March 2014

Southeastern students headed to Crossover Baltimore

March 27 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

In June more than 100 college and seminary students will head from North Carolina to Baltimore to participate in hands-on mission as well as get in some theological training.
 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest are sending students and professors to Maryland to take a missions class as well as help church plants through Crossover Baltimore June 7 just before the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) June 10-11.
 
“We really want to see for the city of Baltimore a real sense of awakening,” said Scott Hildreth, director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies at SEBTS.
 
SEBTS students will be joined by Southern Baptists from across the country
 
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BP photo
Baltimore Inner Harbor is just one of the places volunteers are likely to see while serving through Crossover Baltimore in June.

“We are excited about the interest we’ve seen from other states and churches to serve with us in Baltimore this year,” said Bob Mackey, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, for a story by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “These partners coming alongside us will help extend our reach around the city and connect our community to the local churches already at work in Baltimore.” 
 
Mackey spent time at Crossover Houston last year to learn about Crossover and the many opportunities available during that concentrated time of outreach. He saw Southern Baptists partnering with the local association, churches and volunteers from across the country.
 
“We visited a lot of different events taking place as a part of Crossover Houston,” Mackey said. “It was exciting to see what God can do for a city through service and partnership. I left with a great sense of hope and expectation for what God will do when Crossover comes to our city this year.”
 
Hildreth said SEBTS leaders have been working with NAMB to coordinate their service in Baltimore. The students will be in class each weekday morning leading up to Crossover. In the afternoons, they will be teaming with churches in the area to reach their communities for Christ.
 
While the students will receive seminary credit for the class, Hildreth emphasized the ministry experience each student will receive as a result of their involvement in Crossover Baltimore. Baltimore is one of NAMB’s Send North America cities focusing on high concentrations of population and lostness.
 
SEBTS has been sending students to Send cities as well as mission trips overseas to work with the International Mission Board personnel. The seminary has also been online helping research for NAMB and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Students and leaders have been involved in 18 months of research of 100 metropolitan areas in America. Their findings will help Baptists better understand their communities – languages spoken, ethnic makeup, population, etc. The hope is that the research will help church planters find where they can make the biggest impact.
 
“We’re really asking the Lord as He raises up a larger than normal number,” Hildreth said. “We’re really hoping and praying that we’ll see an awakening across our campus.”
 
The seminary is waiving the cost of the class. The cost is $10 which includes a T-shirt and water bottle. NAMB is finding housing and providing meals for the students during its class and Crossover. Students also have the option of staying longer and taking a class on the SBC. They will have to find housing during those days.
 
Hildreth said students are “ready, willing and able” to serve. He and other seminary leaders hope that service “spreads a passion for spiritual renewal” and a passion for those who are lost to come to faith.
 
“We’re going to serve the church,” Hildreth said.
 
While Crossover Baltimore is generally the Saturday before the SBC, Hildreth, Mackey and other leaders hope the block parties, evangelism outreaches, health clinics, sports camps and various other outreach events will make a difference for years to come. Already there are participants coming from more than 12 states. 
 
“Our churches are excited about the unique opportunity to share Christ with our city that Crossover will bring,” Mackey said. “Baltimore is not like a lot of other places in the country. We’re not in a predominantly Christian region of the country; we don’t have a church on every corner or throngs of people actively seeking out Christianity. Our hope is that, through the partnership of others in the SBC, Crossover will represent Christ to the people of Baltimore and our region and lay a greater foundation for our local churches.”
 
Mackey became a Christian when he was 15 after he encountered a Southern Baptist church in Connecticut. He considers Crossover an answer to prayer.
 
“It’s an honor and a privilege to have events like Crossover and the Southern Baptist Convention come to Baltimore this year,” he said. “To see the name of Christ glorified through service to our city is an answered prayer. Now our continued prayer is that individuals in our city who haven’t before had the opportunity to see what it looks like to see Jesus will see Him in the hands, feet and hearts of those serving at Crossover.” 
 
For more information on Crossover Baltimore, visit embracebaltimore.com/crossover or contact Cindy Irizarry at cindycrossoverbaltimore@gmail.com.
3/27/2014 12:46:16 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



World Vision reverses gay hiring decision

March 27 2014 by Baptist Press

World Vision U.S. is reverting to its longstanding conduct policy of requiring faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, expressing regret with an earlier decision to hire legally married gay Christians.

World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere announced in a letter the reversal March 26, just two days after drawing ire from the Christian community by saying World Vision would begin hiring legally married gays.

"Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy," they said in the letter. "The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."

"We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority," the board reported. "We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent."

Hiring married gay Christians would have broken with the ministry's commitment to biblically traditional marriage, and was made without adequate counsel with ministry partners, World Vision said.

