May 2013

N.C. Baptists nominees for SBC leadership

May 31 2013 by BR staff

Fred Luter, Southern Baptist Convention president, recently announced appointments to the SBC’s Committee on Committees.
This committee will serve in Houston, Texas, just prior to the convention’s annual meeting June 11-12. It will nominate members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, will nominate trustees to serve on various SBC boards. SBC Bylaw 19 also provides that the Committee on Committees “shall nominate all special committees authorized during the sessions of the Convention not otherwise provided for.” Two people from each of the areas served by the 35 state or regional conventions make up the 70 members.
North Carolina is represented by Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, and J. Bartley Wooten, senior pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville.
Nominees were also announced recently for service on the SBC Executive Committee, the four denominational boards – International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources – the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the six seminaries, and the Committee on Order of Business. These nominees were chosen by the 2013 SBC Committee on Nominations. The nominees will be presented at the SBC annual meeting for approval.

Stanley J. Welch, pastor of West Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville, has been nominated for a term to expire in 2016 for a spot on the Executive Committee. If approved, Welch will replace Ed Yount, senior pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, who resigned.
There were two N.C. Baptists nominated for a second term on the Executive Committee also: Bryan “Scott” Davis of Concord and Jeffrey “Jeff” B. Watson of Winston-Salem. On GuideStone’s board, George B. Walker of Greensboro is ineligible for re-election. His term will expire in 2017. Jack M. Stancil, a layperson and member of Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh, has been chosen as a nominee for Walker’s spot.
For LifeWay, David H. Horner, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, has been nominated for a second term. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has A. Earle Finley II of Raleigh being nominated for a second term. The term for David K. Wagoner of Charlotte is expiring in 2018. Melinda Delahoyde, a layperson and member of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, has been nominated to replace Wagoner.
Mike Cummings of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, was named as a member of the Credentials Committee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For more about the Southern Baptist Convention, visit here.)
5/31/2013 3:03:56 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Russell Moore: the call to ministry & the public square

May 31 2013 by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For Russell Moore, it all makes sense. His new job as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) resolves a nearly 30-year tension in his life between vocational ministry and vocational politics. 

“I think I’ve always had the tension between the call to ministry – which I experienced very early on – and the call to the public square,” said Moore, 41, who will begin his work for the Southern Baptist Convention’s political entity June 1. “I’ve always been drawn to the political world, while seeing both the limits and the possibilities of it.”

Moore’s call to ministry began when he was about 12 years old. He grew up in Biloxi, Miss., an immigrant-heavy town on the Gulf of Mexico with less than 50,000 residents. Not quite a quaint Southern town, Biloxi is basically a cultural spillover from New Orleans. The Moores attended Woolmarket Baptist Church, the same congregation Moore’s grandfather pastored before he was born.

“I was always around the gospel,” Moore said. “But there was a particular Sunday night, I think, when, as I walked home from church, I was struck with the gospel in a new way, and I came to know Christ on that walk home.”

Not long after, Moore sensed a particular desire and calling toward ministry. When the pastor of Woolmarket heard about Moore’s desire, he scheduled a youth service so Moore could preach his first sermon.

Photo by Emil Handke
Russell Moore, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was a familiar face at Southern Seminary for more than a decade. Here, as the seminary’s vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology, he addresses the seminary’s Expositors Summit last fall.

“It was this collection of random texts about essentially everything in the Bible that uses an armor-of-God type of metaphor,” Moore said. “I preached about the full armor of God from Ephesians 6, but then I just rambled on everywhere. It was horrible, and remarkably short given the amount of material I had.”

Moore first entered real-time politics when he was 18 years old. It was 1988 and Democrat Gene Taylor was running for the congressional seat in Mississippi’s fifth district, and Moore became a volunteer in the campaign. Taylor lost. But eight months later, the state of Mississippi held a special election to fill that same office, and Taylor won. 

In 1990, Moore went to work for him as a congressional aide. This role took him to and from Washington, D.C., and all across the state of Mississippi.

It was a hectic time of life. He was studying history and political science at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg – about an hour from Biloxi, where he still lived – and working on the staff of a United States congressman.

Then, his sophomore year, he met a young lady. She was friends with Moore’s cousin, Kim, who, for months insisted that he and her friend would make a good pair. 

Eventually, Moore decided he would follow Kim’s advice and take out her friend. In biology class one day, he wrote a note to his cousin telling her that, if her friend was interested, so was he. Not long after, Moore bought Maria dinner at a local restaurant called The Chimneys.

“I knew that night that I was going to marry her,” Moore said of his first date with Maria. Just as Moore predicted, the two married May 27, 1994. 

At the time, Moore’s plan was to continue working with Taylor and follow that path to a political career. He wanted to serve on Taylor’s congressional staff while attending law school in Washington.

But, again, Moore’s calling toward ministry drew him a different direction. In the fall of that year, he enrolled at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to prepare for vocational ministry, working toward a master of divinity degree. 

The following summer, Moore attended the sesquicentennial Southern Baptist Convention – the 150th meeting of the denomination’s messengers – where he heard a sermon that would influence the next 20 years of his life.

“In 1995, I heard Al Mohler preach from Joshua 4: ‘What Mean These Stones?’” Moore said earlier this year during his farewell chapel sermon. “I’d been to a lot of religious events, and in many of these I’d heard strings of clichés put together in order to evoke ‘amens,’ in order to prop up whatever status quo was being propped up. But this was different. This was someone preaching with a power, with a conviction, with a rootedness and with a theological vision that wasn’t some kind of antebellum reenaction of somebody else’s thought.

“He spoke as someone not speaking for Bible-belt civil religion but someone speaking of an ancient vision of what it means to be the people of Christ,” Moore said. “He was preaching something that sounded so different from anything I had ever heard from a living person. It was a vision that wasn’t only 150 years in the past, but a vision that was looking 150 years into the future. And as I stood there listening to that, I said, ‘That is what I believe; that’s the vision I hold to and I would love to give my life to.’ And I still do.” 

For Moore, Mohler’s sermon sparked an interest in studying at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under a president he saw as a visionary leader. In the fall of 1997, the same year he finished at New Orleans Seminary, he enrolled at Southern as a doctoral candidate in systematic and historical theology, writing under Mohler’s supervision. He also worked for the president as his research assistant.

Moving to Louisville, Ky., the location of Southern Seminary, meant moving away from Biloxi. Before then, Moore spent time in Washington, traveling all around the state of Mississippi and commuting back and forth from New Orleans for seminary. But neither he nor his wife ever lived as residents anywhere other than Biloxi.

“Biloxi was and is crucially formative on me,” Moore said about his hometown. “It’s where I come from, but it’s also where I met Christ, it’s where I met my wife, it’s where our roots are. It was a very good place for me to grow up for all sorts of reasons. I come from a family that was one-half Baptist, one-half Catholic in the least Bible-belty part of the Bible belt. It is made up of a large immigrant population from Serbia, Croatia and, in more recent years, Vietnam. All of that was and is formative on me, in ways that I know and in ways that I don’t know.”

Moore’s academic pursuits, even at two theological seminaries, reflect his passions for the public square and highlight the tension in Moore’s mind between his call to ministry and his draw toward politics. His doctoral dissertation, which he defended in 2002, is “Kingdom Theology and the American Evangelical Consensus: Emerging Implications for Sociopolitical Engagement.” 

When Moore joined the faculty of Southern Seminary in 2001 as instructor of Christian theology, he also became executive director of the seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement – a position suited well for a theologian with a mind toward public discourse.

