May 2011

3,500 rally in Raleigh for marriage amendment

May 19 2011 by Baptist Press

RALEIGH — Around 3,500 Christians rallied in support of a constitutional marriage amendment May 17 at the North Carolina capitol, urging legislators to let citizens vote on the issue.

North Carolina and West Virginia are the only two states in the southeast without an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A majority of states (29) have one. “We’re here today to protect families and make sure every child retains the right to have both a mother and a father,” Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council told the crowd, according to the Associated Press.

“We’re here today to preserve our right to religious freedom and our sincere belief that anything other than marriage shared between a man and a woman goes against God’s design for creation.”

With Republicans now in charge of the legislature, amendment supporters are hopeful the House and Senate will take action. The GOP took control of the House and Senate in November for the first time since 1898. Democrats previously had blocked an amendment from going forward.

Three-fifths of the legislature must approve it for it to appear on the 2012 ballot, AP reported.

Marriage amendments prevent state courts from legalizing “gay marriage,” as has happened in four states. Conservatives warn the legalization of “gay marriage” would have a widespread negative impact on society, affecting the tax-exempt status of religious organizations, the religious liberty of private businesses and curriculum in elementary schools.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s legislature may vote this week on a civil unions bill that would grant same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage, except the title. Critics say civil unions are nothing more than a stepping stone to “gay marriage.”

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5/19/2011 8:16:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

As floods threaten Louisiana, volunteers prepare

May 19 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

VIDALIA, La. — Crews of able-bodied Southern Baptist volunteers have been transporting the prized possessions of the elderly and infirm in Vidalia, La., across the Mississippi River to storage in Natchez, Miss.

Just in case.

“I see no problems with our levee system functioning as it’s supposed to,” Reynold Minsky, president of the Fifth District Levee Board, has stated. “We’re going to have a three-foot clearance,” Minsky, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Lake Providence, La., projected, referring to floodwater levels at the district’s 257 miles of levees that haven’t been seen since the 1930s — or maybe ever.

Rumors of impending devastation have been swirling during the first half of May as river waters were coursing down from where the “Mighty Mississipp” gains strength from the Ohio River. Minsky as well as Corps of Engineer officials and city/state leaders said the dangers of rumors that fuel panic were worse than the flooding that could come when waters pass Lake Providence in northeast Louisiana near the Arkansas and Mississippi borders and continue flowing 100 miles south to Vidalia and beyond.

“We’re stressing to our people not to panic, but just to be prepared,” said Bill McCullin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Vidalia. “Yes this is a serious situation but leaders are doing everything they can do.

“This (possibility of flooding) has unified a community that needed to be unified,” McCullin continued. “People are thinking about each other. Even though we’re at the early stages of this, we can still see God at work.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a May 4 visit to the area, said, “We know we’re facing historic levels of water coming through Louisiana, but we’re determined to do everything we can to protect people’s lives, property and livelihoods.”

Photo courtesy of the Vidalia, La., Chamber of Commerce

As Mississippi River floodwaters rush through Vidalia, La., a local pastor says prayer is needed that God would calm the hearts of Christians and that they use the opportunity to bring others to faith and trust in Jesus.

In Vidalia, the levee has never been tested beyond 58 feet, said McCullin of First Baptist Vidalia. “Beyond 60 feet they really do not know. (The Army Corps of Engineers) has confidence is in its ability to hold what’s coming, but their uncertainty is that they don’t know for sure.”

City leaders encouraged Vidalia residents to move treasured possessions to Natchez, which is on a high bluff, the pastor said. “They’re not predicting they are going to have a problem,” McCullin added. “I’m trusting in what the Corps of Engineers reported.”

A town meeting was held May 4, to quell rumors and give solid information, but the room could only hold 50 people, so McCullin invited the mayor to First Baptist the next evening for a repeat session. About 300 people participated in the second gathering.

Especially worrisome for Vidalia is its $75 million Riverfront Center, situated between the river and the levee. The Riverfront Center includes a medical center with state-of-the-art equipment, a hotel, convention center and welcome center, plus two water wells. Everyone agrees the riverfront area will flood. The Corps of Engineers, National Guardsmen, city workers and volunteers are surrounding each of the four buildings with “Hesco baskets” — 4-by-8-foot canvas containers filled with sand. Pumps would be placed inside the Hesco walls to remove any seepage. In a worst-case scenario, First Baptist’s offices would move to First Baptist Church in Natchez.

The Mississippi River flooding won’t stop until it gets to the Gulf of Mexico. At this point, prayer is what’s needed most of all, McCullin said — prayer that God would calm the hearts of Christians and that they would use the opportunity to bring others to faith and trust in Jesus.

“Once it hits the crest, it will take about a month to six weeks for (floodwaters) to get down to the 48-foot flood stage. Will the levee system hold that much water for that much time? ... I would rather prepare for the worst and get the best,” McCullin said. “We’re stressing to our people not to panic, but just to be prepared. It’s just better to be safe.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/19/2011 8:06:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘MacGyver guys’ needed for ‘extreme makeover’

May 19 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

ZIMBABWE — Rick Sykes needs a few dozen “MacGyver guys” for a life-changing “extreme makeover” adventure that will make an eternal difference for thousands of people.


The project Sykes has in his sights is rehabbing Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe, a 60-year-old icon of Southern Baptist overseas work that has fallen into serious disrepair as that country’s economy has collapsed.

When Sykes, a member of Pleasant Heights Baptist Church in Columbia, Tenn., first visited Sanyati in 2009, he was distressed at what he saw: a completely broken water system, leaking roofs, rotting fascia, termite damage, electrical malfunctions — and a set of auto headlights hanging from the ceiling of an operating room.

The hospital’s electrical supply was so unreliable that staff had installed the headlights and a battery in an operating room to be sure doctors weren’t plunged into the dark in the middle of surgery.

BGR photo

Two auto headlights provide emergency lighting in Sanyati Baptist Hospital’s operating room because the electrical supply is so unreliable. A Baptist layman has initiated an “extreme makeover” for the 60-year-old facility in Zimbabwe.

The situation was intolerable for Sykes, a retired maintenance project leader for General Motors.

Sykes was at Sanyati to help with the hospital’s water problem — the compound’s wells and pumps weren’t working, but he quickly saw a host of other maintenance issues.

“In the two weeks I spent there, the electricity was on maybe 30 percent of the time,” Sykes said. “When you go in the operating room and they have two car headlights mounted in the ceiling and a battery over in the corner, you know there’s a problem.”

A couple of days into Sykes’ two-week stay at Sanyati, a thunderstorm knocked out power in half the compound.

“My son is an electrician and we are fixers, so we started digging around and found the problem. Since you couldn’t cut the power off, he rewired it hot and got the lights on for the whole rest of the compound,” Sykes said. “After that, we had people from all over coming and saying to us, ‘This is broken. Can you look at this?’