"In our board's effort to unite around the church's shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, 'We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God,'” the letter said. "And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage."

World Vision confirmed its commitment to the biblical view of marriage and asked for the Christian community’s continued support.

"We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead," the letter said. "While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect."

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor.)
3/27/2014 8:40:11 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pro-Hobby Lobby side remains hopeful

March 26 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court contemplated the right of business owners to exercise their religious beliefs in the face of a government decree upon their companies during oral arguments in a case that is expected to have a long-lasting impact.
 
On Tuesday (March 25), the justices heard lawyers for the Obama administration and two corporations debate the constitutionality of the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices for their workers. Hobby Lobby, the nationwide retail chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.
 
The three female justices – Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – challenged Paul Clement, arguing for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, in the first half of the 90 minutes of arguments, while Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia seemed most suspicious of the government’s position in questioning Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
 
Advocates for the corporations said some of the justices seemed particularly concerned the government position would support an abortion requirement for families and businesses. They expressed optimism after the arguments.
 
“We’re hopeful that the court will end up in the right place and protect religious liberty here, and they had an awful lot of difficult questions for the government,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented Hobby Lobby.
 
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BP photo
Supporters of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities rally in the snow outside the Supreme Court building before oral arguments March 25 in an important religious liberty case.

“I won’t make guesses, but it felt like a good day,” Rienzi told Baptist Press outside the court building. “It felt like they asked really good questions, and we’re happy with it.”
 
Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told BP his organization is hopeful the high court will continue to give religious liberty the “high level of deference” it has had in the past.
 
“I’m hopeful. I’m a Christian, and I’m hopeful,” said Bowman, whose organization has represented Conestoga Wood.
 
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president expressed optimism for the supporters of the abortion/contraception mandate.
 
“It was a wonderful day I think for women, and I really believe that this court understood that women have the right to make their own decisions about their health care and their birth control, and it’s not their bosses’ decision,” Cecile Richards told reporters afterward.
 
Supporters of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood have said religious free exercise for Americans is in the balance as the Supreme Court ponders its decision, which is expected to be issued before its term ends in late June or early July.
 
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has described it as “the most important religious liberty case in a generation. The decision “will set the tone for the next hundred years of church/state jurisprudence in this country,” he said.
 
“If the federal government can force organizations and businesses to pave over their own consciences, to choose between being believers and being citizens, what will stop the government from imposing its will on anyone’s conscience next?
 
“As Christians, soul liberty is about more than political principle for us,” Moore said. “We believe, as our Lord commands, that we should render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. The conscience does not bear the image of Caesar, and cannot be swept into the federal treasury by government fiat.”
 
The justices heard arguments about the mandate after more than 2 1/2 years of protests by pro-life and religious freedom advocates. In implementing the 2010 health-care reform law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in August 2011 a proposed rule requiring employers to pay for coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can induce abortions. Objections to the regulation failed to produce either a withdrawal from HHS or adequate conscience protections requested by religious liberty proponents.
 
HHS provided an exemption to the rule for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that object. The administration also offered an accommodation for non-church-related religious organizations, but critics said it was inadequate because it still forces such groups to provide access to the drugs through third parties.
 
More than 300 parties – some non-profit organizations and some for-profit corporations – have combined to file 94 lawsuits against HHS, according to the Becket Fund. The consolidated case the justices heard March 25 involves for-profit businesses. The non-profit cases have yet to work their way up to the high court.
 
While some conscientious objectors to the HHS rule oppose underwriting all contraceptives, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood protest paying only for abortion-causing drugs.
 
A divided three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Conestoga Wood, saying for-profit, secular organizations “cannot engage in religious exercise.” In ruling for Hobby Lobby, however, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected the Obama administration’s argument that protections under RFRA do not extend to for-profit companies. It ruled corporations “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes” of RFRA, which requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use narrow means to burden a person’s religious exercise.
 
The ERLC signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Christian Legal Society in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Also among the 59 briefs supporting Hobby Lobby and/or Conestoga Wood, according to the Becket Fund, was one signed onto by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; its president, Daniel Akin; Southern Baptist mega-church pastor and author Rick Warren; Southern Baptist professors; and at least one other Southern Baptist pastor.
 
The HHS regulation requires coverage of such drugs as the “morning-after” pill Plan B, which possesses a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child.
 
Hobby Lobby’s Green family has said it will not comply with the mandate if it loses in court. The arts and crafts retail chain of more than 600 stores could face fines totaling $1.3 million a day. Hobby Lobby seeks to honor God “by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” according to its statement of purpose. Its stores are closed on Sundays.
 
