March 2009

Wildfire victims grateful for Christians’ aid

March 11 2009 by Ann Lynn, Baptist Press

BGR Photo

In two Horn of Africa communities where wildfires destroyed houses, livestock and meager food supplies, a grant from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund provided needed relief.

HORN OF AFRICA — Driven by the wind, the flames leaped swiftly from one grass roof to another. Cries rang out: “Fire! Fire!”

By the time the fire’s rage had played out, 21 homes had been destroyed, displacing more than 300 people.

“We saved our lives only,” one villager said. “Everything else burned — our grain storage and our animals.”

The homes in this African community are made of mud and straw, fixed to a circle of wooden poles anchored in the ground. The roof, made of dried grass, provides perfect kindling for a fire.

Two hours away, a fire swept through another community, burning more than 50 homes.

The loss of the grain stores hurt everyone in both communities. Neighbors divided their supplies to help families in need, but, the villager said, “There wasn’t nearly enough grain to feed the whole community for the year.”

With all the livestock gone as well, they knew starvation was a real possibility — but assistance was on its way, thanks to Southern Baptists and their World Hunger Fund.

“We provided $35,000 worth of grain and tin to both communities,” said a Southern Baptist field partner who directed the relief effort in cooperation with Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development organization. “The tin for roofing and three months of grain should hold them until their harvest.”

The field partner and his wife had created a humanitarian organization to focus on community improvement. They partnered with local governments to find families in dire need and provide short-term help, lasting from two months to two years, and to teach the villagers how to use the resources they have available to improve their lives.

A few months earlier, the field partner went to the local government office, hoping to find a way they could help that would not require a lot of personnel, since their organization already was managing a comprehensive project.

He was surprised at the response he received: “We have been waiting for you to come in,” the official told him.

The official informed him about the fires and the seemingly hopeless situation the villages were in, with families forced to live in black tarp tents for several weeks. With no homes and their belongings reduced to piles of ash, the people came to the office every day seeking help.

The government did not have the resources to help so many people but had heard of the new humanitarian organization and hoped they would be willing to help.

When the field partner heard the story, he knew he could help the two communities but he did not have the funds on hand. That prompted him to contact Baptist Global Response. BGR can respond immediately to natural disasters and long-term community development needs through hunger and relief donations provided by Southern Baptist churches. Because administrative costs already are covered by Southern Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program, contributions to the World Hunger Fund are directed to the field to assist people in need in the United States and overseas.

“Baptist Global Response provided enough funding for us to give 52 sheets of tin to each family,” the field partner said. “We also were able to give foodstuff — five liters of oil and 150 kilos of grain every month for three months.”

The families who received assistance used the materials to do more than build a home. They combined resources and built homes large enough to house their entire extended families — 10 to 20 people. They also fed their families and started planting.

“We’ve been privileged to see one-on-one grass-roots help that really works,” the field partner’s wife said. “I see that it does make a difference in their lives.”

The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is a crucial ministry that connects people who care with people in need, said Abraham Shepherd, who directs Baptist Global Response work in North Africa.

“The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is crucial for sustaining people in a desperate situation, in order for them not only to survive, but to have a glimpse of hope,” Shepherd said.

It will take several years for these communities to rebuild, but they are optimistic and thankful for what they have.

“They saved our lives,” one resident said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lynn is a Southern Baptist field partner of Baptist Global Response. Contributions to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund make projects like this possible.)

3/11/2009 10:00:00 AM by Ann Lynn, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Research: Faith lowers stress, makes tasks easier

March 11 2009 by Ron Csillag, Religion News Service

TORONTO — Canadian researchers have found that strong religious convictions can lower stress and enhance the performance of basic tasks.

A team in Toronto put 28 students through tests measuring both levels of religious observance and stress caused by making mistakes on a test.

The newly published study (pdf file) by professors at the University of Toronto and York University points to religious believers out-performing non-believers on cognitive tasks.

“The more religious they were, the less brain activity they showed in response to their own errors,” said University of Toronto assistant psychology professor Michael Inzlicht, lead author of the study. “They are calmer when they make errors.”

Researchers asked subjects, who were from a variety of faith backgrounds, to complete a “religious zeal” questionnaire. Subjects were then given a test asking they name the color of the letters in words such as “red” or “blue” (in which the word “red” may appear in blue letters).

