March 2015

Al Mohler tracks journey to orthodoxy

March 27 2015 by Warren Cole Smith, WORLD News Service

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with 15 million members is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is its oldest and arguably most influential seminary. Albert Mohler has been president at Southern Seminary for more than 20 years, but when he arrived there as a young man still in his 30s, he had a huge task before him. The seminary had taken a hard, left turn in liberalism, and his job was to do no less than purge the school and restore it to its biblical, Baptist roots. 
 
Q: Say a bit about the war for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention that you joined when you came to Southern Seminary.
 
A: I grew up in what we would call a tall-steeple Southern Baptist church – very traditional, a brick church with the big pipe organ and all the rest. It was very much a part of the leadership structure of the Southern Baptist Convention, very faithful in its ministry. But, quite frankly, that church was also part of a denomination that was becoming increasingly non-theological and was losing its moorings and was also facilitating outright theological liberalism in the seminaries and many of the programs and agencies of the denomination. 
 
I came to college in 1978 in a state Baptist college. The election of Adrian Rogers as the first conservative candidate the SBC elected in the conservative resurgence was in ’79, so I really grew into adulthood as that controversy was taking shape, and I had to figure things out in a hurry. I figured out in a hurry that I believed in the narrative of [s]cripture. I figured out in a hurry that I did believe that very serious theological issues were at stake. I didn’t figure out so fast how the SBC issue should be finally won and hammered out. It took me some time to see exactly how those issues were playing out in the Southern Baptist Convention. It required me to shift allegiances from the pastor and his friends who had very much been a part of contributing to my life for all my boyhood to a very different set of people.

 
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BP file photo by Van Payne
R. Albert Mohler Jr. has been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., for more than 20 years.

Q: A core tenet of the SBC is the autonomy of the local church. How did you reconcile that tension between individual churches that tended toward liberalism but were nonetheless asserting their Baptist claim to autonomy of the local church?
 
A: We do believe in the autonomy of the local church, but we also believe in the autonomy of the [SBC]. The [SBC] has the right to set its own expectations for membership. Those churches who associate together in the Southern Baptist Convention have not only the right, but every responsibility to determine the churches with whom they want to be in cooperation and do this work. … The Southern Baptist Convention was being quintessentially Baptist when it said, we’re going to take our stand here. These are going to be the parameters of our cooperation. If you’re within those parameters, we’d love to have you. If you’re outside those parameters, you need to join with a Baptist denomination or do whatever that fits your convictions, but not here.
 
Q: A part of that larger struggle was the struggle taking place right here in Louisville when you got here 21 years ago.
 
A: I came here as a student in 1980. When I arrived, this was the bastion of moderate superstructure of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the mother seminary. It is “The” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That definite article has been a part of its name since 1859. This is a school that started to move in a leftward trajectory in the very early years of the 20th century, but it did so in ways that were rather imperceptible. … You can move left incrementally and the SBC had allowed this seminary to do that from at least the
1920s forward. 
 
I arrived in the 1980s. I was starry-eyed. I loved the school. I had been sent here by my pastor and by my state college professors who loved the school or products of the school. There was so much here to love when I arrived as a student. This was a very happy place. There were wonderful things going on here, wonderful scholars. The problem is, they were theologically marching off the map. It wasn’t that I arrived at an unhappy place. I loved it here. It’s that what I heard in the classroom I knew just wasn’t right. … When I came back as president in 1993, I was a part of a much larger movement to recapture the whole SBC. I had the opportunity to articulate much of that vision and to make very clear what I believed needed to take place, not just in the seminaries, but in this seminary. I was elected to do that, and it was a very difficult process, but the Lord allowed it to be successful. Now, 20-plus years later, we’ve been able to build the seminary that I wish I had the opportunity to attend.
 
Q: What were some of the initial steps?
 
A: When I said the SBC was exercising its right to say, if you’re inside these parameters please stay, if you’re outside these parameters you’re going to have to go, that’s exactly what I had to say here to the faculty. If you’re inside the parameters then stay, if you’re outside those parameters then by your own admission of being outside those parameters you need to go. This isn’t a Fortune 500 corporation hiring by secular standards. This is a confessional, theological seminary. Every professor here from 1859 forward has signed to teach in accordance with and not contrary to our confession of faith. That confession of faith is unchanged, so if they were outside that confession of faith, they were outside what they had pledged sacredly to abide by. The difficult thing was having to say, “go.” That was not easy. It’s never easy. It was absolutely necessary. If I had to do it again, we’d have to do it again, but that’s not the kind of experience I would wish upon anyone. 
 
Q: The liberal-conservative rift was solved by most of the liberals leaving. Were you left with mostly conservatives here?
 
A: I had to hire a lot of conservatives. By and large, out of a faculty of about a hundred, we had to hire almost an entire new faculty made up of conservative and evangelical scholars.
 
Q: One of the things that happened here after that was some people embraced reformed theology more than others. You happen to be one of those who has embraced reformed theology. Talk about your growth out of a Baptist church toward someone who would characterize himself as a reformed theologian.
 
A: I just want to remind us all that the Southern Baptist Convention was obviously born in that kind of reformed self-consciousness. Our confession of faith is extremely reformed, explicitly reformed. The framers and founders of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 were overwhelmingly, self-consciously holding to the theology that will be described as reformed.
 
Of course, they were Baptists, as I am adamantly a Baptist. We’re not Presbyterians, but in terms of our understanding of how salvation works in the larger superstructure of theology, we are now, as we were then, very, very close brothers, and for that I’m very thankful. 
 
Q: Some of your comments on contraception and childlessness have created controversy. Talk about your position on those issues.
 
A: In the Bible, childlessness is always discussed as something that is grievous and a cause for sorrow rather than a cause for joy. There are purposes for which people were childless in the Bible, but that’s much like what Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 7 about someone who was unmarried. You’re unmarried for a purpose that is tied to the gospel. The idea that healthy married people, a man or woman who are married together would choose childlessness just as a lifestyle is alien from the Scripture. If that’s controversial, just try to find any hole in that argument from the Bible. I don’t think you’re going to find it. In fact, I’m confident you won’t. 
 