The Hahn family, which owns Conestoga Wood, has been living under the mandate since its group health plan was renewed in January 2013. Refusal to abide by the mandate could cost the family an estimated $95,000 a day. Conestoga Wood is a wholesale manufacturer of kitchen cabinet parts.
 
The 10th Circuit case is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, while the Third Circuit case is Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.)
3/26/2014 11:19:40 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC church plant ministers to landslide survivors

March 26 2014 by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board

OSO, Wash. – Oso Community Chapel is the only church on a 30-mile stretch of State Route 530 – the roadway, which was sliced in half March 22 by a massive landslide. The disaster along the Stillaguamish River claimed at least 14 lives and destroyed some 50 homes.
 
Church planter Gary Ray, pastor of Oso Chapel, reports that none of his 80 members were injured in the slide, and none lost their homes. But they all know people who did in the rural community of 500.
 
“We are the only church on the only road through here,” said Ray. “The church is less than two miles from the impact area.” Ray plans to host a community response meeting at the church Wednesday (March 26) night to determine next steps in the response to survivors.
 
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“The roads are blocked, the power is out and communication is a challenge. We want to mobilize the church and the community to support the recovery work. We want to be able to do anything we can to help with an eye to long-term community support and rebuilding. This area is highly unchurched,” said Ray.
 
Northwest Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Director Gary Floyd said he is supporting Ray’s efforts and asks people to pray for the relief work.
 
“This is currently a local response,” said Floyd. “The biggest thing I would ask people to do now is to pray for Ray and his wife, Tina, and for the recovery efforts. Local emergency management has had to suspend work because the ground is unstable and more rain is moving in.”
 
Floyd said the death toll remained at 14 Tuesday morning, with as many as 178 missing. A total of at least 50 structures have been identified as destroyed, 35 of those primary residences. Another 10 to15 were secondary residences, according to Floyd.
 
“The nature of the response will take time to tell what is needed,” said Floyd. “Gary is doing a great job coordinating things. One thing is certain; the rebuild effort will take three to five years. There will be opportunities to help well into the future.”
One immediate idea Ray shared was the possibility of establishing a shuttle service for area residents.
 
“What was a 20 mile trip now takes more than 60 miles,” said Ray. “We want to identify needs and address those. Are there childcare needs, communications, pet care needs? We will assess what is needed and try to meet those needs. We have a heart to reach out and help our community.”
 
Ray has led Oso Chapel to plant a new church in Standwood, which will launch on Easter. Ray also plans a new church later on Camino Island. He echoed Floyd’s request when asked what people can do to help in the response.
 
“Pray. That is what we need most, and what the families here need most. We will be here to help them as much as we can, in any way we can. We need people to pray,” said Ray.
 
North American Mission Board (NAMB) coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
 
Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
3/26/2014 11:11:10 AM by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board | with 1 comments



Frank Page promises prayer for Ukraine

March 26 2014 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Over the phone between a U.S. Baptist leader and one in the beleaguered country – joined the intercession of Ukrainian believers in various city squares March 25.
 
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, and Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, had “a wonderful conversation between brothers in the Lord,” Roger S. Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations, reported.
 
“In the conversation, Dr. Page expressed his prayer support and his intention to call on all Southern Baptists to pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters in Ukraine as they minister to a nation in crisis,” Oldham noted.
 
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Frank Page

Nesteruk specifically asked Southern Baptists to pray:
  1. “That there would be no war in Ukraine, but peace,” Oldham said.
  2. “That there would be a sense of peace in the hearts of Ukrainian people, rather than a sense of unrest or anxiety.
  3. “For the economic situation, as sanctions imposed by Russia have already begun making life difficult in Ukraine.
  4. “Most of all, that people would be open to the gospel and actively seek the gospel during these troubled times.”
An unidentified Baptist worker in Ukraine who facilitated the phone conversation stated that it is “indeed a special spiritual time” in Ukraine, Oldham related.
 
“Almost all of the Ukrainian Baptist churches have been joining in special prayer for the nation,” the worker said. “In fact, many have begun gathering in their city squares, hundreds at a time, for a concentrated time of prayer in their locations. In one location over 100 men had begun gathering for prayer every morning at 7 a.m. in eastern Ukraine and he had heard of the same happening in western Ukraine.”
 
The Baptist worker also stated that for the first time since the early ‘90s when restrictions against evangelism were eased that “people are again very open to a gospel witness,” Oldham noted.
 
He wanted Baptists here to know that these are days of spiritual receptivity in the Ukraine and specifically requested, “Pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters as they share the gospel and minister to hurting people in this time of national crisis,” Oldham added.
 
