March 2015

CP budget 4.81% ahead of projection

March 5 2015 by Baptist Press

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 4.81 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection, and are 2.97 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.
The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
As of Feb. 28, receipts totaled $82,098,104.34, or 104.81 percent of the $78,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support SBC ministries globally and nationally. The total is $2,371,418.56 more than the $79,726,685.78 received through February 2014.


The SBC-adopted budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive Cooperative Program funding.
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, if the SBC exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million, the 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.
Each SBC entity and the Executive Committee have been given specific ministry responsibilities by SBC messengers. These ministry statements are listed in the SBC Organization Manual. Each statement begins with the phrase “assist churches” and includes such duties as “assist churches in their moral witness in local communities” (ERLC); “assisting churches in the ministries of evangelism and making disciples” (NAMB); “assist churches and partners to mobilize Southern Baptists to be involved in international missions through praying, giving, and going” (IMB); and “assist churches and denominational entities through relief to Southern Baptist ministers and Southern Baptist denominational employees” (GuideStone).
Designated giving of $92,856,017.28 for the same year-to-date period is 0.72 percent, or $665,058.02, above gifts of $92,190,959.28 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 channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the various SBC missions and ministries with a single contribution.
February’s Cooperative Program allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $17,396,068.57. Designated gifts received in February, meanwhile, amounted to $53,407,127.56.
State and regional Baptist conventions serve 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 SBC 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.
Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, and to the denominational papers, and are posted online at
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 Cooperative Program contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.

3/5/2015 11:17:53 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Charlotte City Council votes down LGBT ordinance

March 4 2015 by M.H. Cavanaugh, Christian Action League

Media reports say the Charlotte City Council meeting held March 2 was one of the most contentious in many years. Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Building to express their support or opposition to a proposed city ordinance that would have included enumerations of “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” as legally protected categories.
With more than 100 people speaking at the meeting, each for two minutes and more than 40,000 emails sent to the City Council concerning the proposal, the ordinance failed by a 6-5 vote.
During the five-hour long meeting, approximately 60 percent of the speakers expressed their opposition to the proposal. Clergy, business owners, people from academia, soccer moms, concerned fathers and people from all walks of life spoke with passion, often citing scripture, arguing the proposal would diminish religious freedoms and make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators.
Supporters of the proposal said opponents were simply fear-mongering and that Charlotte was one of a few larger cities in the country without protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people. They argued gay and transgender people are subject to violence and suffer various forms of deprivation and humiliation because of discrimination against them.
Before a final vote was taken on the measure, councilmembers passed an amendment that removed the bathroom section of the bill that allowed transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they best identified. But even after removing that most controversial provision, council members remained divided over the ordinance as a whole, saying the amendment significantly weakened it.
Two councilmembers, Lawana Mayfield and John Autry, who were ardent supporters of the proposed ordinance, said they could not vote for the proposal in its amended form because it didn’t provide protections for everyone in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Thus, a final vote on the bill would bring opponents and supporters of the original proposal together to defeat it.
In a letter composed by attorney Tami Fitzgerald, head of the North Carolina Values Coalition and sent to councilmembers before the meeting – a letter Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, as well as many other religious leaders signed onto – Fitzgerald clarified the ordinance was unconstitutional and placed an undue regulatory burden on private businesses, exposing them to lawsuits and infringing on their First Amendment rights. The letter explained it also put women and children in danger, violating their sense of privacy and security. It said the ordinance required the city to engage in discrimination on the basis of religion by choosing to disfavor companies that wouldn’t employ or provide certain services that breached their religious beliefs. Moreover, the letter argued the ordinance ran afoul of a provision in the North Carolina constitution prohibiting the regulation of trade in a way not applicable statewide.
Michael Brown, host of the daily, nationally, syndicated radio show, “Line of Fire,” respectfully criticized the city attorney and made a powerful case against the ordinance in his short speech before the City Council.
Brown, a resident of Huntersville, said he was shocked by the city attorney’s presentation of the ordinance as “extraordinarily biased and misleading, based on every major legal analysis,” he had read, “especially the reference to biological and anatomical sex, which now becomes meaningless because the issue is ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression.’”  
Brown said he had talked with some of the proponents of the measure who were demonstrating outside the government building and asked them, “What if I am convinced to the core of my being that I am black? Then I was told that I am black,” said Brown. “I guess if there were minority housing rights, then I would be allowed them,” he argued facetiously.
“I asked,” said Brown, “what if I believe I am a horse, then can I use the stable?” Brown said the answer he got was, “Sure, as long as you’re not hurting anyone.” Brown then said the whole concept of the ordinance and the push for it was “collaborating with social madness.”
The ordinance was first introduced to the City Council on Nov. 24 by Scott Bishop of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights advocacy organization in the country. Bishop’s presentation to council members urged them to insert the new language into the city’s nondiscrimination policies.
The City Council responded by asking the City Manager Ron Carlee and its attorney, Robert Hagermann, to draft information on the proposal.
On Feb. 9, Hagermann gave an overview of various non-discrimination laws and provided councilmembers with a proposed ordinance. The City Council then voted 7-4 to put the ordinance on the agenda.
But numerous speakers during the meeting on Monday night, as well as some council members, expressed concerns that no requests were made by city leaders to hear from those who could provide legal or moral counterpoints to what HRC and the LGBT community had presented to the City Council.
“I am very thankful to God this proposal for the City of Charlotte was defeated,” said Creech. “We’ve seen the damage these so-called non-discrimination policies have had, creating special rights for the LGBT community and diminishing rights for people of faith who believe homosexuality and transgenderism is immoral.”
“We’ve seen florists, photographers, and others lose their businesses because they were saddled with huge fines by these policies. We also know of instances where sexual perverts have used these laws for cover to prey on women and children. That’s why cities who consider these ordinances are running into fierce opposition. We’re seeing it not only in Charlotte, but in other places like Houston, Texas, Fayetteville, Ark., and Cleveland, Ohio,” he added.
“I think other cities in North Carolina would be wise not to take up these measures without expecting a heated and concerted response by the religious community. Many Christians possess a certain righteous indignation because they’re constantly witnessing their religious rights eroding in the public sector. They’re not going to simply lie down to it anymore,” he warned.
If the Charlotte City ordinance had passed, it would have been the first city in North Carolina to enact such a policy. LGBT activists have vowed not to give up and plan to bring the matter back before the Charlotte City Council. Opponents have promised to remain vigilant and zealous against it.