“When Dr. (Mark) Byler showed us through the hospital, it just started breaking our hearts — all these people there and the dilapidated condition of the hospital,” Sykes said. “The hospital is so remote, and it’s the only real medical care these people can get in a very large radius.

“That was when the wheels started turning. We did some brainstorming and talked with Mark Hatfield and Dr. Byler,” Sykes said. “Somewhere in the midst of all that, this concept was birthed of an ‘extreme makeover’ for Sanyati Baptist Hospital.” Sanyati Baptist Hospital, under the leadership of Mark Byler, a physician from Kansas City, Mo., treats an average of 35,000 outpatients and 1,800 inpatients a year, said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife, Susan, directs work in Sub-Sahara Africa for Baptist Global Response, the international relief and development organization coordinating the makeover project. The staff performs about 1,000 surgeries and delivers more than 2,000 babies each year. Southern Baptist missionary physician Archie G. Dunaway Jr. was killed at Sanyati in 1978 by guerrillas fighting against the government of what was then Rhodesia.

“The five-year plan for the ‘extreme makeover’ project intends to restore the hospital facilities to a state where they can be locally maintained,” Hatfield said. “God has used Sanyati Baptist Hospital to meet both physical and spiritual needs for 60 years. Its ministry extends far beyond the 100,000 or so residents who look to the hospital for medical care. Sanyati is a symbol for the whole country of Christ’s loving compassion for the sick and hurting and I don’t think God is finished with Sanyati Baptist Hospital yet.”

BGR photo

Two-year-old Shantalle was brought into Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe weighing less than seven pounds. She was diagnosed with malaria and HIV/AIDS — one of thousands of patients treated each year at a hospital where a Baptist layman is launched an “extreme makeover.”

In 1981, the government assumed control of the facility, but economic issues have prevented it from being properly maintained.

“Even if the hospital is owned by the government now, the sign out front says ‘Baptist,’” Sykes said. “What kind of impression is that creating?”

A dozen teams a year will be enlisted over the course of the project, Sykes said. “There’s something here for everybody to do. It’s way bigger than one church,” Sykes said. “The biggest challenge and prayer concern is that we really need a project coordinator on site. I’m heartbroken we don’t have someone there.”

The Sanyati extreme makeover could be “a perfect place for Sunday School classes, churches, associations or state convention groups like Baptist Builders and the disaster relief network to become involved in something much bigger than they could take on alone,” Hatfield said. “But together with other churches and groups, they can be part of something very significant in Kingdom ministry.

“It will take a united effort by groups who don’t even know each other — and may never see each other face to face — in order to complete the five-year project,” Hatfield said. “We are trusting God to provide the volunteer teams and the financial resources needed to complete this project. We have stepped out in faith that God will call out those who He desires to work on this project, both those who will come and those who will give.”

The Sanyati project offers men like the “MacGyver” TV character — who could rig up practically anything with whatever he found at hand — a great opportunity to get involved in a major overseas project, Sykes said.

“All over the world, we’ve got ‘MacGyver’ guys sitting in pews, who want to make a difference but don’t know what they can do,” Sykes said. “They’re saying, ‘Someday, somewhere, I want to get involved,’ but red lights down the road keep them from volunteering.

“Guys, we need your skill and want you to charge up this mountain with us,” Sykes said. “This is your ‘somewhere,’ right now. You can’t wait until all the traffic lights are green before you leave the house.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is an assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. For more information about the Sanyati Extreme Makeover project, visit Individuals or groups interested in participating may e-mail Peter Sierson at

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/19/2011 7:42:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pakistan ‘blasphemy’ law used against kids

May 19 2011 by Baptist Press/Compass Direct

ISTANBUL — Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws can put even children at risk, and Christians say the days when they could teach their offspring pat answers to protect them from accusations of disparaging Islam or its prophet seem to have passed.

A 30-year-old Pakistani woman who grew up in Lahore said her Christian parents taught her formula answers to keep from falling prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes, such as “I am a Christian, I can only tell you about Him.” But even then, before militant Islamists began influencing Pakistani society as they have in recent years, schoolchildren were taught not to discuss religion, she said.

“We knew never to get into religious discussions with others,” she said. “We had them at home — our parents would put us through the drill of asking us tough questions to see how we answered. Only now I realize that was practice for school.” In this way, she was imbued with the fundamentals of the Christian faith and at the same time learned that she should discuss it only with her parents, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Though the Christian faith is inherently evangelistic, the blasphemy laws have made people silent, she added. The blasphemy statutes signal to non-Muslims that they are second-class or “dhimmi” status citizens who must stay within narrow social boundaries, leave or be killed, she said.

“Christians constantly face questions like, ‘What do you think of the Quran, do you like it?’ and, ‘What do you think of Muhammad?’” she said. “One answer is, ‘As a Christian I have only read the Bible, I can’t read Arabic.’ These questions used to be easier to answer, we had formulas. But those are not working any more. We just tell children ‘Don’t talk about religion in school.’ This is shaky ground now.”

She added, “Some parents don’t even tell their children about Jesus, because they are scared they will go to school and say something wrong. One street kid did not know anything except about the blasphemy law. When her mother was asked why she did not teach her daughter about Jesus instead of the blasphemy law, she replied, ‘If I tell her too much, she will talk about it on the street, and someone will kill her or charge her with blasphemy.’”

The street child, she said, was afraid to tell her what church she attended. “She said the mullah in the shop behind us was listening, and as she said that, I saw the man nearly fall off his chair from trying to listen to us,” she said.

An entire generation, Christians fear, is growing up not knowing their faith for fear that it will lead to potentially disastrous schoolyard talk. Moreover, children required to take Islamic studies in school are in danger with a single misstep.

“If they write anything or misspell anything to do with the prophet Muhammad, they can be in serious danger,” the source said. “In fact, the other side of this is that they are made to answer questions saying what a wonderful man he was.”

Christian kids in predominantly Muslim areas don’t have friends to play with, as even a cricket game can be risky, she said. Adults are equally fearful.

“People in offices are silenced into submission,” she said. “The fear is creating aggression.”

Conviction under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible. Curiously, accusers in blasphemy cases cannot repeat the alleged derogatory comments without risk of being accused of blasphemy themselves. A district court judge last November stunned the nation and the international community by handing down a death sentence to a Christian mother of five for allegedly speaking ill of Muhammad.

Subsequently three politicians spoke out against the blasphemy law that put Asia Noreen (also called Asia Bibi) in prison. Two of them have been killed for standing up for Noreen and against the blasphemy law. One is in hiding for fear of her life.

Noreen, mother of two children and stepmother to three others, has been in prison in solitary confinement since June 2009, accused of having blasphemed against Muhammad, after a verbal disagreement with some women in the village of Ittanwali, near Lahore. If she is released from prison, her life will be at risk. Her husband and children are on the run, receiving constant threats from Muslims who say they will take justice into their own hands.

