March 2012

CP ahead of budget for missions support

March 5 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are $4,122,100.78, or 5.32 percent above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and are 1.53 percent behind contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2011-12 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
As of Feb. 29, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $81,622,100.78, or 105.32 percent of the $77,500,000 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $1,270,968.69 less than the $82,893,069.47 received through the end of February 2011.
The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.2 percent to international missions through the IMB; 22.79 percent to North American missions through NAMB; 22.16 percent to theological education; 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget; and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $186 million, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program Allocation Budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
“Given the state of the economy the past several years, we set a conservative convention budget goal for this fiscal year,” Page said. “I am delighted that for each dollar we receive over the annual budgeted goal, a higher percentage will end up on the international fields through the ministry of IMB.
“It is such a blessing to see God’s hand at work through His children,” Page noted. “For example, I recently had the privilege of preaching at one of our African American churches. During the offertory, I was fascinated as all the tithers stood. When I asked the pastor about this, he pointed to the church bulletin.”

According to the second of seven principles about the tithe printed in the bulletin, “[a]ll tithers are expected to stand during the offertory period even if it is not your pay period.” The principle continues, “We stand to present to God our tithes and offerings (worship), reflect on the Word of God relative to giving, engage in warfare praying and bring the tithe and place our gift in the tithing box.”
“I thank the Lord that almost $41 million in CP contributions has been forwarded to the IMB since Oct. 1 through the gifts of the hundreds of thousands of faithful tithers represented by those who stood in that service,” Page said. “Other gifts have been distributed for pastoral preparation through our seminaries, to NAMB and ERLC for evangelism, church planting and moral advocacy across our great nation, and to the operating budget of the convention. It is a special joy to be part of a convention that has such a vision for reaching the nations with the gospel of our Lord. We must never take our privilege and responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission for granted.”
Designated giving of $87,179,931.73 for the same year-to-date period is 1.21 percent, or $1,044,244.19, above gifts of $86,135,687.54 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
The Cooperative Program is a program of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.
Traditionally, state and regional conventions have acted as collecting entities for Cooperative Program contributions. They retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
A key component of the Cooperative Program is the commitment of each state convention to forward all sums collected in the states for the causes fostered by SBC to the Executive Committee each month. The Executive Committee, as the disbursing agent of the convention, remits both budgeted and designated funds to the SBC entities each week.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at
February’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $16,508,813.14. This is the third successive month that contributions exceeded monthly budget projections. Designated gifts received last month, meanwhile, amounted to $46,450,577.15.
The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.
During the last fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010 - Sept. 30, 2011), Cooperative Program receipts for the year were up 0.06 percent – the first increase since 2007. Combined CP and designated giving for the year, meanwhile, were up 0.17 percent.
3/5/2012 3:56:29 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Michael Catt on ‘Courageous,’ success and (possibly) another movie

March 5 2012 by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press

JACKSONVILLE, Tenn. – Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., spoke to the Florida Baptist Witness (FBW) about his church’s new movie “Courageous” during a visit to the Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Sherwood has produced four films: “Flywheel,” “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” and then Courageous. Each has grossed more than its predecessor.
On its opening weekend in September, Courageous finished No. 4 in total gross, No. 1 in per-theater average, and it was the No. 1 new movie.

Courageous was released on DVD Jan. 17.

FBW: Is this enough? What are your plans for the future?

CATT: We approach every film as – that’s it until God tells us to do another one. We don’t want to presume on the Lord. We don’t want to fall into the trap of, “Well that was successful, let’s do that again.” We’ve always kind of approached it as – we don’t want to be the 87th annual singing Christmas tree when nobody really wants to do it anymore, but you’ve just always done it. So the first thing we do is to get a word from God – Does He want us to do another one?

Second, what will the subject be? Then, what needs to be involved in all that and where are we gonna go with it? We have been blessed. God has been good. We can honestly say that if we never made another one, we did what God told us to do. If we make four more, than we’ll do what God tells us to do. One of the keys for us is, success is not what it is at the box office. Success for us is the emails we get; the letters we from people’s whose lives have changed; from men who stand up; from couples who get back together – that’s really success for us. The other stuff is just secondary. That’s really hard for people to imagine.

