March 2018

Korean couple honored for Nepalese & Bhutanese plants

March 26 2018 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Korean pastor Samuel Cho and his wife Young – known for starting the first Nepalese and Bhutanese Baptist churches in the United States – were honored in a retirement celebration March 18 at the Baltimore-area White Marsh Baptist Church.

Photo by Shannon Baker
Razu Budhathoki of the Bhutan Baptist Church of Baltimore presents a pencil drawing to Samuel and Young Cho, one of the many gifts they received to mark their retirement after planting the Bhutanese church along with the Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore.

The service was conducted in four languages – Korean, Nepalese, Bhutanese and English – and featured testimonies and greetings from various groups who have supported the couple’s efforts in Baltimore during the past decade.
At the conclusion of the service, Cho symbolically transferred his leadership as pastor to Manoj Shrestha of the Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore and Razu Budhathoki of the Bhutan Baptist Church of Baltimore through the joint cutting of the celebratory cake.
Reflecting their shared leadership, Shrestha, who served under Cho at the Nepalese church, and Budhathoki, who served under Cho at the Bhutanese church, translated the messages into their respective languages.
In a sermon, Robert Kim, former church-planting missionary with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D), recounted that when he was with the North American Mission Board, he had heard about a church planter on the East Coast who was going to start a church in a language different from his own.
“It was a very rare and difficult project for a planter to start a church with people from a different cultural background than him,” Kim said. “But later, I heard that the church in the Baltimore area [Nepal Baptist Church] was said to be very successfully established.”
The Chos then started another church from a different cultural background, the Bhutanese congregation, Kim said.
“How beautiful the ministry he has done like this,” Kim said, pointing to 2 Timothy 4:7 and saying that Cho, like the apostle Paul, has been “keeping the faith and finishing the race and fighting the good fight with the ministry.”
Cho shared his testimony of coming to faith in Jesus and following Him in planting the two churches. Though he initially wanted to plant a Korean church, he met a Nepali couple in a restaurant in Baltimore in 2004 and invited them to learn about Jesus. Later, a weekly house fellowship was started in the couple’s house, and soon the fellowship took a form of a church, Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore, in 2005.
In 2009, Cho started the Bhutan Baptist Church with a few Bhutanese refugee-resettled families he met in their apartments. That fellowship took form as a church in 2010.

Photo by Shannon Baker
Razu Budhathoki, left, of the Bhutan Baptist Church of Baltimore and Manoj Shrestha, right, of the Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore join in a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the transfer of leadership to the two pastors upon the retirement of Samuel Cho and his wife Young.

In addition to songs and dances performed by members of the two churches, several leaders praised the Chos for their efforts to reach the Nepalese and Bhutanese in Baltimore and in those native lands.
Pabitra Magar and Arjun Hamal shared about the impact the Chos’ ministry has had on their lives.
After not finding work opportunities in Florida, Magar moved to Maryland, where she met Pastor Cho in 2009. “This was the grand design of God that we should fellowship this way. They helped us so much to lead us to the Lord,” she said, noting also how the “beautiful couple would go to each and every door of the Bhutanese peoples” and share the Good News of Jesus.
“Those who found the Lord through their ministry were literally brought up by Pastor Cho and Maam Cho,” Magar said, pointing to how they helped the Bhutanese find jobs and homes. “We didn’t know the language, we were helpless and we felt like orphans at the time.”
Hamal, a Nepali, said Cho opened the Bible and shared the gospel with him and his friend. “And from that day forward, he has continued to serve us until this day.”
“Many times we have difficulty, we have sadness, we are in need of job – so many things and circumstances! Pastor Cho and Maam Cho have helped us find jobs. They have helped us in so many ways,” Hamal said. “Even though I don’t have my parents, they feel like my parents.”
In addition to all the work they have done in Baltimore, Hamal noted how the Chos also took time to visit Nepal – twice.
Tally Wilgis, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, recalled how he felt, as a younger church planter who thought he knew it all, when he met Cho. “I realized then that Samuel Cho was the one who knew it all,” Wilgis said, expressing gratitude for the pastor’s leadership and participation in the association.
Jaehak Kim, president of the Maryland/Delaware Korean Baptist Association (MDKBA), expressed appreciation for Cho’s “desire for reaching the people of Nepal and Bhutan with the love of the Lord” and for being ever-present at the MDKBA meetings. “I believe the Lord is saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’” Kim said.
Dave Tierney, pastor of White Marsh Baptist Church, where the Nepal and Bhutan churches share space, said, “As I was thinking about Pastor Cho, I was thinking about the resoluteness of Jesus Christ.” Tierney pointed to John 4, where Jesus had to go through Samaria, and in Matthew 16, where He taught His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and must be killed on the third day.
“Sometimes in ministry, we talk about vocational ministry, but what you have demonstrated is that your vocation is Christ-follower,” Tierney told Cho. “And Mrs. Cho, not only have you been a companion in life, you have been his partner in ministry. Not only have you labored with him, you have prayed for him, you have encouraged him. ... We honor both of you.”
Before presenting a plaque of recognition from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) to Cho, Executive Director Kevin Smith praised Cho, saying, “When I think about your ministry, I see different generations. I see different skin colors. I see different languages. I see different clothing. I see difference, I see difference, and then I see everybody at the same time giving glory to Jesus Christ.”
Smith also praised God that Cho has been a true pastor who has deeply cared for his church members.
As the Nepalese and Bhutanese churches grew, they moved to different locations. At present, they meet on the campus of White Marsh Baptist Church in Perry Hall, Md. But the church’s influence has spread throughout Baltimore and Maryland, to the neighboring states and even in Nepal and Bhutan, where the Chos have recorded over 1,000 professions of faith in Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and editor of the convention’s BaptistLIFE quarterly magazine.)