Using electrodes, researchers monitored brain activity and found subjects with high levels of religious observance experienced less activity in the part of the brain that governs anxiety and helps modify behavior. The more religious zeal individuals showed, the better they did on the test.

“The more they believe, the less brain activity we see in response to their own errors,” Inzlicht said. “(Religious people) were much less anxious and stressed when they made an error.”

The study also found that even moderate religious belief resulted in lower levels of anxiety than among non-believers.

3/11/2009 9:44:00 AM by Ron Csillag, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Healing Africa’s wounded urban heart

March 10 2009 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sixty-six “poor urban settlements” — some small, some enormous — bump against Nairobi’s sleek, downtown skyline like moths circling a light bulb.

Kibera, a 6-kilometer-long expanse of tin-roofed shacks following the railway, is home to 1 million people — one of the largest slums in the world. Mathare counts at least 500,000 people. Dandora surrounds a city dump that stretches as far as the eye can see.
 
The “poor urban settlements” contain more than half of the 4 million people (some say 5 million) in Kenya’s capital city, but they occupy only part of the urban landscape.

Extensive middle-class and upscale communities lie west of Nairobi’s central business district — roughly where white Europeans lived during former British colonial rule. The city center pulses with the energy of business, universities, embassies, national government, culture and night life.

Nairobi is the economic, political and cultural capital of East Africa. Most multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations and Christian mission groups involved in the region base offices there.

“It’s a continental city,” says Jon Sapp, the International Mission Board’s former regional leader for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.

A growing Nairobi business class includes members of the so-called “Obama generation” — young, educated Kenyans energized by a new U.S. president with Kenyan family ties. Another major segment of Nairobi’s economy is run by ethnic South Asians with longstanding ties to the city.

Nearly every African language is spoken in Nairobi; nearly every major African people group is represented.

“We have sides of town that are Muslim and Christian,” observes a missionary. “There are areas where little pockets of countries live, like Eastleigh. Nairobi has every religion you can find in the world: Hindu, Buddhist, animist, African traditional religions, Christianity, hundreds of cults.”

Roiling cauldron
Nairobi’s size and importance are remarkable when you consider that the city didn’t exist little more than a century ago. It was born in 1899 on swampy Maasai tribal land as a way station for the railroad built by the British from Mombasa on Kenya’s coast to Lake Victoria in Uganda.

In Maasai, “Nairobi” means “cool waters.” Today it is a roiling cauldron of peoples, cultures and classes. The city counted about 350,000 residents when it became the capital of a newly independent Kenya in 1963. The population has multiplied at least tenfold since, a source of its vitality — and its growing problems.

Unemployment hovers above 50 percent. Five thousand new arrivals — and 3,000 additional cars — flood the city’s already-overwhelmed roads each month. Crime grows increasingly violent and brazen. The wealthy take cover in gated communities. The poor have no such option.

“The biggest challenge for the city is so many young people with nothing to do,” missionary Jerry Stephens observes. “So they find something bad to do.”

Christian missions long focused primarily on rural Kenya. Still, Nairobi has many vital evangelical churches. Kenyan Baptists count some 60 congregations in the city. But Nairobi has grown too large and chaotically diverse for its existing churches. They are “dwarfed by the degree of lostness,” Southern Baptist missionary Doug Lee says. “You take those 60 churches and add up their attendance and it’s just not even beginning to have an effect on this large city.”
 
Another problem: 80 percent of all Kenyans claim to be “Christian.” But the mile-wide, inch-deep nature of their Christianity was revealed by the bloody inter-tribal violence after the December 2007 elections. Most of the killing unfolded outside Nairobi, but more than 100 people died in the city. Thousands more were driven from their homes.

“Where were the ‘80 percent’ of ‘Christians’?” Baptist leader Shem Okello asks. “‘Christians’ were burning churches.”

In Nairobi, the number of self-identified evangelicals is about 16 percent, according to Lee. Partnering with Kenyan Baptists, the International Mission Board’s metro missionary teams are working to reach the rest, including university students, the business class, Asians — and slum dwellers, the majority of the population.

“We realized that a tenth of the whole country now lives in Nairobi,” Lee says. “We’re not going to win the country until we win the city.”

The key to winning Nairobi, adds Stephens, “is discipleship. We’re not going to reach this city without mature believers.” Believers who immediately pass on what they learn from God’s Word.

Believers like William Ochienga, who sells mobile-phone minutes from a kiosk near a busy roundabout in Baba Dogo, another of the city’s sprawling slums. “Everyone around here knows me,” he says, and he knows everyone.

