will direct him clearly and with great wisdom and patience in the days to come.”

6/7/2019 9:58:28 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Crossover rally: Rain or shine, volunteers ready

June 7 2019 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

When Johnny Hunt got saved, he was a high-school dropout living in the projects and managing a pool room. Not too long after, a church invited him to come share his story. Hunt said he didn’t have fancy words or any idea what he was doing, but he shared the gospel – and people responded.

Photo by Tracy Riggs
Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, encourages listeners at the June 5 Crossover kickoff rally to share the gospel confidently knowing the Holy Spirit empowers the message. Hunt preached live at The Church at Brook Hills, and the rally was simulcast to four other locations in the Birmingham metro area.

The gospel message has power no matter the messenger, but it has to be shared in order to change lives, said Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board.
“That’s the only hope tomorrow, Saturday or anytime – that the gospel comes,” he told the crowd listening at the Crossover kickoff rally on June 5 in Birmingham, Ala. “God’s Word faithfully proclaimed is the most powerful force in the world. God takes it and uses it to change lives.”
Several hundred people gathered for the event held live at The Church at Brook Hills, and via simulcast at four satellite locations around the metro area – First Baptist Church, Mount Olive; Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham; The Baptist Church at McAdory, McCalla; and First Baptist Church, Trussville.
During the rally, Hunt shared a message to encourage volunteers for Saturday’s Crossover evangelism outreach event, held annually in that year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting host city.
In Birmingham this week, teams of college and seminary students have been going out prayer walking, serving in local churches’ Vacation Bible School and doing door-to-door evangelistic visits. On Saturday – the main event – volunteers from across the state and SBC will gather at eight hub churches to break into teams and share the gospel in the surrounding neighborhoods.
After Hunt spoke, Bill Fay, author of Share Jesus Without Fear, spent about an hour training volunteers in simple ways to talk to people about their spiritual condition.
Fay told those present that he hoped practicing some basic conversations would help them “find a great, great, brand new freedom that absolutely, unconditionally you cannot fail.”
First, he recommended approaching homes and putting residents at ease by telling them they were out collecting prayer requests. That separates them from salesmen and other people who might do a cold-call visit at their home. Then if the person is open to it, volunteers can pray with him or her right there.
“Here’s why this is different and powerful … when you, who are connected through the power of the Holy Spirit open your mouth and pray, we see people cry, break down, weep, get stunned because they’re not used to hearing someone talk to God,” Fay said.
From there, he suggested asking them easy-entry questions such as, “By the way, do you have any spiritual beliefs?” and “What is your understanding of who Jesus is?”
That allows them to talk and allows you to listen and find out where they are spiritually and if Jesus is a personal Savior to them, Fay said.
From there, teams can ask questions like, “Do you think there is a heaven or hell?” and “By the way, if you believed something that was not true, would you want to know it?”
Fay said volunteers’ obedience to ask the questions and share truth when people are receptive is all God asks them to do.
“It’s all about God. No one comes to Christ unless the Father does it,” he said. “You can’t blow this, but you sure can be part of it.”
Hunt also said the gospel “spoken in human weakness is being confirmed in divine power.”
“It’s not our job to convince anybody of anything – that’s the work of the Holy Spirit of God,” he said. “We ought to have confidence in the message.”
As part of the event, each site began the night with its own worship music. Wes Hampton of the Gaither Vocal Band led worship at The Church at Brook Hills, and local choirs and worship teams led at the satellite locations. The rally ended with a corporate call to the altar to pray for Crossover.
Volunteers who were unable to attend the rally can get the same training at one of the Crossover hub sites June 8 at 8:30 a.m. Teams will go out visiting – rain or shine – starting at 9:30.
For more information or a list of hub churches, visit crossoverbhm.org or call 334-613-2258.

6/7/2019 9:52:49 AM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

HHS stops internal fetal tissue research

June 7 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and other pro-life leaders welcomed the President Donald Trump administration’s newly announced decision to halt internal research by a federal entity using tissue from electively aborted babies.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced June 5 the discontinuation of research within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions.
Regarding fetal tissue research, HHS also disclosed:

  • The establishment of an ethics advisory board to review proposals for external experiments, such as at universities, using tissue from elective abortions and to recommend whether NIH should provide funding.

