March 2015

Same-sex marriage arguments set April 28

March 9 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The legal fate of marriage in the United States will be debated April 28 before the Supreme Court.
 
The high court announced March 5 the date for oral arguments regarding same-sex marriage. The justices likely will issue an opinion before they adjourn this summer. If they do, gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by the end of June or states could maintain their authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
 
Advocates on both sides of the issue recognize the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision in this case.
 
“This case could potentially transform the cultural landscape of America,” Russell Moore has said. Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We should pray for the court, that they will not seek to redefine marriage. And even more than that, we should pray for churches who will know how to articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage as the one-flesh union of a man and a woman in the tumultuous years ahead.”
 
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, has said gay marriage proponents hope this will be “the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide.”
 
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal just 18 months ago. It also is legal in the District of Columbia.
 
In January, the high court granted review of a November decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals involving challenges to laws in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Cincinnati, was the first federal appeals court to rule states could limit marriage to the union of a man and a woman. Four other appeals courts had previously invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage.
 
In the cases the justices will consider from the Sixth Circuit, the voters of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee all approved constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limited marriage to a man and a woman.

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The Supreme Court has consolidated the four cases and limited consideration to two questions: (1) Does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require a state “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and (2) Does the 14th Amendment require a state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
 
The court set the time for oral arguments on the first question at 90 minutes. It allotted one hour for arguments on the second question. Normally, oral arguments in a case are only an hour in length.
 
Freedom to Marry filed its own friend-of-the-court brief and helped enlist signers to others that were filed March 6 with the high court. Freedom to Marry’s brief contends discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be considered unconstitutional and the justices should rule same-sex marriage is legal nationwide.
 
Among the other briefs filed in support of gay marriage, according to Freedom to Marry, were ones from nearly 2,000 religious leaders; almost 400 major corporations; more than 220 mayors, including those of the five largest American cities; and more than 300 conservatives and Republicans, as Freedom to Marry described them. The latter group includes former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. Sens. John Danforth and Larry Pressler, and former U.S. Reps. Bob Inglis and Rick Lazio.
 
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Photographers, florists, bakers and other business owners who oppose serving in support of same-sex wedding ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/9/2015 9:34:45 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rick Brewer to lead Louisiana College

March 9 2015 by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Trustees of Louisiana College have elected Rick Brewer as the college’s ninth president. They announced their unanimous decision during a special called meeting March 5.
 
Brewer will begin his duties April 7. He is a New Orleans native, and his father attended seminary there. He grew up mostly in North Carolina, and for the past 28 years has called Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, S.C., home.

“We believe this is an answer to prayer,” Brewer said during a press conference following the board meeting. “We believe God has been in this from the very beginning.
 
“In fact, He was working here before we knew it,” he continued. “He was working in our life before [trustees] knew it. He brought it all together.
 
“I want to challenge the faculty, staff, students, alums, and other persons or constituent groups in the state that love Louisiana College to leave the past in the rear view mirror and get on board with what I believe will become the finest days Louisiana College has ever seen.”

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Louisiana College (LC) Board of Trustees Chairman Tommy French (left) introduces Rick Brewer during a March 5 press conference announcing Brewer as LC’s new president. Trustees unanimously selected Brewer as the school’s ninth president. He will officially take office at LC on April 7, leaving his role as vice president of student affairs and athletics at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C.

 

When Brewer arrives on the Pineville campus, he will bring years of extensive senior-level administrative experience from Charleston Southern, where he served in various capacities, including most recently as vice-president for student affairs and athletics.
 
While at the South Carolina Baptist Convention-affiliated school, Brewer helped double enrollment from 1,600 to more than 3,400 students, increased unrestricted giving and endowment support and improved freshman-to-sophomore retention from 50 to 78 percent.
 
Under his leadership, the integration of planning, budgeting and assessment with broad-based campus participation led to additional academic programs and facilities, such as an athletic facility, state-of-the-art science building and an expansion of a building for the School of Nursing.
 
Brewer also brings extensive experience as an evaluator for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the NCAA. He plans to use that experience with SACS-COC to help Louisiana College move off of probation status. Placed on probation in 2014, the probationary status in no way affects the current accreditation of Louisiana College.
 
“Let’s move through this and let’s have probation removed and be fully accredited,” Brewer said. “The school deserves it. The wonderful people here, the faculty and the reputation of the school all deserve it. We’re going to do all we can to make this work and we’ll do everything they ask us to do to be successful at the end of the day.”
 
Brewer said he is looking forward to seeing students’ lives transformed. He said he will maintain an open-door policy with them.
 
While at Charleston Southern, Brewer said he could be found eating with students in the cafeteria, spending time with them in his home or visiting with them in the stands at a football game.
 
“Nothing gets my heart and my blood pumping (more) to see students go through that transformational experience,” he said. “We prepare graduates but also transform lives.”
 
To help students reach that dream of coming to Louisiana College, Brewer said he wants to start a donor program that will help raise funds for student scholarships. While at Charleston Southern, Brewer helped garner resource development, including $50 million for student scholarships, academic programs and campus construction.
 
During the March 5 meeting he asked the board members to begin identifying people he could personally call and visit for possible fundraising that would include student scholarships.
 
“We will build a donor program that will help students because at the end of the day this is about student scholarships,” he said. “This is about enabling a student to be able to attain that education they desire. They want to be in a Christian college. They want an education that is taught through the lens of Christianity. They want a good education. In many cases it just becomes an issue of affordability.”
 
In his remarks, board chairman Tommy French said when the presidential search committee saw Brewer’s resume and met with him, they were convinced he was God’s choice for Louisiana College.
 
“To say that we were impressed is an understatement,” French said. “We were thrilled. We were overjoyed. And we were hopeful.
 