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3/4/2015 11:36:43 AM by M.H. Cavanaugh, Christian Action League | with 0 comments

Bill to slash slavery gains quickly in Senate

March 4 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A new effort to help end human trafficking and slavery worldwide has quickly gained momentum in Congress.
The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act received approval from a Senate committee Feb. 26, only two days after it was introduced by Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. The Foreign Relations Committee, which Corker chairs, forwarded the bill with a unanimous vote.
The legislation, S. 553, would establish a centralized effort to thwart trafficking and slavery at a time when an estimated 27 million people are enslaved globally. It would create a Washington, D.C., non-profit foundation designed to use federal, foreign and private sector funds to reduce slavery by a measurable 50 percent.
Corker believes the bill “is going to have a transformative effect on us dealing with modern slavery,” he said in a CNN interview after the committee vote. “We have outstanding organizations that are using best practices, and yet we haven’t had a central effort to deal with this appropriately.
“People are taking advantage of young people, old people, mothers, daughters, sons and fathers,” Corker said. “And we can do something about it, and we’re getting ready to, and I’m glad that today we’re celebrating the beginning of that effort.”


Southern Baptists applauded the proposal.
“Human slavery and trafficking are wicked to the core, assaulting the dignity of human beings created in the image of God,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
“By taking on this issue, Sen. Corker and those who stand with him are in the spirit of the great Christian leader and anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce,” Moore said in a written statement for Baptist Press. “I pray that we will work together to end this scourge of slavery and trafficking in our world.”
William Wilberforce led the ultimately successful legislative campaigns against the slave trade and slavery as a member of the British Parliament from 1780 to 1825.
Raleigh Sadler, a pastor and trafficking awareness advocate in New York City, described the measure’s strength as “its emphasis on collaboration.”
“Through the funding of governmental agencies and non-profit organizations working in the areas of the world most affected, this foundation will seek to resource those who are already at work,” Sadler told BP in written comments.
International Justice Mission (IJM), the world’s largest anti-slavery organization, commended the legislation and called for swift passage.
The bill and the accompanying funds “set a new bar for U.S. leadership to combat slavery,” said Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s vice president of government relations, in a written release.
“[W]e have not been engaging in a fair fight,” since the U.S. government has been spending “a minute fraction” of its foreign aid on anti-trafficking efforts while the traffickers have been making $150 billion in profits a year, Burkhalter said. “That is about to change.”
The legislation would require the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation to fund programs that contribute to the rescuing and recovery of slavery victims, the prevention of slavery, and the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. It also would establish measurable goals and cut slavery by half in seven years among “targeted populations.” Programs that fail to meet their goals will be suspended or ended.
The foundation’s goal is to raise $1.5 billion, which is intended to be broken down this way: $251 million from the federal government in eight years; $500 million from other governments; and $750 million in private funds.
The U.S. State Department categorizes slavery – which exists in the United States and more than 160 other countries – as sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor or child soldiers.
The new proposal is important to the local church, Sadler said.
“First, this bill aims to bring justice to the oppressed by holding the powers that be accountable for reducing human trafficking around the world,” he said, adding it “puts feet” to the State Department’s annual report “by resourcing those at work in countries that are meeting the minimal standards” of the report.
“Secondly, we can celebrate that this is a concrete step towards caring for ‘the widow, the orphan and the sojourner,’ who are vulnerable to human trafficking,” Sadler said. “For these reasons, I challenge the church to pray for the implementation of this legislation.”
Sadler, one of the teaching pastors of Gallery Church in New York City, is director of justice ministries for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. He trains churches and other faith communities on combating trafficking. He also leads Let My People Go, an initiative to help leaders recognize and address the issue of exploitation in their communities.
In endorsing the new proposal, IJM’s Burkhalter urged Congress not to cut back on anti-slavery and development programs already being conducted by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“We don’t want to see the [federal government] robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said.
The ERLC has been a leading advocate for policies to combat human trafficking since the move to address the domestic and international problem resulted in the first anti-trafficking law in 2000.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.)