Contraception is not as easy of a question to answer as you might think or people might want. The Roman Catholic Church has an easy answer, and that is no to any kind of artificial contraception. Quite frankly, their definition of natural stretches the imagination of what natural means. What we do need to recognize is that evangelicals just joined the contraceptive bandwagon unthinkingly, unreflectively, and, I think, unfaithfully, and just thought that any pill had to be a good pill. It has unleashed far more sorrow than joy in this world and has led to an understanding that babies are now simply an elective accessory and has made every pregnancy a tentative pregnancy. You have to put that alongside the availability of legal abortion. By the time you put together the triumvirate of no fault divorce, the availability of contraception, and the availability of abortion on demand, what you have is a situation that has just completely transformed the value of life as recognized by this society.
 
The evangelical, non-denominational megachurch has risen in the last 30 years or so. While there are some examples of faithfulness within that movement, there are also examples of lack of authority and lack of accountability moving those churches away from faithfulness. I think so. Lack of accountability is not just in terms of the structures of church officers and financial accountability and institutional accountability, but it’s theological accountability. Where’s the confession of faith? Where’s the connection to a comprehensive understanding of the Christian faith that intends to be consciously continuous with the faith of the apostles? Where is that? In most of these churches, it’s simply absent. The size of the church isn’t the problem. There are some wonderfully faithful, really big churches, and some of them are rightly called megachurches. But the megachurch model, which means the attractional model – we minimize theology in order to maximize the crowd – that’s a huge problem. I also think it’s a passing fad. I think that fits cultural Christianity, which is fast disappearing in a secularizing age.

3/27/2015 2:45:10 PM by Warren Cole Smith, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Winston-Salem church cancels Easter services

March 27 2015 by Calvary Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church of Winston-Salem will be closed on Easter Sunday.

 
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A banner was placed on their building March 9 announcing the rare event.
 
Instead the church will be hosting a community event at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the goal of “bringing the diversity of our community together at one venue on a special day,” according to a press release from the church. The free event will offer doughnuts and drinks at the main entrance beginning at 9 a.m. and is open to everyone.
 
Rob Peters, Calvary’s senior pastor, will be answering the question “Who is Jesus?” in his sermon.

Translation opportunities will be available in Spanish, Deaf, Vietnamese, Karenni and Nepali.
 
Visit easter.calvarynow.com.

3/27/2015 2:38:52 PM by Calvary Baptist Church | with 0 comments



Charges against chaplain called ‘overt attack’

March 27 2015 by Ken Walker, Baptist Press

The attorney who represents 65 former chaplains suing the Navy for discrimination says the possible dismissal of a chaplain for giving traditional biblical counsel is evidence of a continuing attack against evangelicals.
 
For Virginia attorney Arthur Schulcz, the charge of “intolerance” leveled against Navy chaplain Wesley Modder shows how once-subtle discrimination against evangelical chaplains is increasing. The 65 chaplains’ cases continue to be waged in various courts alleging instances of discrimination dating back to the mid-1970s.
 
The Navy’s action against Modder falls in the context of recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) language that protects the chaplain’s right to speak on matters of religion and morality, Schulcz said.
 
“There is the alleged taking of information from Modder’s personal files for the purpose of attacking him,” Schulcz said. “That is clearly a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, yet they’re attacking Chaplain Modder, not the perpetrators.

 
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Chaplain Wes Modder, holding the ceremonial oar given to him by Naval Special Warfare Command.

“Now, the subtle attacks have transitioned to overt attacks. You have to understand the chilling effect this kind of attack has on other chaplains.”
 
Modder is a veteran of nearly 20 years in the military, including a four-year tour of duty with the Marines. On Feb. 17, his commanding officer sent Modder a letter calling for the chaplain’s “detachment for cause.”
 
Capt. Jon Fahs said Modder is unable to function in a diverse and pluralistic environment at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command base.
 
Fahs’ accusations include Modder allegedly telling a student she was “shaming herself” for engaging in premarital sex; berating another unmarried student for getting pregnant; and telling another that homosexuality is wrong.
 
“He failed to show tolerance and respect for the rights of individuals to determine their own religious convictions as required ...,” Fahs wrote. “On multiple occasions he discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds” at the Nuclear Field “A” School.
 
Stationed at the South Carolina post since last April, Modder has been temporarily reassigned as a staff chaplain at Naval Support Activity in Charleston, according to Christianne Witten, a spokesperson for the Navy Chaplain Corps.
 
Mike Berry, an attorney for Modder with the Dallas-based Liberty Institute, said the complaints lodged against Modder are “highly suspicious.”
 
One of them came from a young officer who had once worked in the same office with Modder and quite likely knew of his beliefs, said Berry, Liberty Institute’s senior counsel and director of military affairs.
 
“The actions the Navy has taken so far, particularly Fahs, potentially expose the Navy to liability in federal court for denying a chaplain his constitutional rights,” Berry said.
 
After receiving Fahs’ letter, Modder filed a request for accommodation of his religious views, which the Navy subsequently denied. Berry said the next step is filing appeals with the admirals responsible for overseeing these issues.
 
Berry said his client will challenge both the planned dismissal and the alleged infringement on his religious rights. The attorney said those are separate issues and likely to be decided by two different admirals.
 
The latter is especially significant, Berry said. Under previous Department of Defense (DoD) regulations, the burden fell on a service member to justify his/her religious expression – such as a Jewish soldier wanting to wear a yarmulke, Berry said.
 
NDAA legislation in fiscal 2013 and 2014 directed the DoD to change its regulations, Berry said. The new law places the burden on the military if it tries to restrict individuals from expressing their religious views – which is what the Navy is trying to do with Modder, the attorney said.
 
However, Witten replied that the Navy is complying with current DoD and Navy policies and the NDAA’s latest provisions. She said the Navy upholds the rights of conscience of chaplains and service members to express sincerely held beliefs.
 
“Upon commissioning, all Navy chaplains agree to serve in a diverse and pluralistic environment,” Witten said. “They are expected to treat everyone with dignity and respect, irrespective of differences in religious belief.”
 
Modder’s case has attracted statements of support from such leaders as evangelist Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and newly-announced Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
 
The chaplain’s endorsing agency, the Assemblies of God, also “stands solidly” behind Modder, issuing a statement that he is in good standing with the denomination.
 
“At the same time, we are committed to allowing the Navy to proceed with legal processing,” according to a statement from the denomination, based in Springfield, Mo.
 