Suspected Islamic militants in Faisalabad shot dead two Christians about to be acquitted of blasphemy charges on July 19, 2010. Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel were shot days after handwriting experts on July 14 notified police that signatures on papers denigrating Muhammad did not match those of the accused. Expected to be exonerated, the two leaders of United Ministries Pakistan were being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail when they were shot.

Christian Lawyers’ Foundation President Khalid Gill said the two bodies bore cuts and other signs of having been tortured, including marks on their faces, while the brothers were in police custody.

For secular-educated Pakistanis, the blasphemy law has come to symbolize the measure to which militant Islam has overtaken society. In the span of three months, Islamists murdered two of the nation’s most outspoken leaders against the blasphemy law. On Jan. 4 Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province, was murdered, and on March 2 parliamentarian Shabaz Bhatti, who as federal minister for minority affairs was the only Christian cabinet member, was assassinated in Islamabad.

Pakistan is moving increasingly towards a state driven by fear of militants, where even moderate politicians make conservative choices to appease Islamist threats, according to Sara Taseer Shoaib, daughter of the late Taseer.

“Pakistan is definitely becoming more right-wing and extremist when it comes to religion,” she said. “Religious parties are gaining a cult following, and even moderate leaders are trying to gain popularity and votes by taking a right-wing position.”

The reasons for this shift, she said, are many: issues like defense of the blasphemy law serve to deflect attention from the real issues of poverty and lack of hope; there is an increasing trend to blame all woes on the West; and there is a prevailing sense of a need to defend Islam as the perception remains that it is under global attack.

(EDITORS NOTE — From Compass Direct News, a California-based news service focusing on the persecuted church.)

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5/19/2011 7:23:00 AM by Baptist Press/Compass Direct | with 0 comments

Cleanup crews tackle ‘worse’ devastation

May 17 2011 by Julie Moore, Baptist Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The piercing roar of a chainsaw is typically nothing more than loud racket to most people. But to those who suffered horrific devastation from the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama, the sound couldn’t be sweeter when coming from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams aiding in needed cleanup efforts.

Pulling into storm-ravaged areas, these caravans of cleanup and recovery volunteers arrive eager to help. Sporting bright yellow disaster relief T-shirts, they bring with them loads of their own heavy equipment packed into trailers and trucks.

These particular crews work alongside other emergency personnel to aid communities during the aftermath of mass destruction as first responders in the rebuilding process. Each team usually entails 10 to 12 volunteers from a particular Baptist church or association dispatched through the state organization.

Ron Warren serves as state coordinator of cleanup, recovery and chainsaw for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.

The crews labor fervently, up to 10 or 12 hours a day, by assisting in cleanup duties that include cutting downed trees and heavy limbs and removing debris from yards.

“It’s pretty intensive work,” said Larry Teel, director of the Rapid Response Assessment Team and command center team leader in Tuscaloosa.

With wind speeds estimated by the National Weather Service of more than 200 mph in some areas April 27, entire neighborhoods were left with hardly a tree standing.

Generally half of a team’s members are trained in chainsaw safety, Teel said; the others work to remove fallen or cut tree limbs from the property they are serving.

“All the people on the team are trained in cleanup/recovery and a limited number are trained in chainsaw safety,” he said.

Alabama Baptists began an initial drive-through assessment in Tuscaloosa April 28, the day after the storms hit, to determine how extensive the damage was. By the next morning, teams were on the ground working with chainsaws, removing debris and cutting trees that had landed on residents’ houses, cars and driveways.

“I’ve been involved in disaster relief since 1979.... I’ve not seen devastation as concentrated as this was, as severe as it was,” Teel said. “The devastation in the impact area is worse than I have ever seen. It is just unreal. It’s going to be a real long-term recovery, even from our aspect of getting trees removed from properties.”

Five teams were on the ground in the Tuscaloosa area with 70 to 80 volunteers assisting in cleanup and recovery efforts. Teel said they continue to pick up new jobs every day and had completed more than 60 jobs.

Cottondale Baptist Church, part of the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, has been the team’s host church, feeding and housing the disaster relief workers.

More than 40 other cleanup and recovery teams were serving in nine other areas across the state.

Tom Cole, leader of the Manatee Southern Baptist Association disaster relief cleanup and recovery team from Florida, traveled with his team to serve in Jasper. They arrived May 2 and began work the next morning. Cole said the most rewarding aspect of serving on a cleanup team is the help, healing and hope they can help provide storm victims.

Helping people secure their homes and clear debris and helping them heal by listening to what they’ve been through are extremely important, Cole said.

“But the most important thing is the hope, and the hope that we can bring the salvation of Jesus Christ to their lives.”

Teel asked Southern Baptists to pray for the teams.

“We need prayer for safety (physical and emotional),” he said. Training is required for those interested in joining disaster relief teams, and specific training pertaining to chainsaw safety is offered through various state conventions. (Contact your state convention for more information.) Those who pass the course receive a chainsaw patch to be worn on the right sleeve.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Moore is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.) 

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5/17/2011 4:15:00 AM by Julie Moore, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Israel, 100 years of Baptist work celebrated

May 17 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

ISRAEL — Hiba* used to pore over the Quran, trying to sort out life’s problems.

Then she bumped into some Christians in her hometown a few years ago. She agonized for days about which was the real book, the Quran or the Bible. “And then God showed me,” Hiba said.

Thanks to local Baptists discipling her, she said she now knows it’s Jesus who changed her life. This lasting legacy of Baptist work was honored May 12-14 at the 100th anniversary of Baptists in Israel, celebrated in Nazareth where the nation’s first Baptist church was planted.

Hiba was baptized in the Sea of Galilee to close the weekend celebration.

Before the first believers were baptized through Baptist work in Nazareth a century ago, Baptists “had nothing in the Middle East,” said Drew Carson*, a Christian leader in the region.

In 1911, Shukri Mosa — a Palestinian who came to follow Christ at First Baptist Church in Dallas — brought his faith to Nazareth and led two people to faith and baptism. He faced persecution from the town around him, but eventually a church was planted in the 1920s.

The International Mission Board (IMB) partnered with the work in Israel soon after it began, helping nurture the church. IMB workers continue to reach out among the different Jewish and Arab people groups in the nation.

“Shukri Mosa’s connection with First Baptist Dallas provided a bridge for us to come over here and plant our lives and get deeper and deeper into this part of the world,” Carson said.

“We should never underestimate the first step of the journey. What happened here 100 years ago resulted in untold lives across the Arab and Jewish world being touched by the salvation of Jesus Christ.”

The work in Nazareth sparked a flame of American-led Southern Baptist work in the region. And it produced many Arab believers who took the gospel to other countries when war in Israel dispersed part of the nation’s Palestinian population in 1948.

A baptism in the Sea of Galilee reflects the ongoing work of Southern Baptists after 100 years of outreach to both Arabs and Jews.

“Many believers scattered when war happened, but they were able to take the message with them where they went,” said Dale Thorne, a Southern Baptist representative in Israel.

Baptist work in Israel dwindled nearly to extinction immediately after the war, but then new ministry doors opened, Thorne said.

