March 2017

N.C.’s repeal of restroom bill called ‘a loss’

March 31 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

North Carolina legislators have repealed a controversial law that required individuals in state buildings to use restrooms corresponding to the gender indicated on their birth certificates.
The repeal of House Bill 2 (HB 2) March 30 marked a compromise between Democrats and Republicans and culminated more than a year of contentious debate since the bill’s passage in April 2016.
North Carolina’s senate passed the repeal 32-16 following brief discussion. The house’s 70-48 vote to repeal HB 2 followed more than two hours of debate and came some 90 minutes after a noon deadline set by the NCAA for the Tar Heel State to overturn its restroom bill or lose the opportunity to host championship events in 2018-22.
The NCAA previously pulled seven championship events that were set to occur in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year, including first- and second-round games in the Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The repeal drew criticism both from social conservatives, who argued it endangered citizens’ privacy and safety, and from advocates of so-called homosexual and transgender rights, who argued it did not go far enough in defending civil rights.
Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, told Baptist Press the state “has had a great opportunity to lead the country in the preservation of the definition of gender. [Lawmakers] are now forfeiting that opportunity. I think this is a loss for the state of North Carolina and ultimately a loss for the country.”
HB 2 was “the best privacy and safety bathroom law in the country,” Creech said. “It’s been a model for the whole country,” with similar legislation introduced in 17 other states.
The repeal bill, HB 142, contained three main provisions:

  • A full repeal of HB 2;
  • A ban until 2020 on acts by state government – including universities and local boards of education – to regulate “access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the” state legislature;
  • A moratorium until 2020 on ordinances by local governments to regulate “private employment practices” or “public accommodations.” Those responsibilities are left to state government.

In debating HB 142, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, a Republican, said, “Compromise sometimes is difficult, and this bill represents a compromise. I don’t know that there are that many people that are extremely happy about exactly where we are ... However this is what I believe, and what I hope you believe, is good for North Carolina at this time.”
Gov. Roy Cooper – a Democrat who made HB 2 opposition a major feature of his campaign last year – said in a statement on the eve of the vote, “I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”
Cooper had argued previously that HB 2 was discriminatory and bad for North Carolina economically. The Associated Press estimated in a March 27 analysis that HB 2 would cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost revenue over a dozen years from companies withdrawing business in protest.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement, “These chambers were filled today with men and women who have been under a full-court press by the NCAA and the business community for months, and today, the leaders of our state have let the people of North Carolina down. The truth remains, no basketball game, corporation or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom.”
Fitzgerald, a trustee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed gratefulness “for the lawmakers who remained steadfast to these principals and the thousands of coalition members that today urged them to vote against the repeal.”
“Today’s repeal vote,” she noted, “maintains separate facilities for men and women and leaves regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state; however, it leaves the state without a statewide public policy on privacy and safety in bathrooms, locker rooms and showers and simply kicks this debate three years down the road.”
Pro-homosexual and transgender rights advocates argued the replacement bill did not go far enough.
Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign told The New York Times HB 142 leaves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community “boxed out of nondiscrimination protections.” Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina told The Times the repeal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”
At least two previous attempts to repeal HB 2 failed, one in December and another earlier this month.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/31/2017 11:43:14 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texas church mourns loss of 13 members in bus tragedy

March 31 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“Death could not hold Him,” proclaims the website of First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas. The bright Easter message of Jesus’ resurrection sits just above the tragic announcement of 13 members who died March 29 in a bus accident.

Screenshot from ABC News
Thirteen senior adult members of First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, were killed March 29 in a bus accident on their way home from a three-day retreat.