3/26/2018 8:02:49 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware | with 0 comments

Scientists struggle with Earth’s solid inner core

March 26 2018 by Julie Borg, WORLD Digital

If naturalistic theories are correct, Earth’s solid inner core shouldn’t exist, according to a new research paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal.
Current theory says Earth’s center consisted of a ball of hot liquid iron 4,200 miles wide until about a billion years ago when the molten metal spontaneously began to solidify. Now, Case Western Reserve University planetary scientists say spontaneous solidification of the core is scientifically impossible.
Andrew Snelling, a geologist with Answers in Genesis, said secular scientists struggle to find plausible theories for how Earth’s inner core formed because they base their assumptions on a naturalistic viewpoint that rules out the supernatural explanation the Bible gives for Earth’s origin.
Spontaneous crystallization of pure molten metal would require a massive drop in temperature. Under the conditions of Earth’s core, the iron would need to cool 1,000 Kelvins, or 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, below its melting point.
“And that’s a lot of cooling, especially since at the moment, the scientific community thinks the Earth cools maybe about 100 degrees Kelvin per billion years,” researcher Steven Hauck told Live Science.
At that rate of cooling, Earth’s core could not have spontaneously solidified about a billion years ago without the involvement of some other factor. The researchers offered one possible theory: Perhaps a massive nugget of solid metal dropped from the Earth’s mantle into the liquid core and cooled the molten iron like an ice cube dropping into a glass of water. But, the scientists admitted, that explanation seems unlikely since it would require an absurdly large nugget, one with a 6-mile radius or about the size of a large city.
Earth’s mantle doesn’t contain large enough metal deposits to make that feasible. A smaller nugget would lack the weight necessary to make it fall from the mantle, and even if it did it would disintegrate before it reached the core.
Genesis doesn’t provide all the details so we can only infer, Snelling said, but the biblical account states water covered the Earth before dry land appeared. That means the rocks had to lift up from the waters, implying that somewhere between the initial creation and the emergence of land, God formed the internal constitution of the Earth.
“It makes sense that God would have formed Earth’s inner core right away because everything else necessary for life flows from that,” Snelling said. “The core is very important to the Earth’s magnetic field, which encompasses the planet and acts as a shield of protection.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

3/26/2018 7:59:00 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD Digital | with 0 comments

Sweden first to offer payouts to sterilized transsexuals

March 26 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Transgender Swedes forcibly sterilized to expressly prevent reproduction are eligible for payouts of about $27,000 each under a new law that is reportedly the first of its kind worldwide.
Sweden’s one-house parliament, the Riksdag, adopted the legislation March 21 affecting people forced to undergo sexual sterilization under the Gender Recognition Act of 1972 before changing their gender designation on legal documents.
“People who applied to change their gender identity during the period when it was required that they should not have the ability to reproduce are to receive compensation from the state under certain conditions,” the Riksdag said in a March 21 press release. “This will apply to those who applied to change their gender identity from 1 July 1972 until 30 June 2013 and whose applications were granted. The requirement that people wishing to change their gender identity should not have the ability to reproduce was withdrawn on 1 July 2013.”
The Local, an international news service with websites covering Sweden and eight other European nations, said March 22 that Sweden is the first country worldwide to offer such compensation.
About 800 Swedes who were sterilized under the eugenics requirement, Reuters estimated in 2017 after the law was introduced, are expected to be eligible to apply for the compensation beginning May 1 and extending until an application deadline of May, 2020.
In the nation of 10 million people, the law establishes payouts of 225,000 Swedish Krona, about $27,300 at today’s exchange. The Riksdag also amended Sweden’s Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act to keep secret for up to 70 years all applications for compensation.
Sweden dropped the sterilization requirement from its Gender Recognition Act in 2012 legislation that became effective the next year.
In April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that infertility requirements were illegal and should be reformed in all European countries, the advocacy group Transgender Europe (TGEU) reported. At that time, more than 20 countries required transgender individuals to undergo sexual sterilization in certain circumstances, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine, TGEU said. Since then, at least Belgium and Russia have outlawed the requirement.
The legal gender recognition in question, according to TGEU, involves changing a transgender person’s name and gender on official registries and documents such as birth certificates, identification cards, passports and drivers’ licenses. The legal designation doesn’t denote a surgical cosmetic change.
Sweden operated an unrelated eugenics program from 1935 until 1996, the Local reported, restricting births among certain segments of the population with disabilities and other arbitrary markers, such as a high number of births. In 1999, the Riksdag approved payouts of about $22,000 each to victims of that program, the Local said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/26/2018 7:57:22 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Women & the SBC: 100 yrs. of ‘extraordinary’ input noted