“A large number of Arabs fled to Nazareth, which had surrendered to the Jews, and so the town boomed in population,” he said.

A Baptist school was founded in the Arab community, and it’s still going strong with 1,000 students, Thorne said. Roughly a couple hundred Baptist congregations, both Messianic Jewish and Arab, exist in Israel today.

“I hope that this time of celebrating 100 years is an encouragement to Baptists here not only to look back but also to accept the challenge of moving forward into the future,” Thorne said.

Gordon Fort, vice president for overseas operations for the IMB, challenged Baptists to keep reaching out across their region and the world.

“Israel has a genuine faith living among its Baptists for 100 years. Years ago someone brought that genuine faith to you. It is your responsibility to share this faith with others,” Fort said.

Baptists are striving to do this, showing Christ’s love through unity across deep cultural divisions, said Bader Mansour, secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.

“I am thankful for the Lord and what He’s done in our lives. He’s commanded us to be one in body, one in mind, one in spirit,” Mansour said. “We are in a time of miracles.”

*Names have been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.)

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5/17/2011 4:11:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

20 Chinese Christians arrested

May 17 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

BEIJING — About 20 members of China’s Shouwang Church were arrested Sunday during the sixth straight weekend that the congregation refused to obey government orders to stop worshipping — a confrontation that has seen nearly 30 church families forced out of their homes and more than 10 members lose their jobs.

China pressured the congregation out of its indoor facilities earlier this year, prompting the church — which is an illegal congregation not registered with the government — to try to gather outdoors on a public square in Beijing. More than 160 church members were arrested the first week, and the church has continued to try to gather each week at the same spot, despite warnings from the government. Throughout the six weeks, hundreds of church members have been placed under house arrest, prevented from even leaving their homes on Sunday mornings.

Screen capture from video

This bus was used by Chinese police Sunday to carry off about 20 members of Shouwang Church, who were gathering illegally in downtown Beijing to worship. The Chinese government forced the church out of its indoor facility earlier this year and now is preventing the congregation from meeting ourdoors.

In China, only churches registered with the government who are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are considered legal. But registration brings heavy restrictions, including prohibitions on evangelism, Sunday School and baptizing children and teens, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid, an organization that monitors religious freedom in the country.

ChinaAid itself has become a target. ChinaAid’s website was hacked Friday in what the organization believes was an attack that originated within China. Although some parts of the website were down for several hours, ChinaAid soon restored the full site., a Chinese-language website for community journalists, posted a 150-second video Sunday showing two buses parked near the outdoor site, ready to transport Shouwang church members from the site to police stations. pictures also showed marked police cars and at least one unmarked police car. About 20 church members were taken away at 9 a.m. local time. In past weeks, some had been released within several hours while others had been held for 24-48 hours, ChinaAid reported.

According to the church’s order of worship, they had planned on reading several passages, including Revelation 4:1-11, in unison and singing several songs before hearing a sermon. Their commitment to Christ has cost some of them their homes and jobs. Shouwang released a statement several days before the service saying that nearly 30 families had been evicted from their homes and more than 10 people had lost their jobs “because they refused to promise to leave Shouwang Church.” The church says the members were forced out of work or housing by “employees of related government departments.”

“They were given just a few days to move out of their rental homes for no other reason than that they were members of Shouwang Church; in the short-term, they have no fixed abode, and they are getting by by shuttling among the homes of various brothers and sisters in the church,” the statement reads. “Many more believers and church leaders have lost their personal freedom because of being restricted to their homes on Sundays or the other days of the week by local police, neighborhood committee workers or residential security guards.”

Shouwang maintains the incidents “violate China’s current laws.”

In a show of solidarity, more than 15 pastors of other illegal house churches signed a petition to Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, declaring that the government’s actions against the church violate the Chinese Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which China signed and which guarantees that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” a right that includes the freedom “in public or private ... to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

“Yet, for the last 6 decades,” the petition reads, “the rights to liberty of religious faith granted to our country’s Christians by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China have not been put into practice. According to the current policy for religion management, unless Christians join the strongly politically-charged National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement, their various religious activities (including congregation, worship, ceremony, formation of church, construction of church buildings and evangelism) are still being restricted and suppressed by various governmental management departments.”

The petition asks Bangguo and other members of the Chinese government to investigate China’s rules on churches and determine whether they are in accordance with China’s constitution. It also asks them to investigate the government’s move to prevent Shouwang Church from worshipping indoors.

The incident with Shouwang Church, the petition says, is “not an individual, isolated episode that happens to a single church, but rather a typical phenomenon in respect of the conflict between state and church.”

“With the incessant growth of the number of urban Christians and the continued expansion of the church, the conflict between state and church of this sort is likely to continue to break out,” the petition says. “In view of the representativeness of the Shouwang Church incident, and the significant impact of this incident on the future relationship between state and church in our country, we hereby lodge this Petition.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/17/2011 4:08:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mo. flood destroys church

May 16 2011 by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press

DORENA, Mo. — When the U.S. Army Corps Engineers blew the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi River May 2, the waters washed away as many as 100 homes and 133,000 acres of fertile farmland. It also flooded a small Southern Baptist church.

“The church is gone,” said LeRoy Davenport, pastor of Dorena Baptist Church. “I’ve seen aerial pictures, and it’s gone.”

The church building is still there, but at one point the muddy waters were up to the edge of the roof. The day after Mother’s Day, when the National Guard allowed property owners to inspect their homes via boats, a man reported to Davenport that he stood in the window ledge and could see pews floating inside.

The church had been around since 1946 and had never had floodwater in it, though it came close a few times.

When the floodway was activated, it was done so in part to save the town of Cairo, Ill., which experienced a record crest along the Mississippi River and a swollen Ohio River. With rain continuing and water levels at historic levels, the Corps said there was “no way to stop all flooding, but rather to do our best to reduce the risk to life and property in the region.”

Photo by Bob Greenlee

Joann Hahs of First Baptist Church in Oak Ridge and Dan Dickerson of First Baptist Church in Millersville prepare trays of food for flood victims at the feeding station at First Baptist Church in Morehouse, Mo.

This spring the Mississippi River has experienced precipitation 125 to 150 percent above normal. Corps experts estimate it will take up to two months for water to recede from the floodway, assuming there is no additional rainfall.

After the water has receded, it will take another 20 to 30 days for the land to dry out. If there’s an upside to the manmade flood, it’s that the residents of the floodplain and members of Dorena Baptist at least had some warning. Most of the church’s small membership lived outside the floodplain in East Prairie, but two who lived in mobile homes had to move the homes to higher ground and are now out of work.

“We knew it was coming, and kept praying,” Davenport said. “We got the piano, pulpit and Lord’s Supper table out, but not everything. The rest of it is gone. The brick on one side of the building is gone, too. Then, if the water goes down like they’re telling us, there may not be any roads left.”