  • The funding of efforts to develop and certify alternatives to the use of human tissue from elective abortions in HHS-supported research.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), noted he is “grateful for this action.” He described the new policy as “a significant step toward restoring medical ethics in research at NIH.”
“The bodies of children are not resources to be harvested,” Moore said in an ERLC news release. “We have learned troubling things in recent years about the relationship between the medical profession and the abortion industry. No government should exploit innocent human life as a means to an end for any purpose.”
Undercover videos in 2015 reportedly provided evidence that Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider, was trading in body parts from aborted babies. The secretly recorded videos appeared to show various Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate the lethal procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a Southern Baptist, called the HHS action “an important ethical and moral decision that will help shape our future as a nation to protect the life and dignity of every person.”
“Every human being should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter their age,” Lankford said in a written statement. ”We cannot in one moment say that an unborn child is not a person but then recognize the humanity and value for the purpose of research.”
Research using tissue from aborted babies is not only unethical but ineffective, pro-life advocates noted. Fetal tissue research has not resulted in any clinical treatments, they said.
David Prentice – vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute – said in a release that such sources as adult stem cells and iPS cells “have been used in the production of treatments, vaccines and medicines currently on the market; the key is that our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life.”
It is estimated NIH was to spend $120 million in fetal tissue research in the 2019 financial year before the announcement, according to the office of pro-life champion Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
The largest professional organization of stem cell researchers criticized the new HHS policy regarding internal research and expressed misgivings about the standards that the advisory board will use in reviewing funding requests for external research.
Doug Melton, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, said fetal tissue research has saved millions of lives through the production of vaccines for such diseases as polio. Regarding HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, Melton said in a written statement the HHS policy will delay research and “set back the development of potential therapies.”
In its June 5 announcement, HHS said it discontinued in September 2018 a contract in which the federal Food and Drug Administration obtained tissue of aborted children from Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for experimentations. At the time, HHS began a review of its research involving body parts from elective abortions to determine if it complied with the laws and regulations governing such experimentation.
The review led not only to the ban on NIH internal research, but the decision not to extend further a contract with the University of California, San Francisco involving tissue from elective abortions. In its announcement, HHS said, “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration.”
Funding for research on tissue from aborted babies has been a federal battleground for more than 30 years. A ban on federal funding of such research existed from 1988 to 1993, when President Clinton struck it down two days after he took office. The fight over federal funding has occurred at different points since then, while private funding of fetal tissue research is permitted.
In a September letter, Moore joined more than 40 other pro-life leaders in urging HHS Secretary Alex Azar to halt federal use of aborted baby tissue for research. The letter followed a report of the contract between the FDA and ABR.
The letter cited investigations by the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Senate Judiciary Committee that reported evidence of the violation of federal laws on the purchase and sale of fetal tissue. ABR was among the organizations referred for criminal investigation for possibly colluding with abortion facilities and potentially profiting from the sale of tissue from aborted babies, according to the letter.

6/7/2019 9:46:03 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Jamie Dew elected pres. of New Orleans Seminary

June 6 2019 by Marilyn Stewart and Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

James K. “Jamie” Dew Jr. has been elected ninth president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) in a special called trustee meeting June 5.