“When we’re absent from the body, we’re present with the Lord,” First Baptist New Braunfels pastor Brad McLean told San Antonio CBS affiliate KENS5 News hours after the crash. “We know that their families are going to be hurting and our church family is going to be hurting.”
McLean cancelled Wednesday evening services and opened the sanctuary for prayer after the members of the senior choir were killed when a pickup truck crossed the center lane in a curve, state troopers said, and struck the bus head-on on Highway 83 in Concan around 2 p.m. The truck driver and one church bus passenger survived and are hospitalized.
“We’re just trying to be very respectful and provide a place for our church family to come together, to cry with other,” McLean said of the evening prayer gathering, “you know, to hug each other and pray with each other.”
The senior choir members, all between the ages of 61 and 87, were returning from an annual retreat at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey when the accident occurred on Highway 83 near Garner State Park in Concan. All but one of the fatalities occurred at the site of the crash; the other, hours later at the hospital.
Many local and area community members and church congregants gathered at the church last night, First Baptist student pastor Michael Van Gorp told Baptist Press (BP).
“It was a great moment to be able to go through that moment with fellow believers, and be able to be encouraged by each other, and be able to rest on the assurance of the gospel,” Gorp said. “The pastor [McLean] just commented on how it’s a difficult situation, but we’ll get through it with the hope and assurance of the gospel.”
Among Southern Baptists extending sympathy is Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“Our hearts are broken as we pray for the families who lost loved ones,” Richards told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “Because of Jesus, the precious saints who left this earth shed the confines of the flesh to enter the glorious presence of our Lord. We stand with the pastor and church in constant prayer.”
Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president and CEO, also responded.
“Our hearts are broken over the horrendous accident which took the lives of so many members of First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas,” Page told BP. “Our prayers are with the families, the church and the pastor as he seeks to minister God’s grace.
“We are praying for them and ... Southern Baptists stand ready to assist them in any way,” Page said. “May God bless this church as they heal and deal with this tragedy.”
Most of those who died at the scene were residents of New Braunfels, the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) said, identifying them as Howard Bryan Allen, 81; Rhonda Barlow Allen, 61; Harold Boyd Barber, 87; Margaret Robinson Barber, 82; Murray William Barrett, 67; Mildred Goodlett Rosamond, 87; Sue Wynn Tysdal, 76; Dorothy Fern Vulliet, 84; and Martha Holcomb Walker, 84. Also killed at the scene were Avis Scholl Banks, 83, of Austin; Cristie Clare Moore, 68, of Cibolo; and Donna Elizabeth Hawkins, 69, of Schertz. Addie Maurine Schmeltekopf, 84, of New Braunfels, died at University Hospital.
The lone church bus survivor, 64-year-old Rose Mary Harris of New Braunfels, was in critical condition at San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio. The pickup truck driver, identified as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young of Leakey, is in stable condition at University Hospital, TxDPS said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene March 30 to investigate the incident, ABC affiliate KSAT reported. The small church bus had only made it nine miles from the retreat site when the accident occurred, and was about 120 miles from the church.
In photos and videos taken at the scene, both vehicles were heavily damaged on the front driver’s side, and the rear of the bus appeared to rest on a guardrail.
The latest official statement on First Baptist New Braunfels’ website encouraged prayer.
“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that thirteen of the fourteen passengers in today’s bus accident were called home to Jesus. The survivor is in serious but stable condition,” the statement posted March 29 at 10:40 p.m. said. “Families have been notified. Out of respect for the families, we will wait until tomorrow to publish an official statement and list of names. Thank you for the outpouring of love and support. Please continue to pray.”
Grief counselors are onsite at the church to talk with children and teenagers in particular, and lunch was being offered in the church gym to family members, the church said on its Facebook page.
“We have grief counselors available today for any children, preteens and teens, from 1:00-2:00,” the church said on Facebook before noon today. “Other times will be available. Feel free to bring your children by to talk with a counselor.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott extended condolences.
“Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to the victims and the families of those involved in today’s tragic event,” Abbott said. “We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those affected. We thank the first responders working on the scene in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy, and ask that all Texans join us in offering their thoughts and prayers.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Keith Collier, managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/31/2017 11:37:58 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

PPFA fights defunding; CMP fights felony charges

March 31 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Planned Parenthood again finds itself in a battle to protect its government funding and tarnished reputation, while secret investigators who uncovered the abortion giant’s latest scandal fight felony charges.
The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to approve a measure that would free states to bar funds for Planned Parenthood. The measure barely reached the Senate floor earlier in the day. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie in favor of a motion for the legislation to proceed.
Members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, continue to consider what approach to take to slash federal money for the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.
On the other side of the country, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 felony counts March 28 against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, charging them with illegally recording or conspiring to record confidential communications. The undercover investigators with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use. The investigators also clandestinely recorded conversations with officials of fetal tissue procurement businesses that work with Planned Parenthood.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore decried the development.
“Planned Parenthood has been exposed as a gruesome human trafficking operation that exploits women and communities,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “What we saw on those videos demands justice, not politically driven revenge on those who exposed the truth.
“My prayer is that Planned Parenthood would be held accountable and that those who courageously shed light on the culture of death would be protected rather than prosecuted,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
Daleiden said in a written statement, “The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies are fake news. ... The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners ... who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law.”
Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society and a member of the defense team for the CMP investigators, said the efforts by Daleiden and Merritt advanced “First Amendment values and are clothed with the same constitutional protection that all investigative journalists deserve and must enjoy. Undercover journalism has been a vital tool in our politics and self-governance.“
Planned Parenthood welcomed the indictments.
“Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes,” Mary Alice Carter, interim vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said in a written release. “We look forward to justice being served.”
It is not the first time Daleiden and Merritt have faced charges after posing as representatives of a biologics firm to record the conversations. Harris County dropped charges against the pair in July stemming from their undercover work at a Planned Parenthood center in Houston.
Following the 2015 release of the first undercover videos, Daleiden spoke at the inaugural Evangelicals for Life conference – which is sponsored annually by the ERLC and Focus on the Family – in January 2016 in Washington, D.C.
At the time, Daleiden explained his ethical approach to the clandestine operation: “I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying, because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly.”
A day after the California charges were announced, CMP released its latest undercover video, which showed a former Planned Parenthood medical director explaining late-term abortions to procure body parts. Her description seemed to imply some babies were delivered alive in the abortion process but died outside the womb.
At a Planned Parenthood conference speaking to covert CMP investigators, DeShawn Taylor – formerly medical director of Planned Parenthood of Arizona who previously performed abortions for Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles and was trained by a PPFA executive – spoke of harvesting intact organs. “[I]t’s not a matter of how I feel about [the baby] coming out intact,” she said, “but I gotta worry about my staff and ... people’s feelings about it coming out looking like a baby.”
Taylor said on the video, “[I]n Arizona, if the fetus comes out with any signs of life, we’re supposed to transport it – to the hospital.”
When asked if there were a standard of verifying “signs of life,” she said, “Well, the thing is, I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who’s in the room, right?”