He came to faith in Jesus through “T4T” (Training for Trainers) teaching. Now he closes his kiosk once a week and opens a tiny room in back. There he teaches the stories of truth so that others may teach in turn.

Pray:

  • for Nairobi’s slum dwellers, middle and upper classes, Asian ethnics and immigrant groups to be reached with the Good News of Christ.

  • for “T4T” groups to multiply throughout the city.

  • for Nairobi Christians to envision a new model of evangelism and church planting that doesn’t depend on expensive buildings or highly trained leaders.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is a global correspondent with the International Mission Board.)

3/10/2009 5:24:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S. growing less religious, less ‘Christian’

March 10 2009 by Wire reports

The nation has grown less religious in the last two decades, a new study shows, with a 10 percent drop in the number of people who call themselves Christians and increases in all 50 states among those who are not aligned with any faith.

Between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Christian dropped from 86 percent to 76 percent, reports the new American Religious Identification Survey, a wide-ranging survey released March 9.

The group that researchers call the “Nones” — atheists, agnostics, and other secularists — have almost doubled in that time period, from 8.2 percent to 15 percent.

And, in a further indication of growing secularism, more than a quarter of Americans — 27 percent — said they do not expect to have a religious funeral when they die.

“Traditionally, historically, people are interested in their immortal soul, salvation, heaven and hell,” said Barry Kosmin, the co-author of the survey and director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Connecticut.

“If you don't have a religious funeral, you're probably not interested in heaven and hell.”

The survey of more than 54,000 respondents followed similar large studies in 2001 and in 1990.

Though the largest increase in “Nones” occurred between 1990 and 2001 (from 8.2 percent to 14.1 percent), Kosmin said more people have been willing to identify themselves as atheist or agnostic in the last seven years.

“There's the anti-religious group among what we call the ‘Nones,’” he said, “but then the kind of nonreligious, the irreligious ... have also increased.”

In the past, the typical “None” was a young, single male living in the West, but the image of the nonreligious is broader now, even if it remains 60 percent male.

“It's increasingly middle age and relatively across the board, less specific now,” Kosmin said. “It's increasingly ex-Catholics in New England.”

In fact, researchers found that while there was a 14 percent drop in self-identified Catholics in New England — from 50 percent to 36 percent — there was an increase in Nones of exactly the same percentage — from 8 to 22 percent.

Mark Silk, who directs Trinity College's Program on Public Values and helped design the new study, said the almost threefold increase in “Nones” in New England was larger than the increases in other states.

“You've got Vermont, 34 percent Nones,” said Silk, co-author of One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics. “Northern New England now is more the None zone. The Pacific Northwest is still up there but the increase in New England, that's very striking. It says a lot about the decline of Catholicism.”

The research echoes findings of a recent Gallup Poll that revealed that 42 percent of Vermonters said that religion is “an important part” of their daily lives — the lowest percentage of state residents polled across the country.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the findings — including that more than one quarter of Americans don't expect a religious funeral — really bring home the secular nature of a sizable slice of the U.S. population.

“As an evangelical Christian, I see this as further evidence of the fact that American Christians live in the midst of a vast mission field and this should be a wake-up call — I would say, yet another wake-up call — to the magnitude of our task in sharing the gospel in modern America,” he said.

Beyond the secular nature of the country, the survey found a surge in the number of people who called themselves “nondenominational Christians,” from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in 2008.

“Brand loyalty is gone,” Kosmin said. “Those labels are no longer meaningful.”

Researchers also found that 45 percent of American Christians consider themselves born-again or evangelicals — including 39 percent of mainline Christians and 18 percent of Catholics — which could indicate that exit pollsters may be hearing from a broad range of “evangelicals.”

Experts say the “Nones” figure, combined with increases in “nondenominational” numbers, explain why mainline Protestantism continues to be a shrinking phenomenon, from 18.7 percent in 1990 to 12.9 percent in 2008.

“What you see is the erosion of the religious middle ground,” said Kosmin. “Liberal (mainline Protestant) religion has been eroded by irreligion and conservative religion.”

The overall findings are based on phone interviews with 54,461 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. Certain questions, including the one about religious rituals such as funerals, were asked of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

About Baptists
Baptists may be the grayest of any major religious group in America, according to the study.
 