March 23 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In 1917, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) received what Georgia’s Christian Index news journal called “quite a shock” when a Texas church music leader made a motion at the SBC annual meeting concerning “the eternal question”: Should women be allowed to serve as SBC messengers?
Following a protracted – and feisty – debate that ended with a contested parliamentary maneuver, the convention answered that question in the negative. But the following year, Robert Coleman of First Baptist Church in Dallas made his motion again and prevailed.

SBHLA photo
At the 1918 SBC annual meeting, the convention’s Constitution was amended to permit women to serve as messengers for the first time since 1885.

As the convention observes the 100th anniversary of that action, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) first lady Dorothy Patterson said “there is no way to estimate the contributions of women during this century of their being an integral part of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“One has but to look at the history of our convention to see how the Lord has used women in many and varied ways over the decades,” said Patterson, professor of theology in women’s studies at SWBTS. “Women have shown a compassion for missions and for reaching the lost and hurting of this world in extraordinary ways.
“The Woman’s Missionary Union has taken the lead in missionary education from the beginning. ... Women have served effectively on SBC boards, using their nurturing sensitivity and intuitive discernment and unique creativity to add to the wisdom and godly counsel where they serve,” Patterson told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments.

‘The Convention shall consist of brethren’

At the SBC’s founding in 1845, the convention’s Constitution did not stipulate any gender requirement for “delegates,” as messengers were called then. So in 1877, Myra Graves of Texas, widow of Baylor University President Henry Graves, became what Baptist historian Charles Deweese believes was the first female delegate to the SBC, registering as M.E. Graves and doing so again in 1882.
But the issue of female delegates came to a head in 1885.
When two women – Mrs. J.P. Eagle and Mrs. M.D. Early – were announced to the convention as delegates from Arkansas, Virginia pastor J. William Jones claimed they were ineligible to serve, and the question was referred to a five-member committee. The committee’s majority report – by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary co-founder Basil Manly Jr. and two others – “did not deem it expedient and for the best interests of the Convention to allow ladies to come as members,” the Alabama Baptist reported, but “they saw nothing in the Constitution to prevent their membership.”
Yet the convention voted to accept a minority report which denied seating to the female delegates, and the Arkansas delegation withdrew the women’s names from consideration, according to the Alabama Baptist. The Tennessee Baptist news journal reported, “The president ruled that the secretaries might exclude all reference to the question, and argument, from their report of the proceedings.”
Accordingly, the 1885 SBC Annual included no recounting of the delegate seating controversy. The Annual did note, however, that later in the meeting, the convention voted 131-42 to strike from the SBC Constitution the statement that “the Convention shall consist of members” and replace it with, “The convention shall consist of brethren.”
The constitutional ban of female delegates remained in place until 1913, when Coleman, a longtime associate of First Baptist Dallas pastor George W. Truett, “gave formal notice that at the next session of the Convention ... an amendment to the Constitution would be proposed, looking to the recognition of women as messengers,” according to the 1913 SBC Annual.
Coleman ended up waiting until 1917 to offer his motion.

‘Equal privileges’ for all

In his day, Coleman was a well-known personality in Southern Baptist life. A frequent participant in discussion at SBC annual meetings, he led the convention in corporate singing during at least 19 separate annual meetings from 1914-1940. Coleman’s music publishing company produced 32 hymnals and collections of songs, according to the “Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists,” and “was the principal source of church music for Southern Baptist churches.”
The Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) purchased Coleman’s music business for $50,000 in 1945, according to the 1946 SBC Annual. He also served as a trustee of the SBC’s Board of Ministerial Relief and Annuities (now GuideStone Christian Resources) from 1918 until his death in 1946.
Coleman was already widely known in 1917 when he moved that the SBC Constitution be amended to reference “messengers” rather than “brethren.” To support his motion, Coleman noted that “in so pure a democracy as a Baptist church, all members have equal privilege,” according to the 1917 SBC Annual.
“Much to the surprise of a number of the brethren,” the Christian Index reported, the convention appeared to adopt Coleman’s constitutional amendment. But then a point of order was raised that a two-thirds majority of all delegates registered was required to amend the Constitution, not merely the two-thirds present.
President J.B. Gambrell, who personally supported Coleman’s proposal, ruled the point of order well taken and the amendment lost. His ruling was sustained on appeal from the floor, the Index reported.
During what the Index called “the excitement following the point of order, many things were said that showed a depth of feeling” – as when Gambrell quipped to unruly messengers, “Lots of the women can preach, and many of you fellows on the floor can’t.”
In the end, the matter was referred to a committee chaired by Coleman to report in 1918.
North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder news journal opined, “We doubt if Chairman Coleman can bring in a unanimous report next year.”