“And we still are those things today because our board has unanimously elected one of God’s best servants to lead Louisiana College,” he said. “I dare say we couldn’t have been led to a candidate who can speak the language of educators and preach the sermons of Baptists any better than Dr. Rick Brewer.”
 
Brewer earned a bachelor of arts and master’s in business administration from Charleston Southern and a doctor of philosophy degree in educational leadership and policies from the University of South Carolina. He also completed post-graduate study at Harvard University and Duke University.
 
Brewer and his wife Cathy have two grown sons, Jason and Jonathan. Brewer is an accomplished pianist and is a deacon at Summerville Baptist Church in Summerville, S.C., not far from the Charleston Southern campus.
 
The hiring of Brewer ends a lengthy search to fill the position, most recently held by Interim President Argile Smith.
 
The school began its search for a new president after the contract of Joe Aguillard as president expired on July 31, 2014, and the board approved an agreement which allowed Aguillard to remain on campus as president emeritus beginning Aug. 1, 2014.
 
Smith then became interim president of the college once Aguillard’s contract expired. Before being named interim president, Smith served as executive vice-president for integration of faith and learning at Louisiana College. In addition to the college’s nine presidents, two of its past leaders have served in interim roles.
 
During the board’s December meeting, the search committee announced they had narrowed the pool of candidates to three from a pool of around 40.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

3/9/2015 9:29:36 AM by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



New Orleans church grieved by youth minister’s arrest

March 9 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A prominent New Orleans church took prompt action to dismiss a youth minister accused of sexual abuse of a teenage girl and to begin the healing process within the congregation.
 
“We are devastated by the events that have led to the arrest of one of our former ministers,” the March 1 worship guide of First Baptist Church in New Orleans stated to the congregation.
 
“The safety of the children in our care is our highest priority. We do everything in our power to make certain that all persons who work with them are properly screened and interviewed. We are now reviewing all of our policies and procedures with paid staff and volunteers and will bring forward any recommendations that might strengthen our security.”
 
A family meeting of the church, led by Pastor David Crosby, was held at 1 p.m. after the 10:45 a.m. worship service to address the dismissal and arrest of former youth minister Jonathan Bailey.
 
Crosby told local media that Bailey was fired and escorted off church property Feb. 9, the day that allegations were reported to him and to police of sexual misconduct by Bailey with a 14-year-old girl in First Baptist’s youth group.

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Bailey, 33, was charged Feb. 23 with indecent behavior with a juvenile and was freed on bond. He was arrested again on sexual battery March 4 after the youth disclosed additional details of Bailey’s improper contact with her. Bond was set at $35,000. If convicted, Bailey could face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison without parole or probation, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune daily newspaper.
 
Crosby, in March 6 comments to Baptist Press, recounted:
 
“As we do for all potential employees, we ran a criminal background check on Jonathan Bailey before he received an offer of employment. It came back clear. Our search committee called references and references of references. The committee did not learn of any negative incident or circumstance. As an employee of the church, Jonathan was under the daily scrutiny of fellow staff members, adult volunteers and parents of youth. He experienced instruction and correction, as do we all, but nothing observed by our staff or reported to us by parents or volunteers indicated that he had the capacity for such a horrible breach of trust.”
 
Crosby said the church was “deceived and manipulated by someone who knew how to navigate church life, who knew the vocabulary of our faith and who believed that he could break the rules without being discovered. That has come to an end.” The pastor noted that Bailey’s “behavior is no longer hidden, and his breach of professional ethics and moral failure are now exposed.”
 
“We want the justice system to work as it should in this case. To this end, we are fully cooperating with criminal authorities as they continue their investigation,” Crosby said.
 
“The safety of children in our care is and will remain our highest priority,” the pastor said. “We ask for prayers for our young people and their families, especially those most affected, as well as our entire congregation. We have suffered a terrible blow. Jonathan was a friend and a colleague in ministry. We are struggling with feelings of anger, grief, sadness and confusion.
 
“We are clinging to one another and the promises of God’s Word,” Crosby said. “We do not know what the future may hold. But we have confidence in our Almighty God, and we are experiencing daily the comfort and encouragement of His Holy Spirit.”
 
Bailey, who had served at First Baptist for about two years, is a 2010 graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).
 
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley issued a statement to Baptist Press on March 6, noting:
 
“We profoundly regret the apparent reprehensible conduct of this former NOBTS student. We have a zero tolerance for such behavior on the part of students, faculty or staff and applaud the swift response of First Baptist Church upon learning of the situation. We pray for all those affected by this tragic situation.
 
“We take very seriously the ministerial training role entrusted to us by Southern Baptist churches,” Kelley said. “Our concern for the churches our graduates will serve begins during the admission process. A student who applies for any degree at the seminary is required to have a church endorsement and provide multiple references. NOBTS also includes a criminal background check as part of our screening process for admission.”
 
Bailey’s wife Tiffany, also a 2010 graduate of the seminary, is a Baptist Collegiate Ministry staff member at Tulane and Loyola universities. The couple has a young daughter.
 
Roger S. Oldham of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) said in a statement to Baptist Press, “We grieve over this tragic episode in this teen’s life. We grieve for this trusting teen and her parents, this trusting wife and daughter, this trusting youth group and this trusting church.
 
“Trust is sacred. When it is violated, it leaves a debris field as wide and long as the most devastating tornado, but with deeper wounds and scars,” said Oldham, the EC’s vice president for convention communications and relations.
 
“We also applaud the swift action taken by the leadership of First Baptist Church to work with law enforcement to address this alleged criminal act and the efforts the church takes to protect the children under its care,” Oldham said. “We join them in praying for the day when there will be no more instances of sexual abuse by any professed minister of the Gospel.”
 