“The Assemblies of God does not have any plans to become directly involved with the political aspects of Chaplain Modder’s situation. We believe this approach is in the best interests of Chaplain Modder, the Assemblies of God and the U.S. Navy.”
 
Schulcz said he hopes the Navy eventually will be called to account for violating Modder’s rights.
 
“Where are the [chaplain’s] rights this captain [Fahs] was sworn to uphold?” Schulcz said. “What’s important for people to understand is if you restrict religious freedom, you might as well throw out the rest of the Constitution.
 
“The right to worship, assemble and petition all come from the First Amendment. When those are under attack, you better watch out, because that’s the Bill of Rights.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer from Huntington, W. Va.)

3/27/2015 12:23:55 PM by Ken Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New Hiding Place film challenges anti-Semitism

March 27 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The “Return to the Hiding Place” film about the underground teenage army that helped Corrie ten Boom save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust is aptly released as anti-Semitism is rising globally and on college campuses, the movie’s director said.
 
The independent film comes more than 70 years after six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but Jews still face the persecution and hatred of anti-Semitism, according to research and news reports.
 
Director Peter Spencer said the film’s release is for such a time as this.
 
“I believe God timed this film for now to bring attention to the plight of believers in the Middle East and the church kind of being asleep at the wheel,” Spencer said. “I’m encouraging pastors to let the truth be known as to what is happening to believers.”
 
Spencer is promoting the film as an evangelistic outreach to churches and especially youth. He said many young people are often so moved at the film’s end that they offer to start college-based prayer groups and Bible studies, and to educate themselves about the persecution of Christians and Jews.

 
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IMB photo by Will Stuart

“I’m encouraging pastors to let the truth be known as to what is happening to believers,” Spencer said. “Anti-Semitism is growing in colleges because the Left and extremists know if you can get young people believing something in college, they’ll carry it their lives through. And right now the anti-Semitism is stronger than it’s ever been ... for many, many years.
 
“People have forgotten about the Holocaust,” Spencer said. “This film is to remind people ‘never again.’ We will not as a people sit idly by and watch the body of Christ, our family, be liquidated. We will not watch God’s children in Israel be liquidated.”
 
Return to the Hiding Place is based on the book and personal accounts of Hans Poley, a Dutch Christian physics student who dropped out of college after refusing to fight for the Nazis and was the first person sheltered in the ten Boom home during WWII. He helped lead a group of students, some as young as 13, who spied on the Nazi army and saved nearly 800 Jews from capture with the help of the ten Boom family.
 
“This is a film literally about life,” Spencer said. “It’s about protecting innocent life.”
 
It was at a pro-life debate 19 years ago comparing abortion to the Holocaust that Spencer met Poley, who told him about his activities in Holland during WWII. Before his death, Poley gave Spencer rights to his book and other stories of the underground youth army’s activities.
 
The movie presents ten Boom’s army as teenagers who became Christocentric, sacrificing their lives for total strangers, and exhibiting maturity Spencer said is rarely found among youth today. Spencer seeks to portray the danger the teenagers faced daily, knowing they could be tortured and killed at any moment.
 
“We have been seduced by this culture of self,” Spencer said, “and what it takes for us to get the gospel to the world and to change the way the world is determining, unfortunately, the outcome of our lives, is [to] empty ourselves of self and become Christ-centric, and what I would call Christocentric. That is something those teenagers did, and it’s incredible.”
 
While Poley survived the war, others in ten Boom’s group did not, and their deaths are portrayed in the film. Spencer depicts the teens, untrained in military maneuvers or espionage, as simply moved by the Lord to get involved.
 
“We sometimes shrink the vision of God by being so focused just on our own little groups and the finances of our own little groups ... that we lose the greatness of the body of Christ worldwide, and that’s why we don’t make decisions sensitive to the suffering body of Christ worldwide,” Spencer said. “So that drove me in this film, to once again bring attention to how God’s people suffered and what it took to stop that attack on God’s people, and we’re at that place again. We’re going to have to rise up and make a stand before it’s too late.”
 
Spencer believes Poley would be heartbroken at the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, the Middle East, and on college campuses in the U.S. and elsewhere.
 
Skip Grinberg, chairman of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, called the persecution of Jews in Europe epidemic.
 
“It has been 70 years since the liberation of the concentration camps. In today’s enlightened age, life should be different,” Grinberg wrote in a Feb. 28 editorial in the Pittsburg Tribune. “But, instead, we sadly find ourselves dealing with levels of anti-Semitism in Europe that are comparable to those of the 1930s. These efforts will encourage our lawmakers to work with their European counterparts and take steps to ensure that when we say ‘never again,’ we mean it.”
 
In the 2012 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 66 percent considered anti-Semitism to be a problem in the countries surveyed, and 76 percent said anti-Semitism has worsened over the past five years in the countries where they live. The study included 5,900 self-identified Jewish people in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, countries that comprise an estimated 90 percent of the European Union’s Jewish population.
 
The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, released in February, found that 54 percent of Jewish American college students personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 academic year, mainly from an individual student.
 
The study by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysarrom, conducted among 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 universities and four-year colleges, defined anti-Semitism as “prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews, individually or collectively, that can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religion, their ethnicity, ancestry or group membership.”
 
Return to the Hiding Place opened in select cities in March, and is expected to play in more than 650 cinemas nationwide in the coming months. The film is available for bookings at public cinemas and at churches capable of housing a viewing, Spencer said, through Sept. 1.
 
Among the film’s endorsers are evangelist Franklin Graham and the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/27/2015 12:10:53 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baseball builds bridges with Japanese Peruvians

March 27 2015 by Aurora Flores, IMB Communications

Peru’s Nikkei, Japanese immigrants and their descendants, live and work among Peruvians, but their loyalties to Japanese identity and community can wind as tightly as red threads stitched around a baseball.
 
Although their circumstances dictate reliance on foreigners welcoming them as immigrants, their own Japanese culture compels a slow acceptance of outsiders, said International Mission Board missionary Tim Mitchell.
 
Tim and his wife Joy, both from Georgia, serve in the Peruvian capital of Lima, where they uniquely work among the Nikkei. About 100,000 Nikkei live in Peru, but only about 100 of them are evangelical Christians.
 