In his time at Southern, Moore was a doctoral student, research assistant for the president, professor and, in January 2004, he became an administrator. In a move that he said shocked him, Mohler appointed Moore to the roles of dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration, a post opened when then-dean Daniel Akin left Southern to become president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I have loved this job,” Moore said of his role as dean and senior vice president. “I’ve loved working with these people.

“I’ve been able to spend the last nearly 10 years not only dealing with issues but dealing with people in various ways, both denominationally and personally here leading this size organization with all of the various moving parts. Also the kind of experiences I’ve been able to have here, to be both in the academy and in the church has been helpful.”

The deanship at Southern Seminary came as a surprise to Moore. Nearly 15 years before, though, when he was in his first year working for Taylor, he thought about a different role he might enjoy.

“It never crossed my mind that I would be dean at Southern Seminary,” Moore said. “But it had crossed my mind that I’d like to be president of the ERLC.”

Back in 1991, Congress was approaching a vote on the Persian Gulf War. As an aide to a congressman, Moore’s duty was to assemble materials about the conflict and help the congressman think through the issue.

“I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what my denomination says about just war as it applies to this.’ So I called the ERLC – then known as the Christian Life Commission – and talked to Jim Smith, who is now editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, who sent me a lot of materials. And I remember thinking at the time about Richard Land [the long-time president of the ERLC] and saying to myself, ‘I would love to be able to do what he does.’ So, it had crossed my mind that I would love to be president of the ERLC.”

Last year, Land announced his retirement from the entity. The head of the ERLC works with and in the media, meets with elected officials, shapes legislative strategies for the organization and helps churches think through ethical issues. This was, and is, Moore’s dream job.

On March 26, 2013, trustees of the ERLC elected Moore as its next president. He will be the eighth president of the entity.

“I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Southern Baptists as ERLC president,” Moore said after the announcement. “I pray for God’s grace to lead the ERLC to be a catalyst for connecting the agenda of the Kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the Gospel in the world.”

A few weeks later, on April 16, Southern Seminary honored Moore for his nearly 10 years of service when he preached his last chapel sermon as dean and senior vice president.

Photo by Emil Handke
The Moore family (from left): Timothy, Samuel, Russell, Taylor, Maria, Jonah and Benjamin.

The chapel service came during the spring meeting of the Southern Seminary Board of Trustees. Before Moore preached, Mohler addressed those in attendance, including members of the board and a sizable gathering of the seminary community. Mohler introduced Moore and commented extensively on the dean’s tenure at the seminary.

“This is the last sermon Russell D. Moore will preach here as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is going to be the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nothing should make Southern Baptists more thankful than that fact,” Mohler said. “God has prepared Russ Moore for this position in a way such that anyone close to him, anyone who knows him, knows that God made his genetic structure for this job and made him for this time.”

Mohler continued: “I knew him as a student. I have known him as a colleague. And this is one of those bittersweet moments when we say ‘goodbye’ to a friend. At the same time, we want to rejoice because we have immense personal and institutional pride in Southern Baptists’ electing him to this position, and we want him to know how grateful we are for his years of service here. Transformative years. Crucial years. Historic years.

“When you work with someone, you inevitably get to know them better day-by-day and year-by-year. To know Russ Moore is to know that what you see in him at first is only just a hint of what is to come. Southern Baptists will discover this year-by-year, through his service as president of the ERLC. We have experienced that – I most close at hand and most gratefully,” Mohler said.

“There are so many things that could and might properly be said, but the most important thing to say is ‘thank you’ to Russ Moore.”

Moore preached a sermon titled, “The Weight of Twelve Stones: Reflections on a Grateful Goodbye” from the Book of Joshua, chapter 4 – the same text he heard Mohler preach in 1995.

“I chose this text today because this text chose me,” Moore said. “This text is the reason we wound up here at Southern Seminary in the first place.”

Immediately following Moore’s sermon, the seminary held a reception in his honor. Hundreds of people – trustees, faculty, staff, students and friends – filled the Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion to congratulate and express appreciation to Moore and his family, including his wife Maria and their five sons. 

At the reception, Mohler presented the Moore family with a large, commemorative photograph of Southern Seminary’s campus. Later, at a dinner with faculty and trustees, Mohler gave Moore a portrait of influential Southern Baptist John Broadus, one of the seminary’s founders.

According to Moore, his new position at the ERLC resolves a 30-year tension in his ministry, a pull between the pulpit and the public square. Now, he can do both. 

“I think both 12-year-old and 18-year-old Russell Moore would see that this all makes sense,” Moore said of his long-time passions for ministry and politics meeting in his new position. 

“I always had more things that I wanted to do than I could do. I wanted to be involved in ministry; I wanted to be involved in politics; I wanted to be involved in culture. This role enables me to look back and see what sometimes seemed to be little cul-de-sacs off the main road really weren’t cul-de-sacs at all. In the providence of God, He was preparing me for something else.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
5/31/2013 2:51:46 PM by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Documentary tells Vietnam vet’s post-battlefield spiritual journey

May 31 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Greg Tomlin will always remember the day he and his father Jerry, a Vietnam veteran, visited the site where Jerry was wounded in combat.

All day the elder Tomlin was withdrawn. Then on the battlefield he spoke to his comrades who died the day he was wounded, telling them, “So long, boys. I’m never going to think about this again.” After that, Greg Tomlin says his father was different, like a burden had been lifted. Since that day their relationship has been stronger than ever.
Greg Tomlin hopes that a documentary he has produced, written and directed similarly deepens relationships between other Vietnam veterans and their sons and daughters by encouraging them to discuss what happened in the war. Such discussions will help veterans’ children “understand what their dads went through and what made them who they are,” he said.

“I always wanted to sit down and talk with my dad about this stuff, but I knew it was painful and I knew some of the stuff he did there was hard for him,” Tomlin told Baptist Press. Yet the trip to Vietnam shed light on “an integral part of who he is.”

Tomlin’s documentary, “The Man Left Behind,” follows retired Army colonel Paul Longgrear, along with his wife and three adult children, back to the Vietnam jungle where he was wounded and, amid the anguish, turned to Christ 45 years ago during the Battle of Lang Vei. The film has received critical acclaim, including selection as a finalist at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival in February following its summer 2012 release.

Contributed photo
Paul Longgrear smiles after visiting an ethnic minority village in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, which included traditional Montagnard dancing and gong music. Longgrear was a Special Forces officer in command of a Mobile Strike Force (MIKE Force) made up of Montagnard fighters during the Vietnam War. See video.

“We encourage other young men – and by young, I mean in their 40s by now – whose dads fought there [in Vietnam], if their dad’s willing to take them back, to explore that very important part of their father’s life with them,” Tomlin, a Southern Baptist, said.

The Man Left Behind is narrated by actor Terence Knox, whom Tomlin has known for 25 years. Many Vietnam veterans will remember Knox from his role on CBS Television’s Vietnam War drama, “Tour of Duty.”

On Feb. 7, 1968, Longgrear lay wounded on the battlefield and thought he was dying.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, he turned expecting to confront an enemy soldier. But what he saw changed his life. Longgrear says God appeared, in a form so bright he couldn’t look at it, and asked, “What are you going to do now?” Recoiling into a fetal position, Longgrear realized with tears in his eyes he had to submit his life to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

As quickly as God appeared, He was gone. But peace and a sense of being loved has remained with Longgrear the past four decades. In fact, the once-hardened soldier went on to become a minister.

Such an unusual conversion story “was difficult for me [to believe] at first, and it took a lot of conviction on my part from the Holy Spirit,” Tomlin said. Ultimately, he decided the story was both credible and consistent with scripture.