3/4/2015 11:23:51 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CP ‘a tool to obey the Great Commission’

March 4 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Keith Sanders, pastor for the last 10 years of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas, describes the church’s love for missions as “almost a wildfire out of control.”
Nearly every month, a First Baptist Keller member participates in a short-term mission trip; the congregation is about to begin its fourth church plant; and its Cooperative Program giving has more than tripled over the last seven years, Sanders said.
“The Lord has blessed our church tremendously, financially,” Sanders said. “We see a relationship between our willingness to give away, and God’s blessings. We have found the more we give, the more we have to give.


Church photo
On a mission trip in Nepal, Lawrence Duhon, associate pastor of missions and evangelism of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas, establishes contact with the unreached Dhimal people group.

“I believe in the Great Commission,” Sanders told Baptist Press. “The Cooperative Program is simply a tool to obey the Great Commission. We have seen from our mission trips that when the missionaries have the ability to stay on the field – rather than returning to the U.S. to plead for more financial support – how much more can be accomplished for the Lord.”
When Sanders became senior pastor in 2005, he hired Lawrence Duhon, a former missionary to Albania, as associate pastor of missions and evangelism.
“He has a great heart for missions,” Sanders said of Duhon. “He developed a unified strategy we’re still working with. We went from a Christmas offering to a year-round Global Impact Offering. That increased our mission giving 10-fold within just a few years.”
The congregation of about 1,300 Sunday morning worshippers also adopted an unreached people group in West Africa and has ministered and evangelized there as often as six times a year.
“We’ve seen many, many of those people come to faith in Christ,” Sanders said. “It was great for our church because we asked [the congregation] to pray, and upon [the mission team’s] return, the church heard what God had done. That led to a real spark in interest in missions.”
First Baptist Keller’s interest in planting churches has grown with its commitment to missions.


Church photo
Lawrence Duhon, at right, associate pastor of missions and evangelism at First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas, helps baptize a young Yalunka woman during a church mission trip to Mali.

“Church planting in the West is originally what I thought the Lord wanted me to do,” Sanders said. “But in God’s sovereignty, He has me holding the rope for others.”
So far, those “others” are First Keller’s church plants that have grown into Blue Mountain Baptist Church in Baker City, eastern Oregon, where about 120 people attend Sunday services; Desert Ridge Baptist Church in St. George, Utah, where more than 80 attend; and Foundation Baptist Church in North Euless, Texas, launched in September 2014. A church plant scheduled to begin this year in St. Marie, northeastern Montana, will be the only church in the town.
St. Marie was known as the Glasgow Air Force Base until in closed in 1976 and its 10,000 residents scattered. The nearly abandoned site is being utilized to meet the need for housing for Bakken oilfield workers, and about 600 people have                                                                                                        moved there so far.
First Baptist Keller is in the process of purchasing an abandoned church for the price of taxes owed. Members plan to renovate the building in time to launch services in the fall of 2015.
“Our goal is to plant a church every three years,” Sanders said. “Our M.O. is that we don’t want to have satellite churches; we want them to be autonomous churches.
“We don’t rush in, because we don’t have all the answers, but our people are very open to be used by God,” Sanders said. “We’re ahead of the one-every-three-years pace we set nine years ago, and I hope we will continue to outstrip that.”


During a church mission trip to Mali, First Baptist Church of Keller, Texas, member Keith Arnett shares the gospel with two Yalunka women.

Strong relationships with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary help First Baptist Keller expand its Kingdom growth, Sander said.
“One of the best decisions we ever made as a church was to go to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” Sanders continued. “SBTC has always given more than 50 percent of its receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program. That is the thing that most attracted us.”
For 15 years, the church has hired seminary students as interns, to give practical experience that complements the theological education they receive. Sanders himself was a seminary intern at First Baptist Keller years before his pastorate there.
“We feel an obligation to these young men, to help them, because all of us on this staff [have] been assisted by others,” Sanders said, adding that with the church’s proximity to the seminary, “we feel God expects us to help.”
In the last 10 years, First Baptist Keller has produced pastors who have served in 14 states, Sanders said, and the congregation is energizing its emphasis on discipleship.
“You’ve got to keep the base strong so you can send people out,” the pastor said. “We’ve been going through the book of Acts for three years here on Sunday mornings. That’s where you really see missions. I don’t have to be the Holy Spirit, to tell people this is what they ought to be doing. The Holy Spirit will take the words [of the message] and apply it to people’s lives.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/4/2015 10:59:10 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘I would hug him,’ says florist of gay accuser