Jamie and Tara Drew

Dew comes to NOBTS from his position as vice president for undergraduate studies and distance learning at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C.
“I’m humbled to the core of my being,” Dew said in accepting the NOBTS position. “I’m going to give you everything I have. I believe we’re going to have a fantastic time as we go forward together.”
Trustee chairman Tony Lambert pointed to Proverbs 21:1 in announcing Dew’s election, adding, “Today, we ask that this will always be true for the now president and professor of Christian philosophy,” reflecting the passage’s picture of “channeled water in the Lord’s hand.”
Frank Cox, chairman of the presidential search committee, said each of the four final candidates were excellent choices, but that the committee became convinced that God was leading them to Dew.
“There are certain times in my life when I know that God showed up,” Cox said of the interview process that confirmed Dew as the nominee. “This was one of those times.”
The search committee announced May 20 its unanimous decision to nominate Dew to succeed Chancellor Chuck Kelley, who retires July 31.
Dew laid out his vision for the seminary, with the Great Commission as his focus in pledging his commitment to equipping students to follow Christ and go “to all nations” sharing the gospel and leading lives of service to others.
“I will give you everything that I am to champion New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” he stated.
Dew’s academic credentials include a Ph.D. in theological studies from Southeastern and a Ph.D. in philosophy conferred this summer from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. His holds a master of divinity in pastoral ministry from Southeastern and an undergraduate degree in biblical studies from Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Ga.
Elected to Southeastern’s faculty in 2011, Dew was named dean of the College at Southeastern in 2013; his role was expanded in 2014 to his current vice presidential position, supervising the college, all aspects of distance learning, the prison programs and the writing center. Dew also teaches and mentors SEBTS undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in his role as associate professor of philosophy and the history of ideas.
Dew is the author of four books: Philosophy: A Christian Introduction, God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views, How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology and God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain.
An extensive presidential search process was initiated after Chuck Kelley’s October 2018 announcement that he planned to retire on July 31. Cox, chairman of the NOBTS trustee board at the time, selected a diverse committee to conduct the presidential search. Its 11 members, NOBTS noted, included male, female, Asian, African American and Caucasian members representing a wide range of backgrounds including educators, administrators, pastors, students and business leaders.
Bo Rice, search committee member and NOBTS dean of graduate studies, said the committee felt God’s leading from their first meeting with Dew.
“From the outset, we heard [Dew’s] passion for training ministers and missionaries who would be part of fulfilling the Great Commission,” Rice said. “We were encouraged as he began to discuss an exciting vision for the future.”
Married for 18 years, Dew and his wife Tara are the parents of two sets of twins – Natalie and Nathan, 11, and Samantha and Samuel, 8. Tara Dew holds a doctor of education degree from Southeastern focusing on the preparedness of pastors’ wives.
Nine members of the board of trustees served on the search committee: Bryant Barnes (Miss.), Jack Bell (La.), Frank Cox (Ga.), John Foster (La.), Jackie Myers (La.), Gary Shows (Miss.), David Um (Mass.), Dan Wilson (Calif.) and David Leavell (Tenn.) Alternates Tony Lambert (Colo.) and Waylon Bailey (La.) joined the search committee this spring as Leavell and Bell stepped down for personal reasons. Bo Rice, NOBTS dean of graduate studies, represented the faculty on the committee. Michael Wang was the student representative. Tony Lambert (Colo.) was an alternate.
Rice said he was impressed that Dew had a clear vision for the seminary despite having “very little personal knowledge of the institution.”
“It became apparent that the Lord was opening the eyes of Dr. Dew to see a bright future for our beloved New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” Rice said.
Cox said the committee received many nominations from Southern Baptists including three African American nominees and one Hispanic nominee. In total, he noted, the committee carefully reviewed 20 candidates.
The committee placed a high priority on church ministry experience from the beginning of the search process. Since 1996, Dew has engaged in a wide range of church ministries, including stints as youth minister, minister to adults, interim pastor and senior pastor. Dew served eight years as senior pastor of Stony Hill Baptist Church in Wake Forest, N.C., and currently serves as a care group leader, discipleship leader and AWANA leader at Open Door Church in Wake Forest.
Tony Lambert, chairman of the board of trustees, said, “I do believe our greatest days are ahead.”

6/6/2019 12:00:25 PM by Marilyn Stewart and Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Greear: Love well, tip well, come ready for #SBC19

June 6 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

Love each other, love Birmingham well and be ready to ask tough questions – that was J.D. Greear’s challenge to the thousands of Southern Baptists planning to gather in Alabama for their annual meeting June 11-12.