Coleman prevails

The Biblical Recorder was correct. In 1918, Coleman asked the convention to drop the matter of female messengers because his committee did not have a unanimous report to bring, according to the Index.
But Oklahoma’s F.M. McConnell called for the reading of Coleman’s report anyway – cosigned by Louisiana pastor M.E. Dodd – and the SBC Constitution was amended by the necessary two-thirds majority to permit female messengers.
Hours earlier, the convention had voted in favor of a motion by Coleman that the Constitution be amended to allow future amendments by two-thirds of the messengers “present when the vote is being taken” – presumably a move aimed at avoiding a parliamentary setback like the one in 1917.
In the end, the SBC permitted female messengers two years before the U.S. granted women the right to vote by ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary first lady Rhonda Kelley told BP, “I believe that women were included as messengers to the SBC after the vote in 1918 as a result of the historical and cultural roles of women in America. Women have been very involved in our local Southern Baptist churches from the beginning and continue to be integral to the work of the church. Our interpretation of scripture for men to be spiritual leaders in the home and church does not impact participation in the annual meeting or serving on appropriate committees by qualified Southern Baptist women.”
Patterson agreed that scripture’s teaching on women’s roles in the home and church does not preclude service to the convention.
“We cannot read the hearts nor judge the motives of those before the 1918 change that invited women to be voting members of the body,” Patterson said. “Perhaps there were some with prejudice; maybe some did interpret scripture’s guidelines as going beyond a natural reading of the text. In any case, the Holy Spirit, when we give Him free reign in our hearts, will guide us to a right understanding. He corrects and teaches. The journey of the Christian life is to pursue understanding God’s Word more perfectly.”

‘A cultural moment’

In the past 100 years, Kelley said in written comments, “women have been an important part of SBC annual meetings.”
“We have served as messengers and tellers, on committees and boards as well as on the programs,” said Kelley, who chaired SBC Executive Committee Frank S. Page’s Women’s Advisory Council from 2016-17. “In addition, several meetings specifically for women take place around the SBC, including the Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting, the Pastors’ Wives Conference and the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon.
“Women help with the local arrangements and coordination of programs for children/youth during the convention. Many female authors are featured during book signings with LifeWay Christian Resources,” Kelley said.
The first woman to be elected an SBC officer was Mrs. R.L. Mathis, a former Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) president who was elected second vice president in 1963 and became the first woman to preside during an SBC annual meeting in 1964, Deweese said in a 1977 address to the Florida Baptist Historical Society.
Mathis was nominated for SBC president in 1972, Deweese said, and Mrs. Carl Bates was elected second vice president in 1976.
In 2016, Amy Whitfield of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary became the first woman to serve as an SBC parliamentarian, BP reported. At least four women presently serve on the International Mission Board’s presidential search team seeking a successor to David Platt.
In a chapter for the book The Many Faces of the Southern Baptist Convention, released by the Executive Committee Feb. 21, Kelley and SWBTS professor Candi Finch highlighted numerous aspects of women’s involvement in the convention. They also noted more than 90 percent of respondents to a 2016 survey of Southern Baptist women “felt that women could be more involved in SBC life.”
Baptist historian Nathan Finn told BP he “strongly” believes convention life should include more women. He hopes the 100th anniversary of female SBC messengers can become an occasion for the convention to denounce all forms of sexism.
“We are living in a cultural moment where even unbelievers are lamenting the pernicious effects of sexual abuse of women and other forms of sexism,” Finn, dean of Union University’s School of Theology and Missions, told BP in written comments. “The hundredth anniversary of allowing women to serve as messengers is the perfect time for the Southern Baptist Convention to go on record denouncing abuse against women and every other form of sexism, as well as the toxic priorities that fuel sexism, including disordered power arrangements, rampant pornography, violent forms of entertainment and human trafficking.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – March is National Women’s History Month. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/23/2018 10:28:44 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Our Faithful God’ is NOBTS centennial’s musical

March 23 2018 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

God’s enduring faithfulness throughout New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) 100-year history is the inspiration for a musical commissioned for its centennial celebration.
While record enrollments, rapid growth and cutting-edge integration of ministry and education mark the school’s history, so also do struggles brought on by an influenza outbreak, economic downturns and hurricanes.

Photo by Chandler McCall, NOBTS
Scott White, worship leader at Woodstock Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., leads a New Orleans-area combined choir during of the debut performance of “Our Faithful God” at New Orleans Seminary March 8. The choir and orchestra was composed of NOBTS students and professors and musicians from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Baptist churches.

