March 2016

Torrential Gulf Coast rains challenge DR efforts

March 16 2016 by Jim Burton, NAMB

Damage from torrential Gulf Coast rains recently blanketed parts of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi leaving the region not only drenched, but also looking at possibly years of recovery.
 
Storm waters have damaged an estimated 5,000 homes in Louisiana alone in about 28 parishes, but that number will likely rise. As water recedes in one town and recovery begins, it’s likely cresting in another. Some of the state’s bigger rivers have yet to crest.
 
“This flood was not a respecter of any one place or people,” said David Abernathy, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s disaster-relief incident commander. “This thing hit everybody. Rivers and lakes are cresting at records never seen before.”
 
By March 15, Abernathy said the challenge was rapidly growing as more reports come to the incident command team.

 
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Photo courtesy of Louisiana Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
A Louisiana Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team unloads a truck of supplies from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Ruston, La. The supplies will be used in flood relief efforts throughout the state where record rains have swamped entire communities and left residents stranded.

“The scope of the disaster is growing,” he said. “We need all the help we can get. We’re finding pockets of devastation everywhere. It’s hard to wrap your hands around how widespread it is.”
 
Rural churches have been ministering in isolated communities, but now fatigue is setting in.
 
Rainfall estimates vary, but Abernathy reports that some Louisiana communities received in excess of 24 inches. The effect has been similar to a hurricane but without the wind, he said. Some officials have called this flood the widest non-hurricane flooding in the state’s history.
 
The flooding in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi is one of several recent flood events, including incidents in Missouri and South Carolina.
 
“It’s been a long winter of floods,” said Mickey Caison, Southern Baptist executive director of disaster relief for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “Southern Baptists will be able to step up.”
 
The weather system that brought the current flooding to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, also affected Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. The storm precedes normal spring rains, which have yet to begin.
 
The prolonged nature of a widespread flooding event leaves disaster relief leaders in flux as they await assessments. Multiple states have already activated volunteers to assist, mostly in Louisiana. Leaders have mobilized feeding, mud-out, shower and laundry units that are currently operational. Many are serving in smaller communities to allow people there to wash their clothes, Abernathy said.
 
President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for Louisiana on March 13, which should mean more resources will be available to victims and responders. At least three flood-related deaths have occurred in Louisiana.
 
NAMB, which coordinates Southern Baptists’ multi-state disaster responses, sent a shipment of supplies on March 14 to Ruston, La. Volunteers there will be receiving flood buckets, water, personal protection equipment, blankets and other essential items.
 
In East Texas, Texas Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Director Terry Henderson said flooding occurred from Texarkana along the Louisiana border all the way to Orange, where he anticipates establishing an incident command team. He doesn’t expect water to crest in Orange until March 17. Mud-out recovery of homes has begun in Kilgore.
 
Scottie Stice, disaster relief director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), said their plans remained in flux Tuesday morning as the state shut down I-10.
 
“We have three shower units in the field supporting church shelters,” Stice said about some of their current activity. “We have a feeding unit at First Baptist Church, Vidor, and chainsaw teams in Malakoff.”
 
All SBTC mud-out teams are on alert awaiting recession of floodwaters, Stice said.
 
In Mississippi, most flood damage occurred around Clarksdale where Don Gann, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board’s disaster relief director, estimated about 100 homes experienced some degree of flood damage.
 
Assessment has begun as has ministry by Mississippi Baptist disaster relief chaplains. Gann spent much of Monday meeting with area associational directors of missions and pastors.
 
Meanwhile, the veteran disaster-relief leader awaits further flooding in South Mississippi as water travels from North Louisiana.
 
“You can see it coming,” Gann said of the floodwaters. “But there’s not much you can do about it.”
 
Those wishing to donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer and photojournalist based in Atlanta.)

3/16/2016 12:34:11 PM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments



WMU search committee moves forward

March 16 2016 by WMU communication

The search committee for the Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) next executive director-treasurer met at the missions organization’s offices in Birmingham, Ala., March 2-4, spending time in prayer and planning in seeking a successor for Wanda Lee, who has announced her intentions to retire.
 
“The search committee is following a very prayerful, very deliberate process in seeking the next executive director-treasurer for national WMU,” said Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU and committee chairperson. “As a committee we have come to understand that there is great value in the process itself, and the amount of time spent in prayer by this committee was a deeply spiritual experience and one we would have missed without the process.”
 
In addition to prayer, the committee developed a profile questionnaire to seek input from various audiences on the characteristics, skills and experience the next executive director should possess to best lead WMU into the future.

 
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Wanda Lee

“We ask for your continued prayer for the committee, for the candidate that God has for us, and for Wanda and the national WMU staff during these days,” Bolton said. Lee has not yet set a date for her retirement.
 
Committee members serving with Bolton are Debby Akerman, former national WMU president (2010-2015); Jill McNicol, president of Illinois WMU; Kathy Sheldon, president of Pennsylvania/South Jersey WMU; and June Tate, president of Colorado WMU.
 
Recommendations and resumes may be sent to WMU Search Committee, c/o Joy Bolton, Kentucky WMU, 13420 Eastpoint Centre Drive, Louisville, KY 40223, or by email to Joy.Bolton@kybaptist.org, to be received no later than May 1. The job description is posted at wmu.com/employment.
 
In other WMU news, former missionary Claudia Johnson has been hired as the leadership consultant for WMU’s Missions Resource Center and Christian Women’s Leadership Center (CWLC).
 
Johnson has served as a missionary teacher with the International Mission Board (IMB) for nearly 28 years.
 