Davenport said there isn’t a lot to be cheery about and recovery is going to be hard work, but he sees a glimmer of hope in the dark waters. There are lots of discussions floating around, including rebuilding and permanently relocating.

“Maybe God just wanted us to move this church into town,” he said, referring to East Prairie. “Whatever He wants, that’s what we’ll do. There’s no growth possibility in Dorena simply because there’s nobody down there. It’s hard to leave the site of your home church, but maybe this is what God wants us to do.”

Volunteers needed
In addition to Dorena Baptist, two other Missouri Baptist churches flooded in the recent surge of the Mississippi River. Shining Light Baptist Church in Charleston and Hooe Baptist Church in Oran also were impacted. First Baptist Church in Morehouse has been among those to open as a shelter.

Volunteers are needed for large-scale cleanup as the water recedes.

Rick Seaton, a men’s ministry specialist with the Missouri Baptist Convention and the state’s disaster relief coordinator, said he anticipates at least a two- or three-week response in the area.

“We currently have mud-out teams beginning in the Poplar Bluff area and are presently looking into the need for other areas,” he said. (Volunteers need to go through their state convention’s disaster recovery unit or through the North American Mission Board.)

In St. Louis, the chainsaw work in the wake of the Good Friday tornadoes is finished. St. Louis Metro Baptist Association and local churches report that they anticipate being able to fulfill any further requests for assistance. The official disaster relief response site has been shut down.

“Some have been on this site for over two weeks straight, and there were around 328 jobs completed,” Seaton said. “We are very thankful to everyone both in state and out of state who have responded and helped in this area.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/16/2011 8:54:00 AM by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

How the King James Bible was born

May 16 2011 by A. Kenneth Curtis, Baptist Press

WORCESTER, Pa. — Picture yourself in 1604 England. It is a slow-moving world, where security and stability are prized. Someday England, along with the rest of the West, will pursue constant, rapid innovation. For you, however, what is old and hallowed by tradition is what is best. You rest in the knowledge that God rules all things by an unchangeable providence and orders all things by an equally unchangeable natural law.

But all is not well in your world. Beneath its peaceful and orderly reality, an uneasy undercurrent bubbles. True, for much of the past 45 years you and your family have dwelt in the secure, stable England of Elizabeth. Under her reign population and wealth have grown, and the enmities between small, zealous groups of Christians have, with the judicious use of force, been repressed for the greater good. But for some time now, the Elizabethan idyll has been fraying at the edges. By the 1590s starvation, disease, and unemployment are spreading like a miasma. The urban landscape has grown overcrowded, squalid, and chaotic. Poor Laws have emerged to punish the idle poor and set the able-bodied poor to work in the proliferating workhouses.

Then comes the queen’s illness and her refusal to the very end to name her successor. Your anxiety and suspense could hardly be imagined by dwellers in modern democracies. A change of monarch reaches deep into the hearts of his subjects, evoking uncertainties and absorbing the attention of the nation. The monarchy, after all, is God’s instrument of order and his hand of guidance. To paraphrase Proverbs, “Without a monarch, the people perish!” Now, in the year of our Lord 1604, the news has been confirmed: The new king will be James VI, from England’s generations-old enemy, Scotland! The remains of Hadrian’s Wall dividing the countries stand as a lasting symbol and reminder of the enduring enmity between the two. Frantic speculation is erupting all around you. What can loyal subjects of England and worshipers in the English church expect of a man who was brought up under Geneva-influenced Presbyterian tutelage? What, of a man whose crowning as King of Scotland, when he was just a toddler, was accompanied by a fiery sermon from John Knox himself? How will this man act who since adolescence has made of himself an author and intellectual? Will he know how to take advice?

Your more pessimistic neighbors may also be asking a darker question: What latent pathologies may lurk in a 37-year-old man whose parents were killed for political reasons, who harbors no doubt that God is on his side, and who is an outspoken advocate of the divine right of kings? James’s wide learning (in which he takes great pride) and his taste for theological debate are well-known — could these spell trouble in an England already seeded with religious dissension?

The Elizabethan Settlement
The King James Version of the Bible was born at the Hampton Court Conference in January of 1604. This, as we will see, was a meeting cannily called by the newly-crowned James I (still James VI of Scotland) to appease the Puritans, though he made few concessions there. Political uneasiness was in the air as religious factionalism continued unabated, despite Elizabeth’s efforts. She had solidified and entrenched the English Reformation begun under Henry VIII. But many pious English subjects had never been pleased with “the Elizabethan Settlement” — the uneasy state of equilibrium she had engineered to stave off religiously motivated civil war.

Roman Catholics, of course, had reason to be embittered about their disenfranchisement. And on the other end of the spectrum, Puritans within the Church of England insisted that the Reformation had not gone far enough in their native land — that it retained too many Catholic elements. They had no trouble agreeing with Presbyterian John Knox’s description of Elizabeth as “neither good Protestant nor yet resolute papist.” They perhaps remembered God’s words in the Book of Revelation about the church in Laodicea: a lukewarm church he would “spew out of his mouth.”

Eager to see the task of reformation completed, the Puritans felt that in James they might finally have found their royal champion. After all, hadn’t he been brought up under the influence of Calvinist Presbyterians, who shared the Puritan commitment to a continuing reformation?

It was not to be. James had seen enough of the Puritans’ ilk in Scotland, and he didn’t like them or their theology at all. They were spared their king’s outright enmity only by being a sizeable minority, well educated, and highly motivated. Since James wanted unity and stability in his church and state, he needed to consider how to satisfy this constituency as far as he could.

Walking the factional balance
James would need to walk a delicate balance in trying to keep the various factions in peaceful accord. The Roman Catholics, called Papists by Protestants, longed for the English church to return to the Roman fold. The main body of Puritans were loyal to the crown but wanted further distance from Rome. Orbiting beyond these two groups were a number of others, all with their needs and demands to be navigated by the new king.

The Presbyterians were Puritans who were ready to do away with the hierarchical structure of powerful bishops. They advanced what they identified as the New Testament model of local and collegial church administration under elders or presbyters, and they sought every opportunity to remake the Church of England in that image. It would never happen, but that didn’t stop them from trying.

There was also Parliament, eager to expand its power base beyond the perfunctory role it had been allowed thus far. And, not incidentally, there was a significant Puritan influence and representation in Parliament.

Then there were the bishops of the Church of England. Their role was different from that of their successors today. They were a genuine elite, with exceptional power, privilege and wealth to protect. To them, Puritan agitation was far more than an intellectual abstraction to be debated at Oxford and Cambridge. If the Puritans were to prevail, this hierarchy had much to lose.

The Great Leveler among all of these groups was no political or ecclesiastical party, but an implacable foe nonetheless. From the moment of his accession, James found himself face to face with this most pitiless of enemies. Its very name struck terror everywhere it went: Plague!