The Southern Baptist Convention’s website has numerous resources for sexual abuse prevention with links to LifeWay Background Check Resources, the U.S. Department of Justice Dru Sjodin National Database of Sex Offenders and links to other aids.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/9/2015 9:22:22 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Floyd on CNN: We can’t be silent amid ISIS

March 6 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leaders are imploring President Barack Obama to act against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) not only for global security, but to enable themselves to give a proper account before the Lord on Judgment Day, Southern Baptist President Ronnie Floyd said (March 4) on CNN.
 
“We need to understand that each one of us, we believe, as Christians and followers of Christ who believe in God’s Word, will one day stand in front of God Himself. And we will give an account of ourselves before God,” Floyd said on the Carol Costello show. “And I along with these other [SBC] presidents do not want to say that we were silent, but we had simply the heartbeat and the goal to say, ‘Mr. President, we’re behind you. Let’s go and do whatever is necessary to bring an end to this crisis globally.’”
 
Floyd spoke on the show after he and 16 former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidents from as early as 1980 signed a March 1 letter “humbly” urging President Obama “to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour” to end the human atrocities the terrorists have committed, including the “abuse, brutalization, and murder of children, women, and men.”

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Ronnie Floyd

 

Southern Baptist leaders are not telling Obama how to fight the terrorists, Floyd said, but are respectfully urging Obama to act within his power to get the job done, whether by diplomacy, economic sanctions or war.
 
“Our decision is not the how. That’s the role of the president and the leaders of our country. He can use diplomacy; he can use economic sanctions; and if need be, he can use war,” Floyd said on the broadcast. “The president is empowered by the people and empowered by the powers that be in this nation to bring action. And we need to do everything we can to always preserve nationally and globally, for every person in the world, to have the freedom to believe. And that freedom is being violated and ending up in many, many people losing their lives. And we just do not believe that’s right.
 
“We are really convinced in this urgent hour, Carol, that we are simply humbly requesting of the President of the United States to take strong, clear, firm leadership in relationship to doing everything he can do in today’s world to put an end to the crisis of ISIS.”
 
ISIS, thought to have grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, has worked since April 2013 to establish an Islamic emirate in Syria and Iraq. They also claim to have fighters from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other European countries, the Arab world and the Caucasus. And they have worked to recruit fighters and teenage girls from the U.S., according to news reports.
 
“ISIS is still growing, obviously there are people joining the movement, according to news accounts, and obviously people are still being brutalized and murdered across the world, which we believe that due to the tragedy of this, that these human atrocities must come to an end,” Floyd said, “and whatever role the president would so choose to do that, it is our heart and our goal is to support him and say, ‘Mr. President, we’re behind you. Take the needed action to do what needs to be done to bring an end to this global crisis.’”
 
Among its latest attacks, ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptians – reportedly Coptic Christians – killed an American aid worker and burned alive a Jordanian pilot. ISIS captured more than 200 Assyrian Christians in a Feb. 23 attack on villages near Tal Tamer in northern Syria, CNN reported. Women, children and the elderly were among those taken captive, according to the report. About 20 of the Christian hostages have been released, according to media reports, but the rest remain captive.
 
The government has the power to award those who do good and punish those who commit evil, Floyd said.
 
“The purpose of the government is to award those who do good in living right and good. And the purpose of government as well – according to scripture – would be to punish those who are doing evil,” Floyd said. “I mean even the United Nations believes that every person in the world has the freedom to believe and that in and of itself is a human right, and that human right is being violated right now, not simply behind the scenes, but it’s being violated for all of the world to see.”
 
The letter Floyd referenced during the interview was signed by former SBC presidents Bailey E. Smith, 1980–1982; James T. Draper Jr., 1982-1984; Charles F. Stanley, 1984–1986; Jerry Vines, 1988–1990; Morris H. Chapman, 1990-1992; H. Edwin Young Sr., 1992–1994; James B. Henry, 1994–1996; Tom Elliff, 1996-1998; Paige Patterson, 1998-2000; James Merritt, 2000–2002; Jack Graham, 2002–2004; Bobby Welch, 2004–2006; Frank S. Page, 2006–2008; Johnny M. Hunt, 2008-2010; Bryant Wright, 2010-2012, and Fred Luter, 2012-2014.
 
Floyd appeared on CNN by video from his office at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where he is pastor.
 
He called the letter an unprecedented action among SBC leaders that “shows right there the urgency of this moment in the minds of our former religious leaders and our current president today, which is me.”
 
Floyd also posted the letter on his SBC page March 2, where it has been viewed more than 19,000 times.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 
Related Story:

SBC presidents send open letter to Obama

3/6/2015 12:08:31 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GenSender intersects with world in NYC

March 6 2015 by Jim Burton, NAMB

Austin Coleman has spent each of the last two summers in New York City looking for intersections.
 
If ever there was a city where finding an intersection would be inevitable, America’s largest city would be that place with its blur of 24-hour activity, endless maze of intersections populated by yellow taxicabs, limousines, delivery trucks and personal vehicles. But through a special internship opportunity, Coleman has navigated the city he loves in hopes of intersecting with people to tell them about Jesus. And he has a desire eventually to return there to live and plant churches.
 
Coleman’s father is a pastor and a church planter, and the family made frequent moves during his childhood. For most of his formative years, his father served First Baptist Church in Trenton, Tenn., in the western part of the state. While there are far fewer intersections there, it served as a launching pad nonetheless for engagement in New York City.

 
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Photo by Gibbs Frazeur/NAMB
Austin Coleman, youth pastor at Second Baptist Church in Clinton, Tenn., is a 2015 Week of Prayer missionary for The North American Mission Board's Send North America effort. Coleman hopes that God will one day take him back to New York City where he served as a GenSend intern to plant a church.

When he was in the eighth grade, his family volunteered to help with a Billy Graham crusade. His home church started a series of block parties and food and clothing drives, called “To Trenton With Love,” meant to give back to the community. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Coleman volunteered through the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Project NOAH Rebuild initiative that worked to restore 1,000 homes. More recently while studying at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., he spent two summers as an intern with a ministry that sponsors youth camps in Georgia, Texas and Costa Rica.
 