“There was one point when [Longgrear] was telling his story the first time I’d ever talked to him,” Tomlin said. “I thought, ‘This is ... hard for me to believe.’ Then I thought, ‘Is this any different than what God did in the Bible?’ And the answer was no. And then the other question was, ‘Do you not think God is big enough to do this? Do you not still think that God works miracles?’ And I do. Because it’s never happened to me, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.”

The Man Left Behind also tells how Longgrear’s wife Patty promised to pray for him before he deployed and kept faithfully her promise. Longgrear said his wife’s words, “I’ll be praying for you,” echoed in his mind throughout the battle at Lang Vei. Patty Longgrear’s brother was killed in the war, and the film includes the family’s reflections on his death as well.

One of Tomlin’s goals with the film is to share the gospel with Vietnam veterans, a group to whom he believes ministry has been neglected. While veterans of other wars were welcomed home with parades and celebrations, Vietnam veterans often faced scorn, he said, a reality that exacerbated the spiritual and emotional wounds of war.

As a ministry to Vietnam veterans, Tomlin’s church in Fort Worth, Texas – Travis Avenue Baptist Church – rented a theater and showed The Man Left Behind. At the end there was a Gospel presentation. Though no one professed faith in Christ that night, veterans said the film was powerful. Several other churches have shown it as well.

“A lot of these guys have been through some seriously trying times and still have difficulty with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other ailments from the war,” Tomlin said of Vietnam veterans. “But our goal first and foremost was to share the love of Christ with them. And that’s to show them that God is more powerful than the effects of war.”

Tomlin is in discussions about distributing The Man Left Behind in various markets throughout the world. It is available for purchase at or

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. See video.)
5/31/2013 2:40:31 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC Calvinism committee releases report

May 31 2013 by SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has released a report from the Calvinism Advisory Committee. Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, will share the report during the SBC’s annual meeting June 11-12 in Houston, Texas. 
See full report below.


A Statement from the Calvinism Advisory Committee

Southern Baptists are Great Commission people. We are also a doctrinal people, and those doctrinal convictions undergird our Great Commission vision and passion. We are a confessional people, who stand together upon the doctrines most vital to us all, confessed together in The Baptist Faith and Message.

Within this common confession, we sometimes disagree over certain theological issues that should not threaten our Great Commission cooperation. We recognize that significant theological disagreement on such issues has occurred with respect to Calvinism. It is, therefore, our responsibility to come together with open hearts and minds in order to speak truthfully, honestly, and respectfully about these theological and doctrinal issues that concern us, threaten to divide us, and compel us into conversation. Such engagement is appropriate at every level of Southern Baptist life including local congregations, associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

This spirit of conversation has been the hallmark of the meetings of the Calvinism Advisory Committee. We have spent hours together in fruitful, respectful, and candid conversation. We entered these conversations as brothers and sisters in Christ and as faithful and thankful Southern Baptists. Our purpose was neither to resolve centuries of doctrinal disagreement nor to consume ourselves with doctrinal debate. Our purpose was to suggest a course for moving forward together while taking seriously and representing fairly the theological diversity that exists in and has been the strength of Southern Baptist life.

Four central issues have become clear to us as we have met together. We affirm together that Southern Baptists must stand without apology upon truth; that we do indeed have some challenging but not insurmountable points of tension; that we must work together with trust; and that we must encourage one another to testimony.


The Bible

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are the inerrant, infallible, and totally trustworthy Word of God and our supreme authority on all matters of truth. We affirm that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great theme of all Scripture and that the Bible is sufficient to reveal all we need to know concerning God’s purpose to save sinners.

We deny that any human system of thought or any theological tradition can assume supreme authority or be allowed to supplant dependence upon the Bible and all that it reveals. Neither Calvinism nor non-Calvinism ought to be equated exclusively with sound Southern Baptist doctrine nor be considered inconsistent with it.

The Lostness of Humanity

We affirm that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that the universal condition of humanity is lostness, as every single human being, Jesus alone excepted, is a sinner whose only hope of salvation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We deny that any human being is without need of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and we deny any teaching that minimizes the truth about sin and the need of all persons to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Power of the Gospel

We affirm that our Lord is mighty to save and that He saves to the uttermost. We affirm the power of the Gospel to redeem every single human being through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom the Father has now declared to be both Lord and Christ, the Savior of the world.

We deny that the Gospel is without power to save anyone who repents and believes in Jesus Christ. We also deny that the Gospel as revealed in Scripture lacks anything needful for
our salvation.

The Offer of the Gospel

We affirm that the Gospel is to be made known freely to all in the good faith offer that if anyone confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord and believes in his heart that God has raised Christ from the dead, he will be saved.

We deny that the Gospel lacks any power to save anyone who believes in Christ and receives Him as Savior and Lord. Anyone who understands the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit may, in prayer and petition, trust Christ through repentance and faith, and we should plead with all sinners to do so.

The Exclusivity of the Gospel

We affirm that salvation is found in the name of Christ and in no other name. We affirm that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can come to the Father but by Him. We affirm the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ as the only message of salvation.

We deny that salvation can come to any sinner by any other gospel, any other system of faith and practice, or by any name other than Jesus Christ.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

We affirm that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was both penal and substitutionary and that the atonement He accomplished was sufficient for the sins of the entire world.

We deny that thereis anything lacking in the atonement of Christ to provide for the salvation of anyone.

The Reality of Heaven and Hell

We affirm that all who come to Christ by faith will be with Him forever in heaven, which He has prepared for the saints. We affirm that all who reject Christ and do not come to Him by faith will spend eternity in hell, a place of eternal punishment.

We deny that there is any opportunity for salvation after the point of death, when all humanity will face the judgment of God.

The Necessity of Conversion

We affirm that salvation involves the conversion of the sinner, whereby the sinner consciously clings to Christ by faith, repents of sin, believes the promises of the Gospel, and publicly professes faith in Christ. We affirm the necessity of conversion and the truth that conversion involves the will of the believer as well as the will of God.

We deny that salvation comes to anyone who has not experienced conversion. We also deny that salvation comes to any sinner who does not will to believe and receive Christ.

The Great Commission

We affirm the church’s duty to obey Christ by preaching the Gospel to all the nations and by making disciples who obey all that Christ has commanded. We affirm every believer’s responsibility to tell anyone and everyone about Jesus and the responsibility of every congregation to be a sending, going, and giving assembly of believers.

We deny that missions and evangelism can be neglected without denying the power of the Gospel; that any church can be faithful without a missionary urgency; and that any believer can be obedient without telling others about Jesus. We deny that evangelism can exist apart from the call to make disciples. Every sinner should be implored to trust Christ by calling on Him through repentance and faith, and every convert should be discipled toward maturity, commitment to the church, and passion for the lost.


Although we are committed to these central truths, we recognize that within them there are tensions:
  • God desires for all to come to repentance, yet not all do.
  • Humans are ruined by the Fall, yet required to respond in faith.
  • God is sovereign in salvation, yet individuals are still held responsible for their reception or rejection of the Gospel.
  • Southern Baptist identity has often been connected to Calvinism, yet has often significantly modified it.
These are just a few of the dynamics at work in Southern Baptist faith and practice. While these tensions can be a source of frustration, especially when we are uncharitable toward those with whom we disagree, they have also been a great benefit to us, reminding us that God’s ways are higher than ours, that no systematic construct can ever contain the fullness of Scriptural truth, that it is we and not the Bible who are subject to error, that we should approach the Word with both fidelity to the past and readiness for further reformation, and that it is better to live in the tensions of unanswered questions than to ignore or adjust some part of the whole counsel of God.