March 4 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist florist does not regret her nine-year friendship with a homosexual man who won a lawsuit against her after she refused to design floral arrangements for his gay wedding, she told Baptist Press.
“If Rob [Robert Ingersoll] walked in the store today, I would hug him and catch up on his life,” said Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash. “The same faith that tells me that I can’t be a part of Rob’s wedding is the same faith that tells me to love him as Christ does.
“Christ loves us all regardless, and it’s not my place to judge him, or to judge anybody. It’s my place to be an example of Christ,” she said. “Do they see Christ in what I do, and how I treat them?”
Stutzman, a 70-year-old member of Richland Baptist Church in Richland, had provided floral arrangements for Ingersoll and most recently his friend Curt Freed on numerous occasions. But she refused in March 2013 to use her gifts and talents to design flowers for their wedding.


Screen capture from YouTube
Barronnelle Stutzman arranges flowers in her shop. The 70-year-old has appealed a court case she lost after refusing to arrange flowers for a gay marriage ceremony.

“I waited on Rob for nine years and created flowers for him on all types of occasions, but when it comes to my faith, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s where the line is drawn,” she said Feb. 26. “I cannot create something for him in good faith; I wouldn’t be honoring God’s Word.”
Stutzman was found guilty Feb. 18 in Benton County Superior Court of violating the couple’s U.S. and state civil rights, and was held personally liable for the couple’s damages and attorney fees, putting her at risk of losing her business and personal holdings. Backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Stutzman is appealing the case, and is prepared to take it to the nation’s highest court.
“We intend to go on, to appeal again, up to the Supreme Court if we have to,” she said, “because of my faith, because the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, because of my religious freedom.”
The issue isn’t about Ingersoll being gay, said Stutzman, who according to court documents has employed openly gay individuals through her business.
“The issue is marriage is between a man and a woman, according to my faith,” she said. “I just think of myself as a follower of Christ and the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Bible is my authority.”
In a court filing by ADF, Southern Baptist professor Denny Burk provided a statement that drew from his experience in theological education and training. In the document, he explained the difference between providing flowers for the couple’s gay courtship, as opposed to their marriage.
“A Christian in the Southern Baptist tradition who owns a business is not obligated to question every customer regarding the potential uses to which the products or services sold by the business might be put,” said Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“In addition, a business owner who becomes aware that his or her products or services might be used for a sinful or immoral purpose is not generally obligated to refuse to sell such products or services, although the duty to love one’s neighbor and avoid scandal might involve refusal to sell such products or services under certain circumstances,” he stated. “In either case, the equal dignity and worth of the customer requires the business owner to respect the customer’s God-given free will.
“However, the business owner must not engage in a transaction that involves participation in or material cooperation with a sinful act,” Burk said, “because it would constitute personal sin on the part of the business owner, and would therefore be subject to God’s judgment.”
Burk listed Article 18 the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and several Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolutions in Stutzman’s defense, including the June 1988 SBC Resolution on Persecution of Christians, the June 2001 SBC Resolution on Covenant Marriage, the June 2003 SBC Resolution on Kingdom Families, the June 2011 SBC Resolution on Protecting the Defense of Marriage Act, the June 2012 SBC Resolution on “Same-Sex Marriage;” the June 2013 SBC Resolution on Violations of Religious Freedom and Assembly in the United States, and the June 2012 SBC Resolution on Protecting Religious Liberty.
In March 2013, Stutzman did not refuse to provide floral stems to the couple, but referred him to several florists who would have no problem designing the arrangements.
“God has given me a talent to create something unique and different and from the heart, and it’s an expression, and it’s something that I just can’t celebrate,” she told Baptist Press, “doing flowers for a same-sex marriage.”
Ingersoll and Freed have since married.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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3/4/2015 10:49:01 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tennessee Temple, Piedmont International University to merge

March 3 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

In an historic move the trustees of two Baptist colleges, Tennessee Temple University (TTU) in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Piedmont International University (PIU) in Winston-Salem, N.C., voted unanimously to merge the institutions.
Established only a year apart in the mid-1940s, the two universities share a common mission that dates back to their founders, Charles Stevens of PIU and Lee Roberson of TTU. They were friends who shared similar founding visions. Roberson once told Piedmont’s Chancellor Howard Wilburn, “Dr. Stevens and I were great friends, and we established Piedmont and Tennessee Temple within months of each other. The two of us had a gentleman’s agreement that if either school ever faltered, the two should come together.” The current merger, born from this common ancestry is nothing short of “providential,” according to Steve Echols, TTU’s current president.


Tennessee Temple University's campus is located Chattanooga, Tenn.