The report said the 21 percent of people who identify themselves as Baptists are 70 and older.
That compares to 12 percent of the general population, 13 percent of Catholics, 14 percent of mainline Christians and 10 percent of Mormons who fall in that age range.

Forty percent of the national population is 50 or older, while 58 percent of Baptists fall into that age bracket.
 
Related to that, the percentage of Baptists who are widowed is 12 percent, twice the national average. One demographic in which Baptists have far less than their share is among never-marrid singles — who make up 13 percent of Baptists, but a full 25 percent of the general population.
 
Baptists have gained members in the last 18 years, but comprise a smaller percentage of the population than they did when the study first compiled statistics. In 1990 there were 33.9 million Baptists, 19 percent of the population. In 2008 they numbered 36.1 million but declined to 15.8 percent of the population.
 
Baptists are still less educated than the general population and most denominations, but the percentage of Baptists who are college graduates increased from 11 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2008.
 
The survey defines “Baptist” in a broad sense, including Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Free Will, Missionary and African-American denominations.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Articles from Religion News Service and Associated Baptist Press were combined for this report.)

3/10/2009 4:43:00 AM by Wire reports | with 0 comments



Religion playing low-key role in White House

March 10 2009 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Halfway to the 100-day mark, the Obama administration is treading carefully through hot-button religious issues, unveiling key policy changes late in the week and giving its revamped faith-based office a low public profile.

The Obama policies that most inflame religious groups — embryonic stem cell research, lifting restrictions on international family planning and reversing conscience protections for healthcare workers — were all disclosed on Fridays.
 
Even less controversial issues, like the overhaul of the White House faith-based office or where the First Family attends church, have been kept outside the public eye.

Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., said the White House may be cautious because of the campaign controversy involving Obama’s fiery former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and the inauguration uproar over conservative Pastor Rick Warren.   

“Religion hasn’t been a fabulous thing for Obama,” Silk said. “It really seems they’re a little gun-shy.”

Every modern White House has, to some extent, disclosed potentially incendiary news on Fridays, when attention spans and news staffs tend to slacken. The Obama administration denies any attempts to bury controversial news.

Still, some critics aren’t buying it.  

“It must be Friday night because word leaks of yet another deadly executive order by President Obama,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a frequent conservative critic of the president, said March 6 when word of the stem cell change was leaked.

Obama alluded to the “difficult and delicate balance” between enacting liberal policies and appeasing religious conservatives when he officially unveiled the stem cell order in the White House East Room on Monday (March 9).

“Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research,” he said in televised remarks. “I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.”

That’s part of why the White House has moved cautiously, said Shaun Casey, a former adviser to the Obama campaign and an ethicist at Wesley Theological Seminary. He warned against rushing to judgment so early in the new administration.

“I think they’re aware of sensitivity to these issues,” Casey said. “They’re trying to do what Obama said he would do, but not trying to do it in somebody’s face. There’s no play-book for how a Democratic president does this.”

But some observers wonder if the Friday leaks, the low profile of the faith-based office and the absence of the First Family from Washington pews means religion will play a smaller-than-expected role in the Obama administration.

Obama said during the campaign that a new and improved White House office for faith-based and local charities would be “a critical part of my administration.” But when Obama unveiled details about the program in January at the invitation-only National Prayer Breakfast, it was followed by a White House ceremony that was also closed to the media.

Silk noted that the White House has its hands full with a deep economic recession, but wonders why faith-based social service groups have not been prominently called on to help.

“Social service providers have got to be a big part of any dealing with economic hard times,” he said.

White House officials insist the faith-based office is deeply involved in domestic policy planning behind the scenes. “In just a month of operations, the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has made unprecedented progress and is a central part of the president’s agenda,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Nine additional members of the president’s faith-based advisory council will be named shortly, Psaki said, and the council’s quarterly meetings will be open to the media.

“They are tending to business,” Casey said of the faith-based efforts, “not looking to grab headlines. They’re going about this in a workman-like fashion.”

On a personal level, Obama has attended church services in Washington only once, a service at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church on January 18, two days before his inauguration. A White House aide said the administration is still trying to work out the logistics of sending a massive security detail to Sunday service without disrupting the
congregation.

“The First Family plans on worshipping regularly throughout the coming months,” Psaki said.

3/10/2009 4:34:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Angel Food Ministries settles lawsuit

March 10 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Angel Food Ministries, a Georgia-based ministry under investigation by the FBI, has settled a lawsuit filed by two board members who sought to change its leadership.