Page affirmed the need for the gospel in our own nation. “I am praying that the people in the United States will also be open to a gospel witness and that it will not take a crisis of this magnitude to bring us to our realization of our need for the Lord,” he said.
 
Ukraine has been shaken in recent days by the loss of the Crimean peninsula to Russian control amid the threat of military conflict with Russia. The Crimean peninsula crisis followed weeks of widespread protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and throughout the former Soviet satellite. The protests began Nov. 21 when former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych backed away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of accepting financial aid from Russia. The uprising led to Yanukovych’s fall from power in late February and his replacement by Olesksandr Turchynov as interim president. Turchynov also is a Baptist lay preacher.
 
At the time of Turchynov’s selection, Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches, Baptist, released a statement that noted in part:
 
“The Bible says that there is, ‘a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace’ (Ecc. 3:7-8). In accordance with these wise words, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not a time to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not a time to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday’s enemies, and not a time to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us.”
 
Antonyuk’s full statement was reported by Roger S. Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations, in a Call to Prayer March 7 in Baptist Press.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
3/26/2014 10:57:31 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC chaplains share Christ where local church can’t

March 26 2014 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

From foreign battlefields to American corporate board rooms to hospital bedsides to the front seats of police cars and more, Southern Baptists minister through their chaplains in some of the most hard-to-reach locations of North America.
 
“Southern Baptists have continued to see the need to send chaplains to places where the church may not have access,” said Doug Carver, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) executive director for Southern Baptist chaplaincy and retired chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army. “They provide the ministry of presence, provide the good news of Jesus Christ, opportunities to evangelize and witness – and sustain the faith of Southern Baptists who are in those places.”
 
Carver, who is also interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Matthews, notes that Southern Baptist chaplains– serving in military, institutional, counseling, disaster relief, corporate and public safety roles – extend the evangelistic reach of SBC churches throughout North America and around the world.
 
Chaplaincy is one of six areas of focus for NAMB’s evangelism group. He says while evangelism at times happens differently in the military and organizational contexts where chaplains serve, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is a critical part of any chaplain’s ministry environment. In 2013 SBC chaplains presented the gospel to over 125,000 people and baptized more than 3,700.
 
“When chaplains preach during our worship services here on post at our Protestant services, they have the freedom to preach a powerful evangelistic message,” said Col. Jeff Houston, the installation chaplain at Fort Campbell, Ky. “We regularly baptize folks who have come to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.”
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NAMB photo by Ted Wilcox
U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Cross, left, Battalion Chaplain, 2nd Lt. Todd Daniel and Chaplain Cpt. Barry “Hoot” Busby, right, pray in the chapel at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the 82nd Airborne Division. Military chaplains are responsible to their commanding officers to provide advice, not only on the spiritual welfare of their troops, but of the spiritual temperament in their areas of operation.

 
Often the critical places and times when chaplains serve provide open doors for ministry that aren’t available to the local church.
 
“When we walk into the room of someone who is not a Christian, our approach is to provide pastoral care,” said Jim Wright, a Southern Baptist chaplain serving as the director of pastoral care at Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Ky. “But eventually the missionary aspect will come out. We’ve had many opportunities to lead people to Christ.”
 
Carver said NAMB’s chaplaincy team is focused on four main areas over the next year.
 
First, NAMB will focus on providing care, support and appreciation for chaplains on the field. Carver said when chaplains are fulfilling their pastoral roles, they’re often doing so in some of the most difficult circumstances.
 
“It’s those critical, and often tragic, moments of life that chaplains provide an invaluable ministry of the presence of God to those seeking peace, comfort and hope in a particular life situation. Obviously,” he added, “when our chaplains are engaged in that demanding and emotionally draining role, they need pastoral care themselves.”
 
Carver says embracing chaplains will mean giving them more frequent opportunities to share their stories in SBC churches.
 
He also says his team is working on a strategy to help re-engage chaplains in the ministries of local churches once their chaplaincy ministry concludes.
 
Second, NAMB’s chaplaincy team will continue to educate churches on the ministry of all of its chaplains and about their own opportunities to serve the military. As part of that effort, NAMB has produced a toolkit (http://www.namb.net/Honoring-Military-Service_Members-and-Chaplains/) to help churches honor and appreciate chaplains in their midst. NAMB is also encouraging churches to adopt chaplains
 
“Often, our churches don’t realize that they have chaplains and veterans in their midst,” Carver said. “We want to increase the awareness so that chaplains can help local churches in their evangelistic efforts.”
NAMB will continue to come alongside churches and help them reach out to the military community among their members and around them.
 
“Just because of the way God works, those serving in the military are often searching spiritually,” said Gary Sanders, the founder and president of Military Missions Network and the pastor of military missions at First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Va.
 