The outbreak of this disease that descended on England the year James became king was unusually severe, causing a reported 30,000 deaths in and around London. In those days, not far removed from the great, millennium-long medieval synthesis of the City of God with the City of Man, the plague was far more than a public health issue. Many saw it as their ancestors would have: as a vehicle of God’s judgment and wrath. Although different parties disagreed about exactly who was being judged and why, most agreed that this horrifying scourge was the very hand of God on a sinful nation.

A time of upheaval
At the time of the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604, the cultural and political climate roiled with turbulence from a number of other sources. This was the very time John Smyth from Gainsborough was teaching and organizing his group of dissident Lincolnshire farmers, laying the groundwork for what would soon emerge as the first expression of the English Baptist movement. At that point they were seen more as a nuisance than as the founders of what would become a large Protestant tradition.

Then, too, a more pernicious cabal was about to form, one whose near-successful act of horrendous terrorism would leave an unhealed wound on the nation’s psyche for centuries to come. A mere four months after the Hampton Court Conference, on May 20, 1604, a group of Catholic radicals met in London’s Strand. At the innocuously named “Duck and Drake,” the conspirators worked out the details of a monstrous plan.

So shocking, so heinous was the act of terrorism these men proposed to commit that, as Adam Nicolson puts it, the plot “would come to define Jacobean England (that is, England during the reign of James I) as much as September 11, 2001, would shape the attitudes, fears and methods of revenge of the western world in the first decade of the twenty-first century.” The aim of the so-called “Gunpowder Plotters”: to blow up the Parliament building with all the royal family and Britain’s political leaders inside. Had the plot not been discovered at the 11th hour, the carnage would have been immense.

Nor did the religious and social upheaval stop there. The seeds had already been sown for the horrific Thirty Years’ War, the last and most savage of the Post-Reformation religious wars, which would begin just 14 years after Hampton Court, in 1618. Sixteen years after Hampton Court, in 1620, English religious dissidents gave up on both the Established Church and their own nation and fled to Plymouth, Massachusetts, to set up a new church and a new state. These were the “Pilgrims” of Thanksgiving fame. They shared many of the convictions of the more conservative Puritans and Presbyterians, but wanted the state to be removed from church affairs altogether — hence the public label “separatist.” Though their exodus from James’s England was little-noticed at the time, the king would come to call the colonies “a seminary for a fractious Parliament.”

And on it would go: in 1642, the English Civil War began. The following year, James’s son Charles I was made prisoner at this very same Hampton Court Palace — the place of his own honeymoon. Then Charles was executed by Parliament itself, under the Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell — a regicide that horrified the crowned heads of Europe.

The Puritans make their case
As James prepared to take the throne, these events were still in the future, but portents abounded. His was a nation whose apparently calm surface hid powerful stirrings of discontent. From the first, he worked with a kind of monomaniacal passion to preserve unity, law and order within his kingdom.

James received word of his cousin Elizabeth’s death and his appointment to the throne while he was in Edinburgh, Scotland. It didn’t take him long to head south. On April 5, 1603, he began his journey to London to be crowned. He was in no hurry, his trip taking a little over a month. (Sir Robert Carey’s urgent — and selfishly motivated — trip to Scotland from London to bring James the news of Elizabeth’s death had taken just over three days.) He arrived in London May 7.

James’s journey south was a kind of extended triumphal procession as the populace came out to celebrate and welcome him in the towns and villages along the way. Although still wondering what this new king would bring to their land, the canny and the wise were determined to be on his good side when he brought it.

This happy tour was marked by an important interruption. Along the way, James was approached by a Puritan delegation, who presented the new king with the petition that would lead to the Hampton Court Conference and the eventual commissioning of the King James Version of the Bible.

The document must have come from well-coordinated organizations among the Puritans. It outlined their grievances to the king, stating the additional reforms they implored James to implement. Known as the Millenary Petition because, although no copy has survived, it is supposed to have borne over 1,000 clergy signatures (some 10 percent of the clergy in the land), the plea of this group to their king calls to mind various 20th-century movements of “10 percenters.”

Ten percent can make a huge difference and have dramatic impact, especially when comprising those who have felt marginalized and are highly motivated, well organized, and clear in their goals. They can demand attention, and they often do gain it.

‘Longing for redress of … abuses of the church’

At 1,100 words long and respectful in tone, the petition assured the king of the Puritans’ loyalty to the crown and commitment to national unity. It began: “

(W)e, the ministers of the Gospel in this land, neither as factious men affecting a popular parity in the Church, nor as schismatics aiming at the dissolution of the state ecclesiastical, but as the faithful servants of Christ and loyal subjects to your Majesty, desiring and longing for the redress of divers abuses of the Church, could do no less ... than acquaint your princely Majesty with our particular griefs. For as your princely pen writeth, ‘The King, as a good physician, must first know what peccant humours his patient naturally is most subject unto before he can begin his cure.’“

The petition asked for an overhaul of the church’s worship, ministry, ecclesiastical finance and discipline. It implored James to allow no “popish opinions” in worship, no bowing at the name of Jesus, and no use of “apocryphal” biblical books — books of the Christian Old Testament that were not part of the Hebrew Bible but were traditionally included in Bibles as deuterocanonical (“second canon”).

The reforms were to be thorough­going, attending even to matters that may sound trivial today but were deadly serious to the Puritans, with their devotion to things spiritual and their suspicion of things material. No more wedding rings, no more use of the sign of the cross, and no more wearing of certain liturgical clothing were to be countenanced. Ministers must be able to preach effectively — away with those who wouldn’t, or couldn’t. And away with the abuse known as “pluralism,” in which ministers and bishops enjoyed jurisdiction over (and income from!) far more churches than they could reasonably serve. Finally, the church courts must cease arbitrary and inappropriate uses of canon law. In closing, the Puritans appealed to the king with a rationale they trusted would move him to action: “Thus your majesty shall do that which we are persuaded shall be acceptable to God ... profitable to his Church which shall be thereby increased; comfortable to your ministers which shall be no more suspended, silenced, disgraced, imprisoned for men’s traditions; and prejudicial to none but to those that seek their own quiet, credit, and profit in the world.”

With boldness, the authors reminded James that he too was under authority — God’s: “Thus with all dutiful submission referring ourselves to your Majesty’s pleasure for your gracious answer as God shall direct you, we most humbly recommend your Highness to the Divine Majesty, whom we beseech for Christ’s sake to dispose your royal heart to do herein what shall be to his glory, the good of his Church, and your endless comfort.” With their last words, they assured their king that they were his obedient servants, who desired “not a disorderly innovation but a due and godly reformation.”

What did not appear in the Millenary Petition was any mention of a new Bible translation.

A conference is called
James took these Puritan ministers seriously enough to call a conference. In a royal proclamation in October 1603, the king announced a meeting to take place before “himself and counsel, his bishops, and other learned men on the first day of the next month.” However, the conference did not convene as planned on Nov. 1, but had to be postponed “by reason of sickness reigning in many places of our kingdom.” Both the later date and the choice of the Hampton Court venue may have arisen because of the plague ravaging London.