Overall, “the Nikkei are closed to the gospel,” Tim noted.
 
But they’re wide open to baseball, a sport that’s hugely popular in the land of their ancestors.

 
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Photo by Lina White/IMB
Kevin Ohmé, former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, takes time out to talk with some young Japanese-Peruvian baseball fans in Lima, Peru. Ohmé, from First Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida, has traveled to Lima for the past five years to participate in annual baseball clinics, where players hear the gospel while improving their baseball techniques.

Although soccer is the top sport in Peru, many Nikkei express their passion for baseball through Peru’s baseball federation, which offers leagues for young players and a national team. These players include non-Japanese Peruvians, too, but most of the federation’s leaders and some of its coaches are Nikkei. And its leagues are full of aspiring young Nikkei players.
 
One of those players is a Peruvian Nikkei named Alonzo, who dreams of moving to the U.S. someday to play for the big leagues. He’s had a chance to meet a couple of former major leaguers through annual baseball clinics the Mitchells helped launch in 2011.
 
As for the Nikkei’s wound-tight loyalties to their Japanese roots, families and beliefs, the clinics build a bridge for Christians to take that first step inside their world.
 
Through these clinics, baseball-experienced, Christian players and coaches from the U.S. – including two former big league pitchers – help young baseball players improve their game. During a free clinic, held in January, these volunteers shared the gospel through Bible stories, testimonies and one-on-one conversations with players. At the same time, Nikkei parents, coaches and federation leaders also heard the Good News of Christ.
 
Tim said “the Nikkei do not trust outsiders, but one day many of them will accept the God of the baseball coaches because they are seeing and understanding God’s love through this ministry.”
 
Although the Nikkei are relatively closed to the gospel, the Mitchells and the volunteers have seen at least 20 Peruvian Nikkei make public decisions to accept Christ during baseball clinics held the last three years.
 
“After these five years [since the project’s inception], they see we’re just coming here to love them. We’re not here to take their money, or take advantage of them,” said volunteer team leader Gary Payne, executive pastor at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
 
Payne and his team travel to Lima every January, but throughout the year the Mitchells water the seeds sown through further developing relationships with players like Alonzo.
 
Through Alonzo attending the baseball clinics, the Mitchells have gotten to know his parents, who visit to watch major leaguers help their son improve his skills.
 
“The baseball clinic has opened up a chance for us to get to know this family at a much deeper level and have an ongoing relationship,” Tim said.
 
The Mitchells also help Alonzo improve his English, which will ease his transition to the U.S. if he goes there someday. They also reinforce the gospel message through their sacrifice of time.
 
A current challenge is that the Mitchells are transferring to Japan later this year to serve among Latin American Nikkei living there. For economic reasons, many of these Nikkei have moved to Japan to work in its factories.
 
As the Mitchells prepare to leave for Japan, they’ve been praying about leaving their established ministry in Peru in good hands.
 
A big answer – really three of them – came during baseball clinics held in Lima in mid-January. Three other missionary families – serving in Peru through other mission organizations – attended these clinics. All three volunteered to continue following up with players, parents and coaches who made spiritual decisions. One missionary had been praying for how he could begin working with the kids in the league so he could share the gospel.
 
“I think we helped open this door for him in a big way,” Tim said.
 
Although the Mitchells will be moving to Japan, Tim plans to return to Peru annually to work with future baseball clinics involving Christian volunteers.
 
At the end of this year’s clinic, the baseball outreach hit a high note when volunteers, the Mitchells and baseball officials gathered at Lima’s Japanese Cultural Center for a farewell dinner. Although the center has a policy forbidding religious expression, the federation’s president surprised them by asking volunteer team leader Payne to pray a blessing before the meal.
 
At these dinners in past years, a Nikkei coach has entertained the team with a Japanese song and invited volunteers to sing an American one as well. This year Florida Baptist volunteer Josh Howard sang Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” a song based on Psalm 103.
 
“It was intimidating to stand and sing a cappella in front of friends and others in such an intimate setting, but it was an awesome blessing to find out that we praised God through song in a place that has said that worshiping God is not allowed,” said Howard, from First Baptist Church of Brandon.
 
“The Nikkei people are truly warm and inviting, after you win their favor,” added another volunteer from First Baptist Church Concord in Knoxville, Tenn. “We do this by producing a quality baseball product – opening the doors for the kingdom work that underlies everything we do.”
 

Prayer requests

  • Pray for Tim and Joy Mitchell, IMB missionaries among the Nikkei of Peru, as they move to Japan to work with Latin American Nikkei there.

  • Pray God’s wisdom for three missionary families who will continue the Mitchells’ work of making disciples within Peruvian baseball leagues. Pray for receptive hearts.

  • Ask God to call out some U.S. Christian families to host Nikkei students in their home – for a semester or summer – to help them learn English and to share the gospel with them.

  • Ask God to call out U.S. believers gifted in business leadership and/or teaching English as a Second Language to use their skills in reaching Latin America’s Nikkei.

To join the Mitchells’ prayer team, contact them at tcmsbox@gmail.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aurora Flores is an IMB writer living in the Americas.)

3/27/2015 11:47:15 AM by Aurora Flores, IMB Communications | with 0 comments



New health insurance tax law may affect churches

March 26 2015 by Baptist Press staff

A new tax rule in conjunction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may affect many churches that pay or reimburse individual health insurance premiums, and imposes daily fines beginning June 30 for those not in compliance.
 
GuideStone Financial Resources health plan participants should notice no impact as a result of the rule known as IRS Notice 2015-17, GuideStone said in a March 2 press release. Other churches whose employees do not participate in a group health plan could be affected.

 
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“GuideStone health plan participants, and the organizations that employ them, can continue to pay for coverage as they have in the past and meet the guidelines under current law,” said Harold R. Loftin Jr., GuideStone general counsel. “For churches and ministries that use other providers, it’s important for them to review the IRS Notice, as well as work with their legal and accounting advisors to ensure they are compliant by the end of the grace period on June 30, 2015.”
 
The IRS notice clarifies guidance on the one-employee health plan exception from the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as reimbursement arrangements for Medicare and TRICARE. The notice also provides relief for small business employers that had maintained premium reimbursement arrangements in 2014 and during the first half of 2015. Prior to the notice and its provision of this transition relief, some organizations could have been subject to penalties up to $36,500 per year, per participant, per violation, GuideStone said.
 