“It is a tremendous opportunity to share the love of Christ with them because they are looking for relationships, they are looking for stability, they are looking for hope. And of course all of those things can be found in God through Jesus Christ.”
 
Sanders’ own ministry at FBC Norfolk is an example of this. Among other service opportunities, FBC Norfolk provides their building and childcare for military Family Readiness Groups.
 
“Just by serving the military that opens all kinds of doors of getting to know them and to get into conversations with them about Christ,” Sanders said. “We serve them in word and deed.”
 
Third, Carver and his team are developing a strategy to help pastors and denominational leaders incorporate chaplains into their ministry plans. Often, Carver says, chaplains have ministry expertise that can help in other efforts, but those planning the efforts don’t know of their availability.
 
Fourth, NAMB chaplaincy is working toward a long-term strategy of developing a church plant ministry near every U.S. military base in the world. At this point, Carver says, NAMB is in the process of talking with leaders in each North American region about what it would take to increase military ministry around U.S. bases.
 
NAMB recently made the strategic move to appoint a military church planting catalyst to help foster church plants to better serve members of the military and their families. U.S. Marine Reserve Captain Endel Lee accepted the position in January. Lee brings a 33-year career as a reservist, 20 as a chaplain, to the work. Lee has also served as the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplaincy coordinator since 2006.
 
Although there are strong military-focused churches and Christian organizations already supporting many of these bases, Carver said there aren’t nearly enough to properly reach these military communities with the gospel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. The North American Mission Board’s evangelism ministries are focused on six primary areas: Evangelism Networks/Resources, Chaplaincy, LoveLoud ministry evangelism, Disaster Relief, Church Revitalization and Collegiate evangelism. This article, the first in a series of six, spotlights chaplaincy ministries. There is an audio interview with Carver available at http://namb.s3.amazonaws.com/namb_podcast/Chaplaincy_Ministry-Podcast_1.14.14.mp3.)
 

BSC offers chaplaincy help, partners with ministries

North Carolina Baptists have more than 400 chaplains who partner with churches and   associations to reach this “white unto harvest” mission field.
 
From prisons, hospitals and disaster settings to local businesses, chaplains serve North Carolina Baptists. North Carolina has one of the largest military populations in the world.
 
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) military and chaplaincy ministry focuses on five primary areas: 
  • Operation Crossroads is the name given to the ministry with Wounded Warriors. Crossroads works with churches, associations and individuals to support the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at Fort Bragg. The ministry has coordinated a variety of children’s activities for Family Day, hosted a spaghetti supper as part of their “Back to School” event, provided sack lunches for holiday travel, purchased materials to teach financial management and collected more than 1,000 cookbooks from N.C. Baptist churches to stock kitchenettes in the new Warrior Transition housing facility.  
  • Disaster Relief has been part of the training available since 2005 through Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men). Visit baptistsonmission.org
  • Career Chaplain Network is a database of all Southern Baptist career chaplains in the state.
  • Community and Public Service Chaplaincy is a frequent request from ministers and laypersons. Some minister through fire stations, police departments and other community agencies.
  • Adopt-an-Armory is a program developed to minister with local National Guard and Reserve units scattered “from Murphy to Manteo.” All these organizations have access to chaplains, but many of these military pastors are stretched too thin to provide adequate coverage. Assigned chaplains are paired with pastors and laypersons who are willing to share the load. These individuals lead worship services on drill weekends and provide pastoral care to soldiers and their families as necessary. They also help to facilitate mobilization services and other supportive events.
For more information visit ncbaptist.org or contact Thomas Watson at (704) 575-2736 or thomas.lee.watson@gmail.com.
 
3/26/2014 10:41:46 AM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



World Vision decision anti-gospel, Moore says

March 25 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The decision of World Vision U.S. to extend hiring to legally married gay couples is no surprise, but empowers darkness and attacks the gospel, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore blogged Monday (March 24).

The Christian hunger relief group’s U.S. board of directors has voted to allow the employment of those engaged in legal homosexual marriages, World Hunger U.S. President Richard Stearns announced in Monday’s Christianity Today. World Vision had notified its staff of the change in a statement, citing a desire for cross-denominational unity.

But the hiring change is a mistake, Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote at his blog russellmoore.com. The change should not be embraced as a show of unity, he wrote.

“This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth,” Moore noted. “At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2,000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.”
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russellmoore.com photo
Russell Moore


“We empower darkness when we refuse to warn of judgment,” Moore wrote. “We empower the darkness when we refuse to offer forgiveness through the blood of the cross.”