Screen capture from Facebook

Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), shared his thoughts on the upcoming event in a Facebook Live video posted June 4 [see below]. In the video, he talked about the meeting’s focus on sharing the gospel, using your profession for missions, and addressing sexual abuse in the church.
He also challenged messengers to tip 20 percent or more in Birmingham restaurants as a way of showing Christ’s love to the city – #tip20, as he is calling it – and be kind to any protestors who may be present outside the meeting venue.
“For Southern Baptists, we know that the reason we come together is ... the purposes of the gospel,” said Greear, who also serves as pastor of The Summit Church in the Durham-Raleigh, N.C., area. “Our unity is in the gospel. Our mission is defined by the gospel.”
That’s why this year’s meeting theme is “Gospel Above All,” he noted. Greear hopes that in Birmingham and elsewhere people will know Southern Baptists by their love and their unity around the central message of Christ, even if they disagree on secondary matters.
“We want to come with hearts that are bent toward unity [and] charity toward each other,” Greear said as he talked with interviewer Todd Unzicker, who also serves in pastoral leadership at The Summit Church.
One way Greear hopes Southern Baptists will rise to the challenge is through “Who’s Your One?,” an effort encouraging each individual to focus on one relationship with gospel intentionality.
“Ordinary people are the tip of the gospel spear,” Greear said, noting that the decline of Southern Baptist churches will only turn around if individual members embrace the challenge.
He also mentioned Go 2, a challenge for college students and young professionals to spend the first two years after they graduate at a Southern Baptist church plant. The idea is that they would support a new church planter by getting a professional job in that city and serving alongside them in ministry.
Greear, along with the presidents of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, will roll out more details on Go 2 at the annual meeting.
“You’ve got to get a job somewhere,” he said. “Why not get a job where God is doing something amazing?”
Greear also shared his hopes for how messengers would discuss the topic of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
“We need to have a posture of lament,” he said. “Whether or not it’s happened to me, to somebody I know or somebody in my church, it’s happened to churches that bear the name Southern Baptist, and we need to lament that, lament the pain of victims and grieve with them. Lament that it happened on our watch.”
In addition to a right heart, Greear said Southern Baptists need to have the right training and resources on the issue. He recommended “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,” a new curriculum available at churchcares.com.
At the annual meeting, Greear and other leaders will challenge churches with a unified call to action involving a several-step process.
“We’re going to have a statement, but a statement is not enough,” he told listeners. “You’re going to see some changes ... of just making explicit how we feel about sexual abuse, and not only how we feel about it, but what we’re going to do about it.”
The process is “not onerous” but will provide churches with vital first steps to show the community they mean business and that they want their churches to be a safe place.
“This (topic) is not a distraction from our mission – this is a gospel issue,” Greear said. “It tells the world what we believe about God’s care for the vulnerable and also takes out an obstacle that many people have in hearing about Christ.”
In the days leading up to the annual meeting, Greear will be participating in Crossover Birmingham events, preaching at the local Sixth Avenue Baptist Church and touring the city’s civil rights sites with Mayor Randall Woodfin. As soon as the meeting is over, he and his wife Veronica and four children will head to Southeast Asia for an International Mission Board meeting and then spend several weeks engaging in hands-on missions.

To watch the full video, visit facebook.com/pastorgreear.

6/6/2019 11:50:37 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Louisiana pastor Michael Wood to be pastors’ VP nominee

June 6 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Michael Wood, lead pastor of First West church in West Monroe, La., will be nominated for vice president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, Tennessee pastor Jordan Easley has announced.

Michael Wood

Wood has “a love for the local church and our convention,” said Easley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tenn. “He has a passion for lost people and a personal conviction to preach the gospel, make disciples and mobilize people to live on mission.”
Wood has led First West since 2014, serving the congregation as student pastor the previous five years.
He served on the 2017-2018 Young Leaders Advisory Council of the SBC Executive Committee, which Easley chaired, and is co-founder of the Louisiana Young Pastors Network. Also in the SBC, he has been a member of the Committee on Committees in 2016 and 2019.

Wood additionally is executive director of Multiply NELA, a church multiplication and revitalization initiative in northeast Louisiana.
First West, with a total membership of 8,626, recorded 93 baptisms in 2018 and average worship attendance of 2,487, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile data.
The church’s Cooperative Program giving of $279,996 was 5.4 percent of $5,984,287 from 2018’s undesignated receipts. Its Great Commission Giving toward all Southern Baptist causes (state, national and international) totaled $805,000.
Easley said First West is a sponsor church for multiethnic churches in New Orleans and northeast Louisiana and has mission partners in Slovenia, Greece, Thailand, Germany, Wales and Tanzania.
Wood, who has been in ministry nearly 20 years, is in doctor of ministry studies through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He holds a master of arts in Christian education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University.
He and his wife Abby met at OBU and have four children.
The June 9-10 Pastors’ Conference precedes the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala. To date, Wood is the lone nominee for vice president and David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., is the lone nominee for president.