GuideStone’s health plans, including the personal plans, are considered group coverage for purposes of federal law, and organizations that offer GuideStone’s health plans were never at risk of penalties imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
 
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) points out a viable option for churches affected by the rule, which is to increase employees’ overall taxable compensation without requiring that the additional income be used to purchase health coverage. Employees would then have the option of using the funds to purchase coverage, the ECFA said in a March 9 press release.
 
Some noncompliant reimbursements will still not be granted any relief from tax penalties, the ECFA said.
 
“For example, the transition rules do not apply to employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees or to reimbursements of out-of-pocket medical expenses made through noncompliant, stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) – regardless of employer size,” according to the ECFA release.
 
GuideStone has made available resources on its website to help churches and ministries understand the Affordable Care Act and its requirements on employers and employees. More information can be found at GuideStone.org/healthreform.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information submitted in a news release by GuideStone Financial Resources. Baptist Press contributed to this story.)

3/26/2015 4:18:43 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



The public square: Christian setbacks & victories

March 26 2015 by Rebecca Wolford, SBCLIFE

The freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs has been a fundamental right in America since its founding. As the culture changes and those opposed to biblical values become more vocal, it is becoming increasingly difficult to express religious beliefs without being socially ostracized or legally penalized.
 
The following compilation by SBCLIFE, the journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, lists many of the political and cultural junctures that have had an effect on religious liberty and biblical faith in America in recent years.
 
The first section recaps various setbacks; the second section, various victories.

 

Liberty & faith setbacks

 

– Methodist-owned facility refuses same-sex ceremony
 
Jan. 12, 2012 – Ocean Grove, N.J.
 
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in Ocean Grove refused to host a same-sex civil ceremony on its property, saying it violated its Methodist doctrine. A judge ruled that because the property was available for public use, the group had violated a state anti-discrimination law.

 
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– Vanderbilt BCM declines recognized status
 
May 7, 2012 – Nashville, Tenn.
 
Vanderbilt University's non-discrimination policy required all officially recognized student organizations to allow any student to seek a leadership position, preventing Christian groups from requiring their student leaders to be Christian. The campus’ Baptist Collegiate Ministry, rather than accepting the policy, declined the opportunity to be officially recognized as a student organization.
 
– Supreme Court declares part of DOMA unconstitutional
 
June 26, 2013 –- Washington, D.C.
 
Edith Windsor's same-sex partner died, leaving Windsor her entire estate. Windsor was denied the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses because the term “spouse” only applied to heterosexual marriages. In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of marriage as a man and a woman was unconstitutional, opening the floodgates for a series of lawsuits overturning bans on same-sex marriage at the state level.
 
– California Proposition 8 overturned
 
June 26, 2013 – San Francisco
 
California Proposition 8 was a successful ballot initiative in 2008 for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages. Approved by voters and upheld by state court, it was ruled unconstitutional by federal courts. When the state refused to appeal, proponents of the proposition sought appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the proponents did not have standing to appeal. Although the Supreme Court did not address the amendment's constitutionality, the dismissal legalized same-sex marriage in California by allowing a previous district court ruling to stand.
 
– Photographer refuses to photograph same-sex ceremony
 
Aug. 22, 2013 – Santa Fe, N.M.

 
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Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography in New Mexico, are among many Christians whose religious liberty has been challenged by the government over their Christian beliefs about marriage.

Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Although the couple was able to find another photographer, they filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The case went to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ruled that the refusal violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act.
 
– Bakery refuses to bake cake for same-sex ceremony
 
Jan. 17, 2014 – Gresham, Ore.
 
Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Oregon, refused to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries brought charges that the Kleins had discriminated against the same-sex couple. They may now face fines of up to $150,000 in upcoming court action. The couple closed their bakery in the summer of 2013 and is now operating in a limited capacity out of their home.
 
– Mozilla CEO pressured to resign
 
April 3, 2014 – Mountain View, Calif.
 
Brendan Eich helped found Mozilla, a software and technology company, and held leadership roles throughout its history. In 2008, he donated $1,000 to support California Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. When he was promoted to CEO on March 24, 2014, opponents to Prop 8 stirred up controversy over his 2008 donation. He resigned less than two weeks later on April 3 after protests from activists, Mozilla employees and other companies.
 
– HGTV drops TV show with Benham brothers
 
May 7, 2014 – Concord, N.C.
 
Jason and David Benham, two brothers who work in real estate, were slated to star in a new show on HGTV called “Flip It Forward” in which the brothers would help transform a fixer-upper home for a family. After the media publicized the brothers’ stance against homosexuality and the homosexual agenda, HGTV canceled the show before it aired.
 
– Bakery refuses to bake cake for same-sex wedding
 
May 30, 2014 – Lakewood, Colo.
 
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had illegally discriminated against the customers and that he must change his business policies, conduct staff training and submit quarterly compliance reports for two years.
 
– Tenth Circuit court legalizes same-sex marriage
 
June 10, 2014 – Denver, Colo.
 
A lower court ruling striking down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision is binding in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
 
– Fourth Circuit court legalizes same-sex marriage
 
July 28, 2014 – Richmond, Va.
 
A lower court ruling striking down a same-sex marriage ban in Virginia was upheld by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision is binding in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
 
– InterVarsity de-recognized at California State University
 
August 2014 – Long Beach, Calif.
 
California State University issued a policy requiring student organizations to allow any student the opportunity to hold a leadership position. Collegiate ministry InterVarsity refused to comply with this policy, as their organization’s policy requires leaders to adhere to a statement of faith. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, InterVarsity was de-recognized at CSU’s 23 campuses, denying the group access to certain campus resources and events.
 
– Farm refuses to host same-sex wedding
 
Aug. 8, 2014 – Schaghticoke, N.Y.
 
Cynthia and Robert Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York, refused to host a same-sex wedding on their property. The judge ruled the couple had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws and ordered that they pay $13,000 in fines and restitution. After the ruling, the couple announced they would no longer host any weddings on their property.
 
– Seventh Circuit court legalizes same-sex marriage
 
Sept. 4, 2014 – Chicago, Ill.
 
Lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin were upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision is binding in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
 
– Ninth Circuit court legalizes same-sex marriage
 
Oct. 7, 2014 – San Francisco
 
Same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were struck down by the Ninth District Court of Appeals. This decision is binding in Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington.
 
– T-shirt vendor refuses to print gay pride shirt
 
Oct. 7, 2014 – Lexington, Ky.
 
Blaine Adamson, owner of T-shirt printing company Hands On Originals, refused to print shirts for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for Lexington’s 2012 Pride Festival. The Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled that Adamson violated a city fairness ordinance by discriminating against the GLSO.
 
– 19 Kids and Counting controversy
 
November 2014 – Tontitown, Ark.
 
In part due to the Duggar family’s efforts to oppose a Fayetteville, Ark., anti-discrimination ordinance, more than 1,000 people signed a petition for cable network TLC to cancel their show “19 Kids and Counting.” A counter-petition garnered even more signatures as of the end of 2014. TLC has not responded to the petitions.
 
– Fire chief Kelvin Cochran fired
 
Jan. 6, 2015 – Atlanta, Ga.
 
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dismissed Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran following an investigation into Cochran’s book “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”, which calls homosexual behavior immoral. Though a city investigation found no evidence that Cochran had discriminated against homosexuals, Reed cited policy violations and possible lawsuits against the city as reasons for his termination.
 
– Mayor won't allow churches to meet in public schools
 
Jan. 15, 2015 – New York City
 
An appeals court ruled that New York City’s policy preventing churches from renting space in public schools for worship services is constitutional. Bronx Household of Faith petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court defending the policy, despite de Blasio voicing his opposition to the policy during his 2013 mayoral campaign.
 
– Answers in Genesis denied tax benefits
 
Feb. 3, 2015 – Petersburg, Ky.
 
In 2014, the government of Kentucky granted preliminary approval for a tax rebate, offered by the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, to apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG) for the construction of its theme park Ark Encounter. On Dec. 10 of last year, the state reversed its decision and denied the incentive. AiG filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the state because it is a religious organization.
 
– Ala. federal district judge reverses state constitution
 
Feb. 9, 2015 – Mobile, Ala.
 
On Jan. 23, 2015, federal district court Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment to Alabama’s constitution violates the federal Constitution and that same-sex marriage would become legal in the state on Feb. 9. That day, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by state officials to stay the ruling pending appeals. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore urged probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying that they were not bound by Granade’s decision. As of Feb. 17, most of the counties had begun issuing marriage licenses. On March 3, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to the same-sex licenses, posing a direct challenge to the federal court in Mobile.
 
– Florist refuses to make arrangements for same-sex wedding
 
Feb. 18, 2015 – Richland, Wash.
 
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State, declined a request from a longtime customer to make a flower arrangement for his same-sex wedding. The state attorney general filed suit against both the business and the owner. A judge ruled that she had broken state consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws. Stutzman may be forced to pay penalties as an individual as well as a business.
 

Liberty & faith victories

 

– Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day
 
Aug. 1, 2012 – Atlanta
 
In an interview, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy spoke about the company’s belief in traditional marriage. It was also revealed that the company had donated money to various causes in support of traditional marriage. LGBT activist groups called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A restaurants. A counter-protest on August 1, dubbed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” saw record-breaking sales for the company as customers flocked to the restaurants to show their support.
 
– Duck Dynasty controversy
 
Dec. 18, 2013 – West Monroe, La.
 
In an interview, Phil Robertson of the TV show “Duck Dynasty” stated that homosexuality is sinful. The show’s network, A&E, announced they were suspending Robertson from the show indefinitely. In addition, sponsor Cracker Barrel removed Duck Dynasty products from their stores. After fans expressed outrage at the decision, the suspension was lifted and the products were returned to Cracker Barrel shelves.
 
– Prayer in government meetings allowed
 
May 5, 2014 – Greece, N.Y.
 
The town board of Greece, N.Y., held public meetings to address city business, opening each meeting with prayer – usually led by Christian pastors but also by leaders of other faiths at times. The practice was challenged on the grounds that it constituted a government establishment of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, ruled that the prayers are constitutional.
 
– Hobby Lobby allowed to decline abortifacient insurance coverage
 
June 30, 2014 – Washington, D.C.
 
The Christian owners of two businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, objected to an Affordable Care Act mandate that would have forced them to provide coverage for abortifacients in their employee insurance plans. They specifically objected to four out of 20 total required contraceptives that could cause an abortion. The Supreme Court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations could object to the mandate based on religious beliefs.
 
– Wedding chapel refuses same-sex wedding
 
Oct. 24, 2014 – Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
 
The Christian ministers who operate the Hitching Post wedding chapel filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur D’Alene, contending that the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance would force them to marry same-sex couples. The city initially said the ordinance would apply to the chapel because it is a for-profit corporation but later said it would be exempt as a religious organization.
 
– Mayor subpoenas pastors for sermons
 
Oct. 29, 2014 – Houston, Texas
 
After the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was enacted by the city council in May 2014, opponents petitioned to have the ordinance placed on a ballot for repeal. They submitted more than the required number of signatures, but the city attorney invalidated enough of the signatures to disqualify the petition. The opponents filed suit challenging the disqualification. The city then subpoenaed five pastors for all correspondence, including sermons, on anything related to HERO or homosexuality in general. The mayor withdrew the subpoenas after outcry from people on all sides of the political spectrum. In the court case, a jury’s 10-2 verdict Feb. 13 found nearly 2,500 forgeries among the 54,000 voter signatures but dismissed the city's allegations of fraud. A final judgment on the case now rests with a Houston district court judge.
 
– Sixth Circuit court upholds states’ same-sex marriage bans
 
Nov. 6, 2014 – Cincinnati, Ohio
 
In a move that ran counter to previous circuit court rulings, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rights of the states to decide on same-sex marriage. The ruling sets precedent in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The Supreme Court will review the ruling and issue an opinion by June of this year, which could either legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country or uphold states' authority to define marriage.
 
– Minister’s housing allowance stays intact
 
Nov. 13, 2014 – Chicago
 
An atheist organization challenged the tax-exempt status of ministers’ housing allowances by saying they were denied the tax benefit for employer-provided housing allowance conditioned on religious affiliation. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the original decision to invalidate the allowance on the grounds that the organization did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit.
 