World Vision is not endorsing same-sex marriage, but has chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on the issue, Stearns said in his statement to World Vision staff. The group will continue to require sexual abstinence among unmarried employees and sexual fidelity within marriage, he said.

“World Vision’s mission is not the same as that of our local churches; nor are we a body of theologians whose responsibility is to render biblical advice and interpretations of theological matters,” Stearns informed his staff.

“We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses, ‘an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God,’” Stearns stated. “And it is this mission that unites us – Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc. – more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within [World Vision U.S.] alone.”

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in an email interview that the decision reveals World Vision’s true character.

“World Vision’s leaders have revealed what they really believe and where they really stand – and the truth about them is disheartening,” Iorg wrote. “When any Christian organization denies the authority of scripture – no matter their convoluted explanation – they have compromised their integrity and initiated their demise.

“World Vision’s claims they are not making a theological decision or taking a position on these issues is incomprehensible,” Iorg stated. “Every decision by Christian leaders is grounded in theological conviction and every position – including claiming not to take one – amounts to taking a position.”

Moore wrote, “We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace.

“There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to ‘evolve’ on the sexuality issue without alienating their base,” Moore blogged. “I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say ‘Hath God said?’ [as when Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3:1] and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.”

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler blogged at albertmohler.com that World Vision’s decision is misleading.

“The worst aspect of the World Vision U.S. policy shift is the fact that it will mislead the world about the reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation,” Mohler wrote. “Willingly recognizing same-sex marriage and validating openly homosexual employees in their homosexuality is a grave and tragic act that confirms sinners in their sin – and that is an act that violates the gospel of Christ.”

World Vision identifies itself as a “Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” working in nearly 100 countries.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)
3/25/2014 8:46:31 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



ERLC calls for prayer for Hobby Lobby case

March 25 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) religious freedom entity has called for prayer in a U.S. Supreme Court case that promises to provide a landmark decision on church-state relations.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its president, Russell D. Moore, urged Southern Baptists and others to pray as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Tuesday (March 25) in a consolidated case involving challenges by two family-owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate. The justices’ opinion on that rule, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices for their workers, will determine whether Christians and other religious adherents are free to exercise their beliefs in operating their businesses. 

The case involves Hobby Lobby, the nationwide retail chain owned by evangelical Christians, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by pro-life Mennonites. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, who own Conestoga Wood, contend the federal regulation violates their consciences and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

“This case will set the tone for the next hundred years of church-state jurisprudence in this country,” Moore wrote March 23 at his blog. “This case will tell us whether we’ve bartered away a birthright paid for with our forebears’ blood.”

The federal rule in question – issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the 2010 health-care law – mandates employers pay for coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can induce abortions, for their workers. Objections to the regulation failed to produce either a retraction from HHS or adequate conscience protections requested by religious liberty proponents.
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BP photo illustration
The ERLC is using a blue ribbon to promote prayer as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Tuesday (March 25) in the case involving Hobby Lobby. The high court’s decision is expected to provide a landmark decision on church-state relations.


Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and about 300 others – some for-profit corporations and some non-profit organizations – combined to file 94 lawsuits against HHS. A major question the Supreme Court will consider is whether owners of for-profit companies can exercise their religion in the conduct of their businesses. They cannot, the Obama administration has argued during the legal challenge.

“The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation,” Moore wrote in calling for prayer. The federal government also is telling the Hahns and others “that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money,” he said.

“Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress.

“The government wants us to sing from their hymn book, ‘Onward, Sexual Revolutionaries,’ but we can’t do that,” Moore wrote. “We love and respect our leaders, but when they set themselves up as overlords of the conscience, we must respectfully dissent.”

In its March 23 post, the ERLC provided the following guide in its “Pray for Hobby Lobby” initiative:
  • God wants people to be free to seek him and to serve him (Acts 17:24-28). Pray for a favorable outcome. The cherished principle of religious freedom should receive the strongest constitutional protection it deserves.
  • God is Lord of the conscience, not government (Acts 5:29). Pray that the justices of the Supreme Court will understand the importance of the separation of the state from the church.
  • God can give understanding to make sound decisions (Prov. 2:6-8). Pray for those who disagree with us, that God would help them understand and respect the consciences of people of faith.
  • God can turn the hearts and minds of the justices to do His will (Prov. 21:1). Pray for the Supreme Court justices, that they would be receptive to the arguments being made passionately before them.
  • God can guide the mind and speech (Exod. 4:11-12). Pray for lead attorney, Paul Clement, who will be arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Ask God to give him clarity and wisdom, for his arguments to be persuasiveness, and for God to give him favor before the justices.”
The ERLC, which signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, desires freedom for all people, not just Christians, Moore said.