“Our Faithful God,” written by NOBTS alumni Mike Harland and Chris and Diane Machen, debuted March 8 at NOBTS’ Leavell Chapel. Musicians from a dozen congregations in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana made up the 150-member choir and orchestra featured in the evening presentation.
Harland directs LifeWay Worship, while the Machens lead a worship and evangelism ministry, The Master’s Music Company, and have recorded 11 albums.
The musical’s arrangement was provided by Cliff Duren, a five-time Dove Award nominee, and the narration was written by Pamela Vandewalker, the 2014 Dove Award winner for Children’s Musical of the Year. Scott White, music minister at Woodstock Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led the evening’s worship.
Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president, pointed to the seminary’s founding to highlight God’s faithfulness.
“One hundred years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention decided to create a seminary from scratch and to put it in the city of New Orleans, a city that had very few Baptists,” Kelley said in opening remarks. “They knew New Orleans would be a great laboratory to train people God was calling into ministry and service.”
Founded as the Baptist Bible Institute, its first president called the school “a child of providence and prayer.” An influenza outbreak closed the school for weeks in 1918, days after opening, proving to be the first of many struggles as the seminary weathered war, economic downturns and storms.
Fred Luter, former Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, gave a theme interpretation as the musical’s narrator.
“We’re here tonight to let you know no matter your plight, no matter your situation, no matter your circumstance, God has promised that He will be with you,” Luter said. “He will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you because He’s our Faithful God.”
A prerecorded testimony from Quell Jenkins, NOBTS/Leavell College student who was paralyzed as a teen, was part of the theme song, “Our Faithful God.” Shot three times at age 17, Jenkins forgave those who had hurt her after coming to faith in Christ.
“I know I have Jesus and I know that no matter where I may go, or where life may take me, that He is going to be there with me,” Jenkins said. “I’d rather be in this wheelchair with Christ than to walk without Him, any day.”
Kelley spoke also in a prerecorded testimony of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He told of watching from a hotel in Birmingham as pictures of the flooded NOBTS campus crossed the TV screen.
“As I sat there watching these unforgettable scenes, old words, ancient words from Psalm 46 began to fill my mind and my heart as God began speaking into me,” Kelley recounted, saying, “‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. ...’”
The musical’s theme song includes the line, “Our faithful God, true to the end; He’s been faithful before, He’ll be faithful again.” Chris Machen, in an interview, said the words reflect personal lessons he and Harland learned as their wives, Diane Machen and Teresa Harland, each walked through significant health issues years ago.
“One of the things that carried us through was that the Lord’s been faithful in the past, He’ll be faithful again,” Machen said. “‘Trust Him right now’ was always at the forefront of our minds.”
The NOBTS centennial celebration continues through the annual Founders Day on Oct. 1, marking 100 years from the day classes first began.
Kelley concluded the program by thanking the chapel audience for their prayer support and financial investments in equipping pastors and missionaries to carry out the Great Commission.
“The story of this school, the school of Providence and Prayer, is not simply the story of our school. It’s your story,” Kelley said. “What God has done for and with and through NOBTS continues to be a living illustration of what God wants to do for, and with, and in you.”
Students and faculty members from the seminary’s division of church music ministries performed “Our Faithful God” again March 17 during the “Miami Praise” event at Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah, Fla. Miami Praise, a special centennial event for the seminary’s South Florida Extension Center, featured participants from the extension center and area churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/23/2018 10:25:55 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Longtime Alabama Baptist editor announces retirement

March 23 2018 by Alabama Baptist staff

After 50 years of serving Baptist newspapers – 43 of those years in the lead editor role – Bob Terry is retiring Dec. 31.
Terry, an Alabama native who became editor of The Alabama Baptist (TAB) in 1995, has repeatedly led the paper to rise to the top among its peers. For more than two decades, it has been named annually in the top three regional Christian newspapers.

Bob Terry

He also has won numerous personal awards for his editorials and news writing.
Before coming back to Alabama, Terry became executive secretary of the Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP), a role he carried over into his time as editor of TAB. Terry was honored in February for serving in the ASBP leadership role for 25 years.
“I envisioned the position [as TAB editor] as a short-lived experience which would help me learn more about my denomination from the inside,” Terry wrote in his March 22 column that announced his retirement. “In turn, that would make me a better pastor which I thought was my calling. Obviously, God had other things in mind.”
During his career, he also served in other leadership roles both nationally and internationally, such as chair of Baptist World Alliance’s communications committee and postal representative for the nation’s religious press. Before becoming editor of TAB, Terry served as associate editor of Kentucky’s Western Recorder for seven years, then as the editor of Missouri’s Word & Way for 20 years.
He earned a bachelor of arts from Mississippi College in Clinton in 1965, then went on to earn a master’s degree and doctor of ministry degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He also holds an honorary doctor of sacred theology degree from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.
Through the years, Terry also has served Alabama’s churches as an interim pastor on numerous occasions.
A reception will be held in his honor at the Alabama Baptist State Convention in November.
“This is not goodbye,” Terry wrote. “My race is not yet over. I have not completed my course, to use the Apostle Paul’s analogy in 2 Timothy 4:7. There are nine more months in 2018 and I plan to run the race to the end.”
Editor-elect Jennifer Rash will begin her new role on Jan. 1.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Alabama Baptist is news journal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. This article first appeared at their website,

3/23/2018 10:22:22 AM by Alabama Baptist staff | with 0 comments

Tennessee may require schools to post ‘In God We Trust’