The ministry that distributes food to the needy issued a statement March 6 saying the suit was dismissed and an agreement reached about its future.

“Joseph Wingo remains the chairman and CEO, and the Wingo family, who founded the ministry and devoted their lives to see it grow, remain at the helm,” the ministry said.

A suit filed in February by board members Craig Atnip of Texas and David “Tony” Prather of Georgia asked a Walton County Superior Court judge to ban Wingo, his wife Linda, and their sons Andy and Wesley from the ministry’s property.

Angel Food, which distributes $30 boxes of food through tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide, has come under scrutiny for unusually large compensation paid to members of the Wingo family.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported March 6 that the agreement calls for the cancellation of the Wingos’ company credit cards and a forensic financial audit of the ministry. Joseph Wingo also is expected to sign over to Angel Food a company he owns that rented a corporate jet to the ministry at a profit of $10,000 a month.

Atnip and Prather agreed to resign from the board, but will retain the ability to take action when the audit is completed, their attorney Thomas Rogers said.

Lawyers speaking during the hearing said Linda Wingo and Andy Wingo have left their positions with the ministry, the newspaper reported.

In a previous statement, Angel Food Ministries acknowledged that a grand jury investigation has begun “into alleged financial irregularities concerning certain individuals.” It claimed the two board members, who accused ministry leaders of enriching themselves, were trying to make a “power grab.”

The board members had countered that they were trying to help the ministry survive after questions were raised about the compensation packages.

In its announcement of the settlement, Angel Food Ministries said it had distributed 530,000 food boxes in February, a ministry milestone.

3/10/2009 4:28:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 1 comments



N.C. Baptists have lots of March meeting options

March 9 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

N.C. Baptists will have plenty to do the third weekend of March as three of the largest meetings of the year are held simultaneously.

The N.C. Baptist Missions Conference and Baptist Men’s Convention will be March 20-21 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.

The Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina’s (WMU-NC) Missions Extravaganza will be March 20-22 at Ridgecrest Conference Center.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s (CBF-NC) annual General Assembly will be March 20-21 at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

The crowded calendar has led to issues for entities that would like to exhibit in front of the crowds at those meetings.

Ruby Fulbright, executive director of WMU-NC, said several Baptist State Convention (BSC) groups that usually have displays at the Missions Extravaganza have chosen not to exhibit this year.

“We asked all the people we always ask and we either haven’t heard back or they said they won’t be exhibiting,” she said.

BSC spokesman Doug Baker said in an e-mail interview that BSC groups chose not to have displays at the WMU-NC meeting. He did not elaborate.

Baker said the BSC’s Cooperative Program office, Church Planting and Embrace women’s ministries will have exhibits at the N.C. Baptist Men meeting.

Fulbright said her group planned to have displays at the other two meetings.

“We also have someone leading a WMU conference at the Baptist Men’s Convention,” she said. “Both CBF-NC and CBF national have a display at our meeting.”

Linda Jones, CBF-NC’s missions coordinator, said she had a representative lined up to work at her group’s WMU-NC meeting display.

“I’m scrambling to find someone to man our booth at the Baptist Men meeting,” she said.

Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men, said his group is also planning to have displays at the other meetings.

“We’re trying to work with everybody,” he said.

CBF-NC Coordinator Larry Hovis said he anticipates that attendance may be down slightly this year because the three groups have “overlapping constituencies.”

“After we discovered this scheduling mistake for 2009, Ruby, Richard and I collaborated in scheduling our meetings from 2010 through 2013 to be sure that they would be held on separate weekends,” he said.

“We value our partnership with both WMU of (North Carolina) and Baptist Men of (North Carolina), pray God’s blessings on their meetings this year, and look forward to growing in our efforts at missional collaboration for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world,” Hovis said.

3/9/2009 9:16:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Blume appoints committee members

March 9 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Baptist State Convention (BSC) Board President Allan Blume announced the membership of several important committees during the March 6 meeting of the Baptist State Convention Executive Committee (EC) at Hollifield Leadership Center.
 
The Executive Committee met for a business session after an overnight retreat, which has become an annual event to enable new members to acquaint themselves with other members and with BSC staff.

The Executive Committee also approved new position descriptions for five staff members and changed the vacant position of African-American church planting consultant to be an urban church planting consultant. That is a position funded jointly by the BSC and the North American Mission Board.

North Carolina’s urban areas are rapidly expanding and urban ministry is an “animal unique unto itself,” said Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development.