FBW: According to reports you have been successful at the box office, however.

CATT: By some measures it is successful. I was interviewed by a national magazine last year and the guy doing the interview said, “You are the standard bearer for Christian movies.” I said, “You’ll never hear me say that because I think that could become pride for us.” I think it could be a crack in the door where the devil could get to us and twist our hearts and forget it is God’s grace that allowed us to do this. It’s a church that prays. It’s a church in unity. You couldn’t do this without prayer and unity and cooperative spirit within the church. And of all places – Albany, Ga. I mean, who would of thought that? So I always try to walk very softly through all of this and remind the church, God can always find somebody else.

FBW: What is a recent example of what you consider success?

CATT: I got an email from a friend. They had a men’s movie night, which is kind of weird – to do a men’s movie night. They had 500 men at it and they had five men come to Christ that night. They had many, many men that stayed around and talked and got counseling and prayed. Those are the kinds of things that are starting to roll in now – people showing the movie in their churches.

We stopped in Tifton, Ga. on the way down [to Jacksonville, Fla.] and four people there recognized Ken [Bevel, co-star who plays Nathan Hayes] and one said, “I was just a blubbering mess, I was just crying all over the place” [during the movie]. It’s rewarding to know that you do something that God can use. But it still goes back to: It’s our five loaves and two fish. It still goes back to that. We’ve got five loaves and two fish and that’s it and if we give them to God, He does what we can’t do.

FBW: When I watched the preview of “Courageous” last year during the Jacksonville Pastors’ Conference I thought this would make an awesome Father’s Day movie. But the movie came out in September.

CATT: We just knew we wanted to deal with dads and with fatherhood. We are doing a simulcast with LifeWay, on Father’s day weekend. ... [Courageous director and producer] Alex and Stephen [Kendrick], and myself. ... LifeWay wants to do a whole emphasis on Father’s Day from the simulcast to that Sunday being a resolution Sunday and men stepping up to the plate.

You know we always preach sermons on Mother’s Day. [We say], “Here’s what a mom ought to be,” and then on Father’s Day we kind of trash the guys and say, “You’re all a bunch of jerks and you need to straighten up,” which may be true, but the purpose of that would be, “Guys, let’s step up to what God’s called us to be.”

FBW: What’s been your greatest challenge with Courageous?

CATT: I think the greatest challenge was probably making a movie that men would watch. In some ways “Fireproof” was like a chick flick with a little action in it and “Courageous” was a lot more narrow in its focus. The more you narrow the focus you have to think, “Who’s the audience.” It was men. We knew that was a narrow focus, we knew that could affect box office; it could affect a lot of things. So it’s kind of gone from “Facing the Giants,” “Invite your family, bring your kids, bring the football team,” [to] “Fireproof,” “Hey I know a couple who needs to see that,” to “Courageous,” “I know a guy who needs to see that.” But for us it’s never been about, “Well, if this one was this big, then this one ought to be bigger.” It’s just that’s where God’s taken us on the journey of who we needed to address and what we needed to address

FBW: From the audiences’ point of view, they said the cinematography was better, as were other aspects of the film.

CATT: Yes. We shot it on the Red cameras, which were new at that time. We didn’t buy them; we rented them because we didn’t need those kind of cameras to sit around for three years. The technology we used with “Fireproof” was out of date. We just used the same camera crews but the newest technology we could get a hold of. When you use that technology [in Courageous] you come across with a better quality even if you don’t have a $20-30 million dollar budget; you know we’ve got $2 million. It helped us get a richer look and feel to the movie.

FBW: I sensed in the movie that you didn’t hold back on some of the very real issues. People in other circumstance might say you were stereotyping.