With a full recognition of the limitless wisdom of God’s Word and the limited wisdom of ourselves, we urge Southern Baptists to grant one another liberty in those areas within The Baptist Faith and Message where differences in interpretation cause us to disagree. For instance,
  • We agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone, but we differ as to why only some are ultimately saved.
  • While we all heartily affirm the article on election in The Baptist Faith and Message (Article V), we differ as to whether the response of faith plays a role in one’s election.
  • We agree that the penal and substitutionary death of Christ was sufficient for the sins of the entire world, but we differ as to whether Jesus actually substituted for the sins of all people or only the elect.
  • We agree that the Gospel should be proclaimed to everyone, but we differ as to whether or how every hearer will be enabled to respond.
  • We agree that everyone has inherited Adam’s hopelessly fallen sin nature, but we differ as to whether we also inherit his guilt.
  • We agree that men and women are sinners, but we differ about the effects of sin on the mind and the will.
  • We recognize the differences among us between those who believe that sin nullifies freedom to respond to the Gospel and those who believe that freedom to respond to the Gospel is marred but not nullified.
  • We agree that God is absolutely sovereign in initiating salvation, uniting the believer to Himself, and preserving the believer to the end, but we differ as to how God expresses His sovereignty with respect to human freedom.
  • We agree that the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel enables sinners to be saved, but we differ as to whether this grace is resistible or irresistible.
  • We agree on the necessity of regeneration that results in God-ordained, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered obedience from the heart, but differ as to whether faith precedes regeneration or regeneration precedes faith.
  • We agree that most Southern Baptists believe that those who die before they are capable of moral action go to heaven through the grace of God and the atonement of Christ, even as they differ as to why this is so.
These differences should spur us to search the Scriptures more dutifully, to engage in lively interaction for mutual sharpening and collective Gospel effectiveness, and to give thanks that what we hold in common far surpasses that on which we disagree. But these particular differences do not constitute a sufficient basis for division and must not be allowed to hamper the truly crucial cooperative effort of taking the Gospel to a waiting world. Southern Baptists who stand on either side of these issues should celebrate the freedom to hold their views with passion while granting others the freedom to do the same.



We affirm that Southern Baptists stand together in a commitment to cooperate in Great Commission ministries. We affirm that, from the very beginning of our denominational life, Calvinists and non­Calvinists have cooperated together. We affirm that these differences should not threaten our eager cooperation in Great Commission ministries.

We deny that the issues now discussed among us should in any way undermine or hamper our work together if we grant one another liberty and extend to one another charity in these differences. Neither those insisting that Calvinism should dominate Southern Baptist identity nor those who call for its elimination should set the course for our life together.


We affirm that The Baptist Faith and Message, as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, stands as a sufficient and truthful statement of those doctrines most certainly held among us. We affirm that this confession of faith is to serve as the doctrinal basis for our cooperation in Great Commission ministry.

We deny that any human statement stands above Holy Scripture as our authority. We also deny that The Baptist Faith and Message is insufficient as the doctrinal basis for our cooperation. Other Baptist Confessions are not to be lenses through which The Baptist Faith and Message is to be read. The Baptist Faith and Message alone is our expression of common belief.


We affirm the responsibility of every Southern Baptist to be a friend to all Southern Baptists, so long as we all stand within The Baptist Faith and Message. We affirm that Southern Baptists must avoid the development of a party spirit amongst us, with friendships and trust extended only to those who are in agreement with us.

We deny that issues related to Calvinism or non-Calvinism should alienate or estrange Southern Baptists from each other. Instead, we will extend to one another the mutual respect befitting the bonds of fellowship that hold us together.


We affirm the responsibility of all Southern Baptists to guard our conversation so that we do not speak untruthfully, irresponsibly, harshly, or unkindly to or about any other Southern Baptist. This negativity is especially prevalent in the use of social media, and we encourage the exercise of much greater care in that context.

We deny that our cooperation can be long sustained if our conversation becomes untruthful, uncharitable, or irresponsible.


We affirm the responsibility and privilege of every Southern Baptist to advocate his or her doctrinal convictions. We affirm that theology should be honored and privileged in our conversations and cooperation. We also affirm that theological and doctrinal debate can be a sign of great health within a denomination that is devoted to truth and is characterized by trust.

We deny that the main purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention is theological debate. We further deny that theological discussion can be healthy if our primary aim is to win an argument, to triumph in a debate, or to draw every denominational meeting into a conversation over conflicted issues. Of more significance to our life together than any allegiance to Calvinism or non-Calvinism should be our shared identity as Southern Baptists.

Most importantly, we affirm together that our testimony to the world must be the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—and that Southern Baptists must stand together in the testimony that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We stand together to declare that salvation comes to all who call upon the name of the Lord, and that God’s desire is for the salvation of sinners and the reaching of the nations.


Where do we go from here? We must celebrate the unity we share together in our common Great Commission purpose, while acknowledging and celebrating variety among us. We must clarify the parameters of our cooperation where necessary but stand together without dispute.

We should be thankful that these are the issues Southern Baptists are now discussing, even as liberal denominations are debating the full abdication of biblical morality and allowing the denial of central doctrines. We are, seen in this light, blessed by the discussions that come to Southern Baptists who want to affirm the fullness of the faith, not its reduction.

We should call upon all Southern Baptists to promote the unity we share within The Baptist Faith and Message and, while recognizing that most Southern Baptists will believe and teach more than what that confession contains, we must never believe or teach less.

We should expect all leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and all entities serving our denomination to affirm, to respect, and to represent all Southern Baptists of good faith and to serve the great unity of our Convention. No entity should be promoting Calvinism or non-Calvinism to the exclusion of the other. Our entities should be places where any Southern Baptist who stands within the boundaries of The Baptist Faith and Message should be welcomed and affirmed as they have opportunities to benefit from, participate in, and provide leadership for those entities.

In order to prevent the rising incidence of theological conflict in the churches, we should expect all candidates for ministry positions in the local church to be fully candid and forthcoming about all matters of faith and doctrine, even as we call upon pulpit and staff searchcommittees to be fully candid and forthcoming about their congregation and its expectations.

We must do all within our power to avoid the development of partisan divisions among Southern Baptists.

We must not only acknowledge but celebrate the distinctive contributions made by the multiple streams of our Southern Baptist heritage. These streams include both Charleston and Sandy Creek, the Reformers and many of the advocates of the Radical Reformation, confessional evangelicalism and passionate revivalism. These streams and their tributaries nourish us still.

We must also remember that labels, though often necessary, are often misleading and unfair. They must be used with care and assigned with charity. The use of the words “Calvinist” and “Calvinism” can be both revealing and misleading, since individuals may hold to any number of variants on doctrinal points. Similarly non-Calvinists, who may resist even that designation, will cover an even larger landscape of positions. Labels like these often fail us.

We must stand together in rejecting any form of hyper-Calvinism that denies the mandate to present the offer of the Gospel to all sinners or that denies the necessity of a human response to the Gospel that involves the human will. Similarly, we must reject any form of Arminianism that elevates the human will above the divine will or that denies that those who come to faith in Christ are kept by the power of God. How do we know that these positions are to be excluded from our midst? Each includes beliefs that directly deny what The Baptist Faith and Message expressly affirms.

We must remember that the diversity we celebrate is already honored in the names we revere—theological statesmen such as James P. Boyce and B. H. Carroll, E. Y. Mullins and W. T. Conner; missionary heroes and martyrs such as Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace; scholars such as A. T. Robertson and Robert Baker, educators such as Lee Scarborough and John Sampey; evangelists and preachers like George W. Truett and W. A. Criswell, R. G. Lee and Adrian Rogers; and pastor-theologians like Herschel Hobbs. Where would we be today if we attempted to divide these heroes and heroines of the faith by the issue of Calvinism? We would cut ourselves off from our own heritage.