GenSend Brooklyn

Then came Generation Send (GenSend), NAMB’s collegiate summer missions initiative tied to the Send North America church planting effort. There was no mass crusade, construction or camp management. Instead, the assignment this past summer for Coleman as a mobilizer, and the 10 fellow students he recruited, was to walk the streets of District 2 in Brooklyn, a New York City borough, and connect (or intersect) with every person possible.
 
“With GenSend there’s not going to be a lot of structure,” Coleman said. “We’re going to show you what it really is for you to drop into a city and plant the gospel to see a church come from that, and to see how difficult that can be.”
 
GenSend is part of the NAMB Farm System, aimed at assisting churches in discovering, developing and deploying the next generations of missionaries. “We are pushing forward the Great Commission,” Coleman said. “It fit better with my personality. I wanted to pioneer something.”
 
There are no church plants currently in District 2 of Brooklyn, Coleman says.
 
“It’s like a dot on the map where they want to plant a church,” Coleman said of a NAMB map with dots covering the major metropolitan areas, indicating communities needing new churches. Through “gospel conversations,” Coleman and his team were able to gain a greater understanding of the people inhabiting District 2. This will help inform future church planters.

 
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Photo by Gibbs Frazeur/NAMB
Austin Coleman shares during Hawks for Christ, a student-organized group at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Tenn., which meets prior to the start of school with as many as 60 students in attendance. Coleman is a 2015 Week of Prayer missionary for the NAMB's Send North America effort.

Coleman discovered people were more willing to talk than he imagined. As with most inner cities, Coleman has not found hostility toward the gospel as much as ambivalence or self-determined spirituality.
 
“People in cities are very open to talking about what they believe, their spirituality and why they believe what they do believe,” Coleman said.
 
One person is a gay man from Ireland, who regularly hung out with Coleman’s GenSend team. The man knows that the team embraces a biblical standard for sexuality, Coleman says, but he apparently feels safe and accepted by the team.
 
“You come to Jesus as you are,” Coleman said. “It’s okay to be messed up, but not to stay that way. Once you come to Jesus, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. He will change your mind on things.”
 
Then there is a young man from Belize, who regularly joined the team for their Thursday night cookouts. While walking back to Long Island University where the team stayed, Coleman asked about his story.
 
He had been raised in a Christian home and had a grandmother who was particularly committed to her faith. But both his mother and grandmother had died. That’s when he walked away from the faith.
 
Coleman said he steered the conversation back to Jesus as the only hope. “We can have spiritual beliefs,” he said. “But if they aren’t pointed back to a true hope, they mean nothing.”
 
Having a “gospel conversation” with people is an art, Coleman said.
 
“If you are listening well and being intentional, people bring up things that parallel who Jesus is and what the gospel means,” he said. “It looks different every single time. I’ve never had a gospel conversation in New York that looked the same as the next.”
 

Hoping to return

Now with a master’s degree in church planting and evangelism from Liberty University, Coleman foresees returning to New York City someday to start a church.
 
But first, there was the small matter of a wedding. Coleman and his fiancé, Sara Wallman, were married in October 2014. She was among his first recruits for the District 2 Brooklyn GenSend team. He also accepted a position as youth pastor with Second Baptist Church in Clinton, Tenn., which is near Knoxville. That church is interested in possibly starting a church in an urban area. After spending several years in Clinton, the Colemans hope that God will take them back to New York City.
 
“One of my greatest prayers for this summer is that God would make both of us fall in love with New York,” Coleman said. “If God called us back to New York to be part of a church plant, than we’d both have that urge and that urgency.
 
“I do believe God is changing the world from New York.”
 
The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 1-8, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $60 million, this year’s offering theme is “Send North America.” For more information, visit AnnieArmstrong.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

Related Story:

GenSend hooks Hunt on urban church-planting

3/6/2015 11:34:02 AM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments



ERLC endorses Tenn. bill to deter animal fighting

March 6 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has endorsed a Tennessee bill designed to deter animal fighting.
 
In a March 2 letter, Russell Moore told Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) strongly supports a proposal that would increase penalties for participation in cockfighting and for attendance at an animal fight. Moore is president of the ERLC.
 
The legislation seeks to rein in a practice that involves the killing of animals for sport, gambling on the results of the fights and exposure of children to violence primarily against dogs and chickens.
 
Animal fighting is “detrimental to many of our communities and the families that call them home,” Moore said in the letter.
 
“[T]he incestuous relationship between animal fighting, gambling and organized crime continues to grow” with each year the legislature does not increase the penalties, he told Harwell.
 
“Unfortunately, Tennessee plays host to these conferences of nefarious activities because the punishment for dogfighting and cockfighting is a slap on the wrist in comparison to the payouts.”
 
Gambling and animal fighting, Moore said, “are societal ills that are each harmful to our communities on their own. However, when the two are combined, the result is individuals betting on the outcome of undeniable cruelty, and this is simply unacceptable.”
 
The legislation, House Bill 0962, would (1) increase the penalty for a second or later conviction for involvement in cockfighting to a Class E felony, (2) strengthen the penalty for being a spectator at an animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor and (3) establish taking a child under 18 years of age to an animal fight as a Class A misdemeanor.
 
Punishment for a Class E felony in Tennessee is a prison term of one to six years, as well as a possible fine of as much as $3,000. Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in the state is jail time of less than a year and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
 
Currently, involvement in a dogfight is a felony, but involvement in a cockfight is only a Class A misdemeanor. Meanwhile, being a spectator at a cockfight is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries maximum punishments of only a $50 fine and/or a 30-day jail sentence. Being a spectator at a dogfight can result in a maximum $500 fine and and/or six months in jail.
 