CATT: We did get some criticism, but Daniel Simmons, who is the pastor of the largest African American church in Albany, [Sherwood’s partner church in town] ... read the script and he made script corrections. For instance in the opening scene we had a white guy hijacking the car and Daniel said that is not real to Albany. Ninety-five percent of the carjackings in Albany are African American and gangs don’t mix in Albany. A gang is all black, or all Hispanic or all white. And of the 32 gangs in Albany, 28 of them are all black and all male. So if you are going to portray gangs in Albany, which is where we shoot, he said, then you have to do it this way. Which is hard for us. We can’t stop the camera and say, “We are just portraying our community; we are not trying to pick on anybody.” But when you look at the movie, Ken’s role is the most honorable from the beginning. He and Robert Amaya’s role are the most honorable dads. They are doing the best job of being dads in the movie. That was very intentional. We wanted a strong African American role model and because family is a strategic part of Hispanic community, we wanted a very strong Hispanic father who had great faith. We were intentional in doing that.

FBW: So men like Robert Amaya and Ken Bevel are not only acting these parts, they are these men?

CATT: Absolutely. First, we use believers as actors. We talk to them about their walk with God and their lifestyle and what they represent in being a part of this movie. This is not an L.A. movie where you go hire name actors where you can slap on the front of the DVD and say, “Oh, so and so who was in that ‘R’ rated blood bath, who doesn’t believe, who has done Lord-knows-what in his own personal life. ...” We want people that represent the gospel well offscreen as well as what they represent onscreen. For us, when they’re key characters who are portraying Christians, there is a sense, without being mystical, that we want the Spirit of Christ to come off of that screen. That for believers that are watching it [they think], “You know what, he’s not acting, that’s really who he is.” You see it with Robert. You see Robert off the screen, that’s who he is. He played himself.

FBW: How does Courageous impart the importance of a Father’s legacy to his son?

CATT: If you look at the study of what happens if kids don’t have a strong man in their life, a strong father in their life, and more and more that’s the case – the impact on our society is devastating. Ken has a background. Robert has a background: some good, some bad. But they drew from either their own experiences or from the experiences of friends to say, “It really is important, what we are saying here really is important.” Alex and Stephen did their homework about what’s happening with dads.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, where this story first appeared.)
3/5/2012 3:17:44 PM by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Appeals court: NYC churches can meet in schools (for now)