Congress & the states

In the Senate, the resolution acted on March 30 rescinds an Obama administration rule issued in December that effectively restricts states from prohibiting funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
The House voted 230-188 for the proposal, House Joint Resolution 43, in February.
In recent years, at least 12 states have cut money for Planned Parenthood. Courts have blocked those actions in some cases, thereby enabling the organization to continue to receive government funds.
Congressional foes of funding Planned Parenthood had hoped to cut money for the organization through passage of a proposal to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. House Republicans, however, were unable to achieve enough votes for passage March 24. If no health care bill is forthcoming, supporters of defunding PPFA could use another procedural process to reach their goal.
Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-2015).
The ERLC is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional effort to slash federal dollars for Planned Parenthood. The effort is the first of its kind by the ERLC and includes a digital petition for delivery to congressional leaders. The petition is available for signing at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reporting from the Southern Baptist TEXAN is included in this story.)

3/31/2017 11:32:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors’ Conference launches scholarship opportunity

March 31 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference has announced it will provide $1,000 travel scholarships to pastors of “average-sized churches” who cannot otherwise afford to attend the Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting this summer in Phoenix.

In keeping with the focus of this year’s Pastors’ Conference on pastors of small and mid sized congregations, an estimated 5-20 scholarships will be available beginning April 10 on a “first-come basis,” funded by donations from larger churches, the Pastors’ Conference leadership team announced March 30 on the SBC Voices blog.
The leadership team noted 5-20 is only an estimate, with the actual number of scholarships linked to the volume of donations received.
The Pastors’ Conference will feature preaching, worship and prayer to undergird the ministry of pastors and their wives. The sessions at the Phoenix Convention Center will be held June 11-12, prior to the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting there. The 12 conference preachers pastor churches ranging in size from 60 to 500 worship attendees.
Pastors’ Conference President Dave Miller told Baptist Press larger churches traditionally have helped fund the event. This year, however, conference costs have been covered by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Caskey Center for Church Excellence and other sponsors, freeing the conference’s traditional sponsors to help in a new way.
“We decided to ask these churches and others to contribute in a different way,” Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, said in written comments. “Why not help smaller and average churches, who cannot afford to send their pastors to Phoenix, to do so? God has provided for the Pastors’ Conference, so we are asking people to help by sending smaller and average church pastors who couldn’t afford to come.”
Churches that contribute to the scholarships will be recognized at the Pastors’ Conference and in the event program, according to the SBC Voices blog post, written by conference leadership team member Brent Hobbs.
Pastors can apply for the scholarships at beginning Monday, April 10 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
“Applicants will be asked a series of questions to make sure they qualify for the scholarship,” wrote Hobbs, pastor of New Song Fellowship in Virginia Beach, Va. “Those who qualify will be awarded on a first-come basis until the funds are exhausted.”
To qualify for a scholarship, applicants must pastor churches with average worship attendance of fewer than 200 people, and the congregations they lead must be “either unable or unwilling to fund expenses” for Pastors’ Conference attendance, Hobbs wrote.
“By ‘unable’ we mean that the church doesn’t have enough money to feasibly fund needed expenses for a trip to Phoenix,” Hobbs wrote. “By ‘unwilling’ we mean the church has the funds and the pastor has asked for convention expenses to be covered, but the church has refused the request.”
The scholarship money may be used for travel, hotel, meals, book purchases and any other convention-related resources. Scholarship recipients must agree to attend all sessions of the Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting. Recipients who end up not traveling to Phoenix must return the full $1,000 award, according to SBC Voices.
Miller credited the conference leadership team, including fellow officers Paul Smith and Toby Frost, with taking the lead to make scholarships a reality after Miller raised the idea based on a friend’s suggestion.
“I hope that the Pastors’ Conference and the annual meeting will be blessings to us all,” Miller said. “If we can get men there for the first time, maybe they will decide to come back time and again. Perhaps their involvement will increase through the years.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/31/2017 11:29:46 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors’ approach to race issues studied

March 31 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Most Protestant senior pastors say their church is open to hearing about racial reconciliation, a study released March 30 suggests.

And pastors seem to prefer personal relationships and prayer when it comes to addressing matters of race.
Those are among the findings of a study about pastors, churches and racial reconciliation from LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, found little pushback against or demand for sermons on racial reconciliation in their churches, said Scott McConnell, executive director of the research firm.
“Most pastors appear to be taking a leadership role in encouraging racial reconciliation,” said McConnell, referencing the survey that was conducted Aug. 22-Sept. 16, 2016. “Nine in 10 pastors say they recently have done something to encourage racial reconciliation. A majority has been socializing with other races and ethnicities and have led prayer on racial reconciliation, but less than a third have addressed economic inequity or publicly lamented injustice.”

Mixed feelings about racial reconciliation

Researchers found most pastors (90 percent) say their church would welcome a sermon on racial reconciliation. Seven percent disagree, while three percent aren’t sure.
While 45 percent have preached on racial reconciliation in the last three months, few pastors have been criticized for speaking about race.