6/6/2019 11:43:50 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chitwood to emeritus missionaries: ‘Nobody’s done’

June 6 2019 by Ann Lovell, Baptist Press

Karl and Peggy Wallace were in the next-to-last group of missionaries appointed by then-Foreign Mission Board President Baker James Cauthen in 1978. The Wallaces served 40 years in Peru and Colombia with the FMB, now International Mission Board (IMB), under five different presidents through seven major reorganizations.

“I always tell new people not to worry about changes,” Peggy Wallace said. “Just be faithful to where God has placed you.”
The Wallaces were among 22 missionaries recognized by the IMB in a service near Richmond, Va., May 30. They represent a cumulative total of nearly 600 years of missionary service, IMB President Paul Chitwood said.
These men and women “have given to the cause of taking the gospel to the nations generously and joyfully,” Chitwood said. “We praise the Lord for them.”

Work yet to do

As with most missionary gatherings, it had the feeling of a family reunion, filled with reconnections, stories and memories. The service capped a week of recognition and support for the retiring missionaries, who traveled from locations across the country to attend.

Photo by Roy M. Burroughs, IMB
Friends surround and pray for Karl and Peggy Wallace, with IMB nametags, in an emeritus recognition service May 30. The Wallaces served 40 years with the IMB in the Americas.

But for those retiring missionaries who might think their service is “over,” the message was clear: There is still work to be done.
WMU Executive Director/Treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin, in her remarks to the group, quoted the U.S. Army’s first general order: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”

“We rejoice in all that God has done through you for the sake of the gospel around the world,” Wisdom-Martin said. “But I want to say to you – and I hope it’s not too bold of me – tonight you are merely getting your transfer orders. You have not yet been discharged. There’s work yet to do. Your post assignment has changed, but the work hasn’t been completed.”
Wisdom-Martin assured the missionaries that their continued service is essential to the work of the church in the world.
“We need you now more than ever,” she said. “We need you to shine light in dark places here at home. We need you to show us how to be resilient in the face of difficulties. We need you to show us how to become faithful because our culture has experienced the death of loyalty. We need you. I hope you hear me say that. We need you.”

Remember with joy


Photo by Roy M. Burroughs, IMB
Richard and Fran Kelly, right, who are retiring after 20 years with the IMB in Sub-saharan Africa, reconnect with friends at the IMB emeritus recognition service May 30. In the early years of their ministry, Richard and a coworker prayerwalked from village to village over the entire country of Gambia.

Chitwood thanked the retiring missionaries on behalf of Southern Baptists, preaching from Philippians 1:3-6, encouraging them to remember their service with joy, just as the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians in the letter he wrote from a prison cell.
“I don’t know what your time on the field was like,” Chitwood said. “We heard some snippets tonight.... We heard about some real challenges, heartache and loss.... But I want to encourage you to be joyful in your memories.... Dwell on the victories. Call to mind those experiences that bring a smile to your face, a chuckle or even a good, long laugh.”

“Why? Because as sovereign as God is over the victories, He is sovereign over the defeats,” Chitwood said. “As sovereign as God is over the successes, He is sovereign over the failures. He is sovereign over the pleasant experiences and the painful ones.”
Because God works all things together “for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purposes,” the apostle Paul could focus on the good, Chitwood said. “And so can we.”
“I’m not at all trying to dismiss or forget the challenges,” Chitwood said. “We just love you and thank God for you. We think you ought to have joy from having given your life the way you’ve given it and lived your life the way you’ve lived it, even if there was much pain and hardship involved.”

Still a place

Photo by Roy M. Burroughs, IMB
"Tonight you are merely getting your transfer orders," WMU Executive Director/Treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin tells Southern Baptists' newest emeritus missionaries. "You have not yet been discharged. There's work yet to do. Your post assignment has changed, but the work hasn't been completed."

Echoing Wisdom-Martin’s appeal, Chitwood also told the retiring missionaries, “There’s still a place for you.”
He shared a conversation from earlier in the day he had with a missionary who retired from the IMB a number of years ago. Now in his 80s, the retired missionary continues to make regular trips to Southeast Asia and speak and write about his experiences.
“He is still carrying the gospel to the nations,” Chitwood said. “He told me to tell you, ‘There is still a place for you.’”
Chitwood reminded the missionaries that the work of global evangelism is not yet done.
“Nobody’s done,” Chitwood said. “This isn’t a funeral. There are no caskets here. Keep finding ways to serve and to be a part of this work. Your partnership in the gospel doesn’t end until the work is complete.”