“We are thrilled to have someone with Claudia’s wealth of teaching and missions experience serve in this role,” said Lee. “We believe her unique perspective on leadership, having lived it out in another culture, will be key to the success of the CWLC and how we engage women in leadership within their church, workplace and community.”
 
Johnson established and led a school in Bangkok, Thailand, for refugee middle and high school students. Her understanding of teaching and curriculum development will be an asset to WMU as they build online leadership instruction and certificate programs for women in the church.
 
“Having the educational expertise, a biblical worldview of missions, and the desire to lead women in leadership development makes Claudia uniquely qualified to lead the CWLC,” said Kristy Carr, WMU’s adult resource team leader.
 
The CWLC is an initiative of WMU to provide resources for women seeking leadership development in a Christian context. It may also serve as an entry point for women to missions through WMU. Johnson will develop WMU’s online learning resources and incorporate leadership principles into all of WMU’s age-level content.
 
Johnson and her husband David served in Bangkok where they ministered to Pakistani refugees fleeing religious persecution. They were able to provide for the physical needs of refugees through Baptist Global Response and lead many to Christ. They return to the U.S. as part of the IMB’s voluntary retirement incentive (VRI).
 
“As we have been praying for IMB missionaries who are returning home, we asked the Lord how WMU could help beyond our ministry of missionary housing,” Lee said. “We are grateful this position was open and available for a missionary who has the experience to continue WMU’s tradition of providing exemplary missions discipleship in the local church.”
 
The CWLC online Leadership Certificate Program will launch in September. More information on the CWLC is available at wmu.com/cwlc and on Facebook and Twitter.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – WMU communication staff is based at the mission organization’s offices in Birmingham, Ala.)
 

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WMU search committee named; prayer requested

3/16/2016 12:26:58 PM by WMU communication | with 0 comments



Psalm 139 aids East Tennessee healthcare ministry

March 16 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

An East Tennessee ministry has a new resource provided by Southern Baptists in its mission to serve the needy – in this case, underprivileged, pregnant women.
 
Wallace Mobile Healthcare, based in Knoxville, Tenn., received an ultrasound machine March 6 from the Psalm 139 Project of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The gift – the latest made by the ERLC to centers across the country – occurred during the morning worship service of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville.

 
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Photo by Jim Servies
The ERLC Psalm 139 Project’s latest gift of an ultrasound machine to help needy, pregnant women is for Wallace Mobile Healthcare in Knoxville, Tenn.

The ERLC is “honored to work with Wallace Mobile Healthcare to provide hope for pregnant women in crisis,” said Dan Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications, after making the presentation.
 
“Wallace has such a wonderful legacy, inspired by the great missionary Bill Wallace, of providing gospel hope to the most vulnerable,” Darling said in a March 7 news release. “This ultrasound machine is just one more way the heroes working here every day can serve the community with a holistic, pro-life ethic.”
 
Wallace Mobile Healthcare seeks to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the uninsured and underprivileged in Knox County and nearby rural communities in Appalachia through the provision of free medical services. The non-profit mission is named in memory of Bill Wallace, a Southern Baptist missionary from Knoxville who died as a prisoner of the Chinese Communists in 1951.
 
John Swisher, the mission’s medical director, said Wallace Mobile Healthcare is “very excited to add this new tool” to its program.
 
“The Psalm 139 grant of an ultrasound machine is a blessing to our patients who otherwise might not seek medical care during a pregnancy,” Swisher said in the ERLC release. “This instrument will help us visually share the miracle of a new life with mothers throughout our region.”
 
In its multi-faceted ministry, Wallace Mobile Healthcare provides in-home services through volunteers to people in Knox County who have no health insurance, are unemployed or are living at or below the poverty level. It also ministers to those in local homeless shelters and to those in urban Knoxville or rural communities with limited access to healthcare. In addition, volunteers with the ministry serve in mobile clinic outreaches overseas.

 
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Photo by Jim Servies
Dan Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications, is greeted by Mike Boyd, senior pastor of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., as he prepares to present an ultrasound machine from the Psalm 139 Project to Wallace Mobile Healthcare.

Sandy Bolton, Wallace Memorial’s director of mission ministries and a volunteer with the healthcare ministry, said she gets “excited thinking of the many opportunities that Wallace Mobile Healthcare will have with the ultrasound machine.”
 
The ERLC worked with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Knox County Association of Baptists (KCAB) in coordinating the provision of the ultrasound machine to Wallace Mobile Healthcare, which is funded by donations from churches and individuals, as well as grants.
 
Phil Young, the KCAB’s director of missions, said words “are inadequate to express the depth of thanksgiving for this gracious gift of life!”
 
Wallace Mobile Healthcare’s “partnership with KCAB churches and with our inner-city Baptist Centers enables us to bring the whole Gospel to people in their own communities,” Young told Baptist Press in written comments. “Partnering with Wallace Mobile Healthcare helps us move beyond the walls of our church buildings to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people throughout Knox County.”
 
Previously, the ERLC has provided ultrasound machines through the Psalm 139 Project to centers based in San Marcos, Texas; New Albany, Ind.; Denver; Corinth, Miss.; Lakeland, Fla.; Phoenix; Louisiana; Houston; Woodbridge, Va.; and Columbus, Ohio.
 