Five percent say they’d received negative feedback for addressing racial reconciliation from the pulpit in the last two years. Eighty-four percent received no negative feedback. Ten percent haven’t spoken about the topic.
Yet few churches seem enthusiastic about discussing issues of race, according to their pastors. About three-quarters of pastors (73 percent) say they have not been urged by church leaders to preach about reconciliation. About a quarter (26 percent) have been urged to preach on the issue.
Responses varied by denomination. And at times, a pastor’s impressions of their church and their church’s actions were at odds.
Baptist (92 percent) and Pentecostal (93 percent) pastors, for example, are more likely to say their church would welcome a sermon on reconciliation.
However, they’re less likely to have been asked by church leaders to preach on the topic. Only about 1 in 5 Baptist (17 percent) or Pentecostal pastors (20 percent) have been urged to address reconciliation.
By contrast, Presbyterian/Reformed pastors are likely to say their churches are open to sermons on reconciliation (92 percent) and more likely than other denominational pastors to have been urged to preach on the topic (37 percent).
Overall, mainline pastors are more likely to have been urged to preach on racial reconciliation than evangelical pastors (38 vs. 22 percent). Age also played a role in whether or not pastors had preached on racial reconciliation. Pastors age 65 or more are least likely to have preached on racial reconciliation in the last quarter (32 percent) and least likely to have been urged to preach on it (18 percent).

Reconciliation has a personal touch

The LifeWay Research study found that pastors report taking a number of personal steps when it comes to racial reconciliation.
Meals with people from other ethnicities are most common.
Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Protestant pastors say they’ve had a meal with a diverse small group of people (less than 10) in the last month. That includes 44 percent who say they’ve had a meal in the last week with a small group that included someone of another race.
About 4 in 10 white pastors (42 percent) say they’ve had a meal in the past week with a diverse group. So do 52 percent of African-American pastors and 60 percent of pastors of other ethnicities.
The portion of pastors who say they’ve had a meal with a diverse group in the past week varies by denomination. Baptist (46 percent), Methodist (48 percent) and Pentecostal (50 percent) pastors were more likely, while Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (34 percent) were less likely.
Among other findings about pastors’ actions in the last three months:

  • 57 percent of Protestant senior pastors spent time socializing with neighbors of other ethnicities.
  • 53 percent led times of corporate prayer for racial reconciliation.
  • 51 percent discussed reconciliation with church leaders.
  • 45 percent preached on racial reconciliation.
  • 40 percent met regularly with pastors of other ethnicities.
  • 31 percent invested church funds in changing local economic inequalities.
  • 20 percent led a public lament over racial unrest or injustice.


Diversity remains a challenge for churches

Previous LifeWay Research studies have found questions of racial reconciliation and diversity take a back burner at many Protestant churches.
A 2015 report among churchgoers found more than half (53 percent) disagreed with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” Forty percent agreed. Seven percent weren’t sure.
Two-thirds (67 percent) said their church had done enough to become diverse. That study also found churchgoers who opposed more diversity did so with gusto. A third (33 percent) strongly disagreed that their church needed to be more diverse. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) felt strongly their church had done enough.
Evangelicals (71 percent) were most likely to say their church was diverse enough, compared to non-evangelicals. And white churchgoers (37 percent) were least likely to say their church should become more diverse, compared to other ethnicities.
A 2014 study found most Protestant pastors believed every church should strive for racial diversity (85 percent) and that “churches should reflect the racial diversity in their community” (91 percent).
Yet most (86 percent) also said their congregation was predominantly one racial or ethnic group.
“It seems like most congregations are eager for somebody else to do the work of reconciliation,” said McConnell, referencing the new and older studies, “rather than embrace it for themselves.”
For more information visit
Methodology: The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 22-Sept. 16, 2016. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

3/31/2017 11:24:19 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Friends of Refugees revived her missionary call

March 30 2017 by Joe Westbury, Christian Index

How is the best way to be a missionary? For Pat Maddox the answer was simple.

Photo by Joe Westbury, Christian Index
For Pat Maddox, the influx of refugees into the Atlanta-area town of Clarkston reshaped her southern demeanor and revived her call to missions, spawning the multifaceted Friends of Refugees ministry in 2005.

You just put yourself in the shoes of people you want to serve, understand their needs and then meet those needs without expecting anything in return.
That was the genesis of Friends of Refugees and many other servanthood ministries now under its umbrella at Clarkston International Bible Church in metro Atlanta.
It’s notable that Maddox’s call was largely tied to the decline of her own church, the former Clarkston Baptist Church, and its struggle to find footing in a transitional community.
Maddox’s earliest memories of the church are of a vibrant congregation with well-attended worship services and a full staff. Typical of many churches of the time, Clarkston Baptist was largely Anglo “with maybe a person or two of color here and there. But there were not many, to be sure,” she remembers.
Yet, within a few years, that sheltered existence – open to ethnic diversity but preferring the status quo – quickly eroded and the church declined to about 75 members. The world was quickly changing and, in doing so, coming to America. And Georgia. And more importantly, to Clarkston.
First, solidly middle-class African Americans moved to town. Clarkston First Baptist Church, an African American congregation, grew and began to rival her own church in size and outreach. In fact, First Baptist’s growth closely paralleled Clarkston Baptist’s decline.

Photo by Joe Westbury/Christian Index
The Refugee Sewing Society provides equipment and materials to help women supplement their income from items sold in their own store at Clarkston International Bible Church. Many of the women and their families escaped war and genocide to come to the United States.