March 2 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – New York churches gained a victory in the courts Feb. 29 as the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s injunction against the city’s enforcement of a ban to keep churches from meeting for worship in public schools.
The Second Circuit, though, instructed U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to act quickly on the case, encouraging her to issue a final decision by mid-June so the matter can be resolved before the next school year.
While churches can continue to meet in New York City schools at least through the end of this school year, some already have moved on to more reliable space.
One Southern Baptist congregation in the city moved all three of its campuses out of public schools, and another congregation is sharing its rented meeting space with other churches in an effort to support the body of Christ in New York.
The Journey Church has three campuses in New York - an Upper West Side campus in Manhattan, a Village campus in Manhattan and a Queens campus. All three were meeting in public schools before the legal wrangling intensified early this year.
Now the Upper West campus is meeting in the Directors Guild of America New York Theater on 57th Street. The Village congregation has temporarily moved to a United Methodist church for an evening service, and in Queens, Journey has moved to a United Artists movie theater.
“We’re paying a little over double the rent we were paying before, so that definitely affects our budget a great deal,” Kerrick Thomas, pastor of the Upper West and Village campuses, told Baptist Press (BP).
“We’re looking at different meeting location options, and we’re looking at the possibility of bringing our two Manhattan campuses together in one central Midtown location and doing all four services in one place,” Thomas said.
Journey’s leaders hope the city’s ban will be overturned but they’re taking their time and waiting to see where God wants them, Thomas said.
“It would depend on what kind of stability the decision has with it,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to go back to the schools and the next month have to go somewhere else. We’d rather find a place with stability.”
Thomas said Journey’s members have been frustrated by the city’s actions against churches, especially because it feels like discrimination.
“For our staff, there’s been some added stress. Not necessarily knowing where we’re going to meet has forced us to trust God,” Thomas said. “It has given us the opportunity to communicate to our church the core values of the church and that the church is more than where we meet, it’s the people.
“It’s been a challenge, but we also know that God grows us through those challenges. What we’ve been telling our church is that we don’t know what God is doing yet but He’s in control, and it’s through tribulations like this that He grows our faith and strengthens us,” he said. “We can’t wait to see what God is going to do through this.”
On Easter, Journey will mark 10 years since it began as a Southern Baptist church plant in New York in the shadow of 9/11. The three campuses have a combined attendance of nearly 1,000 people each Sunday.
Thomas said Journey is blessed to have resources to meet in alternate locations when schools are not available, but some churches have had to cease meeting because New York is so expensive and meeting space is hard to secure.
“The biggest hit are ethnic churches that don’t have a lot of funds,” Thomas told BP. “To ask them to double or triple their budgets for meeting locations, that’s not an option. So there are some churches that are meeting in homes, there are some church plants that thought this was the death knell and they decided to close their doors – not many, but that’s happened.
“Without schools being available, it does raise a church planter’s budget,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t start a church in New York, but schools do give a lot more options to church planters.”
Gallery’s open doors
The Gallery Church, a six-year-old Southern Baptist congregation in New York, is sharing its rented meeting space with a Korean church that had been meeting on the campus of New York University and with an Australian church plant.
The two churches were planning to start meeting in public schools before those plans became uncertain, and they’re like several churches in the area that are not being counted in the number of churches affected by the ban because they were not yet in the schools, Kelly Love, executive pastor at Gallery, told Baptist Press.
Gallery rents two floors of a building at 1160 Broadway, and the two other churches meet on Sunday afternoons and evenings in the space Gallery uses in the mornings. The meeting space is available to other displaced congregations that would want to meet on Saturday evenings, Love said.
“Anyone who is in desperate need of a place to park their congregation, we want to serve the body,” he said.
In fact, Gallery’s leaders previously wondered why they were paying such high rent for their meeting space.
“When all the schools issues started happening, we quickly realized it was the sovereign hand of God that put us in this place and that gave us the ability to minister to the body of Christ in New York City and not just our congregation. With that in mind, we really want to use it for churches in a time of need,” Love said.
Last May, Love was a businessman living in Alabama with his wife and two children when they sensed God calling them to move.
“We weren’t sure where. Then about eight weeks later we ended up in New York City,” he said. Through a conversation with Freddy T. Wyatt, Gallery’s lead pastor, Love ended up on staff at the church last July.
“We came so quickly we didn’t have time to raise funds, and our church is not at a point where they can fund us,” Love said. “So I needed to get a fulltime job.”
He was hired by a Fortune 500 company and now works in the financial district on Wall Street. Love hopes that in the next several months he will have raised enough support to go fulltime with Gallery.
Regarding the future of church planting in New York, Love said now is the time for churches around the world to commit to the strategic city.
“The dollar figures just went up for what it takes to plant a church in New York City,” he said. “So now is not the time for us to regress. Now is not the time for us to tuck tail and run, so to speak.         
“Now is the time for churches who feel a calling to New York not to let the discouragement make them waver in their commitment but rather step it up,” Love said. “We still need churches in New York City. We still have one church for every couple hundred thousand people versus what it is in the South or elsewhere in the Bible Belt. The need is more present than it ever has been.”
Read a legal Q&A about the NYC situation at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
Related story
Judge: NYC churches can meet in schools
3/2/2012 1:45:07 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments, online learning website, ‘multiplies our efforts’

March 2 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

COCHRANE, Alberta, Canada – A free online learning community is capturing the training provided at many conferences and workshops throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and archiving it to view at any time. was initiated by the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) about a decade ago to meet a need among leaders whose schedules or locations kept them from attending various training opportunities.

Today, offers hundreds of videos so that anyone anywhere can watch presenters and follow their PowerPoint presentations as if they were sitting in a conference room together.

The traditional method for training leaders is to designate a time and a location and to coordinate schedules and travel plans to ensure that everyone is present to receive the material as it is delivered in person.
03-01-12equpnet.jpg is an online learning community where anyone anywhere can watch videos and download podcasts of presentations by various Southern Baptist leaders on a variety of topics.