March 23 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Public schools in Tennessee soon could be required to post “In God We Trust” in a “prominent location” if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state legislature this week.
“Our national motto and our founding documents are the cornerstones of freedom,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Susan Lynn, said in a statement. “They must be shared with our future generations.
“I am honored to have sponsored passage of an initiative that will remind our current and future students about the true foundations for American life, faith and family,” said Lynn, a Southern Baptist from the Nashville area.
The bill, known as the National Motto in the Classroom Act, passed the Tennessee House of Representatives March 19 by an 81-8 margin. It cleared the state senate unanimously two weeks earlier.
The legislation would apply to every public school in Tennessee beginning with the 2018-19 academic year and require placement of the national motto in an “entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the ... display.” A “mounted plaque or student artwork” are two formats the bill suggests for posting “In God We Trust.”
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, expressed support for the state legislature’s action.
“You cannot argue a case before the United States Supreme Court without seeing the words, ‘In God we trust,’” David said. “I would be very encouraged for the sake of my grandkids to see this motto in their schools. I’m thankful for this action by our Tennessee law makers.”
“In God We Trust” first appeared on the two-cent coin in 1864 and became the national motto in 1956, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website.
Lynn’s office said the legislation was “brought to” her by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. The foundation’s website states a vision to “protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.”
The Tennessean newspaper reported the Tennessee legislation “appears to be part of a wave of similar ‘In God We Trust’ bills” being considered this year by other states, including Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
At least 19 other states have passed laws similar to the one approved by Tennessee lawmakers, Lynn’s office said, “in an effort to educate future generations of school students about the importance of the national motto.”
The legislation was sent to Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Haslam March 22 for his action.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Lonnie Wilkey, editor of Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector news journal. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/23/2018 10:20:31 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

5 Nigerian schoolgirls died in raid, teen told parent

March 23 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Boko Haram on March 21 released most of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped from Dapchi, Nigeria, a month ago, but five girls still missing are feared dead, and a lone student remains captive because of her Christianity, the Associated Press (AP) reported March 22.

Screen capture from Channels Television
These girls are reportedly among the 104 captives Boko Haram released March 21, weeks after kidnapping them in a Feb. 19 raid on Dapchi, Nigeria.

Five of the girls who remain missing died of injuries suffered in a stampede when Boko Haram abducted them Feb. 19 from the Government Girls Secondary School, a parent of one of the five girls learned from another student, the AP reported. The reportedly deceased girls were buried in graves in the bush, the student said, but the deaths have not been confirmed.
The parent, Inuwa Garba, told the AP he believed the reports of his 16-year-old daughter’s death.
“They told me five of the girls died and my daughter, who was among them, was the first to die,” the AP quoted Garba. “I believe what the girls told me because they were all together and saw what happened.”
A sixth student still missing remains captive because she is Christian, a student told the AP.
“We were freed because we are Muslim girls and they didn’t want us to suffer. That is why they released us,” the AP quoted Khadija Grema, a released student who said Boko Haram retained a Christian classmate to convert her to Islam.
Boko Haram released a total of 106 people, the Nigerian military said in press briefings, including 104 students and two townspeople who also had been captured in the February raid. The terrorists drove the captives to the Government Girls Secondary School, released them in the middle of the night and warned parents not to educate the girls, the Nigerian government confirmed to AP. In the Hausa language, Boko Haram translates “Western education is forbidden.”
Boko Haram released the girls just days after human rights advocates Amnesty International accused the Nigerian military of ignoring repeated advance warnings of the raid. The military received “multiple calls up to four hours before the raid on Dapchi,” Amnesty said in its accusation, citing “testimonies from multiple credible sources” not named in the report.
“The Nigerian authorities have failed in their duty to protect civilians, just as they did in Chibok four years ago,” Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osai Ojigho said in the report. “Despite being repeatedly told that Boko Haram fighters were heading to Dapchi, it appears that the police and military did nothing to avert the abduction.
“Evidence available to Amnesty International suggests that there are insufficient troops deployed in the area, and that an absence of patrols and the failure to respond to warnings and engage with Boko Haram contributed to this tragedy,” Ojigho said.
The Nigerian military called the Amnesty report an “outright falsehood,” the AP reported.
The released schoolgirls and others were transferred by military aircraft to Abuja for quarantine, questioning and any needed care, the military said in press briefings.
The ordeal came four years after Boko Haram enraged the international community by kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, located about 170 miles southeast of Dapchi. While many of the Chibok girls have been recovered or released, about 100 are believed still missing.
In January, Boko Haram released a video claiming to show about 10 of the Chibok girls who reportedly said they would never leave the terrorists, speaking in the Hausa language. Sahara TV posted the video Jan. 15, saying it was obtained from journalist Ahmad Salkida who specializes in reporting on terrorist activity occurring where the girls were first taken.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari claimed in December 2015 he had technically defeated Boko Haram, weakening the group so much that it would only be able to carry out isolated suicide bombings.
Boko Haram, which began attacking first Christians and then others in its attempts to establish Sharia law in Nigeria, has killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced 2 million in Nigeria and neighboring nations since 2009. The terrorists have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and have been accused of killing Christian farmers increasingly in raids since 2017 in cooperation with or under the guise of Fulani herdsmen.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/23/2018 10:17:35 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Austin bombings: Pastors unite in prayer

March 22 2018 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

The spate of bombings in Austin that had everyone in the city on “high alert” may be over after suspect Mark Anthony Conditt killed himself with an explosive March 21.