Built by Cardinal Wolsey in the era of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is a magnificent estate 15 miles southwest of London on the Thames River. Wolsey, the son of a butcher, had risen to become Lord Chancellor of England, cardinal and the pope’s representative. He began to build the opulent palace in 1515. Some 2,500 workers were hired to build the 1,000-room palace, and 500 staff were employed to keep it running smoothly. James came to Hampton Court that first year for lavish Christmas and New Year’s events. William Shakespeare’s “King’s Men” players (so named because they had procured James’s personal sponsorship) performed before the king in the Great Hall on Boxing Day in 1603. Shakespeare himself performed there in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on New Year’s Day.

The players, the stage and the action
As the participants in the conference gathered in the palace, there would have been a special feeling of substance, significance and permanence.

They met in the king’s sanctum — his “Privy Chamber” or private apartment. The participants were the king, his Privy Council of advisors, and nine bishops and deans. The bishops included John Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Richard Bancroft, the bishop of London.

Also present were four representatives of the Puritan cause, known to be mature, experienced, and moderate men: Dr. John Reynolds (or Rainolds), head of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Laurence Chaderton, a noted preacher and Master of Emmanuel College in the Puritan stronghold of Cambridge (says Nicolson: “Chaderton ... once paused after two hours of a Cambridge sermon. The entire congregation stood up and shouted, ‘For God’s sake go on!’ He gave them another hour”); John Knewstubs, rector of Cockfield in Suffolk; and Thomas Sparks, a relatively unknown preacher. But, although the Puritans were given a voice, it was clear the deck was stacked against them.

The conference met on Saturday, Jan. 14, 1604, and then also on the 16th and 18th. No official transcripts of the conference proceedings were permitted, so results have to be pieced together from various reports. The two main sources are Thomas Barlow’s official report “The Summe and Substance of the Conference at Hampton Court” and “An Anonymous Account.”

Like Constantine at the Council of Nicea, James delivered the opening address. His opening words set the tone. The doctrine and polity of the state church was not up for evaluation or reconsideration:

“It is no novel device, but according to the example of all Christian princes, for Kings to take the first course for the establishing of the Church both in doctrine and policy.... Particularly in this land, King Henry VIII towards to the end of his reign altered much, King Edward VI more, Queen Mary reversed all, and lastly Queen Elizabeth (of famous memory) settled religion as it now standeth. Herein I am happier than they, because they were fain to alter all things they found established, whereas I see yet no such cause to change as confirm what I find settled already.”

James hinted that he found great security in the structure and hierarchy of the English church, in contrast to the Presbyterian model he had witnessed firsthand in Scotland. At this point he was surprisingly self-revealing. Though he obviously intended to please his delegates, he also made no effort to hide his previous frustration in Scotland:

“For blessed be God’s gracious goodness, who hath brought me into the Promised Land where religion is purely professed, where I sit among grave, learned and revered men, not as before, elsewhere, a King without state, without honour, where beardless boys would brave us to the face.”

James then made it clear that although basic structural changes in doctrine and practice were not needed, there might be room for some cosmetic enhancement. “I assure you we have not called this assembly for any innovation,” he began. Yet he admitted that even the best of systems is subject to corruption over time. And he acknowledged that “we have received many complaints, since our first entrance into this kingdom, of many disorders, and much disobedience to the laws, with a great falling away to popery.”

Therefore he would take the role of the “good physician,” “to examine and try the complaints, and fully to remove the occasions thereof, if scandalous; cure them, if dangerous; and take knowledge of them, if but frivolous ...”

Despite this apparent concession, James did not allow the Puritans to attend the first day of the conference. On that day, James discussed with his advisors, bishops, and deans various church practices such as baptism, absolution and excommunication.

On the second day the four Puritans were allowed to join in the meeting. John Reynolds took the lead on their behalf, and at one point in the deliberations raised the question of church government. But if Reynolds had any chance of being heard, he lost it by one inopportune, and no doubt unintended, reference.

Reynolds wanted to know whether a more collegial approach to church administration might be in order — a broadening of the decision-making base. Unfortunately, he posed his question this way: “Why shouldn’t the bishops govern jointly with a presbyterie of their brethren the pastors and ministers of the Church?”

Using the word presbyterie in James’s presence was like waving a red flag before a bull. The king exploded: “If you aim at a Scots Presbyterie, it agreeth as well with Monarchy as God and the Devil! Then Jack, and Tom, and Will, and Dick, shall meet and censure me and my council, and all our proceedings.”

He then uttered what can be considered his motto: “No bishop, no King!” That is, without the episcopacy, there can be no properly functioning monarchy.

He followed this heartfelt cry with the other famous phrase, perhaps the most memorable and most quoted that has survived the conference, as he warned Reynolds: “If this be all your party hath to say, I will make them conform themselves, or else I will harrie them out of the land, or else do worse!”

Some British scholars question this statement’s authenticity, suggesting that it might have been not the direct words of James but high-church propaganda. But the sentiment cannot be far off, for in a letter almost contemporaneous to the conference, written to Henry Howard the Earl of Northampton, James described his own performance in response to the Puritans:

“We have kept such a revel with the puritans these last two days as was never heard the like. I have peppered them as soundly as you have done the papists. ... They fled me so from argument to argument, without ever answering me directly, and I was forced at last to say unto them, that if any of them had been in a college disputing with their scholars, if any of their disciples had answered them in that sort, they would have fetched him up in place of a reply and should the rod have been plied upon the poor boys’ buttocks.”

James also revealed his true feelings toward the Puritans from his time in Scotland when he said that he had “lived among Puritans and was kept for the most part as a Ward under them, yet, since he was of the age of his Son, ten years old, he ever disliked their opinions; as the Savior of the world said, ‘though he lived among them, he was not of them.’” While Reynolds’s indiscreet use of the term “presbyterie” may have damaged the Puritan case, he did get credit for one move on this second day that turned out to be the most significant achievement of the conference and a historic landmark. Reynolds “moved his majesty that there might be a new translation of the Bible, because those which were allowed in the reign of King Henry the Eighth and Edward the Sixth were corrupt and not answerable to the truth of the original.”

James warmed to the suggestion. Strong resistance came immediately from the bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, but once the king showed his support for the translation project, the bishop quickly and conveniently changed his mind — to be rewarded by James with the chairmanship of the project.

James’ desire for a new translation
The king liked the idea of a new translation for a few reasons. First, he despised the popular Geneva Bible. He “could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but the worst of all, his Majesty thought the Geneva to be.” It wasn’t so much the quality of the translation of the Geneva Bible that bothered James. What irked him most were the marginal notes, which contained commentary and interpretation that he found politically subversive. He urged, “Let errors, in matters of faith, be amended, and indifferent things be interpreted, and a gloss added unto them.”

So, a project to create a new, reliable translation commended itself to this new king. It would displace the despised Geneva Bible, throw a bone to the Puritans, provide a single Scripture for public reading in the churches, represent a symbol of unity in his realm, and not least, edify the lives of his subjects, the church and the nation.