– Voters overturn a pro-LGBT city ordinance
 
Dec. 9, 2014 – Fayetteville, Ark.
 
Citizens in Fayetteville voted to overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance. Though the ordinance was passed in August 2014, residents collected enough signatures to place it on the ballot for a special election.
 
– InterVarsity job discrimination case
 
Feb. 5, 2015 – Grand Rapids, Mich.
 
Alyce Conlon, spiritual formation specialist for InterVarsity, was put on paid leave in 2011 to work on her marriage and was fired when she and her husband divorced. She sued InterVarsity in 2013 for wrongful termination. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in InterVarsity’s favor in keeping with the principles espoused in EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor, saying that the ministry qualified for a ministerial exception that gives religious organizations broad freedom to choose their leaders.
 
– Charlotte city council votes down LGBT ordinance
 
March 2, 2015 – Charlotte, N.C.
 
Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Building March 2 to express support or opposition to a proposed ordinance to include “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” and “gender expression” as legally protected categories in the city. 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.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of SBCLIFE, published five times yearly by the Executive Committee.)

3/26/2015 4:07:13 PM by Rebecca Wolford, SBCLIFE | with 0 comments



India: Anti-Christian attacks up 55%

March 26 2015 by Baptist Press/Morning Star News staff

The number of violent and nonviolent attacks against Christians in India has increased 55 percent since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister last year, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
 
During a protest by religious minorities near India’s Parliament House March 19, rights activist and Christian leader John Dayal said there have been 168 acts of aggression against Christians during Modi’s first 300 days in power. That figure compares with 108 such cases in the 300 days before Modi took office on May 26, 2014, according to the EFI.
 
Reported attacks against the Christian community in January totaled 20, with another 20 in February and 13 so far in March, according to the EFI. By comparison, during the first five months of 2014 there were only 32 anti-Christian incidents before Modi took power.
 
Dayal, a former member of the National Integration Council, told Morning Star News the actual number of anti-Christian incidents is higher than the reported number because many cases go unreported. Incidents ranged from false accusations of “forcible conversion” to desecration of church buildings to violent attacks on Christians.

 
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“Illegal police detention of church workers and denial of constitutional rights of freedom aggravate the coercion and terror unleashed in hate speeches and campaigns of ghar wapsi [‘homecoming,’ or reconversion to Hinduism],” Dayal said. “Since 2014, there has been a marked shift in public discourse.”
 
During the first 300 days of Modi’s government coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the state of Chhattisgarh reported the most incidents against Christians with 28, followed by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana with 15, Dayal said.
 
The tone set by Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack non-Hindus, Christian leaders say. Coercion to convert to Hinduism continues.
 
Government authorities attempted to “dilute” Christmas celebrations in 2014 with a “call to observe ‘Governance Day’” on the same date, EFI general secretary Richard Howell said. Such an action “on the day most sacred to the Christian community in India is a matter of great concern.”
 
On Christmas Day, 20 Christians were arrested and police stopped four Christmas functions across the country, according to EFI.
 
About 2,000 people from 80 civil society groups participated in the protest in central Delhi, asserting that Hindu extremist assaults of religious minorities are an attack against the secular nature of India’s government.
 
Anti-Christian incidents included vandalism, burning and robbing church buildings, burning Bibles, disrupting worship meetings and Christmas functions, beating pastors and evangelists and stopping church construction.
 
Of the anti-Christian incidents, Dayal said 54 percent were threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Physical violence accounted for 24 percent of all cases, including 11 percent against Christian women. Breaking statues and crosses and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of cases. Additional desecration was “consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” Dayal said.
 
“A disturbing trend was rising communal violence in West Bengal, where the BJP and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu group of which Modi is a member] have redoubled their efforts to fill what they see as a political vacancy following the decline of the Communist Party of India Marxist and the Congress Party in recent times,” Dayal said.
 
The number of violent incidents against religious minorities, including unreported ones, could well exceed 800, Dayal said.
 
A pastor of Good Shepherd Community Church in New Delhi, Joshua David, told Morning Star News that at every Sunday worship meeting since Christmas day, two policemen have been posted outside the church.
 
“Initially, it created a different kind of feeling among the church members, raising some sort of suspicion among them of the possible danger in attending church services, but we are getting accustomed to it,” David said.
 
Social activists at the demonstration said the Sangh Parivar family of Hindu extremist groups has relentlessly attempted to create division between Hindus and all others.
 
“The Sangh Parivar and the present Bharatiya Janata Party government, which is part of the Sangh Parivar, do not believe in diversity and wish to have everyone follow their own dictates,” said Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians. “The basic tenets of the Indian constitution – the secularism and the pluralism – therefore are constantly under attack, and minorities are a part of that.”
 
The BJP has abused, ridiculed and threatened minorities, activists said, including hate statements by government ministers and threats by members of Parliament and state politicians.
 
Journalist Seema Mustafa said the main objective of the protest was to show solidarity and ensure that action is taken against perpetrators of violence.
 
“While communal incidents have taken place in the past as well, the difference now is that the BJP itself is in power,” Seema said. “Now the continuing violence and statements supporting the violence is vitiating the atmosphere and terrifying the minorities.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared at MorningStarNews.org, a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of evangelical Christians worldwide. Used by permission.)

3/26/2015 4:01:25 PM by Baptist Press/Morning Star News staff | with 2 comments



Church disbanding leads to two thriving churches

March 26 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press

With just a handful of members after years of struggle, Victory Baptist Church could have continued meeting as usual, barely making use of their building and facilities.
 
But the congregation in St. Cloud, Minn., chose to do something a bit more courageous.
 
In September of 2012, Victory Baptist disbanded and handed their church over to the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC).

 
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Photo courtesy Park Fellowship
Christina Hansen, Patty McLaird and Robin Gotta (adults, from left) interact with students during Vacation Bible School last summer at Park Fellowship in St. Cloud, Minn. Park Fellowship is one of two new churches meeting in the building previously owned by Victory Baptist Church. Victory Baptist donated the building to the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention after disbanding in September of 2012.

“We promised to do our best to see churches planted there,” said Bob Ray, a North American Mission Board and MWBC church planting catalyst. “Our idea was not just one congregation but a church planting center. We promised to do our best to see evangelical churches planted there and use the resources to aid church planting.”
 