Efforts in the Tennessee legislature to increase animal fighting penalties have failed repeatedly in recent years.
 
Both dogfighting and cockfighting are marked by death or serious wounds to the animals involved. In dogfighting, the loser typically dies, according to the Humane Society of the United States. With few exceptions, either the winning dog or the handler/owner kills the loser, the Humane Society said.
 
In cockfighting, two roosters often fight with gaffs – knife- or razor-like weapons – strapped to their legs. The outcome often is death for at least one of the birds.
 
“It’s a very cruel and prolonged death for the animals,” said Reasa Currier, the Humane Society’s strategic initiatives manager for Faith Outreach. “Usually, both animals come out of the ring with significant wounds.”
 
Animal fighting is an “ongoing and vast problem” in Tennessee, primarily because of its low fines in contrast to stiffer penalties in the surrounding states of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas, Currier reported.
 
The section of the Tennessee bill that strengthens penalties against being a spectator at an animal fight is especially important. “[T]hat’s everyone’s defense: ‘Oh, I was just a spectator,’“ she said of those who actually organize the fights or own or handle the animals.
 
Also, an “increasing and pronounced link between organized crime and animal fighting” has been observed in the state, Currier said. In April 2014, a raid in Nashville on a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring also uncovered a dogfighting operation. Thirty-eight dogs were rescued, according to WSMV-TV.
 
The proposal of a penalty for taking children to an animal fight is important “because we always see children in attendance at these fights,” Currier said. “These children are learning that violence towards animals is an acceptable form of entertainment. There is a growing body of evidence that individuals that are violent towards animals are violent towards people.”
 
The ERLC continues a tradition among evangelical Christians by supporting efforts to stop animal fighting, Currier said.
 
“Eliminating animal fighting has been a priority of evangelical Christians since the 18th Century,” she said.
 
Abolitionist William Wilberforce was among British evangelicals who led opposition to animal fighting, which was a “very rampant form of entertainment” in England at that time, she said. “It was Christians who first said, ‘This is unacceptable. God’s creation is deserving of our mercy.’
 
“Even something as humble as a chicken or a dog deserves our protection and our mercy,” she said. “I’m grateful that the ERLC is standing up for that and continuing that tradition.”
 
It is not the first time the ERLC has endorsed attempts to combat animal fighting. In 2012, the entity endorsed an initiative to strengthen penalties against cockfighting in South Carolina.
 
The Tennessee bill has been assigned to the House’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/6/2015 11:21:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Kenneth Ridings, former Fruitland president, dies

March 5 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Kenneth Ridings, 78, the longtime Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) professor and then president, died today (March 5).
 
“Throughout his ministry, Dr. Kenneth Ridings was a living legend among Baptist preachers,” said David Horton, current president of Fruitland. “His exceptional homiletical skills placed him in the category of such notable expository preachers as Stephen Olford, Ron Dunn, and Adrian Rogers. His legacy as a pastor, professor, and previous president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College will continue throughout the years as we build on the foundation that he laid. Today, Dr. Ridings has joined the other heroes of the faith in ‘that great cloud of witnesses’ and he is cheering the rest of us on!”

Ridings, a South Carolina native, became a Christian in 1953 with the help of his now wife, Ann. He is a graduate of North Greenville College, Furman University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He received doctor of divinity degrees from Fredericksburg Bible Institute and Covington Seminary.
 
He served as pastor of churches in South Carolina and North Carolina, including Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hendersonville, N.C., and Grassy Branch Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C., where he led for 22 years while teaching at Fruitland.

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BR file photo
Kenneth Ridings, seen here at his retirement service, died today. He was a president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) in Hendersonville.

 

Ridings began his service to Fruitland in 1968, teaching church administration and pastoral counseling. He started what would become a 39-year tenure as professor of homiletics the next year.
 
He was on the board for the International Mission Board and was second vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
 
Ridings retired as Fruitland’s president Dec. 31, 2008, and was named president emeritus on July 16, 2009. He was president for 11 years and taught at the school for 40 years. Fruitland honored Ridings with a Baptist Heritage Award in 2009.
 
“I just cannot imagine Fruitland without Kenneth Ridings,” said Greg Mathis, Ridings’ pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church, in a 2009 Biblical Recorder story. At that time, Mathis said Ridings was the “face of Fruitland,” and that “his influence is the force behind the reputation we have. No other man lives with more integrity or more impeccable character than Kenneth Ridings.”
 
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention, praised Ridings at his retirement service.
 
“Your fingerprints are on this place, the preachers you have prepared and the people associated with Fruitland have been enriched by your ministry,” Hollifield said. “God blessed and honored your ministry, service, and leadership of this school.” 
 
During his retirement service, Ridings revealed his heart about Fruitland: “You can go to heaven from many places. But when you go to heaven from Fruitland, you don’t notice the difference as much.”
 
In a statement released today, Hollifield urged people to pray for the family and to thank God for Ridings’ impact on the “lives of pastors, and as a result, the churches of this convention.”
 
He said, “Ridings was more than a faithful employee of the Baptist State Convention and more than an excellent professor of homiletics; he was a dear friend and a tremendous influence upon my life. Like so many students at Fruitland, the members of the churches he served, and those impacted by his extensive preaching ministry, Kenneth helped me to not only appreciate expositional preaching but modeled for me how to preach God’s Word. I will miss him greatly, but find comfort in the truth that we will meet again.” 
 
Ridings is survived by his wife, Ann; daughter, Beverly; and one granddaughter.
 
Visitation is Sun., March 8 from 3-5 p.m. at Mud Creek Baptist Church (403 Rutledge Dr., Hendersonville, NC 28739). The funeral is at 5 p.m. Mathis and D.L. Lowrie will preside over the funeral. The service can be viewed live at www.mudcreekchurch.org; it will be archived for later viewing as well.
 