Screen capture from MSNBC
Video footage appears to show alleged bomber Mark Anthony Conditt entering a FedEx store. Conditt reportedly killed himself with an explosive March 21.

The latest development left many Christian leaders thankful the situation didn’t become far worse, said David Smith, executive director of Austin Baptist Association.
“Though we grieve for the families, I think the casualty count was as low as it was because of prayer,” said Smith, who noted that Austin’s existing network of pastors had responded quickly to the crisis with unified prayer. “I believe God allowed this guy to make enough mistakes that it kept things from being even more serious than they were.”
The first bomb – a pipe bomb concealed in a package – killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House at his home March 2. On March 12, two more package bombs left 17-year old Draylen Mason dead and two others injured. A roadside bomb injured two young men March 18, and a package bomb injured a worker at a FedEx facility March 20. The motive for the bombings is still unknown.
As it became clear that a serial bomber was responsible, Smith said the intensity “really picked up for folks” and affected the way Austin residents viewed everyday life.
“Yesterday we had our pastors’ meeting at a local church, and we had not been there 10 minutes when the FedEx delivery guy showed up with a package,” Smith said.
The men froze for a second, and Smith’s assistant asked what they should do.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is heavy,’” Smith said of the package that turned out to be a routine delivery. “Through all of this happening over the past few weeks, I didn’t sense panic on people’s part as much as sadness. But it is definitely a heavy duty kind of thing.”
In response to the attacks, pastors had rallied through Austin’s Unceasing Prayer Movement, a network that reaches across denominational and racial lines to mobilize Christians to pray.
“I think that the fact that our city is organized already for prayer and working together puts us in a strong position to respond,” said Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church.
Because the “vast majority” of the city is unchurched, Austin has an “extremely strong ministerial alliance” that is committed to working together, Bowman said. “From megachurches to church planters, we fellowship together, work together and pray together. So when things like this happen, we organize extremely quickly.”
Pastors also had planned a citywide prayer night in front of city hall March 26 to pray for law enforcement and a quick end to the serial bombings. But after the suspect ended his life, the event was cancelled.
Bowman said he believed God had heard the prayers of Christians all over the city.
“No matter where those bombings occurred, everyone in the city has felt them,” he said. “I’ve encouraged our people to pray for law enforcement and for the safety of our citizens and to encourage people around them that God has a plan through all of these disasters.”
Several families in Bowman’s church live in neighborhoods near the site of the package bomb explosions, he said. “We’ve tried to comfort and encourage them and also help everyone be ready for anything.”
Danny Forshee, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church, said he too has seen a lot of fear among his church members in the past few weeks as some of them have known the victims or the victims’ families or had family or friends living in the victims’ neighborhoods.
To help encourage them to cling to Christ for peace, Forshee has penned devotionals that have gone out all over the city.
“The Bible has much to say to us about the powers of darkness and evil,” he wrote March 21. “We should pray for our enemies who, under the power of Satan seek ... to work us woe.”
Spiritual realities are definitely at work in the world, and Austin is not immune from that, he said. But as Austin’s Christians have led the city in asking God for help, He has answered mightily, Forshee said.
“A lot of people have been fearful,” he said. “Today there is a lot of relief.”
For more information about Austin’s Unceasing Prayer Movement, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

3/22/2018 11:34:48 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kennedy: California law may present ‘undue burden’