That caused some cultural discomfort – some members moved out of the community – but things settled down. Then the next decade brought refugees and immigrants from the far corners of the world.
“If there was a war someplace,” Maddox says, “you could rest assured that people from those areas would be resettled by the government in Clarkston.
“The Bosnians were the first ones I remember coming around 1992 when the war broke out. They were then followed by Croatians. Both were facing ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Serbians, who also eventually arrived.”
That mass influx was the last straw, reactivating Clarkston Baptist’s long decline.
But it wasn’t just social change that caused the exodus. Several factors came together in a very short time that cast the church into a tenuous position, including:
– Clarkston Baptist was aging and many longtime members moved from their two-story homes to ranch-style homes farther removed, the single-floor homes being easier to navigate.
– Others did not like the rise in traffic as Atlanta spread further into the suburbs, engulfing sleepy communities like Clarkston.
– Still others sensed the loss of their homogenous lifestyle and moved to Lilburn, Lawrenceville, Snellville, Grayson, Loganville, any enclave that seemed a safer place to live – not safe from crime but safe from social change.
There was just too much change, too fast.

‘Meeting these people ...’

Maddox does not hide her southern roots and admits she grew up in a prejudiced home.
“But meeting these people, getting to know them, completely changed my outlook on life,” she recounts. “Until then, I was always polite but rather removed from very much conversation.”
Looking further back into her past, Maddox reflects on that early call to missions, thinking she would possibly serve on a foreign mission field far from Clarkston. She did not realize that the foreign field someday would move into her neighborhood and she would be much older before she responded to that call.
In her first steps into missions, Maddox distributed food donated by a Publix grocery from her car in the parking lot of Kristopher Woods Apartments. As word soon spread, she was swamped with needy hands outstretched for sustenance.
It became necessary to develop an alphabetized system of distribution. Through it, people arrived at a pre-determined hour based on their apartment building’s identification letter. Eventually she began operating out of her centrally-located home before moving the ministry to the Clarkston Baptist. Along the way she began driving a van to pick up children for the church, continuing to do so for a dozen years.
Maddox also helped start a Vacation Bible School, with 80 children coming to hear about Jesus on the tennis courts at Kristopher Woods. Parents began attending to help with their children’s activities and crafts.

Communicating without language

Adults soon began seeking her out, holding a sore jaw signaling a severe toothache or even an abscessed molar. Then, when the church began distributing donated furniture, others showed up – also with no grasp of the English language. Transactions were finalized through hand gestures. Children, quick to pick up conversational English, eased the communication somewhat by translating for their parents.
Then came the Kurds and groups from various parts of Africa – Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, Bantu Somalis (slaves to the dominant Somali population).
And that is when she launched a loose-knit ministry that began to take some organizational form in December 1995.
In 1999 she walked away from her 36-year nursing career when the church acknowledged her as a missionary. She devoted herself to that long-delayed calling, stepping away from her salary and stepping out on faith. Then-pastor Phil Kitchin was instrumental in sharing her vision and working to incorporate refugees into the Kingdom and community.
Others also took note of the needs and pitched in to help. In 2005, First Baptist Church of Woodstock stepped in to help legally register the ministry as a nonprofit. Maddox simply named it Friends of Refugees.
Clarkston Baptist became a destination ministry site for churches wanting a multicultural missions experience. Many, such as Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., added their help.

Clarkston Baptist reborn

In 2005 the 122-year-old Clarkston Baptist Church changed its identity by merging with its larger Filipino congregation and a Nigerian congregation to become Clarkston International Bible Church. Today about 150 members of the combined churches meet in a multicultural service at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays. In addition, the church has moved toward a groundbreaking partnership with the North American Mission Board that will bring it into the national spotlight as a hub for refugee ministry.
“I loved the refugees,” Maddox reflects, “and thought how hard it would be for me to be in their shoes, having to start a new life somewhere in which I did not understand the language, had to find a job and pay my own rent and buy groceries that I didn’t understand what was in the package ... all within a few months of arriving.
“Whatever they needed, I and my volunteers –- some from Northside Community Church, an Evangelical Free congregation that was already working in Bosnia – stepped in to be the face and hands of Christ,” she says.
Clarkston International Bible Church provided space for new ethnic congregations to gather and learn about the gospel in their heart language. Some grew and moved out, others still remain. Today seven congregations call the sprawling red-brick building their home: Atlanta Nepali Christian Church, Voices of Hope (Congolese), Karen Christian Fellowship (Burmese), Burmese Home Group Network, Sudanese Christian Missionary Church, Ray of Hope International Church (Bhutanese) and Vertical Life Church (Pakistani).
Friends of Refugees, now a multi-faceted parachurch ministry, operated a family of seven Christian community development programs last year with 25 partner churches and 13 full-time staff. Its footprint has grown to include a community garden for 104 families, the Refugee Sewing Society, youth programs, a summer camp and job networking and technology assistance, among others.
Maddox is overwhelmed at how the ministry has grown and how she eventually fulfilled that call to missions.
“Early in life I had always hoped to make an international missions trip but family and marriage and career obligations were just too demanding. Life was full,” she remembers.
Today her daughter says Maddox is “25 years old, going on 79” in July.
She has since stepped aside from the day-to-day operations and turned over the leadership to a younger generation – but Friends of Refugees remains true to its faith-based roots.
“This has blessed me more than anything I could have ever imagined. It is something totally outside of myself, sort of like God was moving pieces around a chessboard, putting all the pieces together as He made His moves.”
Maddox pauses for a moment and looks back on the struggles of those early years. “Friends of Refugees has always been about finding a need and meeting it,” she says. “And all of this was born out of the question, ‘What do you do when your congregation flees?’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index,, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