But with modern technology, such presentations can be captured on video for people to access online. Gerry Tallion, national ministries team leader for the Canadian convention, said this type of training doesn’t replace face-to-face training, but it does suffice when such training is not accessible.

“Bivocational people who don’t have time to attend conferences could do this after work. Students could do it after school,” Tallion said. “Professionals who are tied up with all kinds of engagements and commitments could actually do this anytime they want. They could even have training on their vacation if they had some kind of an Internet connection. Anyone could have access anytime, anywhere.”

About 15 state conventions partner with the CNBC to supplement the site, which is supported with Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program funding. State convention partners contribute material to the learning community, and they each have their own versions of the site, which they can promote within their conventions.

“Whenever a partner publishes a presentation, every other partner can add that to their site if they want,” Tallion told Baptist Press. “If they don’t want to, they don’t.

“So each partner has their own site, and the stuff that’s on their site is the stuff that they want on their site. They can take it from what they do or from any other partner,” he said. “So it multiplies our efforts. We don’t have to do all of the training right here in Canada. We can use what Ohio does, what Michigan does, what Arizona does.

“But there are some things that just don’t apply. For instance, the Arizona site does a thing for income tax every year. Well, that’s completely different in Canada, so we just don’t put that presentation on our site,” Tallion said.

Bobby Gilstrap, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said has become “an essential part” of training leaders in the state convention. In Michigan, leaders are pointed to, and they can view the videos or listen to the podcasts individually or in groups with other people.

“It is rare that I am with a group or visiting with a pastor when I don’t direct them to one of the workshops on our e-quip training portal,” Gilstrap told BP. “With hundreds of top-quality workshops available, almost every leader in a church can find training to help them reach their God-given capacity in the role God has given them in their church.”

Workshops by Gilstrap, for instance, can be accessed on the site on guidelines for pastor search committees, on what churches should consider regarding constitutions and bylaws, and on a plan for financing a church plant. The Michigan convention adds 10 to 12 workshops to the site each year, he said.

“Our e-quip training portal is featured in most everything we do. Links to training workshops are included in virtually every publication distributed by the convention,” Gilstrap said. “Our approach has been that if it is worth promoting as a ‘live’ workshop, it is worth recording and promoting to our people.

“Having online training is essential to our ability to resource the needs of many of our leaders. With over half of our pastors being bivocational, our training portal allows them to attend quality training on their own schedule,” Gilstrap said.

John Coin, pastor of Anchor Baptist Church in Walker, Mich., has seminary training but also takes advantage of

“It’s kind of like if you have a building and you want to support the roof of the building, you need to have pillars to hold it up,” Coin told BP. “It seems like when it comes to training and education, that site adds pillars to a ministry. You can get further insight, building more pillars to make a more solid structure.”

Because is supported through the Cooperative Program, it is free to all users. Anyone, even those who are not Southern Baptists, can utilize the material. But if users register on the site, they gain additional options.

“People can go to the site and just watch videos if they want,” Taillon said, “or they can sign up and ... get more privileges,” Tallion said. “They can mark the videos where they left off, they get to bookmark things. They can evaluate things and comment on videos if they want.”

Among the topics addressed in videos: theology, leadership, marriage and family, sharing Christ, starting churches and strengthening churches, worship and preaching. Several videos are in Spanish.

“I really think this is the future of training, not that face-to-face training isn’t important,” Taillon said. “It is important, but the key issue here is that we want to get training out to as many people as possible.