We must also remember that a rising young generation of Southern Baptists is watching and listening, looking to see if this denomination is going to be a bold movement of churches on mission or merely a debating society.

Beyond them stands a world desperately in need of the Gospel. Will we distract ourselves in an unnecessary debate while the world is perishing in need of the Gospel?

If we stand together in truth, we can trust one another in truth, even as we experience tension. We can talk like brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can work urgently and eagerly together.

We have learned that we can have just this kind of conversation together, and we invite all Southern Baptists to join together in this worthy spirit of conversation. But let us not neglect the task we are assigned. The world desperately needs to hear the promise of the Gospel.
Respectfully submitted,

The Calvinism Advisory Committee

Calvinism Advisory Group Unanimously
Affirms its EC Advisory Report

For several years, Southern Baptists have been asking important questions about our identity and our future. At times we have struggled with trying to grasp the breadth of our doctrinal and historical differences, particularly related to matters such as Calvinism. What has been needed is a new consensus that will help point us toward a new sense of cooperation and renewal for the sake of the Gospel. It is our hope that Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension, while not a perfect statement, will, nevertheless, provide a significant and positive step in that direction. The statement reflects the efforts of many diverse voices who have attempted to speak as one with a sense of convictional civility and Spirit-enabled charity toward and with one another. We pray that these efforts will enable us to serve collaboratively and work faithfully, while offering a joyful and Gospel-focused witness to a lost and needy world.
David S. Dockery, chairman; president, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Truth, Trust, and Testimony provides a unified witness across the spectrum of Southern Baptist life that we hold much in common concerning what we believe and how we should live. We do have differences that are significant but they are not so great as to keep us from working side by side and hand in hand to fulfill the Great Commission and reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe this statement provides a way forward. It is time to unite behind King Jesus and take up the sword of an inerrant Bible and engage our real enemies of Satan, sin, death, and hell.
Danny Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina

I affirm the Calvinism Advisory Committee Statement for four reasons: 1) it strikes a good balance as a consensus statement; 2) it stakes out the ground where we can stand together on the issues; 3) it stipulates some of our key theological differences without being polemical; and 4) it steers a good course for continued future discussion.
David Allen, dean, School of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

Southern Baptists are a doctrinally diverse group who, by God’s grace, agree on the essentials of the faith. As this consensus document affirms, we can no longer afford to allow our doctrinal differences to obscure our substantive and vital areas of agreement. It is my prayer that as we move forward we will do so joyfully acknowledging our unity in Christ and humbly engaging areas of doctrinal disagreements while focusing our energies and passion on spreading the glorious Gospel of our crucified and risen Lord to a lost and dying world.
Tom Ascol, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida

I am happy to support Christians laboring together for the Gospel. I’ve appreciated the leadership that Frank Page, David Dockery, Eric Hankins, Al Mohler, and others have given on encouraging cooperation for the Gospel in our discussions.
Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

I affirm this statement, the conversation, and the men and women who participated in this process. May The Lord guide Southern Baptists to pursue biblical truth and the oneness that Jesus prayed for so the world may know Him (John 17:23).
Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Rochester, Minnesota
It is an honor to be a member of the Calvinism Advisory Committee and I stand ready and willing to work for the advancement of the Gospel-centered principles outlined in our statement. I fully affirm every aspect of Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension. The statement reflects the kind of biblically informed wisdom needed for such a time as this. May our Lord Jesus Christ be pleased and glorified above all.
Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Maryland

I am pleased to endorse Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension. It is a very good effort and I trust will contribute to a way forward that honors Jesus Christ. This document is a model of charitable truth-telling among convictional Baptists over issues that have long roiled Bible-believing Christians. May God use this document to move us closer to Christ and closer to one another—to the end that God will be glorified in ever-increasing measure.
Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

I am excited and honored to present Southern Baptists with a consensus statement driven by the things we hold so dear: the Word, the Spirit, mission, cooperation, and freedom. I believe it effectively articulates and models the way forward, taking seriously both our theological unity and diversity as a truly positive component of our “one sacred effort.”
Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Mississippi

I am totally satisfied with the fairness of this document, which does a magnificent job of articulating our shared belief. I wholeheartedly add my full support to this document. I am grateful to each person that has worked so hard to help us speak with Christ-honoring clarity.
Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia

I am totally supportive of the statement. I believe history teaches us there is room for various shades of thought on this topic. I’m praying we will joyfully coexist and the Gospel will go forth in greater power because of our unity!
David Landrith, senior pastor, Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Prior to our first meeting, I sought input from a variety of lay people as to what they felt our focus should be on an obviously hot topic. Top on the list was an appeal for civility—pleading that we simply learn how to engage the issue of Calvinism respectfully and stop the name calling and rude behavior. I was thrilled that so much of our discussion addressed this problem and bore fruit as our respect grew for one another. Secondly, our appeal for honesty regarding doctrinal convictions on the part of candidates interviewing with churches is, in my mind, the key to solving deep divisions that have arisen in churches that feel betrayed. Churches and ministerial candidates must show integrity in the search process as to who they are and what they believe. I pray Southern Baptists will do three things: stop talking so much about that which they have overheard but not personally studied or verified; actually read our report before judging it; and show up in Houston to witness during Crossover block parties where we demonstrate what we claim to be our priority of pleading with sinners to believe in Christ, confessing to others that “our Lord is mighty to save and that He saves to the uttermost.”
Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and journalist; member Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas

For Christians to work together cooperatively requires broad doctrinal agreement, although not agreement in every point of detail. This statement underlines the broad areas of doctrine upon which the overwhelming majority of us as Southern Baptists agree. It outlines the basis on which we can continue working together cooperatively and constructively for the cause of Christ.
Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana

As SBC President I want to thank our chief encouraging officer Dr. Frank Page for his efforts in calling together and meeting with the Calvinism Advisory Group. This group had the difficult task of dealing with a subject that many Southern Baptists have very strong opinions about. My personal prayer is that this report will be an example of how believers can come together to impact the Kingdom of God and not personal agendas.
Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; senior pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana

There is little that I will sign in the way of corporate statements. My love for the unity in essentials among Southern Baptists for the purpose of getting the Gospel to every human on earth has wrung my signature on this document from my heart. The most important aspect to me is the provision for honesty and integrity for all. God grant that it be so.
Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

This statement speaks volumes about the ability of all Southern Baptists of good faith and good will to work together eagerly and enthusiastically. As the statement affirms, these tensions have been present within the Southern Baptist Convention from the very beginning of our life and work together. We are people who take theology seriously. But we are also people who take seriously our joy and privilege in working together in service to the Great Commission. We also made a bold statement of support for and agreement in The Baptist Faith and Message. We are a confessional people, gladly affirming together the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I am thankful for every member of this task force and for the privilege of working together in this process and on this historic and timely statement.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

I enthusiastically affirm the statement of our committee. While it candidly acknowledges differences Southern Baptists have, it’s a powerful reminder that we stand together on essential doctrines such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the free offer of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and the universal sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. I’m thankful that the statement encourages all Southern Baptists—wherever we may stand with respect to Calvinism—to be gracious and constructive as we serve the Lord together.
Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida

I am in full agreement with the Truth, Trust, and Testimony document. It is the product of a very candid yet respectful dialogue regarding theological issues, attitudes, and practices. While it is understandable that each side would prefer stronger support for its views, the fact is that this document establishes fair parameters for understanding and collaboration and is unequivocal regarding its affirmation of The Baptist Faith and Message and its commitment to the Great Commission. My prayer is that this document will pave the way for all Southern Baptists to make an even stronger commitment to win North America and the rest of the world for Christ.
Daniel Sanchez, associate dean, professor of missions, and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

I gratefully and gladly affirm this fine statement because it focuses our unity in the Gospel, in our Baptist heritage, in The Baptist Faith and Message, and in the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Florida
5/31/2013 10:25:34 AM by SBC | with 2 comments

NCBM, fellow relief workers ‘stand alongside’ Moore residents

May 30 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

MOORE, Okla. – For 90 minutes on the afternoon of May 20, Ivette Castro didn’t know if she, her 16-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son would live to see the evening as an EF5 tornado – the most powerful rating possible – bared down on them.
Trapped in a small closet together, the three prayed. Admittedly their spiritual background had been spotty at best. The family rarely attended church.
But in those hot, cramped quarters, it became obvious to Castro that God was sparing her family.
“Other than a miracle, [we wouldn’t have gotten out],” Castro said. “We were pinned in. So many things happened. I was supposed to be at work. I decided to stay home for some reason. Because I stayed home, I was able to get my kids to do the things that saved their lives.”
A disaster relief team from North Carolina Baptist Men helped Castro and the family find a variety of items they had given up for lost, such as a hard drive containing photos and an urn full of a pet’s ashes. The N.C. team is working in areas near the elementary school in Moore, Okla., where seven children were killed.
“We’re cutting some trees, and we’re pushing debris, but our number one objective is to help the homeowners find their valuables,” said Bill Martin, project coordinator with NCBM and a member of Mineral Springs Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

Photo by John Swain
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers Roy Byrd, left, and Bill Ammons clear a damaged tree from a home in Moore, Okla. Chainsaw work has been limited because of the intense nature of the winds from the storm.

After teams sift through the damage with homeowners, they use skid-steer loaders to push all the remaining debris to the front of the lots so FEMA can haul it away.
“It’s … total devastation,” Martin said. “[Televised news reports are] showing a lot, but it’s not giving it justice like it is on the ground.”
Except for a recovered wedding band, photographs and few other items scattered along the ground, “there’s nothing salvageable,” Martin said.
“The number one thing is pictures – the pictures of the family or friends, children, grandchildren,” he said. “That’s just above everything else to the homeowners. They get their pictures, [and] they’re in pretty good shape.
“The reason is there’s nothing left – washers, dryers, cars, bedroom furniture, clothes … [are] gone.”  
About 50 NCBM volunteers arrived May 23 in Moore. According to reports from the field on May 30, NCBM had helped complete nearly 100 projects since the team arrived. Four professions of faith in Moore – and a total of 15 decisions throughout the state – had been reported as a result of the relief efforts. 
Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director, thanked N.C. Baptists for their support of disaster relief missions. He asked people to continue praying for the victims and volunteers.
“North Carolina Baptists have been blessed with over 14,000 trained men and women volunteers and lots of equipment that can be used to minister to hurting people and to glorify God,” he said. “Pray for the teams and the people they will assist.”
N.C. Baptist volunteers were among hundreds of other Southern Baptists who are helping Oklahoma storm survivors in Moore and Shawnee, Okla., following historic tornadoes. More than 40 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer chaplains have been engaged in the response.

Photo by John Swain
Enio Aguero, right, disaster relief chaplain coordinator for the North American Mission Board, prays with Ivette Castro, her son Antonio, center, and daughter Damaris, left. Southern Baptists were there to help the family cope shortly after the storm devastated their home and threatened their lives.

Oklahoma SBDR mobile kitchens had prepared more than 35,000 meals within a week of the disaster, and a total of more than 160 recovery and cleanup jobs had been completed.
“I felt like God called me here,” said Bill Ammons, a volunteer from Bethany Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. “I’ve felt like God has called me other places, too. When He calls me, I go.”
Billy Puckett, a member of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, has been helping his Louisiana team with a variety of tasks in Moore, including repairing roofs and debris removal.
Puckett noted that Louisiana has been on the receiving end of significant SBDR work over the past several years – from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricane Isaac last year. Since Oklahoma Southern Baptists had been such a big part of those efforts, Puckett wanted to help them in their time of need.
“I’d like [the people of Oklahoma] to see that we want to come and stand alongside of people, love on people and hug people during their tough times," said Puckett, who serves as director of community ministries for the New Orleans Baptist Association. “If they have a bad perspective of the church, I hope this gives them a new perspective of the church.”
A Kansas-Nebraska SBDR team saw that in action over the weekend. At one of the ministry locations the team talked with a 28-year-old woman who was a believer but wasn’t involved in church.
The team’s chaplain, Brian Rothrock, shared with her the story of Nicodemus and encouraged her to get involved in a local church. As the volunteers left, the woman told Rothrock that God had been drawing her back to Him for some time and the experience of seeing the team’s faith in action had left her changed and committed to getting involved in church.
“She got to tell her story,” said Kelly Cook of Crosspoint Church in Hayes, Kan. “She was encouraged, and she was changed. We were just another piece of God showing His love to her.”
The North American Mission Board coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers and chaplains and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
For more information about NCBM disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma and how you can help, go to To support this effort financially, please donate to the Oklahoma Midwest Tornado Fund; 100 percent of all donations will go toward this disaster. Mail to: NCBM Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512 or donate online by clicking the “Donations” area on the right of website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer with the North American Mission Board. Melissa Lilley, who coordinates communications for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and Shawn Hendricks, the Biblical Recorder’s managing editor, contributed to this story.)
5/30/2013 2:58:59 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey: People turn to God after disaster

May 30 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – When natural disasters occur, most Americans take increased interest in God and donate to relief agencies – and they trust faith-based agencies more than their secular counterparts. A third also believe prayer can avert natural disasters.

Those are among the findings of a LifeWay Research survey conducted days after a historic EF5 tornado devastated parts of Oklahoma May 20, killing two dozen people and causing billions of dollars in damages.

According to the study, commissioned by LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, a third of Americans increase their trust in God during times of suffering. In response to the question, “How do you feel about God when suffering occurs that appears unfair?” the most common response is “I trust God more” (33 percent). Other responses include:
  • “I am confused about God” (25 percent).
  • “I don’t think about God in these situations” (16 percent).
  • “I wonder if God cares” (11 percent).
  • “I doubt God exists” (7 percent).
  • “I am angry toward God” (5 percent).
  • “I am resentful toward God” (3 percent).
“Disasters, particularly natural disasters, perplex all of us,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “While some call them ‘acts of God,’ others question why a good and loving God would do such a thing.

The fact is, God does not give us all the answers.

“But, as Christians, we believe that God gives us Himself – and that is why we have faith,” Stetzer said. “Faith is believing God when you don’t have all the answers. But disasters test that faith – some people draw closer to God, some pull away.”

LifeWay reported Southerners, frequent church attendees and those without a college degree are likely to trust God more during disasters, while younger Americans are more likely to doubt God exists.

Nearly six in 10 Americans (57 percent) agree with the statement, “When a natural disaster occurs, my interest in God increases.” Thirty-one percent disagree and 12 percent don’t know. Nearly two-thirds of respondents living in the South agree (62 percent), compared with just over half in the West (54 percent) and Northeast (51 percent). Women, people with a college degree, and those who attend worship services once a week are also likely to be more interested in God during a disaster.