“We must work to reach these areas with the gospel,” said Register, who expects the new consultant to develop strategy for each of North Carolina’s large cities, especially in the area of multi-family housing.

The job descriptions of Neal Eller, Cathy Hopkins, Rick Hughes, David Moore and Phil Stone, all staff members of Congregational Services, were amended to more accurately reflect their current responsibilities.  

Revisions also were made for several positions at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, including Kenneth Houston as director of cafeteria services, Bobby Garrett as director of campus services and Thomas Hayes as librarian.

Blume, who said the Executive Committee was “starting a fresh mood here” following approval by messengers in November of revised Articles and Bylaws, announced the membership of several important committees. It is the board president’s responsibility to name these committees, and Blume reminded the EC that these “are appointments and do not require approval.”

Committee on Resolutions: Scott Eanes, Joel Stephens, Craig Bailey, Mark Blair, Jonathan Hall, all currently on the Board of Directors.

Budget Committee: Board of Directors members Sarah Knott; Steve Hardy, chair; Chris Hilliard and Eric Cook. At-large members Don Warren, Steve Mangum, PJ Giaritelli and Scott Davis.

Articles & Bylaws Committee: Board of Directors members Aaron Wallace, Bobby Blanton and Steve Weaver. At-large members Ed Rose, Jim Nance, Nate Jones and Joan Mitchell.

Fruitland Nominating Committee: Cindy Stevens, chair; Anne Beck and David Treadway.

Position Evaluation Committee: Cindy Stevens, chair; Allan Blume, Rick Speas, Mark Harris, Ed Yount and Aaron Wallace.

The Executive Committee affirmed the recommendation of BSC President Rick Speas of Gladys McGlamery, member of Pleasant Home Baptist Church in Millers Creek, to fill the unexpired term of Betty Richardson on the Historical Committee.
 

Friendly cooperation

Wording of the policy by which churches are determined to be “in friendly cooperation” with the BSC was affirmed, to be presented for approval to the full board in May. Because it is a board policy, it will not go to the Convention for a vote by messengers.

The policy language makes it congruent with the Articles and Bylaws changes made by messengers in November.

Board member Kelton Hinton asked if a church would be considered not to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention if it forwarded money from a member designated to an organization that affirmed or endorsed homosexuality, even though the church did not officially support such organization.

He mentioned a specific case where a member from such a church was denied consideration by the nominating committee.

John Butler, executive leader for business services, said the nominating committee will have a chance to consider such a case individually.

He said though, that churches “have to make a decision” on whether to pass through such money.

Passing money from a member through to any organization gives “tacit approval” for the work of that organization, said Steve Hardy, executive committee member.

Butler said since the Convention adopted language in 2006 that defined “in friendly cooperation” in relation to homosexuality, “not a single church” has been named for inquiry. Myers Park named itself and asked the Convention to determine its status in 2007.

Hinton also questioned the inclusion of “association” in document wording which said the issue is in part to keep a healthy relationship between the church, its association and the BSC.

“Why does the BSC concern itself with a church’s relationship with the local association?” Hinton said, asking that the reference to association be deleted.

Hinton is director of missions for the Johnston Association.

“You can only speak for yourself, not for the association,” he said.

Butler responded that the intention is to keep the association in the loop of any discussions concerning a church in the association.

He also reminded Hinton that the BSC Articles and Bylaws say the BSC work is “with and through associations.”

“The language doesn’t force anything onto the association, but gives them the opportunity to be involved,” Butler said.
 

Fruitland

Last month Fruitland asked the Executive Committee for one-half the cost of buying a $154,000 house next to the campus to be used for a women’s dorm. Butler reported that Friends of Fruitland has shouldered the full purchase price and no gift or loan will be needed.

To a question about progress of the Fruitland presidential search committee, Blume said the committee’s work is “moving along expeditiously.”

Eligibility for access to the Convention’s valuable mailing and data files was outlined.

Basically only direct institutions and agencies of the Convention will have access to that data, and only upon written request.

Affiliated and historic institutions and agencies, the associational missions conference and co-laborers such as Woman’s Missionary Union may request use of this data through the administration and convention relations office. The Executive Committee must approve the request, and if it does, the BSC will handle the mailing of materials for the entity. No data files or labels will be released to the entity.

For a church or association to gain access to the data, it must be partnering with a BSC consultant, who must request use of the information.