“When you can’t do it face-to-face, this is a great way to do it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
3/2/2012 1:34:19 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Md. gay ‘marriage’ bill signed, but not legal yet

March 2 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law Thursday that would legalize gay “marriage” in the state beginning in January 2013, but churches already are mobilizing to reverse it at the ballot.
Technically, the Democratic governor’s signature made Maryland the eighth state either with a gay “marriage” law or a law set to go into effect. Maryland, though, is one of two states almost certain to see such a law challenged at the November ballot. Washington state is the other.
Under the umbrella name Maryland Marriage Alliance (, multiple groups – Baptist congregations, Catholic churches and conservative organizations – will gather signatures with the goal of giving voters a chance to reverse the law though a referendum. About 56,000 valid signatures are required, although churches will need to collect far more than that to make up for the ones tossed out as invalid.
“We are trying to defend an institution that has stood the test of time all the way back to the book of Genesis,” Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., told Baptist Press. He said his congregation will be involved in the signature drive. About 500 church members previously signed cards opposing the bill. The cards were given to legislators.
The Maryland Board of Elections approved the language of the referendum Wednesday (Feb. 29).
“The overwhelming response we heard from the people of Maryland during the debate in the General Assembly made it clear that the people of this state do not support same sex marriage,” said Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. “We know that thousands upon thousands of Marylanders contacted their legislators, attended our rallies and stood up for marriage. This energy will now be focused on a referendum to give the people the right to vote on marriage, and ultimately, to overturn this act of the General Assembly.”
Catholic churches figure to be involved heavily. After the bill passed the legislature, Baltimore Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien released a statement saying the archdiocese will “eagerly and zealously engage its 500,000 members in overturning this radical legislation” and will join with others “throughout Maryland in aggressively protecting the God-given institution of marriage.”
Anderson said Marylanders have good reason to overturn the law. The state, he said, should promote the ideal for children: marriage as between one man and one woman.
“From a sociological level, it’s best for the children,” Anderson said. “Every child has a right to have a mom and a dad – to say at the end of the day, ‘Good night Mommy’ or ‘Good night Daddy.’ Every study tells you that it’s better for a child, overall in the long run, to have both a mother and a father.”
Six states currently recognize gay “marriage”: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and New York. Thirty-one states have voted on gay “marriage” at the ballot, and it has lost in every state.
Anderson said the issue is one that goes beyond “political lines.” African American churches, he said, have been united against the bill.
“We’re talking about something more basic to society and civilization,” Anderson said. “Black churches and black clergy got involved when the homosexual community started to make it an issue of civil rights. That’s a sacred cow among African Americans. We know what civil rights are. Our skin color – we didn’t have a choice. The color of your skin has nothing to do with sin.
“Homosexuality is sin,” he added. “To be black, to be Asian, to be Native American, that is not sin.”
Traditionalists also warn that the legalization of gay “marriage” would impact the religious liberty of private businesses and curriculum in elementary schools.
In Massachusetts – where marriage has been redefined – a second-grade class read a book, “King & King,” about a prince who “marries” another prince.
In Vermont, where gay “marriage” is legal, the ACLU sued a bed and breakfast after it declined to host a same-sex “wedding” reception. Illinois saw a similar lawsuit, when a male couple filed a discrimination suit against two bed and breakfasts that refused to host their civil union ceremony.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
3/2/2012 1:27:04 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iran pastor: U.S. House calls for his release

March 2 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Adding pressure to Iranian officials, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who could be executed any day for his Christian faith.
The resolution passed Thursday (March 1) by an official vote of 417-1, although the one representative who voted “no” – Lois Capps of California – said she did so by mistake, and she corrected her vote minutes later and said in a floor speech she supports Nadarkhani.
Nadarkhani – whose first name also has been spelled Youcef – was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity in a case that began in 2009. His plight has gained international attention. Several sources close to Nadarkhani say the death order already may have been issued.
The resolution “condemns the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its continued violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and calls for the Government of Iran to exonerate and immediately release Youcef Nadarkhani and all other individuals held or charged on account of their religion.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who could be executed any day for his Christian faith.