3/30/2017 10:32:50 AM by Joe Westbury, Christian Index | with 0 comments

Committee on Resolutions named for 2017 SBC

March 30 2017 by Baptist Press staff

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines has named the members of the Committee on Resolutions for the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke of Montana was named chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions by SBC President Steve Gaines.

Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, appointed the committee in keeping with the provision in SBC Bylaw 20 that its members be named 75 days prior to the start of the annual meeting.
Gaines named Barrett Duke of Montana as committee chairman. Duke is the newly elected executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention and a member of Weems Creek Baptist Church in Annapolis, Md.
The other committee members, in alphabetical order, are:
– Ken Alford, pastor, Crossroads Baptist Church, Valdosta, Ga.
– Felix Cabrera, co-founder, Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance; pastor, Iglesia Bautista Central, Oklahoma City, a mission of Oklahoma City’s Quail Springs Baptist Church.
– Linda Cooper, national president of Woman’s Missionary Union; member, Forest Park Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Ky.
– Jason Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City; member, Antioch Bible Baptist Church, Gladstone, Mo.
– David Leavell, pastor, First Baptist Church, Millington, Tenn.
– Matthew McKellar, associate professor of preaching, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; member, First Baptist Church, Dallas.
– Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans; member, Edgewater Baptist Church, New Orleans.
– Rolland Slade, pastor, Meridian Southern Baptist Church, El Cajon, Calif.
– James Smith, vice president of communications, National Religious Broadcasters, Washington, D.C.; member, Covenant Community Church, Fredericksburg, Va.
The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Cooper, Duesing, Slade and Smith meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Alford, Cooper and Slade.
The procedure for submitting resolutions is as follows according to Bylaw 20:
– Proposed resolutions may be submitted as early as April 15 but no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider submissions. The committee also may propose resolutions for consideration during its deliberations. Resolutions may not be submitted during the annual meeting.
– Proposed resolutions must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting certifying that the individual submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.
– Proposed resolutions preferably should be submitted by email or mailed to the Committee on Resolutions in care of the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The drafts must be typewritten, titled, dated and include complete contact information for the person and his or her church.
– No person will be allowed to submit more than three resolutions per year.
– If a properly submitted resolution is not forwarded by the Committee on Resolutions to the SBC annual meeting, a two-thirds vote of messengers would be required to bring the proposed resolution to the convention floor.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/30/2017 10:32:33 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Advocates back effort to aid foster children

March 30 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Advocates for children needing families voiced their approval of new federal legislation designed to improve the placement of children in quality foster care families at a time of increased demand for such homes.
The National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act, introduced March 21, would enhance the matching of children and families in the foster care system by establishing a national standard and database for increased uniformity and transparency. The measure would permit foster care and adoption agencies throughout the country to gain information about potential families through a secure process.
Introduction of the companion bills – S. 684 in the Senate and H.R. 1650 in the House of Representatives – followed a 2016 report that showed the number of children in foster care, nearly 428,000, marked a jump of three percent. The increase – based on statistics compiled by the U.S. Children’s Bureau on Sept. 30, 2015 – was the largest in the last decade, according to the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). The report also showed the number of foster children waiting to be adopted grew to nearly 112,000, the most since 2009, NCFA reported.
“Orphans and children in foster care are among the most vulnerable people in our entire culture,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “As Christians, we have a clear biblical mandate not only to pray for them, but to take on their cause as one of our own, which the church is already doing in remarkable and often unseen ways.”
A longtime adoption advocate, Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments the new legislation “is a clear example of ways the government can make that process smoother and more accessible to those seeking to help these children. I am very thankful for this bipartisan effort to care for and support children who need families, and I pray that this law will swiftly come to the aid of the millions who need it.”
The proposal’s call for a national home study standard, as well as database, would work to alleviate the differences in home studies among the states and guarantee greater efficiency in matching foster and adoptive children with families, congressional sponsors said.
Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), described the legislation as a “really positive” development.
“It will ensure a consistency and connectedness between state foster systems nationwide,” Medefind told BP. Currently, there is “kind of a quilt work of different approaches to home studies,” he said.
As a result, the quality of home studies varies by state, and the inconsistency this produces “makes it much harder” to pair foster children with families, Medefind said.
Chuck Johnson, NCFA’s president, told BP in written remarks, “It’s been a huge problem over the years how little states cooperate with each other to allow children to be adopted by approved and qualified prospective adoptive parents in another state.
“One of the reasons that states give for not working across jurisdictional lines is the differences in how sending and receiving states assess prospective adoptive families,” he said. “So, a national home study assessment that still recognizes state rights is a desirable goal as far as we are concerned and will result in more children being adopted instead of languishing in foster care.”
Some states have recently adopted initiatives to improve their foster care systems. For instance:
– Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Oklahoma Fosters in November 2015, and the state met its goal of recruiting at least 1,000 new foster families by the end of June 2016.
– Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam launched Tennessee Fosters in December 2016 in an effort to enlist more families for children in foster care and to support foster families.
– Mississippi, in partnership with NCFA, is seeking to record and track prospective foster and adoptive families from their first interest in fostering or adopting through placement and adoption.
– Kentucky’s General Assembly is considering a resolution to establish a task force to simplify the adoption process in the state and to cut costs.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., are the federal legislation’s prime sponsors, while two Southern Baptists – Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Steve Russell, both from Oklahoma – are the lead Republican cosponsors.
“Foster children go through a lot of instability, disappointment, and even trauma, so we must step up and better care for the thousands of kids in our foster system,” Lankford said in a written release. “To address many of the poor outcomes associated with the foster care experience, and to prevent the ‘age out’ crisis, we must work together to provide permanency and families for these children.”
NCFA will hold a congressional briefing March 30 on its latest report, Adoption: By the Numbers. The report, released in February, includes these findings:
– The total number of adoptions in the United States fell from 133,737 in 2007 to 110,373 in 2014, with a 75 percent drop in international adoptions accounting for more than half of the decrease.
– The amount of foster care adoptions has remained stable at about 50,000 for the five years through 2014.
The church, not just the government, plays an important part in foster care and adoption, Medefind told BP.
“Government has a vital justice role to play in protecting children from harm,” he said. “But what children need to thrive is love and nurture and belonging, and that can only happen one caring family at a time. The church cannot outsource James 1:27 to the government.”
James 1:27, a verse often cited by Christian adoption advocates, says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/30/2017 10:23:22 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Walking Lottie Moon’ legacy spurs continued giving