“One of the reasons we oppose this sort of incursion into free exercise is that we want neither to be oppressed nor to oppress others,” he wrote. “We do not ask the government to bless our doctrinal convictions, or to impose them on others. We simply ask the government not to set itself up as lord of our consciences.”

Moore’s full post may be read here. The ERLC post may be accessed here.

A divided three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Conestoga Wood, saying for-profit, secular organizations “cannot engage in religious exercise.” In ruling for Hobby Lobby, however, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected the Obama administration’s argument that protections under RFRA do not extend to for-profit companies. It ruled corporations “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes” of RFRA, which requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use narrow means to burden a person’s religious exercise.

The HHS regulation requires coverage of such drugs as the “morning-after” pill Plan B, which possesses a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child

While some conscientious objectors to the HHS rule oppose underwriting all contraceptives, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood protest paying only for abortion-causing drugs. 

Hobby Lobby’s Green family has said it will not comply with the mandate if it loses in court. The arts and crafts retail chain of more than 600 stores could face fines totaling $1.3 million a day. 

The Hahn family, which owns Conestoga Wood, has been living under the mandate since its group health plan was renewed in January 2013. Refusal to abide by the mandate could cost the family an estimated $95,000 a day. Conestoga Wood is a wholesale manufacturer of kitchen cabinet parts.

The 10th Circuit case is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, while the Third Circuit case is Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.

The high court is expected to issue a decision before the end of its term in late June or early July.
3/25/2014 12:31:09 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist Temple remembers couple killed 10 years ago in Iraq

March 25 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

For the Elliott family, a legacy of ministry and missions lives on in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
 
Larry and Jean Elliott were killed in Mosul, Iraq, 10 years ago. Retired from missionary service in Honduras, the International Mission Board had asked them to use their expertise to help Iraqi people get clean water and hear about Jesus Christ.
 
“Their legacy, their life, their mission continues to go forth around this world in more places than you or I know about,” said Larry D. Beaver, interim pastor of Baptist Temple Church in Reidsville, during a remembrance service March 16 at the church.
 
Larry and Jean Elliott, along with Karen Watson and David McDonnall were killed when six terrorists surrounded their vehicle and opened fire. McDonnall’s wife, Carrie, was the only survivor.
 
The Elliotts were members of Baptist Temple when they answered the call to seminary and international missions. Larry dreamed of going behind the Iron Curtain, but after seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded instead to a chaplain position in Honduras. When Larry and Jean arrived, however, the job had been withdrawn. Instead they spent more than 25 years in Honduras helping get clean wells to different areas as well as teaching English and providing other ministries.
 
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IMB photos
Larry, left, and Jean Elliott were killed March 15, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq.

On March 16, 2014, two of the Elliott’s sons – Scott and Todd, their children and grandchildren gathered at Baptist Temple to remember the sacrifice and ministry of the couple, who had been called out of the church. Daughter, Gina Kim, and her family, could not attend the service.
 
Scott Elliott spoke during the service. He thanked the church “that started it all off” for the family on behalf of the Elliott’s three children, three children-in-law, 10 grandchildren, one granddaughter-in-law, and two great-grandchildren.
 
His remarks centered around his parents’ life verse Matthew 6:33: “Seek you first the kingdom of God …
 
“That was more than a verse that they claimed; that was a verse that they lived,” Scott said, sharing five things that constitute a Kingdom-seeker, which is what his parents were. The thing that made the Elliots Kingdom-seekers was not about them, Scott said.
 
“It was about their glorious, all-powerful, loving God,” he said. “Only He could craft such extraordinary lives out of a farm boy and a mill worker’s daughter. They were just willing vessels.”
 
The church showed a video of the McDonnalls and Karen Watson along with photos of the Elliotts at the church and in Honduras.
 
One of the photos was from a night Larry and Jean shared in January 2004 before they left for Iraq.
 
Susie Stroud, who has been a Baptist Temple member since before the Elliotts joined, presented a collection of materials to the Elliott brothers and planned to mail one to their sister who could not attend.
Max Furr, a retired missionary who served with the Elliotts in Honduras, based his message on Matthew 21:28: “Father says, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’”
 
“That’s the basis of our Christian service, said Furr, who lives in Advance and helps with a Hispanic church plant. “We’re children of God.”
 
Furr said he and his wife heard the call as did Larry and Jean Elliott. The “go” in the verse was “all the authority that Larry and I needed. He said ‘Go.’
 
He didn’t say ‘If you want to,’ or ‘if you’d like to.’ It was an imperative … and we went.”
 
Furr said he thought his call was in North Carolina but when he met his future wife, she said she’d been called as a foreign missionary. He thought God would change her mind.
 