“Little did our founders know that their pledge of support to each other would find fruition nearly 70 years later,” said Echols. “Merging with Piedmont is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Piedmont International University is a well-respected, outstanding Christian institution of higher education whose impact through the years for the cause of Christ is immeasurable. We are proud to return to our roots and unite as one.”

The merger will be finalized April 30, 2015, pending the approval of the Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits both universities.
TTU online students can expect decreases in their tuition rates and a seamless transition, according to PIU officials. Online programs will be transferred in their entirety to PIU. Residential students who move to Winston-Salem will experience a drop in tuition, room and board of approximately twenty-five percent. Several TTU board members will join PIU’s board, and some of TTU’s faculty and staff will move to Winston-Salem.


Piedmont International University is located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

PIU’s president, Charles Petitt, said the merged school will have far greater potential together than either school can realize alone. He described the merger to be more like a marriage than the death of a spouse where one mate is gone and the other is left with only the assets.
In a marriage one mate may have to move and change a name, but no one disappears, he said. While TTU is moving and PIU will retain its name, neither school disappears.
TTU’s legacy will be preserved through the continuation of Temple Baptist Seminary as a school of PIU. Petitt said he is proud to have a diploma from Temple Baptist Seminary hanging on his office wall.
The Tennessee Temple Scholarship has been established that will provide one-third of tuition for programs offered at Piedmont. It will be available in perpetuity for TTU students, applicants, current faculty and staff, and alumni, as well as for their children and grandchildren.

Beyond the continuing legacy that will be preserved through the merger, Echols notes that TTU constituents can take heart that the lives changed through the ministry of the school will glorify God forever.

This is PIU’s third merger in less than a decade.


Piedmont International University's president, Charles Petitt, said the merged school will have far greater potential together than either school can realize alone.

In 2004, the college merged with Spurgeon Baptist Bible College of Mulberry, Fla., creating the Spurgeon School of Online Education. In 2008 PIU merged with Atlantic Baptist Bible College of Chester, Va. and established the Atlantic Scholarship for Ministry Training
Fruitland Baptist Bible College (FBBC) in Hendersonville, N.C. and PIU have articulation agreements that allow academic credits to transfer easily between the institutions. FBBC is owned by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
David Horton, president of FBBC said, “I congratulate the administrative leadership and trustees of Tennessee Temple University and Piedmont International University in this exciting venture that will be of benefit to both schools and ultimately to the kingdom of God. I have the highest respect for each of these sister academic institutions, and look forward to continuing a great relationship with them.”
PIU is located near downtown Winston-Salem close to historic Old Salem. Originally called Piedmont Bible Institute, the name was changed to Piedmont Bible College, then Piedmont Baptist College, and finally became Piedmont International University in 2012.
The spring semester enrollment for TTU is reported to be 650 students. Approximately 220 of those attend on-campus classes while the remainder study online.
PIU reports that approximately 500 students are enrolled. A spokesman said the number of online and on-campus students overlap. Some live on campus but take all of their classes online. Roughly half of those enrolled are at the graduate level.

3/3/2015 10:04:20 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 3 comments

NRB attendance up 15% at wide-ranging convention

March 3 2015 by NRB Communications

More than 4,300 communicators from radio, television, publications and websites representing millions of listeners, viewers and readers gathered for the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) International Christian Media Convention Feb. 23-26 in Nashville, Tenn.

Participants heard from key religious leaders and potential presidential candidates, focused on militant Islam and current cultural topics and gained insights into emerging facets of communications.

Attendance was up 15 percent over the 2014 convention, NRB President Jerry A. Johnson reported at the final session, Feb. 26 at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Among Christian leaders and Bible teachers addressing the evening sessions were Ronnie Floyd, Robert Jeffress, Priscilla Shirer, Alistair Begg and Billy Kim.

Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said Christians must awaken from their slumber and come together in prayerful unity to seek God for the “next Great Awakening in America” toward fulfilling the Great Commission across the globe.


Photo courtesy of NRB
Jerry Johnson, National Religious Broadcasters president, underscores "our first mission is to advance biblical truth" during the NRB's Feb. 23-26 meeting in Nashville.

Johnson, in his annual “state of the association” address, urged members to remain strong by holding to a right perspective on the Bible, on human life and on marriage, as well as remaining committed to excellence and an understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God.

A longtime Southern Baptist leader, Johnson took the helm of the NRB in November 2013 after two stints as president of Criswell College in Dallas and other leadership positions with various SBC entities, boards and committees.

“We are communicators and our first mission is to advance biblical truth,” Johnson said in speaking from Genesis 1 and emphasizing the “inspiration, the authority, the infallibility, the inerrancy and the sufficiency of Holy Scripture.”

Concerning the importance of biblical marriage, Johnson noted, “The National Religious Broadcasters dare not pitch their tent toward Sodom or sit at the gate.”