The Psalm 139 Project’s name comes from the well-known chapter in the Bible in which David testifies to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. David wrote in verse 13 of that psalm, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward the purchase, delivery and installation of ultrasound machines, as well as training for staff members, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the SBC’s Cooperative Program. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to give toward providing ultrasound machines through the ministry is available at psalm139project.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/16/2016 12:19:30 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fulani herdsmen kill 300 Nigerian Christians

March 16 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Muslim Fulani herdsmen, believed to be buoyed by Boko Haram insurgents posing as the nomadic cattlemen, continue to occupy farmland in Benue state, Nigeria, two weeks after killing more than 300 Christian farmers there in a longstanding land dispute.
 
Heavily armed Fulani herdsmen massacred the farmers and displaced thousands of others in an onslaught of attacks that began as early as Feb. 22 and, despite some reports that the assailants have retreated, the herdsmen have remained in Benue as thousands of their cattle eat crops and graze cultivated land, Morning Star News reported March 11.
 
According to the Senate of Nigeria, the marauders included Boko Haram insurgents posing as Fulani in a tactical maneuver to intensify attacks against Christians while evading detection, the Lagos news service Information Nigeria reported.

 
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The victims are members of the Agatu tribe, a group of about 154,000 farmers who live on ancestral farmland in Benue. About 81 percent of them are Christian, according to the Joshua Project. About 7,000 displaced Christians and villagers have scattered to refugee camps in five neighboring communities, Morning Star News reported.
 
Fulani leaders have said the massacre was in retaliation after farmers killed 10,000 of their cows, but eyewitnesses only reported human corpses.
 
“Such a mass slaughter would take weeks, and the skeletal remains of the cows would completely dot the landscape of Agatu, and the stench would permeate the air,” Morning Star News quoted human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, who visited the affected villages with a fact-finding team. “If they are there on reprisal as they claimed, since they are not [indigenous to] the villages, why have they not left after the attack – and why have they occupied the villages?”
 
Ogebe described the assaults as a “jihad of a sort to take over the villages.”
 
Fulani targeted Christians and church buildings in the massacre, but left mosques untouched, Morning Star News said.
 
Fulani herdsmen have clashed with Christian farmers in northeastern and middle Nigeria for more than 100 years, but the latest attack is perhaps the deadliest recorded of late. Previously, the slaughter of at least 200 farmers in May, 2014 in Galadima village, just 10 miles southwest of the capital city of Abuja, had been listed as Fulani’s deadliest attack to date, included in the 2015 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) as the 10th deadliest terrorist incident of 2014.
 
Fulani militants are accused of killing 1,229 people in 2014, up from just 63 the previous year, and are a growing threat to the stability of particularly Nigeria’s Middle Belt where most of the deaths occur, the GTI reported. Most of the attacks are confined to just six of the Nigeria’s 36 states, including Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba in the Middle Belt.
 
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani, said in January that he planned to recommend a portion of land be set aside for Fulani to graze their livestock, but no progress has been noted. The Fulani tribe numbers about 20 million people, 70 percent of them nomadic, spread across at least seven West African countries.
 
Buhari claimed a technical defeat of Boko Haram at the end of 2015, but the ISIS-aligned militants have continued to use suicide bombers, grenades and guns to attack villages. Boko Haram has killed an estimated 17,000-20,000 in the past six years, including Christians and moderate Muslims.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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3/16/2016 12:14:15 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Racial unity, prayer, missions, culture at SBC in June

March 16 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

“A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America” will be among the highlights of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis, as listed in SBC LIFE’s spring edition.
 
The racial reconciliation emphasis will take place during the Tuesday morning session of the June 14-15 annual meeting, as announced by SBC President Ronnie Floyd in the Executive Committee journal. SBC LIFE is online at sbclife.net.
 
Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, and Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., will be among the featured speakers.

 
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Cross Church photo
Ronnie Floyd and Jerry Young in Jackson, Miss.

Floyd and Young were key participants in two racial reconciliation gatherings in Jackson, Miss., in November and August last year. Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Young, who leads New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, subsequently were interviewed together by The New York Times and wrote an op-ed at CNN about racial healing in America.
 
Also on Tuesday morning at the SBC annual meeting, Floyd will deliver his presidential address and military veterans will be honored for their service.
 
For a second year, Floyd will lead a Tuesday evening session devoted to prayer, titled, “A National Call to Prayer for Spiritual Leadership, Revived Churches, The Next Great Spiritual Awakening, and The Future of America.”
 
Reports by the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board are scheduled for the Wednesday morning session, June 15, and the two boards will close the annual meeting with a special missions presentation on Wednesday afternoon.
 
The Wednesday afternoon session will begin with two panel discussions: “The Local Pastor and Church in American Politics” and a question-and-answer period with the presidents of the SBC’s 11 entities and the Executive Committee.
 
Delivering this year’s convention sermon on Wednesday will be Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
 
The theme of the annual meeting will be “Awaken America, Reach the World” drawn from Acts 4:31.
 
Online registration for messengers and local hotels can be accessed at SBCAnnualMeeting.net. Information for preschool child care and programs for children ages 6-12 and students in grades 7-12 also is available through the website. Information about the annual Crossover evangelism outreach prior to the annual meeting can be accessed at St. Louis Metro Baptist Association.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/16/2016 12:06:24 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC, IMB urge prayer for refugees March 15

March 15 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is collaborating with the International Mission Board (IMB) and other organizations to urge prayer March 15 for the millions of refugees of the Syrian civil war.
 
The March 15 focus of the campaign – #PrayForRefugees – comes on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle Eastern country. The ERLC and its partners are calling for churches, small groups, Christian organizations, families and individuals to pray for the more than 13.5 million Syrians who need humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict.
 