The Furrs had 22 years of “fruitful ministry” in Peru before being assigned to El Paso, Texas, for two years. Jean Elliott attended an associational meeting at First Baptist Church in Reidsville one March when the Furrs shared about their service.
 
Later the Furrs were assigned to Honduras where they became “instant friends.”
 
Furr was asked by the family to speak at the graveside services for the Elliotts in 2004.
 
Both Stroud and Furr shared from the book, Lives Given, Not Taken: 21 Century Southern Baptist Martyrs, by Erich Bridges and Jerry Rankin. The Elliots are two of the missionaries featured in the book.
During their time in Honduras, there were 12 churches, 92 mission points and more than 80 water wells made possible through the Elliott’s ministry.
 
An email from Jean shortly before her death noted the couple’s happiness on being called to Iraq.
 
“This is a very special time for us, and God is so REAL,” she wrote. “No matter what happens, we are in His hands, and we know that we are where we should be.”
 
Furr shared about the disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998. More than 5,000 people died.
 
Furr and Larry Elliott went to the airport to pick up a shipment when Larry found 10 pallets sitting by themselves. He asked a guard about them and found out they had been there 10 days and were going to be given away or thrown away. The airport was receiving so many shipments because of the hurricane that there was limited space. Without knowing what it was Larry asked one of the guys with them to come help him load it. With 50 cases on each pallet, the shipment was labeled as candied yams.
 
“I thought, ‘Larry’s lost it,’” Furr said. “Larry, do you know Hondurans don’t eat candied yams. He said they will if they get hungry enough.”
 
Furr said he wasn’t excited about having to unload the yams but when they opened the boxes, they found two cans of yams among the 500 boxes.
 
“The rest of it was dry rice, cereal, sugar … exactly what we needed,” he said.
 
When the Furrs retired, Larry gave Max a can of yams as a parting gift.
 
“Why did God call Larry and Jean Elliott to Iraq?” Furr asked, indicating it was because of the Elliott’s love and wisdom that they could share with Iraqis.
 
“We do know their lives and love have blessed thousands; their deaths have inspired and challenged more.”
 
First Baptist Church in Cary also set aside time during its March 16 morning services to remember the couple. The church’s mission house is named in the Elliott’s honor.
 
People can still give to “The Larry and Jean Elliott Endowment” through the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, 201 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511. Include the name of the fund in the memo line or a note; account #002329. Funds go to pay for mission work through Baptist Temple Church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Bridges/Rankin book is available through imb.org.)
3/25/2014 12:24:16 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Ice storm spurs N.C. Baptists to action

March 25 2014 by BR staff

Volunteers from a number of North Carolina Baptist churches have responded to the requests for help across the state from an ice storm that struck much of North Carolina in early March.
 
Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men) have three sites arranged for cleanup activity: Alamance, Davidson and Guilford counties.
 
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Baptist on Mission photo
Volunteers pray with some homeowners who had tree damage on their property after an ice storm. Men and women helped cut trees and clear debris. The Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina’s Mills Home campus was also damaged. There are currently needs for volunteers at BCH as well as through Baptist on Missions (North Carolina Baptist Men).

Since the storm struck March 7 volunteers have not only prepared meals but served these three areas as well as helped the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina (BCH) in Thomasville.
 
“The community response has been beyond impressive,” said BCH president Michael C. Blackwell, in a press release. “The help began as soon as people became aware of the damage.”
 
Food Lion, which has its headquarters in Salisbury, has been a long-time supporter of BCH. Chris McDonald, the store manager of Food Lion’s Cloniger Drive location in Thomasville, presented BCH’s Blake Ragsdale with $3,000 in gift cards. Mills Home staff will use the Food Lion shopping cards to replace the perishable food the campus lost during the four-day power outage.
 
“Food Lion is always there for our boys and girls. We are so appreciative of what they’ve done to help,” says Ragsdale who serves as BCH’s director of communications.
 
“Both of Food Lion’s Thomasville stores experienced their own food loss when their power went out. “Their generosity at this time speaks volumes about who they are as an organization.”
 
The ice weighed so heavily on some trees that they were uprooted. Trees that were toppled took down some power lines on the BCH campus as well as near homes across the state.
 
During the North Carolina Missions Conference March 21-22, leaders talked about the need for more workers not only for the recovery efforts in North Carolina but for many other requests they have from other states and nations.
 
For Baptists on Mission, donations designated for Winter Storm 3.7 Disaster Relief can be mailed to: North Carolina Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107. Visit baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Winter-Storm-3-7.
 
BCH has set up an “Ice Storm Disaster Recovery” fund at bchfamily.org/givenow or call (336) 474-1224. 
3/25/2014 12:03:27 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



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