Similarly, any other national agency or organization must be in partnership on a specific project with the BSC and request the data through the BSC consultant.

The Executive Committee approved a $200,000 loan to Greater Joy Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, which started in September 2008. The loan is to renovate a building given to the church for a worship center.
 

Executive session

Following the brief business meeting, the Executive Committee went into executive session for the third time to discuss the Biblical Recorder. Biblical Recorder board president Mike Smith was present to hear concerns first presented in a letter to Smith in December. The Biblical Recorder officers responded in a letter to the Executive Committee in January. Smith volunteered to appear before the Executive Committee to hear concerns.

Only Smith, Executive Committee members and BSC Executive Leaders were allowed in the executive session.

Although not specified, wording in the Executive Committee’s original letter to Smith indicates the original complaint stems from an interpretation of a piece printed under the editor’s online column entitled “Throw the bums out.”

The complainant evidently felt it endorsed a political candidate and supported homosexuality.

Issues discussed beyond that remain undisclosed through executive session privilege.

3/9/2009 9:12:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



SBC pastor killed in church shooting

March 9 2009 by Baptist Press

MARYVILLE, Ill. — A Southern Baptist pastor who previously served as the president of the Illinois Baptist State Association was killed Sunday when a gunman entered the 8:15 a.m. worship service and opened fire.

Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., was killed when the gunman entered the church and opened fire. Winters was 45.

According to the Illinois State Police, the gunman walked into the worship service where 150 were in attendance and spoke briefly with Winters. The gunmen then fired four shots before his .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun jammed. The gunman then stabbed himself with a knife.

Two church members were injured when they tackled the man. One remains hospitalized, while the other has been treated and released.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the gunman is a 27-year-old man from Troy, Ill., whose motive remains unknown. His name will not be released until charges have been filed. He now is hospitalized and in police custody.

Church members said they did not recognize the gunman.

Nate Adams, Illinois Baptist State Association executive director, said, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the Fred Winters family and the church family there at First Baptist, Maryville, during this time of great grief and loss. Fred was a wonderful, gifted, leading pastor in Illinois, and a dear friend. His ministry and mentorship will be missed sorely by many.

“Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything. That He allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust Him no matter what, and draw close to Him in any circumstances. Let's draw closer to Him and to one another during this terrible tragedy, and renew our faith and obedience to His purposes for however many days we have remaining to serve Him.”

The church posted a message on its web site later in the day that read:

“Today, a little after our 8:15 service began, a man entered First Baptist Church and fired several gunshots at our Senior Pastor, Dr. Fred Winters. Pastor Winters was taken to the hospital but died of his wounds.

“Please pray for Dr. Winter’s family, our two brave members who were injured when they stopped the assailant, for the assailant himself and his family, and for our church members as they deal with this tragic loss.

“In this day, where uncertainty seems to abound creating an environment in which people are vulnerable in doing things they might not do otherwise, one thing is certain, we, as human beings need a foundation upon which we can live our lives. We at First Baptist Maryville, along with other Christian believers, share this conviction: that foundation is God’s Word. In the pages of the Book we call the Bible, we find the pathway for peace, hope, and a quality of living life despite what circumstances we find ourselves in.”

“To those who believe in the power of prayer, we covet your prayers right now.”

Winters is survived by his wife Cindy and their two daughters. He became pastor of First Baptist Church in 1987 and was a former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association. He also previously served on the Southern Baptist Committee on Committees.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by staff of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.)

3/9/2009 2:18:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Couple share Christ in Memphis Delta Region

March 7 2009 by Mickey Noah, NAMB

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Six people were found shot and stabbed to death in a mass murder in Memphis’ dangerous Binghamton neighborhood. Three children who survived the attack were hospitalized in critical condition.

And before the dead bodies were cold, yet another shooting and robbery took place in the same gang- and drug-plagued Binghamton area, located just six miles from downtown Memphis.

Southern Baptist missionaries Willie and Ozzie Jacobs Jr. — believing it will take no less than Jesus Christ to once and for all change the crime-culture of Memphis and stop such senseless neighborhood violence and bloodshed — have taken on the challenge.

Although now in their early 60s and married for 41 years, the couple is not ready for matching rocking chairs and simply waiting on monthly Social Security checks. They are on a mission from God in one of the perennial “Top Ten” most dangerous cities in the United States.