March 30 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Pastor Alan Chan remembers the late Cherry Chang for her love of missions. “She said until I give my last breath, I will give it to missions, to do missions.” And she did.

Submitted photo
Ministry to Syrian refugees in the Middle East is among the international outreaches of Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif.

Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif. (MBCLA), where Chan is pastor of church ministry coordination, today remembers Chang years after her death as the “walking Lottie Moon.”
Chang and her husband, the late Y.K. Chang, founded MBCLA in 1963 as perhaps the first outreach to Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrants in California, and were passionately committed to international missions.
The Changs’ legacy of missions spurs the church to give generously to Southern Baptist international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). In 2016, gifts from the 1,800-attendance congregation topped $558,000. That is up from about $120,000 just six years earlier.
“God is so good,” Chan affirmed to Baptist Press. “Every year, people are looking forward to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to be a part of it. (The) Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is always a big part of our church.”
Chan witnessed Chang’s commitment to evangelism on a mission trip to China when she was 84 years old, a decade before her death in 2007 at the age of 94.
“Even in her old age,” he said, “she literally traveled everywhere to share the gospel, and not just by herself, but she always led a small group to do some mission work. ... Everywhere, every person she met, she would tell them of Jesus, and that’s why she got that nickname ‘walking Lottie Moon.’” Both Chang and her husband were born in China, and moved to the U.S. to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where they earned doctorate degrees.

Submitted photo
Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif. began in 1963 as an outreach to Mandarin-speaking immigrants, and today holds services in Mandarin, English and Cantonese.

With separate Sunday services in English and the Chinese dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese, MBCLA remains committed to local missions as well as outreaches within the U.S. and abroad. In addition to several children and youth services, three adult services are held each Sunday in Mandarin, two in English and one in Cantonese. MBCLA also provides worship space at no costs to a Spanish-speaking congregation, La Iglesia Bautista del Buen Pastor or The Baptist Church of the Good Shepherd.
“Our church has been replicating this very strong commitment to mission work,” Chan said. “And of course over the years we have also sent people through the International Mission Board to serve overseas in different countries.”
It was under the Changs’ leadership that MBCLA began a Woman’s Missionary Union ministry, which has been the driving force of LMCO giving annually, Chan said. And while none of MBCLA’s members likely have roots in the northeast corner of China where legendary missionary Lottie Moon ministered, Chan said, many members were led to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries. Chang herself was led to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries in Shanghai, China.
After several years teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to elementary students in Taiwan, MBCLA last year began an ESL ministry to college students in Eastern Taiwan, teaching them leadership skills.
“We find it very strategic, using teaching English as a tool. Our English congregation and our Mandarin ... and Cantonese congregations can work together to render [an] English program for the college students, but at the same time, sharing the gospel,” Chan said. “We find it very effective.”
The ministry has grown through requests from colleges in Taiwan.
“Last year we only did it at one campus; but then other universities, they heard about it, and they invited us over,” Chan said. “And these universities like our program so much, they asked us to help them.”
For nearly the past 25 years, the church has conducted the Youth Summer Mission Program on Native American Indian reservations in Arizona, in cooperation with the Four Corners Association of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and more than a dozen other Chinese Southern Baptist churches from several states. The program has expanded from 30 youth taking the mission trip in its first year, to nearly 300 planning to take the trip this summer.
The mission outreach builds good relationships with Navajo and Apache Native Americans on the Fort Apache, the Navajo Nation and the San Carlos reservations, where students also conduct special short-term trips in the winter to lead programs for youths, Chan said. MBCLA has established a mission fund to support Southern Baptist congregations on reservations and finance seminary education for reservation church pastors.
Internationally, MBCLA has ministered for about two years to Syrian refugees in northern Africa and the Middle East in cooperation with International Mission Board (IMB) representatives already in the field. Two teams from the church will teach ESL classes for refugees in Europe this summer, Chan said.
Refugees already in California are also the church’s concern.
“We have a couple, they are very burdened to reach refugees here in the United States,” he said. “They really are trying to find opportunities to reach these people.” The couple and other Mandarin Baptist members help refugees resettle through World Relief ministries already in place.
Founded in Los Angeles, Mandarin Baptist has planted several congregations in its home state of California, including Chinese Baptist Church of West Los Angeles, Arcadia Chinese Baptist Church in Arcadia, Mandarin Baptist Church of San Fernando Valley, Mandarin Baptist Church of Glory in Walnut, MBCLA Glendora Mission in Glendora, and New Life Baptist Church, an Indonesian congregation in Baldwin Park. The mother church moved to Alhambra in the mid-1980s when the Cantonese language service was added to the Mandarin and English lineups, and has a second location, Garfield Worship Center, just a block from its main campus.
Peter Chung is senior pastor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/30/2017 10:22:49 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ghost town church sees Holy Ghost revival