March 22 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Free-speech and pro-life advocates left the U.S. Supreme Court March 20 with multiple reasons to expect the justices will strike down a California law that requires pregnancy care centers to promote abortion services.
Supporters of pro-life pregnancy centers in the case heard a centrist Supreme Court justice, then a liberal one, signal disapproval of the measure during oral arguments. Those pointed evaluations, plus the skepticism expressed by several other justices, offered opponents of the law strong hope the threat to such centers would die in this case.
A surprise decision by the justices in support of the law could have devastating repercussions for hundreds of pregnancy care centers in numerous states. The California law at issue is part of an ongoing effort by abortion-rights advocates and their law making allies in cities and states to limit the impact of pro-life centers that provide free services to pregnant women.
The law in question – California’s 2015 Reproductive FACT Act – requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for or otherwise inform clients in writing of the state’s free or low-cost access to abortion and other family planning services. The law also mandates unlicensed centers provide a notice they are not licensed medically and do not have a licensed medical professional.
None of the four typically conservative justices on the nine-member high court signaled any agreement with the California approach during oral arguments. When Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the first strong blow against the law near the midway point of the arguments, it appeared the court’s “swing vote” had tipped the scales.
Kennedy offered a hypothetical in which an unlicensed pregnancy center would display a billboard that said “Choose Life.” He asked if it would have to disclose it is unlicensed and has no licensed health-care professional. When informed the disclosure would be 29 words in the same type size and in multiple languages, Kennedy said, “[I]t seems to me that that means that this is an undue burden in that instance and that should suffice to invalidate the statute.”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s left wing, offered further evidence California’s law may not stand near the close of the oral arguments. She proposed an ad in which an unlicensed facility posts only the word “Pro-life” and its name. That notice would require the center also to post the notice, Sotomayor was told.
“That seems to me more burdensome and wrong because it’s not tied to an advertisement that is promoting medical services,” she replied.
Afterward, lawyers who observed the arguments and are in support of the pro-life pregnancy centers expressed their optimism.
“Justice Kennedy seemed clearly concerned with the free speech burden” on pregnancy centers, said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the pregnancy centers. “[A]nd he seemed to think [the requirement] was clearly unconstitutional, as, by the way, did Justice Sotomayor. So it was not simply justices on one side. I think they were all concerned about that First Amendment problem.
“I think the justices seemed clearly to understand the scope of the problem,” Rienzi told Baptist Press (BP). “[I]t looks like the court fully understands the problem and will probably get this one right.”
Kristin Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said she was pleased with what happened in the courtroom. ADF President Michael Farris argued on behalf of the pregnancy centers.
“One of the tests we use after oral argument is: Would we rather be us or them? I’m really glad to be us,” she said in a Facebook video interview with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Almost every member of the court asked at least one question that expressed some concern about what the state was saying.
“Justice Kennedy got rather upset ... with what he perceived to be the government’s targeting a disfavored” organization, she said.
Michael Whitehead, a Southern Baptist lawyer in suburban Kansas City, Mo., sat in on the arguments and said Kennedy’s hypothetical “became a pivotal point in the oral argument.”
“There is reason to hope that most justices will find the law is, indeed, wrong, because it targets and burdens free speech of pro-life citizens,” Whitehead told BP in written comments.
The ERLC signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the pregnancy centers.
Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, told BP, “Southern Baptists are dedicated to loving our neighbors as Christ loved us. This is why so many in our churches serve women and children through pregnancy resource centers offering compassionate and free care for all who walk through their doors.”
The California law “targets these centers in order to force the promotion of a message antithetical to their mission,” he said in written remarks. “No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry – least of all pro-life pregnancy centers.”
The law at issue is part of a continuing effort by abortion-rights advocates and their law making allies in cities and states to limit the impact of pro-life centers that provide free services to pregnant women. Many of these centers provide free ultrasound scans that demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child and often help women decide to give birth. The centers’ services also include medical consultations, baby clothing and diapers, job training, mentoring programs and prenatal and parenting classes.
The Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for clients that says, “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].”
If the California law survives the legal challenge, pro-life centers would face fines of as much as $1,000 a day for defiance of its requirements. Other states with pro-choice legislatures and governors could follow California’s example. Illinois and Hawaii already have enacted similar laws.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) – a nationwide network of nearly 1,500 pregnancy care centers – and two pro-life centers challenged California’s law. Almost 150 of the pregnancy centers NIFLA provides legal counsel, education and training to are in California.
NIFLA President Thomas Glessner told reporters after the arguments the law is about more than the abortion issue.
“[It] mandates and compels our pro-life centers to speak a message with which they fundamentally disagree,” Glessner said. “If this law is allowed to happen, the very heart and soul of the First Amendment will be gone.
“Nobody should be compelled to speak a message with which they fundamentally disagree and in which their conscience is violated,” he said. “This law goes far beyond the walls of pregnancy centers, goes far beyond the boundary of the state of California. For if it is upheld, everybody in this country should be concerned.”
Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates rallied in the rain outside the court. Abortion-rights supporters focused on depicting the pro-life pregnancy centers as deceitful.
“For let’s never forget that these fake women’s health centers exist for one reason alone – anti-choice forces could not prevail if they dealt in reality,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, to her allies in front of the court. “They cannot compete without the deception. They cannot make their case about abortion or choice honestly, so they trick people into entering these clinics just to push their ideology and just to shame.”
Among the organizations filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of NIFLA and the pregnancy centers were 144 members of Congress; pregnancy care centers in California, Illinois, South Dakota and Texas; the Care Net and Heartbeat International networks; 41 family policy organizations; the state of Texas and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Included in organizations submitting briefs in support of the law were Planned Parenthood; the American Medical Association; the pro-assisted suicide organization Compassion & Choices; and 17 states.
In October 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco – like a federal judge before it – refused to grant an injunction blocking the California law. In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel said the law does not violate the First Amendment’s protections for free speech or free exercise of religion. The law “does not discriminate based on viewpoint,” the three-judge panel said.
Local governments also have placed speech requirements on pro-life pregnancy centers, mandating they post signs, for instance, that say they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for the services. Courts have invalidated all or most of such mandates in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Montgomery County, Md.; and New York City.
The case is NIFLA v. Becerra.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/22/2018 11:29:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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