James spoke of the “special pains” he wanted taken on this translation. The mandate issued by Archbishop Bancroft insisted that this translation was to be accurate, popular, non-sectarian, speedy, national and authoritative.

He also mentioned getting the translation right according to the originals. He had 47 of the nation’s finest scholars of the biblical languages and of English appointed to do the work. Then he approved rules, written by Bancroft, for carefully checking the results.

Did James get what he wanted?
James was looking for a single translation that the whole nation could rely on. “To be read in the whole Church, and none other,” as he phrased it.

In his original statement calling for a translation, the king insisted that he wanted a translation with scholarly and royal authority, observing: “I wish some special pains were taken for an uniform translation, which should be done by the best learned men in both Universities, then reviewed by the Bishops, presented to the Privy Council, lastly ratified by the Royal authority.”

How can we assess these men’s work? Did they serve their king well in this matter of a Bible translation? The easiest answer to this is that the KJV achieved an unrivaled accuracy (even, at certain points, rendering impenetrable Hebrew expressions in equally impenetrable English.). For Protestants only generations removed from the Reformation — James among them — this was certainly its highest value. By this measure, the KJV is a tremendous success.

Then there are the qualities of the language itself. It is surely these qualities that make the KJV still today, by most measures, the most beloved Bible translation in the English language. Adam Nicolson celebrates the KJV’s “sense of clarity and directness” combined with “majestic substance ... the great ceremonial atmosphere of its long, carefully organized, musical rhythms.” This is surely just what James must have wanted: a Bible that breathed “an atmosphere both godly and kingly.”

No wonder the KJV has shaped the English language more than any other book. James’s translators created a Bible version that is “an exact and almost literal translation of the original,” infused at the same time with “a sense of beauty and ceremony.” Truly this was a translation fit for a king.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This article is from Christian History magazine’s special 100th edition on the making of the King James Bible. It is used with permission of the Christian History Institute. To read the full magazine online, which includes other articles about the King James Bible, visit May marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)

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5/16/2011 8:21:00 AM by A. Kenneth Curtis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Professor: KJV has strengths others lack

May 16 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WHEATON, Ill. — Leland Ryken is a Christian and an English professor, so perhaps it’s a given that he would love the richness of the King James Version Bible translation — so much so that he wrote a book to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication.

But Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, isn’t a King James-only believer, and his service on the translation oversight committee of the English Standard Version (ESV) puts him in a unique position to critique the King James Bible, the most printed book in history. (He was a literary stylist for the ESV committee.)

Much has been gained by having new translations, Ryken says, but much has also been lost. Scripture memorization, for instance, took a hit when multiple translations came on the scene, he believes.

Ryken, author of “The Legacy of the King James Bible” (Crossway, 2011), spoke with Baptist Press about the King James Version. Following is a partial transcript:

BAPTIST PRESS (BP): The King James Bible was not the first English Bible. Why, then, was it far more popular than its predecessors such as the Tyndale Bible and the Geneva Bible?

Ryken: Starting with Tyndale, there were six English Bibles that preceded the King James Bible of 1611. I would describe those six translations as a single communal effort. Yes, they were carried on by distinct committees and individuals, but each one of those translations built upon its predecessors. There was a process of refinement going on, so that the King James Bible reaped the benefit of those earlier translations. And I would have to credit the King James translators with having what one scholar called “a sure instinct for betterment” — that is, they did the tweaks that really brought it to its climax. So the King James Bible was great because of what preceded it.

BP: I have read that it took several decades for it to catch on in popularity. Is that true?

Ryken: We live in a day of debunking. The main opinion is that the King James Version was unsuccessful upon its publication. That is not what my research uncovered. It was not an immediate sensation, but it was, in my view, an immediate success. It went through 182 editions in its first 35 years. That’s a success story in my view.

BP: It was written, at least partially, for public use for oral reading. What does that involve, and how was it successful?

Ryken: First of all, it said on the first page, “This Bible was intended for reading in the church.” What it means is that the translators lived in what we would call an oral culture. It was in the process of becoming a print culture, but wasn’t quite there. That means that they just had ears that were tuned to rhythm and cadence and flow so that, to this day, I think the King James Bible is matchless in its cadence and its flow. It just reads well, and modern translations that follow in the lineage of the King James Version can also partake of that quality.

BP: You already partially answered this question: What are some ways you think the King James Bible remains superior to modern translations, and maybe some ways that you think it is inferior.

Ryken: It is supreme in its fluency, first of all. Secondly, we just have to praise the King James Bible for its language and style. It’s not easy to find the adjectives to describe it, but it’s elegant and it is dignified.... The language is beautiful. Quite often the language is quite simple, but the effect is majestic and moving.

BP: What do you mean by fluency?

Ryken: It flows smoothly when read aloud. If we take a modern colloquial Bible, the moment someone starts reading it in public, it does not flow well; it’s flat. It particularly comes out when a whole congregation starts to read it.

BP: Are there any ways that you think modern translations are superior to the King James Bible?

Ryken: Yes, the language of the King James is archaic. I say that even as someone who teaches Renaissance literature. It is a really difficult read for me. And, secondly, I think we have to acknowledge that scholarship has advanced a lot in the last four centuries; the King James is not the most accurate translation.

BP: Was it written in the language of the day?

Ryken: Yes, I think it was, but given a continuum that always exists in a culture, it was on the more formal end of the continuum. Certainly it was not in the idiom of spoken or conversational English. But in the register of written English of the day? Yes.

BP: What impact did the King James Bible have on succeeding English translations?

Ryken: It had the playing field to itself until the mid-20th century. Beginning then, there have been three English translations that have consciously tried to retain all that was good in the King James Bible while updating the scholarship, grammar and language. The first of those was the Revised Standard Version, then the New King James Version and then more recently the English Standard Version. All of those retained the essentially literal philosophy of the King James translators, and they consciously appropriated what is excellent in the style of the King James Version.

BP: What do you mean by the style?

Ryken: I mean the register of language — that it remains elegant and not colloquial, not dressed down, not reduced to a sixth-grade level, which is very common in the easy-reading modern translations. It is possible to retain the phraseology, the sentence flow, the rhythm of the King James Bible in a modern translation. It can be done.

BP: What has been lost by having multiple translations and not having a common English Bible?

Ryken: Everything has been lost by our loss of a common English Bible. Christians and the public at large no longer know what it means when we speak of the “the” Bible, whereas for three centuries everyone knew what that meant. I think it has taken away the incentive to determine what an accurate translation is. If we look around a group and we have six different translations, the sentiment readily sets in, “Well who is to say which one is right?” And we finally give up the quest to find out which is the right one. Also, Bible memorization became very difficult, and in many churches became a lost cause.

BP: So Bible memorization was assisted by having a common Bible?

Ryken: Absolutely. It comes back to this matter of fluency. The King James is filled with memorable phrases.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

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5/16/2011 8:12:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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