Donations can be made to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College Chapel Fund that bears Ridings’ name: Fruitland Baptist Bible College, 1455 Gilliam Rd., Hendersonville, NC 28792.

3/5/2015 1:13:51 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 14 comments



Ala, Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage licenses

March 5 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriage licenses in the state, posing a direct challenge to a federal court in Mobile that overturned the state’s marriage laws.
 
The Alabama court, in a March 3 decision, stated:
 
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”
 
This fact, the court stated, “does not change simply because the new definition of marriage has gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country, even if one of those quarters is the federal judiciary.”
 
The court issued its opinion as one body, called “per curiam,” rather than identifying the judges who drafted the 148-page ruling regarding probate judges who are the state officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses. The religious liberty firm Liberty Counsel, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of state moral concerns organizations – Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), the Alabama Policy Institute and a county probate judge – said it was a 7-1 ruling by the nine-member court, with one recusal.

 
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Alabama Court House

Chief Justice Roy S. Moore “had the integrity to recuse himself” from the case, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver noted in an email to Baptist Press, because Moore had issued an earlier administrative order to Alabama’s probate judges and had spoken publicly about the standoff with the federal court.
 
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and Travis Coleman Jr., president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and senior minister of First Baptist Church in Prattville, issued a joint statement March 4, noting:
 
“We affirm all those who seek to restore biblical marriage to its rightful place of sole authenticity and legality in Alabama and elsewhere. In light of Tuesday’s ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, we reaffirm appreciation for our ministry partner, ALCAP, and its strong stand for biblical marriage.
 
“We continue to pray for local, state and federal officials – in all three branches of government – who will make decisions in the months to come about this issue. We continue to pray that any actions and rulings will affirm biblical marriage as the only legally sanctioned form.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted in a statement to Baptist Press, “The Alabama Supreme Court argument is right about what marriage is, and why the state has an interest in marriage in the first place.
 
“The concern over the last several weeks in Alabama is the result of the United States Supreme Court’s inexplicable decision to refuse to speak to the situation there. The U.S. Supreme Court should reaffirm what they have already ruled: that states have the right to define marriage as the conjugal union of a husband and wife.”
 
Upheaval over Alabama’s marriage law began Jan. 23 when federal district court Judge Callie V.S. Granade in Mobile struck down the 2006 Sanctity of Marriage Amendment to the state constitution and a 1998 legislative Alabama Marriage Protection Act. Granade ruled that a local probate judge was causing a “substantial threat” of “irreparable injury” to four same-sex couples by not granting them marriage licenses.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court, on Feb. 9, with Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissenting, denied Alabama’s request to delay enforcement of Granade’s ruling until the high court rules on the same-sex marriage issue this summer.
 
Granade, on Feb. 12, then ordered the probate judge, Don Davis in Mobile County, to begin issuing marriage licenses to the couples. The homosexual couples at issue in the case, Granade stated, were concerned about being denied the ability to make medical decisions for one another and being denied parental rights.
 
If the couples “take all steps that are required” to obtain a marriage license, Granade ruled, Davis may not deny them a license because they are of the same sex or “because it is prohibited by the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act or by any other Alabama law or Order pertaining to same-sex marriage.”
 
Alabama Chief Justice Moore had countered Granade’s ruling in media comments, saying, for example, on Fox News Sunday that Granade’s ruling is only “law of the case before her” and not an action “overturning the Alabama constitution.”
 
“Federal law is not made by judges,” Moore said on the Feb. 15 telecast. “That’s something very basic. ... Those interpretations are not law. If they were, then the legislature would have no role. Legislatures are to make law. Congress is to make law. The United States ... Constitution is law. So is [the] Alabama Constitution. We have a fundamental misunderstanding in our country that federal courts by their mere utterance make law. They do not, sir. They make law of the case, applicable to the parties before them.”
 
Applauding the state Supreme Court’s March 3 ruling, the Alabama Policy Institute stated in an email news release, “The ongoing confusion caused by the federal court’s action in January needed to be clarified in a formal opinion by the State’s highest court,” The Alabama Baptist reported.
 
The decision “gives the people of Alabama the respect that they deserve by preserving our law until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves the issue. The sanctity of marriage – an institute that has always been reserved for the states – is a cause worth fighting for, for as long as the States still have their rightful say in the matter,” the organization said.
 
Staver, of the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, said the Alabama Supreme Court’s 148-page decision is “one of the most researched and well reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country.” A Liberty Counsel news release described it as “the most forceful and clearly articulated rebuttal to date of the imaginative arguments for same-sex ‘marriage’ employed by federal courts.”
 
The court’s decision, which examines an array of court cases and government actions involving marriage, noted that one characteristic of marriage “has remained unchanged throughout history: marriage has always been between members of the opposite sex.”
 
“The obvious reason for this immutable characteristic is nature,” the court stated. “Men and women complement each other biologically and socially. Perhaps even more obvious, the sexual union between men and women (often) produces children. Marriage demonstrably channels the results of sex between members of the opposite sex – procreation – in a socially advantageous manner. It creates the family, the institution that is almost universally acknowledged to be the building block of society at large because it provides the optimum environment for defining the responsibilities of parents and for raising children to become productive members of society.”
 
The court’s ruling can be accessed at acis.alabama.gov/displaydocs.cfm?no=642402&event=4AN12324A.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

 
Related Stories:

Ala. Judges: no marriage licenses for gay couples
Same-sex marriage now legal in Ala.

3/5/2015 12:52:56 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Israeli PM: Iran’s threats parallel OT Esther story

March 5 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A genocidal chapter in the ancient relationship between Israel and Iran could be the result of a nuclear agreement the United States may sign with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress March 3.
 
Threats by the modern Persian state of Iran to annihilate Jews, Netanyahu said, are frighteningly reminiscent of the murderous Old Testament plot hatched by the Persian viceroy Haman – whose plan to kill all Jews was foiled by the Persian queen Esther, a Jew, and recounted in the biblical book bearing her name.
 