The refugee crisis, described as the worst since World War II, has resulted in more than 4.8 million Syrians being registered as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are living in often dangerous conditions in the neighboring countries of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as countries in Europe and other continents. Another 6.6 million Syrians have fled their homes to other parts of their country because of the violence, according to the U.N.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore encouraged Southern Baptists and other Christians to unite in the prayer effort.

 
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“Every day reports of wreckage and bloodshed throughout the Middle East bring a horrifying reminder of how precious religious freedom is and the devastating consequences that arise when religious freedom is repressed,” Moore said in a news release. “Christians are called by God to stand up for the sanctity of human life whenever and wherever it is challenged.
 
“The lives of these many refugees fleeing the most brutal kinds of religious and ethnic persecution and oppression matter to our God, and so they should matter to us as well,” he said. “As Christians, we don’t have to agree on all the details of public policy to agree that our response ought to be, first, one of compassion and prayer for some of our world’s most vulnerable and defenseless people.”
 
The ERLC – at erlc.com/refugees – encourages prayer for:

  • A movement of the gospel among Syrian refugees;

  • Safety for the hundreds of refugees who will leave the Middle East in the days, weeks and months ahead;

  • Christians who are seeking to take care of refugee communities near them;

  • Understanding among Christians of how they can help those affected by the war

The ERLC also recommends three Southern Baptist organizations to support in efforts to aid Syrians: The humanitarian entities Baptist Global Response and Global Hunger Relief, as well as the ERLC’s Middle East office.
 
The commission is asking participants in the prayer effort to use social media with the hashtag #prayforrefugees to announce their involvement.
 
The civil war in Syria broke out in 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad’s troops fired on protesters calling for his resignation and an end to his party’s rule. The conflict developed into a battle between the Shia Muslims, which count al-Assad among their number, and the Sunnis, who make up nearly 90 percent of Muslims in Syria. It grew more complex in 2014, when the Islamic State brought its terroristic campaign to the country.
 
At least 470,000 Syrians have died as a result of the civil war, the Syrian Center for Policy Research reported in mid-February, according to The New York Times.
 
While the focus is on March 15, the #PrayForRefugees campaign began Feb. 10 and will continue throughout the Lenten season, which concludes Easter Sunday, March 27. More information is available at prayforrefugees.com.
 
In addition to the International Mission Board, other partners in the prayer campaign include World Vision; World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals; Lutheran World Relief; and Operation Mobilisation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

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3/15/2016 12:19:45 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Embedded racial inequity’ described at NAAF

March 15 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Three boys born to low-income U.S. veterans just after World War II began life with several things in common.
 
Similarly, they were born to two-parent families in rental or public housing, and their fathers all had high school diplomas, served in WWII and applied for low-interest home loans under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill). But their stories, LifeWay Christian Resources executive Mark Croston shared, unfolded differently.
 
Croston told the example of what he termed “embedded racial inequity” at the National African American Fellowship’s (NAAF) spring symposium March 2 in Memphis, Tenn. Croston would go on to offer concise steps toward “Racial reconciliation and Beyond: Breaking the Barriers.”

 
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Photo courtesy of Kenecia S. Harris, Life Through Lens Photography.
LifeWay executive Mark Croston at National African American Fellowship spring symposium in Memphis.

He noted the boys’ lives were starkly different in that the father of Philip, white, was approved for the loan, moved to segregated suburban housing, and borrowed from his home equity to send Philip to college. In turn, Philip got a professional job, bought a home and upon his father’s death, inherited the family home that had appreciated in value.
 
On the other hand were Thomas, black, and Juan, Latino. Their fathers were denied the loan because of racially restrictive underwriting criteria; their families remained in rental housing; they earned high school diplomas from under-resourced, segregated schools, and their families could not afford to send them to college.
 
They both worked in minimum-wage jobs and continued to live at home. Thomas had to borrow money when his father died to give him a decent funeral. After Juan married a Latina recently emigrated from Mexico, he began sending part of his earnings to her extended family there.
 
The story, Croston said, is based on real-life examples and taken from the book When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, by Ira Katznelson from Columbia University Press. It is an example of “how this social legislation from 60 years ago continues to impact their families,” Croston said, and “about how advantage and disadvantage accumulate because of the unequal opportunities embedded in the GI Bill.”
 
In the comparison, Philip was able to leave his children his father’s home, pay for his children’s college education with home equity, and establish a trust fund for his grandchildren. Conversely, Thomas and Juan completed college on work study and college loans, and had few personal assets to leave their grandchildren.
 
Croston, who in 2013 left a 26-year pastorate in Suffolk, Va. to head LifeWay’s Black Church Partnerships, urged the cross-cultural NAAF gathering of Southern Baptist pastors and denominational leaders to recognize such embedded inequities that come from what he called “white privilege,” and to be intentional and active in securing and embracing racial reconciliation.
 
“We have passed a lot of resolutions. We’ve had a lot of reports and task forces,” Croston said. “So you can’t just keep doing the same stuff over and over again. You can’t just keep voting and voting and voting on the same thing, over and over again, and think that they mean anything. You actually have to come to a point where you just do it.”
 
“We’re going to talk about it one more time here today,” he said, “but our conversation won’t mean anything, unless somebody gets up from this place when we are finished and goes and just does something like what we’ve talked about.”
 
Among other examples of “white privilege,” Croston said a white man with a criminal record is more likely to get a job over a man of color with a clean record, and that while blacks use less drugs than whites, blacks are six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs.
 
Croston suggested several steps toward achieving racial reconciliation.