The resolution further states that “numerous Government of Iran officials have attempted to coerce Youcef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith and accept Islam in exchange for his freedom.” A U.N. official, the resolution says, reported that Iran secretly executed 146 people in 2011 and more than 300 people in 2010.
The White House and State Department also have released official statements urging Iran to free Nadarkhani.
Following is the full text of the resolution:
“Condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.
“Whereas the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights uphold that every individual shall have `the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’, which includes the `freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance’;
“Whereas Iran is a member of the United Nations and signatory to both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
“Whereas articles 23 through 27 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran provide for freedom of expression, assembly, and association, as well as the freedom to practice one’s religion;
“Whereas Iran is a religiously diverse society and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran reports that religious minorities including Nematullahi Sufi Muslims, Sunnis, Baha’is, and Christians face human rights violations in Iran;
“Whereas in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents of Iranian authorities raiding religious services, detaining worshippers and religious leaders, and harassing and threatening minority religious members;
“Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights reports that Iranian intelligence officials are known to threaten Christian converts with arrest and apostasy charges if they do not return to Islam;
“Whereas in October 2009, Youcef Nadarkhani, a minority Christian, protested an Iranian law that would impose Islam on his Christian children;
“Whereas in September 2010, an Iranian court accused Youcef Nadarkhani of abandoning the Islamic faith of his ancestors, and condemned him to death for apostasy;
“Whereas the Iranian court sentenced Youcef Nadarkhani to death by hanging according to Article 167 of the Iranian Constitution, Article 8 from the book of Tahrir Alvasilah Fi Sofat Alghazi Va Maianaseb Lah, and Fatwas of Shia theologians;
“Whereas, on December 5, 2010, Youcef Nadarkhani appealed his conviction and sentence to the Supreme Revolutionary Court in Qom, Iran, and the court held that if it could be proven that he was a practicing Muslim in adulthood, his death sentence should be carried out unless he recants his Christian faith and adopts Islam;
“Whereas, on September 25, 2011, through September 28, 2011, the State Court of Gilan Section 11 held hearings to determine if Youcef Nadarkhani was a practicing Muslim in adulthood, and held that he had abandoned the faith of his ancestors and must be sentenced to death if he does not recant his faith;
“Whereas on numerous occasions the judiciary of Iran offered to commute Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence if he would recant his faith;
“Whereas numerous Government of Iran officials have attempted to coerce Youcef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith and accept Islam in exchange for his freedom;
“Whereas upon the date of the passing of this resolution, Youcef Nadarkhani has refused to recant his faith;
“Whereas the Government of Iran continues to indefinitely imprison Youcef Nadarkhani for choosing to practice Christianity; and
“Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights reported that, at the time of his report, in 2011, Iran had secretly executed 146 people, and in 2010, Iran secretly executed more than 300 people: Now, therefore, be it
“Resolved, That the House of Representatives –
“(1) condemns the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its continued violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and calls for the Government of Iran to exonerate and immediately release Youcef Nadarkhani and all other individuals held or charged on account of their religion;
“(2) recognizes that freedom of religious belief and practice is a universal human right and a fundamental freedom of every individual, regardless of race, sex, country, creed, or nationality, and should never be arbitrarily abridged by any government; and
“(3) recognizes that governments have a responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of their citizens and to pursue justice for all.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)

Related story
Iran pastor facing execution any day, but supporters still hopeful
3/2/2012 1:21:47 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mark fragment only part of what was discovered

March 1 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

DALLAS – The seminary professor who surprised the academic world by saying a first-century fragment of Mark’s Gospel had been found has released new information along with two new claims – an early sermon on Hebrews and the earliest-known manuscripts of Paul’s letters also have been discovered.
Details about the finds will be published in an academic book in 2013, says Dallas Theological Seminary’s Daniel B. Wallace, a New Testament professor. Wallace started the buzz on Feb. 1 when, during a debate with author and skeptic Bart Ehrman, he made the claim about the Mark fragment, which would be the earliest-known fragment of the New Testament.

Wallace provided a few more details on his website and then a few more during a Feb. 24 interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, saying the fragments and manuscripts were found in Egypt.

The significance of all the manuscripts, Wallace said, would be on par with the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Mark fragment is “a very small fragment, not too many verses, but it’s definitely from Mark,” Wallace said. “... To have a fragment from one of the Gospels that’s written during the lifetime of some of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection is just astounding.”