Prayer and natural disasters

Despite their increased interest in God following disasters, most Americans doubt prayer can avert natural disasters. Fifty-one percent disagree that praying can avert natural disasters, with a third (32 percent) strongly disagreeing. Still, 34 percent believe prayer can avert natural disasters. Americans in the South (40 percent) are more likely to believe than those in the Northeast (26 percent) and West (28 percent).

Thirty percent of Americans post on social media that they are praying for specific people or things. Sixty-seven percent do not post topics of prayer on social media and 3 percent don’t know.

Among those who do post prayers on social media, most take a moment to actually pray rather than consider the post itself a form of prayer. When asked to complete the statement, “If I post a prayer on social media ...,” 23 percent say they always take a moment to actually pray and 10 percent consider posting the update to be a form of prayer. Sixty-four percent complete the statement by saying they don’t post prayers.

Trusting and giving

When a natural disaster occurs, Americans trust faith-based groups to be more responsible than secular groups with their donations by nearly a two-to-one margin. Fifty-six percent agree they trust faith-based groups more, while 28 percent do not. Those who live in the Midwest and South, men and those who do not have a college degree are more likely to trust faith-based charities, while those in the Northeast and Americans ages 45-64 are not as likely.

Almost 60 percent of Americans donate to relief agencies in the wake of natural disasters. Thirty percent donate to both faith-based and secular relief agencies, 15 percent donate to faith-based relief agencies only and 12 percent donate to secular relief agencies only.

A third of Americans (32 percent) don’t donate to any relief agencies.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. Marty King, LifeWay’s director of communications, contributed to this story.)


5/30/2013 2:53:45 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB ‘schools of prayer’ taking shape

May 30 2013 by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – They were running out of options.

The team of IMB missionaries, national believers and partnering U.S. churches seeking to reach the Songhai people of West Africa with the gospel kept encountering travel restrictions in many locations where the Songhai live.

Team members petitioned God to show them how to continue reaching the majority Muslim and animistic people group, of which less than 1 percent are Christian.

“Almost instantly doors began opening,” said John Smythe*, an IMB missionary and Songhai team member.

School of Prayer

The story of the Songhai team demonstrates that in ministry as well as daily life, “prayer is not just important – it’s essential,” said Gordon Fort, senior vice president for prayer mobilization and training with the International Mission Board (IMB).

The intent of IMB’s new School of Prayer initiative is to encourage churches to keep fervent, intentional prayer at the forefront.

Fort is leading the IMB’s new School of Prayer for All Nations (SPAN). The initiative features weeklong “schools of prayer” workshops at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Va., in which about 20 members/leaders of Southern Baptist churches practice the principles of prayer. The goal is for participants to replicate this focus on prayer within their homes, congregations and communities.

“There are things which God chooses not to do except in answer to your prayer,” Fort said. “... God is calling on us to cooperate with Him in His work.”

Led to the Songhai

The Songhai team prayed fervently for access to their people group, sending out prayer requests to their prayer partners and through the IMB’s prayer resources website.

Through research, the team found unengaged areas of Songhai lands that are accessible. What’s more, after visiting the areas, the team learned that no one had ever taken the gospel there.

“In each and every village, the story was the same: ‘We’ve never heard of Jesus. We’ve never met a Christian,’” Smythe recounted. “... Through the prayers of countless individuals – most of whom we have never met and will never meet – God led us to new areas where He had prepared people for the gospel.”

The group helped 15 Songhai embrace Christ as their Lord and Savior, and 10 were baptized. These 15 are the first people in their villages to profess belief in Jesus.

“Prayer is not simply a part of our ministry, it is the fuel of our ministry,” Smythe said. “Prayer is such an important avenue for people to be directly involved in what God is doing on a global scale.”

Unprecedented opportunity

Fort believes that through the School of Prayer, participants will realize how their home, community, church, state, nation and world can be impacted through prayer, and that they will call out to God to send laborers and resources into the missions “harvest field.” He noted that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” as noted in James 5:16 (NKJV).

“[W]e live in the day of the greatest advance of the Kingdom in Christian history,” Fort said, noting that churches around the globe spontaneously are awakening to the need to spread the gospel – it’s “unprecedented.”

“We are just scratching the surface” of the potential impact Southern Baptists could have on this global movement, Fort said.

“What we’re doing is to pray in order to get the mind of God and pray according to the will of God so that the work of God can advance,” Fort said.

Workshops scheduled

The first School of Prayer is scheduled for July 29-Aug. 2 at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Va. Additional 2013 schools at the ILC are scheduled for Sept. 2-6, Oct. 28-Nov. 1 and Dec. 2-6. Dates for 2014 are listed at, with online registration at Contact for more information.

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding writes for the International Mission Board.)
5/30/2013 2:43:21 PM by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

2 years after Joplin tornado, survivor ministers in Moore

May 29 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

MOORE, Okla. – Gary Hunley had seen it all before. As he surveyed the damage left behind from the May 20 EF5 tornado in Moore, Okla., he saw an all-too-familiar scene of overturned cars, metal signposts bent to the ground and houses reduced to rubble.

Almost two years to the day before the historic Moore tornado, Hunley’s home was destroyed by an equally historic tornado in Joplin, Mo., which killed 158 people. Since then Hunley, the leader on his Spring River Baptist Association Disaster Relief team, has participated in numerous Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) responses. Yet because of the amount of damage in Moore, the latest assignment has brought back a variety of memories.

“I understand it,” Hunley said. “I saw it yesterday for the first time. It was like Joplin – the scene, the smell, the look on people’s faces. Some are trying to be uplifting and act like everything is okay. They’re hiding it though; I can see it on their face. I feel so sorry for them.”

Hunley and his team of three Missouri Baptists were among hundreds of SBDR volunteers serving in Moore and Shawnee, Okla., following recent tornadoes, including the May 19 Shawnee twister that killed two. Southern Baptist volunteers have ministered to the practical and spiritual needs of Oklahoma residents by removing fallen trees and other debris, searching for personal items, putting tarp on roofs and counseling survivors and performing other tasks. Volunteers have come from the Southern Baptists of Texas, the Texas Baptist Men and state conventions in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas-Nebraska, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

Photo by John Swain/NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Gary Hunley of Joplin, Mo., sifts through the remnants of a home destroyed by an EF5 tornado in Moore, Okla., May 20. Hunley, a member of First Baptist Church in Diamond, Mo., survived the 2011 EF5 tornado that destroying his Joplin home as he and his wife huddled in a closet. Only one wall of their home was left standing.  

Southern Baptists had logged a total of 972 volunteer days, prepared more than 30,000 meals, presented the gospel 47 times and distributed 278 Bibles through May 25.

Shad Schlueter, a member of the disaster relief chapter of First Baptist Church of Lockney, Texas, described his work as his “witness to people.”

“I believe the Lord blesses some people to preach,” Schlueter said. “I’m not blessed that way, but He did give me two hands to work. I believe the Lord sent me here to do this.”

On Saturday Hunley and his team helped a young Moore couple find irreplaceable memorabilia they they’d given up for lost, having thought they’d already found everything left behind.

But thanks to the Missouri team, homeowner Jill Thompkins found a tub of photos yet undamaged, featuring her with her dad.

“I’m so grateful,” Thompkins said. “It’s so amazing how people have come from all over to help us. I’m so thankful because no one can do this kind of stuff by themselves.”

The Missouri team members, who all lived near Joplin, leaned on their personal experiences to minister in Moore. Floyd Morris of First Baptist Diamond, Mo., got an opportunity to share his faith in Christ with a renter who lived across the street from Thompkins. The renter had no insurance, wanted no help and expressed bitterness to God as he cleaned up the property.