  • Leaders should “stop fearing,” he said, referencing 2 Timothy 1:7, and should speak up against both black and white racism.

“Judge Paul Pressler shared in his book, A Hill on Which to Die,“ Croston quoted Pressler, “In any great movement are individuals who sit back and watch to see which way the battle will go. When they see which side will prevail, they attach themselves to that side. These people disturb me, because they seem to be self-serving individuals who are more interested in their own advancement than they are in basic principles. They are more concerned with their own future than they are with the cause itself.”

  • Leaders should “step forward,” Croston said. He offered eight practical ways to practice multicultural leadership:

  • Learn more about history, including African-American history;

  • think “we” and not “I,”

  • practice generosity instead of greed,

  • flatten the leadership structure,

  • teach people to work together,

  • create a sense of “family,”

  • foster a culture that accepts spirituality, and

  • focus employees on a company vision.

Croston also suggested that pastors and denominational leaders:

  • Hire diverse executives.

Citing the article, “The Diversity Divide,” Croston noted that several of the leading technology companies have workforces resembling current societal diversity.
 
“When we look at our SBC entities, their workforces match neither the society in general, nor the population of the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) itself,” Croston said. “The easiest thing for each of us to do is to hire someone just like us. Remember, removing stain is intentional.”

  • Pastors and leaders should be partners instead of patriarchs, Croston said, explaining that patriarchs make the decisions for the minority constituents, whereas partners “sit at the table” and give their perspectives and insights “before the decisions are made.”

“Often people in power want to hand pick the ‘leaders’ for the minority group,” Croston said. “It is clear to the minority groups that this is just a patronizing, paternalistic gesture when the ‘leaders’ they pick are people who are more like them than the masses of minority people they are called to serve.”

  • Persevere, Croston advised, using an adage his mother told him early in his pastorate, “Son, it’s not the speed boat of Zion, it’s the old ship of Zion.”

Even when the ship is steered in a new direction, “it takes a while before the action of the rudder in the ocean has enough force to change the momentum of the ship and [to] begin to move it in a new direction.”
 
“The SBC is not new, nor are the stains of racism,” Croston said. “At every point of progress (within the SBC) there was a brave person at his/her own helm who stood up by the power of the Spirit and said, ‘Some things are going to change around here.’ And for doing this, some paid a price.”

  • Untie from political parties, he urged, pointing out that when a group aligns with a party, that group is viewed as an ally to everything the party does.

“Ours is to be a prophetic voice, not merely a political one,” Croston said.
 
“The Republicans are not always right and the Democrats not always wrong. You cannot eat at the King’s table and still declare like Nathan, ‘Thou art the man,’“ he said, referencing when the biblical prophet pointed out King David’s sins of adultery and murder.

  • Put your church on track by seeing the cultures in the church’s community, Croston said, pointing out that black flight has replaced white flight, using Washington, D.C. as an example of blacks moving to the suburbs.

He advised a commitment to hands-on international missions projects, loving the church culture without seeing other church cultures as inferior, and celebrating every congregational member.

  • Embrace and obey God’s commandment to love one another, Croston said, referencing Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:35 and 1 Peter 4:7-8.

“One thing I have always appreciated and admired about the SBC is our wholehearted and unfaltering commitment to missions and evangelism,” Croston said. “But if we are going to remove the stain of racism we must elevate the Great Commandment to the same level as the Great Commission.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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3/15/2016 12:11:46 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd names Committee on Committees

March 15 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Appointments to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Committee on Committees have been announced by SBC President Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
 
The Committee on Committees has 68 members, two from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation on boards of SBC entities.
 
The Committee on Committees will assemble in St. Louis just prior to the SBC’s June 14-15 sessions to nominate members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.

 
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Ronnie Floyd

Floyd named Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., to serve as chairman of this year’s Committee on Committees. Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., will serve as vice chairman.
 
Floyd announced the appointments March 14 in accordance with SBC Bylaw 19, which calls for providing notice to Southern Baptists of the appointees no later than 45 days in advance of each year’s annual meeting.
 
Committee members are:
 
ALABAMA – Jeff Gardner, First Baptist Church, Trussville; Ed Litton, Redemption Church, Saraland
 
ALASKA – Shirley Bearce, Pioneer Baptist Church, Wasilla; second member TBD
 
ARIZONA – Tim Pruit, Pinal County Cowboy Church, Gila Valley; Monty Patton, Mountain Ridge Baptist Church, Glendale
 
ARKANSAS – Jamar Andrews, Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro; Manley Beasley, Hot Springs Baptist Church, Hot Springs
 
CALIFORNIA – Andrew Spradlin, Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield; Gilberto Peralta, Iglesia San Francisco Downtown, San Francisco
 
COLORADO – Ray Shirley, Grand Junction Baptist Church, Grand Junction; Sherry Lambert, Riverside Baptist Church, Denver
 
FLORIDA – Willy Rice, Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater; Janet Wicker, First Baptist Church, Naples
 
GEORGIA – Emir Caner, Helen First Baptist Church, Helen; Liliana Lewis, First Baptist Church, Woodstock
 
HAWAII – Charles Beaucond, First Baptist Church Pearl Harbor, Honolulu; Stacy Hirano, Waialae Baptist Church, Honolulu
 
ILLINOIS – Doug Munton, First Baptist Church, O’Fallon; Michael Allen, Uptown Baptist Church, Chicago
 
INDIANA – Barry Rager, New Circle Church, Indianapolis; Laura Smith South, Side Baptist Church of South Bend, Mishawaka
 
KANSAS-NEBRASKA – Casey Casamento, Wichita City Life, Wichita; Elias Bracamonte, Topeka Emmanuel Baptist Church, Topeka
 
KENTUCKY – Curtis Woods, Watson Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville; John Flores, Highview Baptist Church, Louisville
 
LOUISIANA – Leroy Fountain, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; Michael Wood, First Baptist Church, West Monroe
 
MARYLAND-DELAWARE-WASHINGTON D.C. – Katie Barnes, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; Jose Rojo Medina, Iglesia Bautista de Waldorf, Waldorf, Md.
 