Iran’s threats could translate into horrific violence if a nuclear deal reported widely in the media is signed, the prime minister said, noting that the day following his address, Jews would begin celebrating Purim, a feast commemorating their deliverance under Esther.
 
“Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews that oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology,” Netanyahu said, lamenting that the “very talented” Iranian people were “hijacked” by the “religious zealots” of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
 
Khamenei tweeted in November, “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” In a separate tweet, Khamenei said he was not suggesting “the massacre of the Jewish people,” but he advocated arming Muslims in the West Bank to fight Israel.

 
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Public Domain
“Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther” by Rembrandt

Netanyahu told Congress that striking a nuclear deal with Khamenei’s regime would not inspire Iran to decrease its aggression toward Israel and that the specific deal under consideration “would all but guarantee” that Iran obtains nuclear weapons – “lots of them.”
 
The nuclear deal being considered by Iran, the U.S. and five other nations would allow Iran to keep around 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges while limiting development of more efficient centrifuges. It also would limit stockpiles of material that could be developed into nuclear weapons and subject Iran’s nuclear facilities to inspection, as described by the Washington Post. The agreement likely would last 10-15 years, and a March 24 deadline has been set for establishing the framework of a final accord.
 
Not “a single nuclear facility” would be demolished under the agreement, Netanyahu said, and Iran could amass a “full arsenal” of nuclear weapons legitimately after the accord expires. He urged legislators to press for a “much better deal” that would:

  • Further restrict Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.

  • Maintain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program until it ceases aggression toward Israel and other neighbor states.

  • Demand that Iran stop supporting terrorism around the world.

America must secure a “better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live – literally,” Netanyahu said.
 
President Obama, who did not watch the speech but reviewed a transcript, said Netanyahu’s demands are unrealistic and would cause Iran to walk away from negotiations with an unchecked nuclear program, the New York Times reported. A senior administration official told the Times that Netanyahu is inconsistent to insist that Iran change yet simultaneously portray its government as unchanging.
 

Evangelical reaction

Evangelical commentators said Netanyahu’s comparison of modern Iran with Haman of the Old Testament was appropriate.
 
Jim Sibley, a professor of biblical studies at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel, called the timing of Netanyahu’s speech “remarkable.”
 
“The day following Netanyahu’s address to Congress marks the beginning of the Feast of Purim, which celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from an Iranian anti-Semitic plot to exterminate them. At that time, God raised up Esther, who was willing to breach protocol in order to plead for their deliverance,” Sibley told Baptist Press in written comments.
 
“Iran and others who turn against Israel have fallen under the curse of Genesis 12:3 and may well be paving the way for the great end-times enemy of Israel and God,” Sibley said. In Genesis 12:3, God promised to bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants and curse those who curse them.
 
Sibley added, “God is dealing with the Jewish people on the stage of current events, drawing them back from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel. This, together with the rapidly growing number of Jewish believers in Yeshua [Jesus], increasingly amplifies the cognitive dissonance inherent within any view that claims that Israel no longer occupies a unique role in God’s purposes.”
 
Mitch Glaser, a Jewish follower of Jesus and president of Chosen People Ministries in New York City, agreed that Netanyahu’s citation of Esther was appropriate.
 
“The story of Esther provides a very obvious and powerful parallel for the modern Hamans of Iran who are incessantly trying to destroy Israel through arming Hezbollah, Gaza and others seeking the destruction of Israel,” Glaser told BP in written comments. “The prime minister pointed out the blatancy of the religious leadership of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.”
 

Israel & ancient Persia

Not all of the Persian Empire’s Old Testament dealings with Israel were as destructive as those recounted in Esther. The Persian king Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 B.C. and allowed Jews to return to the Promised Land and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). After a break in construction, Jews completed the Temple under the Persian monarch Darius I, with Darius funding the project, protecting the builders and donating animals and other materials for Temple sacrifices (Ezra 6:6-12).
 
Daniel began his ministry under Babylonian rule, but it continued under the Persians. He prophesied their rise to power (Daniel 5:1-31), and King Darius placed him in a significant position of authority within the Persian Empire (Daniel 6:1-3). Although Daniel was cast into the lions’ den when he prayed to God rather than the Persian king, Darius announced upon Daniel’s miraculous rescue, “I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26). Later, the Persian king Artaxerxes allowed his Jewish adviser Nehemiah to lead an effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, guaranteeing Nehemiah’s safe passage to Judah and providing timber for the project (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
 
At the height of its influence, the Persian Empire stretched from Egypt in the south to southern Russia in the north, from Greece in the west to India in the east. The empire fell to Alexander the Great and the Greeks in 334 B.C. However, Persian influence continued in the New Testament, as when Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), using a word for heaven derived from the Persian term for “park.”
 
Relations between Jews and Persians became more strained in the seventh century A.D., when Muhammad founded Islam and Muslims conquered the region inhabited by Persians. Because most Jews did not accept Islam, Muhammad grew hostile toward them, beheading at least 600 in Medina in 627 and executing others elsewhere, according to a classic Muhammad biography published in English as The Life of Muhammad.
 

Israel & contemporary jihad

Netanyahu told Congress that contemporary Iranian aggression is a continuation of Islamist jihad. The main difference between The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Iranian regime, he said, “is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”
 
Fred Fleitz, senior vice president for policy and programs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, agreed with Netanyahu’s reservations about the nuclear accord being considered by the U.S. and Iran. Fleitz said the deal is a “giveaway.”
 
“Iran is a radical Islamic state,” Fleitz said. “It is pushing Islamic supremacism. It is trying to push its brand of Shia Islam around the world, and it sees the United States and Israel as enemies.”
 