March 30 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With numerous dilapidated buildings and only 323 residents according to the 2010 U.S. census, Organ, N.M., appears on at least one website listing American ghost towns. But Pastor Mitch Newton prefers to think of it as a Holy Ghost town because of the surprising work God has done through the town’s Baptist church.

Photo by Joe Seale
Faith Christian Fellowship in Organ, N.M., has seen 500 percent growth over the past four years despite its location in an area classified as a ghost town.

Over the past three years, Faith Christian Fellowship has grown from five worship attendees to more than 25. The congregation has baptized six people over that span, with three more baptisms scheduled for the coming weeks.
On one occasion, a man jumped in the baptistery while his 80-year-old parents were being baptized, professed that he also wanted to be saved and was baptized with them.
“God is so faithful,” Newton, 71, told Baptist Press (BP). “... He is doing the whole work. I don’t do anything. I just open my mouth” after a week of study and preparation, “and we let the Lord take it from there.”
Mining of various minerals drew some 1,500 people to the southern New Mexico community by the mid-1880s, but the mines all closed by the Great Depression. A town renewal occurred when the first nuclear bomb was tested in 1945 at nearby White Sands Missile Range. Yet eventually the community dwindled again to its present size.
Faith Christian Fellowship likewise had a history of dwindling.

Photo by Joe Seale
“God is so faithful,” said pastor Mitch Newton of God’s work at Faith Christian Fellowship in Organ, N.M.

When a church of another denomination split in Las Cruces, N.M. – some 15 miles away – one of the factions ended up in Organ as Faith Christian Fellowship with about 65 members, meeting in a building owned by the Rio Grande Baptist Association. Faith assumed ownership of the building in 2003 and began cooperating with the association some five years ago – though with a greatly diminished membership.
Things began to turn around in 2014 when Newton and his wife Ginger accepted a call to Faith, having retired from decades of pastoral ministry in Oregon.
The Newtons launched their ministry with a Fourth of July block party that reached a couple of new families, said James Underwood, director of missions for the Rio Grande Association. In the months that followed, the congregation increased in number and ethnic diversity, reaching Anglos, Hispanics and an African American.
One of the five members remaining at Newton’s arrival confessed he didn’t have certainty of salvation, placed his faith in Christ and was baptized. Amid teaching of basic Christian doctrines and a steady stream of outreach, the largely senior adult church has even begun to see families and children attending.
“Since Mitch Newton has come as pastor, things have really picked up,” Underwood told BP. “We saw the little church begin to blossom and grow and reach people they had never reached before ... [Organ] is an unexpected place for this type of growth.”
Underwood added, “It’s not like [Faith] invented something new. They have just taken the gospel and sown the seeds, and it has borne much fruit.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Organ, N.M., was a mining town in the 1880s and supported nearby White Sands Missile Range in the mid-20th century but now has a population of some 300.

The Baptist New Mexican newsjournal reported Faith has improved its facilities in the midst of its spiritual revitalization. Among the renovations are a new ceiling, new carpet, a new front door and a cupola and bell tower that plays a hymn at noon every day. One room that used to store junk has been converted into a prayer/counseling room and library. Another will be used as children’s ministry space.
Baptist New Mexican editor Kevin Parker wrote that Faith demonstrates why churches should never say, “‘It’s over,’ even when a congregation shrinks and members age.”
“Yes, some communities die and their churches die along with them,” Parker wrote. “But, a more important question arises, ‘What does God want?’ Church locations may be viable for a new church plant, or for other purposes. God may even want to revitalize a congregation, like in Organ’s case.”
As for the future, Newton said he “look[s] for continued growth” as he continues “preaching and teaching and loving” the people.
In the near term, that growth looks to include the baptism of a man who was walking by the church one Sunday morning in early March and accepted an invitation to attend worship from Ginger Newton.
“That morning he came down the aisle and asked the Lord into his heart,” Mitch Newton said, “and he’s been bringing people to visit ever since,” including his two sons who also are scheduled for baptism.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/30/2017 10:16:28 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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