“Memphis is in the middle of spiritual warfare,” says Jacobs, when asked about the spiritual climate of Tennessee’s youngest but second largest metro area. “We’re dealing with murder, crime and drugs throughout the city. There’s a racial divide that has plagued Memphis since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King. It’s never healed. There’s also an economic and a political divide. In the middle of all this, we try to do ministry.”
 
And as if ministry in Memphis was not challenging enough, Jacobs serves the North American Mission Board (NAMB) — in partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Mid-South Baptist Association — as regional coordinator of church planting for the four-state Memphis Delta Region, including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri.

The Jacobses are two of 5,500 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. They are among the NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 1-8, 2009.

This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Sowing Together for Harvest.” The 2009 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $65 million, 100 percent of which benefits missionaries like the Jacobses.

Willie and Ozzie (pronounced “O-zie”) didn’t have to transfer to Memphis last July. They were quite happy and content in Columbus, Ohio, where Willie was serving as a church planting strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Before that, he spent 30 years as a full-time pastor — 20 years at a single church — in the Dallas, Texas area. Both Alabama natives, they now live in nearby Collierville, Tenn., and have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.

“For 40 years, we dreamed of the day when we’d become missionaries going to Africa,” he said. “But God allowed the mission field to come to us, after years of experience as a pastor in Texas.

“We came to Memphis because we sensed the lostness and spiritual climate of Memphis. We felt the Lord wanted us to come here and make an impact in new and innovative ways. This is a God-sized job here in Memphis when you look at the enormous responsibility we’ve been given as national missionaries.” He says sometimes it’s almost overwhelming.

Jacobs has launched a multi-pronged strategy for the Memphis area. He does his best to work along aside other predominantly African-American denominations — strong in Memphis — such as the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the National Baptist Convention, although “their concept of missions is quite different from ours as Southern Baptists,” Jacobs admits.

“One of the biggest challenges we face among Southern Baptist churches is to help people change their mindsets about how ministry is done. The churches need to learn new approaches in order to reach people with the gospel, and do it in such a way that’s non-threatening. You have to build relationships,” says Jacobs.

“There’s a real need for churches to realize that ministry takes place on the outside and that a lot of the needs of people are going unmet because church members and fellowships are not going out.”

The greater Memphis area has a population of 1.2 million, making the city Tennessee’s second largest metropolitan area behind Nashville. But with its 674,000 people, Memphis proper is Tennessee’s largest city, the second largest in the South and the 18th largest in the U.S. About 61 percent of Memphians are African-Americans, while 34 percent are Anglo. Another three percent are Hispanic. Jacobs says he knows of 55 different people groups in the Memphis area.

Where do you begin if you’re Willie and Ozzie Jacobs?

“We try to start out by finding a person of peace in the community to help us engage the community,” he explains. “We want to sow down the gospel, start Bible studies and raise up leaders. We’re working with students from the Mid-America Seminary to help us engage the community. We work closely with a zone of churches inside the I-240 loop. As our Bible study groups grow, we’ll try to knit them together to form churches.”

Realizing they can’t possibly cover all of Memphis, the Jacobses concentrate on the inner-city neighborhoods of Binghamton and Klondike, the Frazier, Tenn., area north of Memphis and Whitehaven in south Memphis.

“You’ve got different types of people in all areas that may not go inside a traditional church but yet they will come to Bible studies with people in their own cultures,” said Jacobs.

Ministry to Memphis apartment complexes is one of the Jacobses’ top priorities.

“Multi-housing is one of the untapped, unreached people groups,” he said. “It’s among the U.S. apartment dwellers where you find the most single-parent homes, crime and drugs. We’re finding that apartment managers welcome us to come in and start Bible studies because they are looking for help to offset the negatives and bring stability to their complexes.”

The Jacobses are working especially close with Bent Tree Apartments in Memphis, in an effort to create a network of apartment ministries throughout the Memphis metro area.

“We need people to come and help with after-school tutorial programs in the apartment complexes, or just volunteer to spend three hours a day in teams reaching people for Christ in the apartments,” he said. “One of our goals as we work in the apartment ministry is to go into other Memphis complexes with this model and replicate it over and over again.

“When people’s lives are changed through Jesus Christ, it changes the culture of people who live within the city. I think Memphis can be changed in a great way. As we sow down the gospel of Christ, crime will be reduced, drug activity will be reduced and lives will be changed. That’s why God sent Ozzie and me here to Memphis.”

3/7/2009 5:04:00 AM by Mickey Noah, NAMB | with 0 comments



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