To date, the earliest-known fragment of the New Testament is from John’s Gospel and dates from around 125 A.D.

The Mark fragment, Wallace said, will affirm what is already written in that portion of Mark’s Gospel.

The paleographer who dated it, Wallace said, is “one of the world’s leading paleographers.” Wallace previously said the paleographer is certain it’s from the first century. Still, Wallace told Hewitt, several more paleographers will look at the Mark fragment before the book is published.

The Mark fragment will be published in a book along with six other manuscripts, Wallace said. One of those will be a second-century sermon on Hebrews 11. The significance: It shows Hebrews – whose author is unknown – was accepted early by the church as Scripture.

“What makes that so interesting is the ancient church understood by about A.D. 180 in what’s called ... the Muratorian Canon, that the only books that could be read in churches must be those that are authoritative,” Wallace said. “To have a homily or a sermon on Hebrews means that whoever wrote that sermon considered Hebrews to be authoritative, and therefore, it could be read in the churches.”

Also among the finds are second-century fragments from Luke and from Paul’s letters. Wallace did not state which letters were found.

“Up until now, our oldest manuscript for Paul’s letters dates about AD 200, [known as] P-46,” Wallace said. “Now we have as many as four more manuscripts that predate that.”

Read the transcript of the interview online at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
3/1/2012 2:12:47 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GuideStone, Brotherhood Mutual form alliance

March 1 2012 by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

DALLAS – GuideStone Financial Resources and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company have announced the formation of an alliance to provide property and liability insurance services to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries.

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said the alliance with Brotherhood Mutual brings together two ministry-focused organizations that share common values as well as a heritage of serving churches.

“The risk management needs of churches continue to grow and change,” Hawkins said. “Brotherhood Mutual understands the unique needs of ministries, and working with them through this new alliance enhances and strengthens our ability to provide the best possible property and liability coverage for the churches and ministries we serve.”

Brotherhood Mutual of Fort Wayne, Ind., was founded in 1917 as a mutual aid association, providing fire and storm protection to farms, homes and churches in three states. Today, it is one of the nation’s leading church speciality insurance companies, with an A Excellent rating from the A.M. Best credit rating organization and more than $337 million in assets. Through its network of independent agents, Brotherhood Mutual provides property, liability, commercial auto, workers’ compensation and foreign travel insurance coverage exclusively to churches and related ministries in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

“We are pleased to align with an organization like GuideStone that shares our vision for advancing the Kingdom by serving the church,” Mark Robison, Brotherhood Mutual’s chairman and president, said in the Feb. 28 announcement of the alliance. “GuideStone is a respected organization of the Southern Baptist Convention, financially solid and customer-focused. Our service philosophies are well-matched, and we expect this alliance will help more ministries find the insurance and risk management solutions they need.”

Some Southern Baptist churches already are long-standing customers of both Brotherhood Mutual and GuideStone. Among them are the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., pastored by Johnny Hunt, a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We rejoice with the news that GuideStone, with whom we have been associated for decades with investment and retirement needs, is joining forces with Brotherhood Mutual to serve churches with property and casualty insurance,” Hunt said. “These two organizations have both been serving Christian ministries for almost 100 years and share our cherished Christian values and convictions. No one knows the church world like these two service giants.”

GuideStone Financial Resources, founded in 1918 as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a leading provider of retirement, medical, life and disability coverage, investment management and executive planning services to the Southern Baptist and broader evangelical communities.

The alliance with Brotherhood Mutual is the next logical step in the growth of GuideStone’s property and casualty program, Hawkins said. GuideStone first began its direct involvement in the church insurance market in 2008.

“The churches GuideStone serves can know without a moment’s doubt that this program made for Southern Baptist churches and ministries is made even better by this alliance with Brotherhood Mutual,” Hawkins said.

Churches interested in learning more about property and liability coverage, and the risk management tools available to them, can call GuideStone at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) or visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is editorial services manager for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
3/1/2012 2:04:07 PM by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 71-78 (of 78)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 >  >|