Challenge of Islam

Concerns about militant Islam were voiced by a number of speakers throughout the convention, with most of the Feb. 24 daytime sessions focusing on the biblical, cultural and security challenges of Islam.

Best-selling author Joel Rosenberg, at a Feb. 26 dinner, said America is in danger of destruction in the face of not just the rise of apocalyptic Islam but also the mounting death toll of unborn children.

Rosenberg and his family moved from the United States to Israel last August and now have dual citizenship. He and his wife Lynn started the Joshua Fund in 2006 to mobilize Christians to aid Israel and its neighbors in the name of Jesus.

Rosenberg pointed to three “mortal threats” to the United States:

  • “America is not simply in a season of decline but is heading towards collapse, towards implosion.”

  • “America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Iran and the Islamic State (ISIS) but is heading towards the risk of annihilation.”

  • “America is not simply heading towards a season of strained relations with Israel but is headed towards total abandonment of the Jewish state.”Drawing from God’s commission of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:1-9), Rosenberg encouraged broadcasters, as watchmen on the wall, “to listen to the word of the Lord, to watch for threats and to warn the people come what may."

Sudanese Christian honored

Mariam Ibraheem, who spent six months in prison in Sudan for refusing to renounce Christ, received the NRB President’s Award on Feb. 25.

Jerry Johnson said Ibraheem had been “prosecuted by her government for crimes of so-called apostasy and adultery because she married an American Christian man.”

Sudan, which is governed by Sharia law, holds that apostasy – the abandonment of the Islamic faith – is a crime punishable by death.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of Me,” Johnson read from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11.

Through a translator Ibraheem thanked “all the Christians around the world” who did not ignore her in her plight. She promised to pray for them “just like they prayed” for her.

Presidential contenders?

Prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee opened and closed the NRB convention, respectively Feb. 23 and 26.

Walker, son of a Baptist pastor, said his faith guides him in his political and private life, and it undergirded him amid statehouse opposition during his first term in office. He said he is “still trying to decipher” if running for president “is God’s calling.”

Walker touted the virtues of the traditional family, saying, “Strong families start with strong marriages,” and he underscored the importance of protecting innocent lives.

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor who recently ended his six-year program on Fox News to consider a possible presidential bid, said he visited the Golan Heights in Israel, just 250 yards from the Syrian border, where he could hear the explosions from that nation’s ongoing civil war.

Huckabee said too many Americans – especially Christians – are on the sidelines watching “with the world on fire.”

“We can’t afford to be anything less than firefighters,” he said, noting there are many “pyromaniacs” on the loose.

“We are at war. It’s not that we are facing one; we are in one right now,” he insisted.

Social issues

David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and author of a new book Counter Culture, said on Feb. 26 Christian communicators cannot speak out on some social issues yet remain silent on others based on how they will be received by the culture.


Photo courtesy of NRB
David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, addresses the National Religious Broadcasters annual meeting in Nashville.

Platt said he is encouraged by the church’s involvement in fighting such problems as poverty and sex trafficking but is “simultaneously concerned by the lack of zeal on issues that are just as just as important, if not more so, like abortion and sexual immorality and so-called same-sex marriage.”

“On these issues, so many Christians and church leaders are strangely quiet,” Platt said.

Ryan Anderson, a Heritage Foundation fellow specializing in marriage and religious freedom issues, said America’s cultural health is declining in most categories.

Of 31 cultural indicators in the Washington think tank’s latest Index of Culture and Opportunity, most “are heading in the wrong direction,” Anderson said, including the marriage rate, unwed birth rate, fertility rate, single-parent households, teen drug use, sexual abstinence among high school students, religious attendance, labor force participation, unemployment rate and student loan debt. Among the exceptions are the abortion rate, divorce rate and school choice enrollment.

NRB members also focused on a range of cultural issues with panel discussions Feb. 26 on homosexuality, marriage, pro-life issues and religious liberty and free speech concerns.

Also during the meeting:

  • New research reported during the NRB sessions included surveys on same-sex marriage and Christian media influence.

A survey released Feb. 24 found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage” in their daily lives, at work and in the way they run their businesses. The survey, commissioned by Family Research Council in partnership with NRB, also found 61-percent support for the right of states and citizens to uphold traditional marriage.

A survey by LifeWay Research for NRB released Feb. 25 found that two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals say they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis, yet two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) rarely or never watch Christian television.

  • Roma Downey, known for her role as the compassionate angel Monica in the TV series “Touched by an Angel,” and her husband Mark Burnett provided a nine-minute preview of their latest production, “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” during the Feb. 23 opening session. The next evening, NRB members screened the entire first episode.

A.D., a 12-part series that will launch Easter Day on NBC, is a follow-up to their widely acclaimed production “The Bible.” Burnett said A.D. will tell the story of the early apostles and the religious and political leaders of their day.

“Normally, it is tough to get the mainstream media to tell our story,” Burnett said. “This is not narrow-casting cable, this is NBC,” he continued, noting the network launched an ad campaign for the miniseries on Super Bowl Sunday.