MICHIGAN – Darryl Gaddy, Victory Fellowship Community Church, Detroit; Mary Allen, Warren Woods Baptist Church, Warren
 
MISSISSIPPI – Gina Headrick, Salem Heights Baptist Church, Laurel; Greg Belser, Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Clinton
 
MISSOURI – Josh Hall, Selmore Baptist Church, Ozark; Kim Hardy, First Baptist Church, Kimberling City
 
NEVADA – Sharon Angle, Fellowship Baptist Church, Reno; Sam Crouch, Calvary Baptist Church, Elko
 
NEW ENGLAND – Daniel Cho, Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass.; Sherrill Coberley, Lake Sunapee Baptist Church, Newport, N.H.
 
NEW MEXICO – Danny Kirkpatrick, Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, Hobbs; Kyle Bueermann, First Baptist Church, Alamogordo
 
NEW YORK – Patrick Thompson, New City Church, Long Island City; Freeman Field, Apostles Church of the City, New York City
 
NORTH CAROLINA – Greg Poss, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem; Lori Frank, Biltmore Baptist Church, Arden
 
NORTHWEST – Tom Gillihan, First Baptist Church, Longview, Wash.; Warren Mainard, Essential Church, Bellevue, Wash.
 
OHIO – Reginald Hayes, United Faith International, Columbus; Jeremy Westbrook, Living Hope Church, Marysville
 
OKLAHOMA – Will Wilson Jr., New Hope Baptist Church, Tecumseh; Lana Melton, Southern Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City
 
PENNSYLVANIA-SOUTH JERSEY – Jerry Lepasana, Bible Church International, Randolph, N.J.; Larry Anderson, Great Commission Church, Philadelphia, Pa.
 
SOUTH CAROLINA – Don Wilton, First Baptist Church, Spartanburg; Marshall Blalock, First Baptist Church, Charleston
 
TENNESSEE – Drew Tucker, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova; Donna Avant, First Baptist Church Concord, Knoxville
 
TEXAS – Jeff Young, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano; Gloria Irving, First Baptist Church, Euless
 
UTAH-IDAHO – Kent Burchyett, Calvary Baptist Church, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Rob Rowbottom, First Baptist Church, West City Valley, Utah
 
VIRGINIA – Eric Thomas, First Baptist Church, Norfolk; Mary Smith, First Baptist Church, Roanoke
 
WEST VIRGINIA – Ryan Navy, New Heights Church, Milton; Brandon Carter, Cross Lanes Baptist Church, Cross Lanes
 
WYOMING – Dale Thompson, First Southern Baptist Church, Worland; Fred Creason, Boyd Avenue Baptist Church, Casper
 

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Committee on Committees & its long-term impact

3/15/2016 12:03:41 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Amid energy volatility, Wyoming Baptists undaunted

March 15 2016 by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Former bison rancher Marty Rostad said he and his wife Nancy “don’t consider ourselves church planters but God told us to start a church and we did.”
 
Lifeway Church in Torrington, Wyo., is at its five-year point, with about 120 people in Sunday morning worship. Rostad also planted Lifeway Church in Fort Laramie a year ago, with 40 now attending.
 
“We moved here unfunded; didn’t know anybody,” Rostad said. “I think God was going to start working here and we got to be part of it. We’re just tickled to death to be here.”

 
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Laramie Valley Chapel is largest of Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention’s 106 churches, with about 450 in Sunday morning worship.

Newer pastors like Rostad as well as those with longer tenures in the state known for its boom-or-bust energy-based economy attest to the satisfaction they feel in serving God in a challenging environment.
 
“I love pastoring in Wyoming,” said Mike Cooper, pastor since 2002 of College Heights Baptist Church in Casper, one of the state’s largest churches, where about 320 people worship on Sunday. “It’s a place where people for the most part are honest and open.
 
“It’s not always easy to share the gospel – like everywhere else, some people don’t want to hear it – but it’s a level playing field at least,” Cooper said. “If you’re honest with them, they’re straight-up with you.
 
“There’s also a real hunger for truth,” Cooper said. “For believers and for lost people to some degree, there’s a real spiritual hunger out here.”
 
Southern Baptists have been feeding that spiritual hunger for 65 years, when a transplanted Oklahoma oil field worker called a friend from college, Benny Delmar, to come and help plant a church in Wyoming.
 
Delmar told his friend he would come “for three weeks,” but he never left. Before he died in 2007 Delmar had started more than 140 churches in Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota. The state missions offering which carries his name is a major source of the state convention’s funding.
 
From that mid-century phone call to today, Southern Baptist ministry has been entwined with Wyoming’s massive deposits of energy-producing resources. Though its energy industry is volatile, the state is No. 2 in the nation in total energy production, according to U.S. Energy Information Agency data, ranking No. 1 in coal, No. 5 in natural gas and No. 8 in crude oil.
 