Less than two years later, the building that once housed Victory Baptist Church now hosts two different thriving churches. Both already give to the Cooperative Program.
 
Shortly after the MWBC came into possession of the building, Ray began to explore a variety of options to use it for church planting efforts. Resources – particularly potential meeting locations for new churches – come highly valued among Minnesota Southern Baptists. Ray, whose church planting catalyst responsibilities cover a total of 45 counties in the state, says there are only four Minnesota Southern Baptist churches west of Interstate 35 (not counting Minneapolis-St.Paul).
 
Ray heard about Park Fellowship, a new church plant that had been meeting in a nearby mall and was looking for a more permanent location. Though the church plant wasn’t Southern Baptist at the time, it was certainly like-minded. Conservative theologically with a passion for evangelism, the church fit well within the MWBC’s fellowship.
 
Dan Mrakovich, Park Fellowship’s pastor, says the church sees itself as a place for those who don’t fit in other churches. The church’s tagline is: “A church for the rest of us.”
 
“We have people coming to our church who say when they went to other churches they felt like they were invisible,” Mrakovich said.
 
An example of this focus has been the church’s monthly worship service designed specifically for adults with developmental disabilities. Mrakovich notes that this is a segment of the population to whom many churches aren’t ministering.
 

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Photo courtesy Park Fellowship
Ginny Shimota serves popcorn and Becky Friday serves snow cones during an open house at Park Fellowship in St. Cloud, Minn. Park Fellowship is one of two new churches meeting in the former Victory Baptist Church location. The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention worked with Victory Baptist, helping the former congregation donate its building for future church planting.

Park Fellowship applied to be a part of the Pioneer-Western Baptist Association and was accepted in October. Even before it was accepted into the association, it began giving to MWBC through the Cooperative Program. Park Fellowship has also used the association’s block party trailer to help them with community outreach events.
 
Ray wasn’t satisfied with seeing just one new church meeting in the former building of Victory Baptist Church. From the beginning his hope had always been to see multiple new churches use the building.
 
A thriving Hispanic MWBC congregation in Austin, Minn., (about 160 miles away) was looking to start a new Spanish-speaking congregation in the St. Cloud area. They contacted Ray about the building.
 
“Some of the church’s members found work in the St. Cloud area and couldn’t find a Baptist church to attend there,” Ray said. “They began reaching out to their neighbors in the places they were meeting and started a Bible study.”
 
Ray said when the Austin pastor realized the building was available he thought it would be a great location to start a church for its St. Cloud members and those neighbors they were reaching. The Hispanic Baptist Mission of St. Cloud has also been contributing to the Cooperative Program.
 
Ray admits, having worked with Victory Baptist Church for years before its closing, that suggesting the church close wasn’t easy. But he says he wanted the church to see that just because it closed doesn’t mean all the congregation had done for the sake of the gospel in St. Cloud was in vain. Their resources could help further the gospel in the community.
 
“Now where we once had one dying church, we now have two churches that are growing and reaching their community with the gospel,” Ray said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about the North American Mission Board’s church revitalization ministry, which includes legacy church planting, visit namb.net/revitalization.)

3/26/2015 1:16:13 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist leader Coy Privette dies

March 25 2015 by BR staff

Retired Baptist pastor Coy C. Privette, 82, died Mon., March 23, 2015, in Thomasville. Known as a colorful and witty leader, he was active in public service. Privette was a Republican candidate for governor of N.C. in 1976, but lost in a primary race.
 
He served four terms in the N.C. House, from 1985 to 1992. In 1992, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives for the 8th congressional district. Privette served as a Cabarrus County commissioner from 1998-2010.

 
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Coy C. Privette

Privette was pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Statesville from 1955-1959; First Baptist, Ellerbe from 1959-1962; and North Kannapolis Baptist, 1962-1976. He served 15 years as executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina (CAL) and five years as president of CAL. He also was on the board of directors of the American Council of Alcohol Problems.
 
In 1976 he was elected to the presidency of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). He was re-elected in 1977 and later served on the BSC board of directors and executive committee.
 
A native of Iredell County, Privette was a graduate of Statesville High School, Wake Forest College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In high school he was honored as the most valuable player and co-captain of the football team. He went on to Wake Forest College (now University) on a football scholarship.
 
At Wake Forest he was president of the student body, active in the Baptist Student Union and the Omicron Delta Kappa national honorary leadership fraternity, president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, sophomore class president and junior class vice president.

 “Whether it was a personal conversation or whether he mounted the pulpit to speak to an audience, it was inevitable within just a short period of time that people would find themselves laughing at some joke, or some funny story that he had told, or just Coy’s humorous take on the day’s events,” said Mark Creech, current Christian Action League executive director, adding he was inspired by Privette’s courage, knowledge and his example. Creech was commenting for an article on the Christian Action League website.
 
“You can only imagine how deeply honored I felt when he threw his influence behind my becoming the next executive director of the Christian Action League in 1999,” he added. “To a large degree, I am where I am today because of him.”
 
He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1955 and later served as a major in the chaplaincy of the U.S. Army Reserves.
 
At the time of his death, Privette was a resident of Piedmont Crossing Retirement Community in Thomasville and taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Lexington.
 
In 2007, Privette was accused of paying a woman for sex in a Salisbury hotel room. He eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. He rejected pleas to resign from county party leaders and county commissioners, and finished his term in 2010.

Creech acknowledged Privette’s faults and asked for prayer for his family during their time of grief.
 
“We remember that his feet were made of clay. He stumbled and fell at one point, but the same God whose grace proved sufficient for King David was also sufficient for Coy,” he said. “He sought forgiveness and went on to serve His Master in constructive ways after retirement.”
 
In his later years, he enjoyed volunteering for disaster relief efforts and as a part of summer programs teaching English in China.
 
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday (March 28) at North Kannapolis Baptist Church. Family visitation will follow the service.
 
Survivors include his wife, Betty; four daughters, Denise Sherman of Raleigh, Lori Hinnant of Winston-Salem, Amy Perko of Fayetteville, and Melanie Caudron of Potomac, Md.; one brother, Bob Privette of Deerfield, Ill.; and 10 grandchildren.

Memorial contributions to: North Carolina Baptist Men Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.

3/25/2015 10:18:42 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



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