  • In the second annual Digital Media Summit on Feb. 25, focusing on how digital technologies can be used by Christian communicators, Robert Edmiston, one of the speakers, held his smartphone aloft to demonstrate the unprecedented opportunity Christians have to share the gospel with the world.

“This is where people are gathering,” Edmiston said. “And we need to be there. We need to be presenting the message of Jesus” to them. A member of the British Parliament’s House of Lords, he oversaw the 2011 launch of yesHEis, a website of more than 7,000 items to help Christians share their faith.

  • A Film & Entertainment Summit also was held Feb. 23. Among new films and documentaries screened during NRB was “[+]MORE,” a documentary by Awana.

  • The NRB board of directors adopted resolutions on religious liberty, prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, the FCC’s “heavy-handed regulation of the Internet,” the FCC’s auctioning of television broadcast spectrum and racial and ethnic reconciliation.

  • Actor Chuck Norris was honored with the NRB Chairman’s Award, with NRB chairman Bill Blount, president of Blount Communications Group, noting Norris’ “promotion of positive family values” and the example of his Christian faith. Norris starred in the network TV series, “Walker Texas Ranger” and has been the lead in 24 motion pictures. He also is a New York Times best-selling author and a columnist on

  • Mike Kellogg, longtime host of Moody Radio’s “Music Thru the Night,” was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame, while John Ankerberg of “The John Ankerberg Show” received the William Ward Ayer Award for Distinguished Service.

Next year’s NRB meeting will also be held at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, scheduled to meet, Feb. 22-25, 2016.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This report was compiled by NRB communications staff, with contributions by writers Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Dwayne Hastings.)

3/3/2015 10:01:22 AM by NRB Communications | with 0 comments

365 Days: Prayer warriors stand on knees in Ukraine

March 3 2015 by Marc Ira Hooks, IMB Communications

KHARKIV, Ukraine – As the sun topped the horizon of Kharkiv’s central square this morning (March 2), a group of people huddled together on their knees, praying for their city. While the moment passed without celebration or fanfare, it marked the 365th consecutive day the group has gathered.
They came from different parts of the city and were a mix of evangelical denominations and Orthodox believers, but they focused on one goal – to pray for peace in their city, which is located very close to the region where Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists battle for control over eastern Ukraine.


IMB Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
As passers-by make their way to work, Christians from many confessions gather together to pray for their city. Using well-worn pieces of foam to protect their knees, the group prays not only for Ukraine, but Russia, and those who are at war in Ukraine’s east.

Last year, protesters clashed in the streets of Kharkiv. “When we heard that people started fighting, we came here to the center of the city and we kneeled here,” Nadia, the wife of a Ukrainian pastor, said. At the time it was predicted by some that Kharkiv would be one of the first cities to fall to pro-Russian separatists. However, a year later, the group continues to pray for peace in their city and is grateful that God has continued to protect them from the fighting. “Our city is under the wing of the Lord,” Nadia said. “There is peace and I praise God for that. But our hearts are broken for cities where war takes place.”
One pastor, Alexander, believes the group is having an impact on the entire city by meeting on the central square each morning. “People are worried and discouraged. And all the news is controversial,” Pastor Alexander said. “I believe that our ministry here will bring people peace, to bring truth, to bring hope to God’s people.”
“We see that we need these prayers. And that our country needs these prayers,” Nadia said. “That is why we are still here.”
An International Mission Board worker, who serves in Kharkiv and regularly attends the daily prayer meetings, says the group has committed to meet daily for at least the next six months and does not know if or when the group will stop meeting. For now, they will continue to gather each morning as they pray for their city and for peace.


Pray for Christian workers and believers in Ukraine as they minister to their communities. Pray for a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. Pray that lives will be changed and that people will follow Jesus during this time of war.
The UN Refugee Agency has reported that more than one million Ukrainians have been displaced as a result of the war in eastern Ukraine. Countless others have suffered property damage due to rocket and missile attacks.
For more information on how you can be involved, go to or send an email to
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marc Ira Hooks is an IMB correspondent based in Europe.)

Related Stories:

War in eastern Ukraine aids church planting in the west
Ukraine’s ‘EuroMaidan’ protests escalate

3/3/2015 10:00:36 AM by Marc Ira Hooks, IMB Communications | with 0 comments

Evangelism workshop tells ‘The Story’

March 3 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Whether it’s a good book, movie or a friend’s latest adventure, everyone loves a good story. They have a way of connecting and engaging people.
On Feb. 10 more than 50 pastors, church staff, lay leaders and volunteers attended a training workshop to learn how to use not just any story to connect and engage people, but “The Story.”