Some in Iran, like past president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fleitz said, believe that a messianic figure known as the “12th Imam” is alive today and will reveal himself at the end of time. Known as “Twelvers,” those who hold this belief think the 12th Imam’s return will be precipitated by a series of cataclysmic events that presumably could include nuclear war.
 
Although Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful, Fleitz said there is “no conceivable way” the nation’s uranium enrichment activities are merely to produce nuclear power. There is “every possibility” Iran is lying in nuclear negotiations because it has violated past agreements multiple times.
 
“We should be trying to work cooperatively with Iran, but the price the Obama administration is trying to pay to get a deal is simply too high,” Fleitz said.
 
The U.S. demanded in the past that Iran give up centrifuges and plutonium reactors and answer questions about its military activities, Fleitz said. But America has wrongly conceded those demands in recent negotiations.
 
An acceptable deal would be to sell Iran discounted nuclear fuel rods to power its nuclear energy program and convert the nation’s enriched uranium stockpile into fuel rods. In exchange, Iran would abandon its uranium enrichment capability, Fleitz said.
 
That recommendation aligns with the views of Netanyahu, who contrasted the U.S. Constitution’s celebration of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with the Iranian regime’s celebration of “death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad.”
 
Netanyahu closed his address by applying Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31:6 to Israel and America’s relations with Iran.
 
“Be strong and resolute,” Netanyahu said. “Neither fear nor dread them.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/5/2015 12:32:21 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Discovery of Spurgeon’s Psalter a ‘treasure’

March 5 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications

Scholars at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have discovered, within the institution’s Spurgeon Library collection, a Psalter that 19th-century Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon used in the compilation of his commentary on the book of Psalms, The Treasury of David.
 
“One of the purposes for the existence of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary is to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ for the church and the academy by preserving the personal library of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and fostering a deeper appreciation of his life, legacy, theology and preaching,” Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary, said. “It is, I believe, exhilarating and important to uncover such an artifact that Spurgeon personally used to create resources for fellow believers to study and better understand the book of Psalms.
 
“It is an evident blessing from God to allow for such a discovery, and we are grateful to Brian Albert for his dedication in combing, page-by-page, through Spurgeon’s library. It is our hope, that as we delve further into the collection in the season ahead, we will discover many more such artifacts that provide better insight into the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon.”

 
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Albert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., is a research assistant at the Spurgeon Library. In recent months, Albert has dedicated one day a week to combing through the library’s books. His process includes reviewing a book twice, looking for notations, dates, and other pertinent data. He then attempts to trace the book to other sources of Spurgeon.
 
Upon his discovery of the Psalter, which was published in 1864, Albert brought the work to the attention of Christian George, curator of the Spurgeon Library and assistant professor of historical theology. George analyzed the book and concluded that much of the handwriting in its margins belongs to Spurgeon and that it was, in fact, a working Psalter that Spurgeon had used.
 
“This Psalter, which was used by Spurgeon in the formation of The Treasury of David, is just that – a treasure,” George said. “My hope is that it will propel Spurgeon scholarship forward by revealing not just the product of Spurgeon’s literary labors, but also the process.
 
“Every once in a while,” George continued, “you get a glimpse of what God has accomplished in the past. This Psalter, along with other works in our collection, gives us a window through which God illuminates His amazing work in the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon.”
 
While checking the Psalter’s authenticity, Albert noted that the publication date not only fell within Spurgeon’s lifetime, but also limits the timeline. The date also corresponds with the writing of the Treasury of David (approximately 1865-1885). Each year (1804-1900), this particular Bible was printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society.
 
“There were hundreds printed annually so it would be easy access for the public to purchase,” Albert said. “This fact told me that the Spurgeon Bible was not an heirloom or family Bible, but was more ‘usable.’ The fact that this Bible was only on the Psalms also struck my curiosity as to the relationship with the Treasury of David.”
 
Albert also depended upon the publication’s notations and sources cited. Many of the notations in the Psalter were Spurgeon’s.
 
“What struck me as significant was not only the fact of Spurgeon’s notations, but the amount of them,” he said. “I began to suspect that this was a “working” Bible.
 
He added, “I noticed that many of the sources (of the more than 50 used) that were noted in the Bible were also in the Spurgeon collection. When I checked these cited sources, many of them (well over half) had personal notations of the specific Psalm passage. This indicated to me that at least Spurgeon’s personal books were used for the source material, which verified that this Bible was used by Spurgeon as a ‘working Bible.’”
 
After putting all the pieces together, Albert was led to research The Treasury of David.
 
“When I began to correspond the text of scripture with the notations in the Bible, next to the text with what appears in the Treasury of David, the data was conclusive,” Albert said. “This Bible belonged to Spurgeon, was noted by Spurgeon (in part) from much of Spurgeon’s personal books to help write the 20-year work Treasury of David.”
 
In an effort to further verify the authenticity of the annotations, George sent samples from the Psalter to Malcolm Yarnell, noted English Reformation scholar, Baptist theologian, and director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. While performing a forensic examination of the handwriting, Yarnell compared the samples against other known samples from Spurgeon’s middle- and late-period sermons. He concluded that, of the six samples provided, four belonged to Spurgeon, and one “probably” belonged to him.
 
“This is an important find,” Yarnell said, “primarily because Charles Haddon Spurgeon remains the single most important preacher to have ever graced Baptist history.
 
“I look forward to hearing more about your discoveries in the archives at Midwestern Seminary and the implications they have for our understanding of how Spurgeon prepared his sermons and writings,” he added.
 
In 2006, Midwestern Seminary purchased the personal library of Charles Spurgeon, which contains approximately 6,000 books. Many of these books are heavily annotated with Spurgeon’s own handwriting and reveal his use of them in his ministry. The collection is currently being archived and analyzed before being moved to “The Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching,” which is currently under renovation but slated for completion in August.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is the executive assistant to the President at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/5/2015 12:26:14 PM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications | with 0 comments



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