The light of the gospel, meanwhile, shines in 106 churches across Wyoming, from churches of perhaps two dozen to the largest, Laramie Valley Chapel, where 450 gather each week for worship. Paul Martin has been pastor since 1984 of the church started in 1964.

 
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Pastor Chuck Powell (right) of Ten Sleep Baptist Church and Wyoming church planter James Scott spend a few moments in quiet conversation before leading an Easter sunrise service near the small town said by frontiersmen to be "10 sleeps" from the next nearest outpost.

First Southern Baptist Church in Casper – which in January 2016 changed its name to Hilltop Baptist Church – was the first. Started in 1951, the church noted nearly 1,100 members in 1980, giving more than 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program channel of support for Southern Baptist missions and ministry.
 
Showing the transitory nature of Southern Baptists in Wyoming who work in the energy industry, the Caspar church’s rolls were purged in 2001 of those who had come and gone, with its membership more accurately revised to 125.
 
Never has a year gone by at First Southern/Hilltop without at least one baptism. The most was 48 in 1981.
 
An emphasis on evangelism – typical among Wyoming Southern Baptists – results in many churches baptizing at least one each year, despite an almost inherent resistance among Wyomingites to embracing Christ. Churches statewide reported 349 baptisms in 2015.
 
There’s a willingness to listen and study the scriptures but it often stops short of a wholehearted commitment to becoming a Christ-follower – which is both refreshing and frustrating for Chris Sims, planter/pastor of Wind City Church in Casper, which started in September 2014.
 
It’s refreshing because “those who follow through with baptism are really serious about their decision,” said Sims, who moved to Wyoming from a successful pastorate in Arkansas.
 
“This is just completely different from the ‘Bible Belt,’ the South,” Sims said. “I truly believe the ‘western,’ the ‘cowboy’ or ‘mountain’ culture says, ‘I’m not going to say I’m committed to something unless I’m really committed to that.’“
 
Sims made one final point: “As a church plant in Wyoming, you don’t have a baptistery. You use the river or lake, and it’s cold. We baptized two in October in the North Platte [River], and it was, using a typical Wyoming understatement, chilly.”
 
Lifeway Church in Torrington (population 6,800) has baptized at least 60 people, most all adults, plus another eight at a 720-inmate medium security prison where Rostad ministers. Illustrating the length of time some people take to make a total commitment to Christ, “We had a guy 90 years old accept Christ about four years ago and I had a guy 81 three years ago,” he said.

 
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Wyoming church planter James Scott baptizes a new believer in an irrigation ditch near Greybull. The Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention, with just over 100 churches, reported 349 baptisms in 2015.

Wyoming Southern Baptists currently have 15 ongoing church plants, including three new ones in 2015, and 13 “seed” congregations in pre-plant mode. Among them are cowboy/country-style as well as recovery-style churches and Bible studies and even a new work on the Wind River Indian Reservation – the first in several years.
 
“Historically, Wyoming is a rough place to do ministry,” said Dale Bascue, evangelism director for the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention and area missionary for the western part of the state. “The attitude of the people is, ‘I’m going to make it on my own.’ People in Wyoming are very self-sufficient, very independent. They pretty much do it their way regardless of if it will work or not.”
 
Southern Baptist churches in Wyoming exhibit that same streak of independence, Bascue said.
 
“We have two kinds of churches: Southern Baptist churches in Wyoming, and churches that are Southern Baptist in Wyoming,” Bascue said. Some churches operate as if they were in Texas or the South. Others “reflect the culture and are more in tune with the community and the unique flavor of what it is to be in Wyoming.”
 
Wright Baptist Church is an example of the latter. It began in 1979, the same year the town itself was started by the ARCO energy company, which needed homes for its coal-mining employees. Southern Baptists, hearing of plans to start the town in the Powder River Basin some 90 windswept miles northeast of Casper, bought land at a pre-town price for the church start.
 
Almost from its inception, the church has averaged 40 to 80 people in worship in the town of about 1,800 that is pegged to the energy industry.
 
“Things are slowing down in the area, with oil prices down, but it’s not a catastrophe yet,” said Shane Stone, new as Wright Baptist’s bivocational pastor. His other employment: instructor in criminal justice at the University of Wyoming-Casper.
 
Longtime member Glen Huseth, who works in equipment maintenance at one of eight Powder River Basin open pit coal mines that are the nation’s largest, said the Obama administration’s “war on coal” has taken a toll. Another factor: “The price of natural gas … has plummeted. It’s our main competitor.”
 
The boom-and-bust of the energy industry affects churches financially, and by extension the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention, Huseth said.
 
Wright Baptist started life giving 7 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, but soon increased that to 10 percent because of a commitment to give a tithe of its income. In 2013 that was increased to 11 percent, but this year it has moved back to 10 percent to provide more support to the state convention.
 
“The way the wind’s blowing now in the national organization, [Southern Baptists are] spending Cooperative Program money in densely populated areas and cutting funding to rural areas,” Huseth said. “We decided to go back to 10 percent on Cooperative Program and [increase to] 5 percent for the Benny Delmar missions fund. … We’re not going down in our giving; we’re just redistributing it a little.”
 
That being said, Wyoming Southern Baptists have increased CP giving most years since it became a state convention in 1984, with exceptions during years of heightened economic downturn.
 
A total of $748,242 is projected in the 2016 Cooperative Program (CP) giving of Wyoming churches, up from $742,201 budgeted for 2015. The CP percentage passed on to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries remains unchanged for the fifth year at 32.75 percent.
 