BSC photo by Chad Austin
Marty Dupree, center, leads “The Story” training Feb. 10 in Fayetteville. Dupree is adult evangelism and discipleship consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Marty Dupree, adult evangelism and discipleship consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, led the daylong training event for The Story at Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
“The Story is an evangelism tool for sharing the gospel, and it’s a discipleship tool that helps people understand the Bible as a whole,” says Dupree. It connects God’s grand story of redemption in the Bible – creation, fall, rescue, restoration – to the life stories of individuals by showing how they can join God’s redemptive plan.
The tract offers a relational approach to witnessing that encourages Christ-followers to use everyday conversations with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and others to point them to the Bible for answers to life’s most pressing questions. During his presentation, Dupree shared several examples of how he has used The Story to share his faith with a passenger sitting beside him on an airplane, a server at a local restaurant and a fellow sports fan at a college football game.
“If you engage people conversationally with the gospel, they are often open and willing to talk with you about it,” Dupree said.
“Although many people we come in contact with will say they don’t have any particular spiritual beliefs, many are still interested in talking about the Bible, who God is and the big questions of life.”
Barry Lawrence, pastor of Fusion Church in Spring Lake, attended The Story workshop and said he found the training “invaluable.”
“The Story is a method that’s pertinent for our world today because many people don’t have a church background,” Lawrence said.
“So when we share the gospel, we can begin at the beginning of the story in Genesis.”
The Story can be used one-on-one or in group settings.
Lawrence said he plans to preach a sermon series based on the themes of The Story leading up to Easter.
Theron Hawkins, pastor of True Vine Community Baptist Church in Fayetteville, wants to use The Story in small groups as a way to equip his congregation to be more prepared to share their faith.
“The Story shows how stories can be used to reach people for the cause of Christ,” Hawkins said. “There is a need to tell people your story and tell people about His story.”
More regional training sessions are planned across the state throughout the year. For more information about The Story training events, visit
To learn more, visit


3/3/2015 9:55:43 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Evangelism urgent, seminary presidents say

March 3 2015 by Charissa Crotts, SBTS Communications

An increasingly secularized American culture sees evangelism based on the exclusivity of the gospel as a threat, said two Southern Baptist seminary presidents in a Feb. 10 panel discussion at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The school hosted the panel with President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as part of Southern’s Great Commission Focus.
“In the eyes of many, a belief in the particularity of the gospel is a threat to world peace,” said Mohler.
Mohler specifically referenced the recent National Prayer Breakfast, where President Barack Obama said religions that claim to be the only way to God are dangerous. Mohler mentioned that William Saletan, agreeing with Obama, wrote on that Islamic terrorists and exclusivist evangelicals were in the same category.


SBTS photo
R. Albert Mohler Jr., left, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, discuss the urgency of evangelism during a Feb. 10 panel discussion at Southern Seminary held during the school’s Great Commission Focus.

In this changing culture, Mohler noted two questions that he previously found useful in starting gospel conversations. He learned from Evangelism Explosion, a ministry that teaches people to share the gospel, and asked their questions: “Do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in heaven?” and “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” However, those questions no longer work, he said, because people no longer fear hell. Now Mohler asks, “What are you living for?” and “How is that working for you?” People usually answer these, while often rejecting someone who tries to talk directly about spiritual things.
Akin, former dean of the School of Theology and vice president of academic administration at Southern, said the gospel has always been scandalous but “in this day and age, it’s becoming a hostile scandal.” He said Christians should expect opposition, not only on gender issues but also to the gospel itself, but they must not let fear of rejection stop their evangelism. After all, Christians are not ultimately the ones being rejected.
“If we present Christ, then it’s Christ who is either seized upon as the Savior or who is rejected,” Mohler said.
The presidents also discussed how much people must understand about Christ to be saved. Akin said someone must understand that Jesus lived a sinless life, died in our place, and rose from the dead, and Mohler said someone must also grasp the divinity and lordship of Christ. Though Christ is the heart of the message, both speakers said that failure to understand sin is what prevents most people in this culture from believing the gospel.
“If sins are the problem, then moralism is the answer. If sin is the problem, then only Christ is the answer,” said Mohler, who said he knew about Jesus growing up but did not feel the weight of his sin until he was 10 years old. He realized then that he did not just commit sins but that he was a sinner.
Akin and Mohler said that Christians must consider the context of the person they are evangelizing and remember that the gospel is counterintuitive. As Romans 10 says, people must hear it before they can respond.
Mohler said, “The glad responsibility of every single believer, if faithful, is to share the gospel because the idea of a non-evangelistic disciple is just not found in scripture.”
Proclaiming this message takes practice, said both leaders. Mohler said that learning a basic outline of the gospel helped him not forget any of the components. Akin recalled a man teaching him to use the Romans Road, a method of explaining the gospel using only verses from the book of Romans.
Mohler and Akin encouraged attendees to evangelize without fear because it is the Christian’s responsibility to be faithful and it is God’s responsibility to save.
“It’s the Word of God that he blesses, not our presentation of it,” said Akin.

3/3/2015 9:45:03 AM by Charissa Crotts, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

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