“I told him that the anger was a part of the grieving process,” Morris said. “It’s going to get better, so much better.”

Though Morris had been trained for disaster relief work for some time, he hadn’t been able to go on other trips because of work. He says recently his pastor challenged him: “You don’t just train; you go out [and serve]!”

“I told [my boss] that I don’t want to quit you, but this is a God-thing,” Morris said. “I don’t question my Lord, and He is telling me to go. This hurts. You come in here and see this and it’s Joplin all over again.”

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers and chaplains and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit Other ways to donate are to call (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
N.C. Baptists are also in Oklahoma. See story for more about how to help relief efforts.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
5/29/2013 1:27:59 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Hobby Lobby awaits appeals decision

May 29 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Hobby Lobby’s hopes for deliverance by July 1 from huge fines under the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate now rest with eight federal appeals court judges.
Lawyers representing the chain of arts and crafts stores and the federal government presented oral arguments before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals May 23 in Denver. Hobby Lobby’s lawyers asked the judges to block enforcement of the controversial provision before July 1, when a mandate that could result in a penalty of $1.3 million a day takes effect for the company.

The team of lawyers for Hobby Lobby was hopeful after the arguments.

It appeared the entire court “understands that the stakes are high” for Hobby Lobby’s Christian owners, said Adele Keim, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company.

“We were encouraged by how engaged the entire court was during the oral argument.”

Hobby Lobby filed suit last year against the portion of the 2010 health care reform law that requires employers to pay for coverage of drugs defined by the Food and Drug Administration as contraceptives, even if they can cause abortions. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, does not oppose all contraceptive methods, only those that have abortion-causing qualities.

These drugs include Plan B and other “morning-after” pills, which possess a secondary, post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The mandate also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child.

A federal judge and a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court refused last year to block enforcement of the mandate, but the appeals court made the highly unusual move in late March of granting a hearing before its full panel of eight active judges.

During those May 23 arguments, the Obama administration contended Hobby Lobby’s owners do not have religious freedom rights protected by the First Amendment because of the company’s for-profit status. The Becket Fund, however, argued the focus of the court in the case should be elsewhere.

“We would see the central issue in this case as: Can the government command you to provide and pay for insurance coverage for drugs that you find morally objectionable?” said Keim, who served on the Becket Fund team at the oral arguments while general counsel Kyle Duncan addressed the judges. “The important thing under the Constitution is what the government is doing. The First Amendment is a limitation on government action.”

The federal government, Keim told Baptist Press, “is arguing there is something special about for-profit corporations, that they don’t have First Amendment rights. What we say, and what the Supreme Court has said, [is] that when you’re dealing with the First Amendment you don’t look at the identity of the person who is asserting the right – whether they’re corporate or a natural person, whether they’re for-profit or non-profit – you look at the action that they’re trying to take and whether the government is able to stop them from taking that action.”

Hobby Lobby’s owners have said they will not obey the mandate and have estimated the fines by the government could reach $1.3 million a day.

David Green, founder and chief executive officer, and other family members who own Hobby Lobby and the Christian bookstore chain Mardel, another party in the suit, are evangelical Christians. They “believe that life begins at conception and that using those drugs creates a risk of a very early abortion, and that’s why [those drugs] are unacceptable to them,” Keim said.

Hobby Lobby, which has 546 stores in 45 states, seeks to honor God “by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” according to its statement of purpose. Its stores are closed on Sundays. The Oklahoma City-based chain contributes to Christian organizations selected by the Green family that seek “to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world,” according to its website.

Sixty lawsuits have been filed against the abortion/contraception mandate, and Hobby Lobby is one of only seven for-profit companies that have failed to win an injunction or restraining order blocking enforcement of the controversial requirement while their suits proceed in court, according to the Becket Fund. Courts have granted injunctions to 19 for-profit corporations. No action has been taken in five for-profit lawsuits.

No court has so far ruled on the merits of any of the lawsuits by non-profit organizations.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has signed onto five briefs defending the religious freedom of entities challenging the mandate at the appeals court level. One was in the Hobby Lobby case.

The Becket Fund, which is based in Washington, D.C., defends freedom of religion for all faith groups.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
5/29/2013 1:20:42 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘I’ll crawl with you,’ Baptist tells grieving mother in Moore, Okla.

May 28 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

MOORE, Okla. – As Corey Callens wades through the piles of broken furniture, brick, wood and toys that used to be part of his home, he stops every so often to pick up something shiny.

“The shiny pieces fool you,” Callens said.

The shredded children’s books, clothing and video games scattered throughout the neighborhood are replaceable; seven championship rings from his high school and University of Oklahoma football days are not.

A team of seven Southern Baptists from northern Texas helped Callens and his wife Marisha search for irreplaceable memorabilia May 24 and begin the cleanup process from the historic EF5 tornado that hit May 20.

NCBM photo
Of the North Carolina volunteers to respond are a few small teams specializing in debris removal.

“I like to tell our team that they’re short-term missionaries,” said Joe Henond of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, the team’s blue hat. “That’s what they are. We’re here for a short period of time, but we’re missionaries just like the people overseas. It allows people to come and do work and let their work be their testimony.”

Henond believes helping disaster survivors retrieve personal keepsakes like Callens’ championship football rings can play a key part in the healing process.

“The people going through this are so devastated that they need to see a ray of hope,” he said. “When they can see that ray of hope and we’re doing what we’re doing for Jesus’ sake, the Holy Spirit is going to work.”

Henond and nearly 200 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers mark the most significant SBDR movement to date in the impacted areas as rescue efforts end and significant cleanup begins.

Southern Baptists of Texas, the Texas Baptist Men and state conventions in Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina and Kansas-Nebraska are serving in Moore. Meanwhile in Shawnee, 140 volunteers from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, were working May 24. The Oklahoma SBDR mobile kitchen had prepared more than 32,000 meals in the area.

“The focus today is getting teams into the affected area, getting our yellow shirts on the ground,” said Eddie Blackmon, the North American Mission Board’s disaster relief coordinator. “Ninety percent of the jobs will be debris removal. We’re going to assist families in getting to their personal items as best we can.”

Chaplains continue to minister to families of the 24 people killed in the storm, making plans to attend funerals that began May 23, many at First Baptist of Moore, the SBDR incident command location.

Photo by John Swain
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Gary Axton from Lubbock, Texas, leads his unit in devotion before recovery work in tornado-stricken Moore, Okla. A member of Heights Fellowship Baptist Church, Axton is among hundreds of SBDR volunteers responding to the devastation.  

“Today will be the next step,” said Susan “Bunny” Yekzaman, a DR chaplain from First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla. “We’ve had the chance to work with them through every hurdle and now this will be the biggest one.”

Yekzaman shared the experience of being with a mother whose child died in the storm.

“I’m here to walk through this with you,” Yekzaman told her as they embraced. The mother replied, “I don’t think I can walk; I’m going to have to crawl.”

“Then I’ll crawl with you,” Yekzaman said, falling to her knees with the grieving parent.

Seeing so many volunteers in her neighborhood, said Marisha Callens, has taught her the importance of helping others.

“I really don’t know [why people would come to help us], but I’m very grateful,” Callens said. “They’re lending a helping hand and they’re total strangers.”

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers and chaplains, and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit Donate by phone at (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or by mail at NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.” To find out how to help through N.C. Baptist Men, visit Donations can be made to the “Oklahoma Midwest Tornado Fund.” Mail to: NCBM Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512, or donate online by clicking the “Donations” area when you visit the link above. Also you can follow NCBM on Facebook:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
5/28/2013 4:25:15 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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