6/6/2019 11:33:55 AM by Ann Lovell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gene editing should be banned, bioethicists say

June 5 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical bioethicists are calling for a ban – not just a moratorium – on gene editing even as it is being reported that fertility clinics desire to use the controversial technology.
Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced in November the births of the first genetically edited children, twin girls named Lulu and Nana. He led an effort in which the girls’ DNA was altered through the use of a tool known as CRISPR to guard them from the HIV virus their father has, He said.
Though news of the gene-edited babies drew widespread criticism, fertility clinics contacted He to ask him to teach their staffs gene editing for application in their services, according to a May 28 report by the news site STAT, which is produced by Boston Globe Media to report on health, medicine and scientific discovery. A fertility clinic in Dubai emailed He in early December with such a request, and other centers made similar appeals to He, said William Hurlbut, an ethicist and senior research scholar at Stanford University Medical School. Hurlbut has advised He regarding the ethics of his work, STAT reported.
While some scientists have proposed an international moratorium on gene editing, evangelical bioethicists contacted by Baptist Press (BP) said a temporary hold is inadequate.
Southern Baptist bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell told BP the “only way to prevent future harm to human beings is to ban the procedure and attach stiff penalties for violation of the law.”
He’s announcement “was a siren that signaled an urgent need for global policy to ban human germline gene editing,” said Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University, in emailed comments. “There is no way germline gene editing in humans can pass ethical muster.”
Mitchell told BP he has submitted a resolution on gene editing to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Committee for consideration at the SBC annual meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.
Joy Riley, executive director of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture, questioned why some people – “no matter how well trained” – would be permitted to make changes to the human genome that threaten to cause harm when inherited.
“Some have called for a moratorium,” she told BP by email. “That is insufficient. It should be a ban.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “The move to design babies is indeed a significant move from seeing children as gifts to seeing children as tech.
“Technology is about tools, and we need tools,” Moore told BP in emailed remarks. “But technology is only good if it is subservient to something greater, to the mystery of humanity, to human beings who know that our tools may be means to an end but that people never are.”
Mitchell, editor of the international journal Ethics & Medicine, offered three reasons gene editing is unethical:

  • “First, He’s experiments sacrificed dozens of human embryos. This was the first level of unethical practice.

  • “Second, He altered the germ cells or reproductive cells of the human subjects in his research. We should not alter the reproductive cells (sperm or egg) because those alterations will be passed from one generation to the next. If we create a genetic condition that either causes a disability or death, we are responsible for those results. And those alterations will be passed from generation to generation. There is no ethical way to run clinical trials of germline gene editing in humans.

  • “Finally, the whole enterprise is fraught with eugenic implications. Children – abled or disabled – are a gift, not a do-it-yourself project. We should not be designing our descendants.”

It now appears He’s success may prove more harmful than helpful. Two researchers reported June 3 that people with the rare genetic variants He sought to edit into the twin embryos to protect them from HIV actually have a 21 percent higher mortality rate than those with the more prevalent gene, STAT reported. The report appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.
In a January email to Hurlbut, He said he recognizes he “pushed too quickly into a first-of-kind clinical study without the necessary open dialog with regulators, the scientific community, and the public,” according to STAT. He was dismissed by Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen after he announced the births of the genetically edited twins.
Congress, however, is considering eliminating a ban on gene editing for the purpose of creating a baby. The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee was expected to vote June 4 on a spending bill that would drop a ban established in late 2015, STAT reported. On May 23, a subcommittee approved a bill that funds the Food and Drug Administration without the provision.
Riley, a physician, described human gene editing as “a grave error. We have a responsibility to succeeding generations to receive them as gifts – not experiment upon them as projects.”
“Would any of us sign up to be someone else’s science project? For governments to allow such experimentation upon embryos is unconscionable,” she told BP.
“C.S. Lewis was correct when he wrote in The Abolition of Man, ‘For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means ... the power of some men to make other men what they please.’”

6/5/2019 12:09:48 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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