“The Cooperative Program is the lifeline of cooperative ministry and missions in Wyoming and beyond,” said Lynn Nikkel, executive director of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention. “And, it is one of the greatest connections for direct involvement in the Great Commission for churches of any size.”
 
As a result of a new state convention strategy and structure approved by messengers at the Wyoming convention’s 2014 annual meeting, all eight Baptist associations in the state voted last year to dissolve and realign with other churches in three regions of the convention.
 
Pastors previously in different associations are getting to know each other and to plan joint ventures, area missionary Bascue said. Learning of shared challenges tightens bonds of fellowship, he added.
 
“Oil backed off in Wyoming a couple years ago,” Bascue said. “We’ve seen several of the energy companies do a lot of laying off, closing down certain fields, closing down local offices. That’s presented a real challenge for a lot of our churches because they’ve lost people who had been actively participating.
 
“The response of our churches is that some will struggle and wait for the next boom; others realize God is not limited by whatever the economic situation is. The gospel doesn’t change regardless of the number of tithers in a church. They’re going to continue to fulfill the Great Commission as God continues to move,” Bascue said.
 
Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation, with an estimated population of 586,000 residents in 2015. About 2 percent are Southern Baptist, according to state convention officials.
 
“Our research also indicates that only 5 to 6 percent of the state population is evangelical,” Nikkel added.
 
Wyoming’s largest city is the capital, Cheyenne, with about 62,500 residents a couple hours north of Denver. Casper, in the center of the state, has about 60,000 people. The two other “large” cities (by Wyoming standards) are energy-rich Gillette and college-town Laramie, both with about 32,000 residents.
 
The rest of Wyoming consists primarily of wide open spaces across the state, from flatlands rich with coal beds up to 100 feet thick, to mountain ranges and Yellowstone National Park. The state has fewer than 100 scattered incorporated municipalities, such as Lost Springs, with a 2014 population of 4.
 
“Our vision as a state convention is that as cooperating churches we are working together for the expansion of the Kingdom of God by making disciples in our communities, in our state, and in our world,” Nikkel said. “Convention staff are emphasizing this year – 2016 – increasing the intentionality and strategy for transformation in disciple-making.
 
“Lostness in Wyoming is great – more than 90 percent – and the workers are few,” Nikkel said. “But God is able and we pray will use Wyoming Southern Baptists for His glory, and for bringing people to be committed followers of Jesus Christ.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/15/2016 11:56:49 AM by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GuideStone declares 2016 ‘year of influence’

March 15 2016 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Referring to 2 Corinthians 10:13, GuideStone Financial Resources’ President O.S. Hawkins told trustees that each person is assigned an area of influence by God. To be a person of influence, one must possess vision, integrity and purpose. With that in mind, Hawkins declared 2016 the “year of influence” at GuideStone during the entity’s Feb. 29-March 1 trustee meeting in Dallas.
 
In addition to the annual theme, trustees heard reports from ministry areas and celebrated the retirement of Jeff Billinger, who leaves GuideStone after 22 years of service, primarily as chief financial officer.
 
“Every one of us has been assigned an area of influence,” Hawkins told trustees. “To be people of influence, we must possess a clear, God-sized vision, be people of integrity in all that we do and have a God-ordained purpose.”
 
The verse and the theme are two-fold in importance, marking the annual theme that guides GuideStone’s work in 2016, as well as the subject of a new book, VIP: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity and Purpose, released March 8, whose proceeds benefit Mission:Dignity.
 
In his report to trustees, Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones described 2015 as a challenging year.
 
“Even so, GuideStone Funds finished the year ranked No. 29 out of 246 mutual fund families, according to fi360 [Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings], placing GuideStone Funds in the top 12 percent of fund families,” Jones said. This ranking placed GuideStone Funds ahead of many well-known fund families.
 
Additionally, GuideStone Funds continued to perform well compared to their respective Lipper and Morningstar peer universes. For more information on GuideStone Funds’ performance, visit GuideStoneFunds.com.
 

Mission:Dignity

GuideStone’s ministry to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows in serious financial need continues to bless the lives of both donors and recipients, Jones said.
 
“We had a recipient who shared with us recently, ‘I don’t have a soul to look after me,’” he said. “Thanks to hundreds of faithful donors, these dear soldiers of the cross have someone to look after their financial needs.”
 
Reported total assistance payments increased 7.4 percent to $7.5 million from 2014 numbers.
 
GuideStone continues to encourage people who may know a retired Southern Baptist pastor or his widow living near the poverty line to visit MissionDignity.org to see if Mission:Dignity can serve the retired church worker in need.
 

Property and Casualty

“Property and Casualty continues to be a success with the alliance we launched with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company,” Jones told trustees.
 
Written premiums have increased by $2.0 million, or 13 percent, year-over-year. With average renewal rates exceeding 99 percent, renewals now account for $15.3 million, or nearly 89 percent of the written premium balance, and are driving year-over-year increases.
 

Life and health plans

Enrollment in group medical plans continues to grow; 2015 saw growth of 5.8 percent, or an additional 1,439 lives. The insurance line of business, including all life and health products, grew 6.9 percent in 2015. During 2015 the dental line of business was transitioned to a self-funded business model which improved the financial strength of the program.
 

Farewells

In addition to recognizing Billinger for his service, three trustees ended their terms of service. Staff and other trustees expressed their gratitude for the tenures of Robert L. Bender (Colorado), F. Donald Davidson (Virginia) and J. Dudley May (Louisiana). New trustees will be elected at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Mo., in June.
 
Trustees will meet again in July in Newport Beach, Calif.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/15/2016 11:52:26 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



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