May 2013

Players: Helping others is key to making most of NFL career

May 28 2013 by Roman Gabriel, BR Sports Q&A

With this year’s NFL draft in the books, and the start of the next NFL season just a few months away, this month’s sports Q&A shares highlights from two interviews with Warrick Dunn and Danny Woodhead. Dunn, now retired from football, is a former NFL offensive rookie of the year and three-time Pro Bowl player. During his college years and 12-year career with Tampa Bay and Atlanta, Dunn made an impact on and off the field. He’s persevered through tragedy and continues to change lives through Warrick Dunn Charities. Former Patriot, and now a San Diego Charger, Danny Woodhead also is a strong believer in using his football success to influence and help others. This undrafted free agent overcame the odds and is entering his seventh season in the NFL. As a tough and multi-talented running back, receiver, and explosive special teams returner, he played in Super Bowl XLVI two years ago with the Patriots. Here are excerpts from two separate interviews with Dunn and Woodhead.
Q: Warrick, during your football career you seemed to have a strong desire to serve others. Why?
Warrick: When I was 18 years old I lost my mom. She was shot and killed in the line of duty. She was a Baton Rouge City police officer. ... Then I was fortunate enough to get drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers [and I met] coach Tony Dungy. What a great guy, and just overall a great human being. … I was challenged to give back and do more … and [give] back to the community. …  In doing that all I could think about was my mom and her dream of home ownership. … So I started a program. It’s called Homes for the Holidays …  assisting parents into becoming first-time homeowners, giving them [a] money-down payment and … including food, furniture, linens, garden tools, etc. … We have been doing it now for 15 years … [in] Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee, Dallas, Texas, and Baltimore and in many places … in Louisiana.

Contributed photo
Warrick Dunn, seen here interviewing with Roman Gabriel, uses his experience with losing his mom to help children grieve for their parents.

Q: How are you helping those who have lost loved ones?
Warrick: [We started] a new program for kids for bereavement  … called Betty’s Hope. We’re doing group sessions with kids from ages 5 to 18 ... here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana … helping other people who went through something similar that I went through, that my mom went through … helping kids handle grief and giving them tools to manage it. I think it’s critically important, and I just love the fact that I have a platform … to help people live better.
Q: Danny, tell us how you have made the most of your NFL opportunity being from a small college?
Danny: I tried to always be ready for any opportunity.
That’s what the NFL is all about ... taking your opportunity, and using it to the best of your abilities. … I feel so blessed to be a part of the NFL … and just the opportunity to play the game that I love. … I think that’s something you think about after the season. … You look back and say ‘I get to play a game that I love as my job!’ … It’s unbelievable.”
Q: You said the word “blessed.” How has your faith played a role in the locker room with the Patriots?

Contributed photo
Danny Woodhead is entering his seventh season of playing football this year. Woodhead formerly played for the Patriots. This year he will play for the San Diego Chargers.

Danny: We have a good group of core guys. We do Bible study during the week. … And on the night before the game, you obviously have chapel. … With what happens in this league it [can] be a tough business … if you’ve ever been cut before, which I have … in my case. Without God I don’t think it’s feasible to get through an NFL career. … Number one in my life is my relationship with Christ, because without that I would not be where I am today. I owe everything to Him and of course I have a close family.
Q: What would you tell students about overcoming challenges and making the most of their lives?
Warrick: I think kids need to realize that when you have an opportunity you have to take advantage of it. … Don’t just try one thing, but a lot of different things. Find out what you’re passionate about, what you really enjoy doing, what you wake up everyday and enjoy doing. You have to have that mentality.
Danny: Number one, I’d tell them when you have no hope it comes from a void in your heart. … The only thing that can fill that void is Jesus Christ. And that’s something that I felt before football. … Without him I don’t think much is possible. … Obviously through Him all things are possible. … Lean on your relationship with Christ, and if you don’t have one, get one. … That’s the most important thing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Roman Gabriel III hosts Sold Out Sports Saturday nights at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact him at (910) 431-6483 or email His website is View all Gabriel’s Q&A’s here.)
5/28/2013 4:11:22 PM by Roman Gabriel, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments

John Sailhamer’s legacy continues at Southeastern

May 28 2013 by SEBTS Communications

John Sailhamer’s book collection has arrived at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This book collection reflects a lifetime of travel and acquisition attributed to the former Southeastern Old Testament professor and scholar.
“Bringing the John Sailhamer library to Southeastern allows us to honor a premiere Old Testament scholar whose contribution to evangelical scholarship is significant,” said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Our school was graced to have him on this faculty for a number of years and this gift from the Sailhamer family will continue the legacy of a wonderful man of God.” 
Sailhamer’s degrees in language and Old Testament Studies are a B.A. from State University at Long Beach; M.A. at University of California, Los Angeles; Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Sailhamer’s teaching career includes service at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Brea, Calif.; Trinity Divinity Evangelical Seminary in Chicago, Ill.; Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.; Biola University in La Mirada, Calif.; Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn.; Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland, Ore.; and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.
Sailhamer served as professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern from 1999-2006.
“Dr. John Sailhamer has been a major scholastic force in the evangelical community for a very long time,” said Shawn Madden, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and director of library services at Southeastern. “Dr. Sailhamer had a great concern and interest in the scholastic responsibilities of the evangelical community, imbuing in his students an intentional devotion to God’s Word and its proper understanding, interpretation and teaching.”
Sailhamer’s book collection, which arrived the last week of April, will be housed in a specially constructed room on the second floor of Denny Library in the scholar’s name. The collection is comprised of Old Testament studies and language studies in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, French, as well as other languages. These works cover a wide gamut of fields such as theological studies, reference works, philosophical studies, cultural studies, historical studies, monographs, syntaxical studies, exegetical studies, grammars, commentaries, textual studies, dictionaries, theses, dissertations, facsimiles, archaeological studies and New Testament studies.
“Dr. Sailhamer’s linguistic thinking and work,” Madden said, “is best reflected in the dissertations and writings of his students who have carried away from his classes a deep devotion to the proper understanding of inter- and intra-textual relationships found in the Bible.”
Sailhamer has taught and influenced hundreds of students, including Benjamin Quinn, who is currently an instructor of theology and history of ideas at Southeastern.
“Dr. Sailhamer was one of the best teachers I ever had the privilege of sitting under,” Quinn said. “The truth is, however, that he was light years ahead in his understanding of Scripture and his insight into the original text. Dr. Sailhamer was humble, gracious and brilliant in the classroom. In 25 years of formal education, I cannot recall any other class where I learned so much.”
Sailhamer has most recently taught at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary but due to health issues has not been in the classroom.

The John Sailhamer Library will open this fall.
5/28/2013 4:04:09 PM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Churches to have ‘hard discussion’ about Scouts

May 28 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas – With the decision May 23 to open the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) membership to homosexual youth, the 70,000 faith-based organizations, including many churches, that have championed the virtues of “duty to God” and moral straightness by sponsoring local troops must decide whether to cut ties with the Scouts or continue their association with evangelistic outreach in mind.

Of the 100,000 chartered Scouting units in the United States, 70 percent are sponsored by faith-based organizations. Some took decisive stands against loosening membership standards, while leadership from other church groups voiced murkier positions. Numerous Southern Baptist leaders voiced opposition to the policy change.

Church leaders said the decision of affiliation with the Boy Scouts would be made at the local level.

“We’re going to have a long, hard discussion of our support for our local troop,” said Gregg Simmons, pastor of the Dallas-area Church at the Cross in Grapevine. The new membership policy, approved by 61 percent of voting delegates, admits openly homosexual youth into its ranks but maintains the prohibition on openly homosexual adult leaders.

For five years Church at the Cross has chartered Troop No. 4. Though he could not speak for the congregation at large, Simmons said it would be difficult for him in good conscience to continue sponsoring an organization that holds unbiblical views.

The new policy is rife with moral confusion and legal ambiguity, said Ben Wright, associate pastor at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, but he said the vote is not necessarily a “deal breaker” for High Pointe. However, progression toward acceptance of homosexual leaders would warrant another review of the relationship, Wright said.

Photo by Adam Covington
Samuel, 14, a Boy Scout in Troop 620 of Longview, Texas, holds a sign imploring delegates to vote “No” on a resolution to lift a ban on openly gay Scouts. Instead, delegates voted yes.  

Wright noted Boy Scout guidelines prohibit the promotion of social and political agendas within the organization but “this resolution steps right into that.” Discussion with High Pointe Church elders, Wright said, led to the conclusion that the new policy inevitably will lead to the acceptance of homosexual leaders. That change will come from within the organization or be foisted upon it by a lawsuit, he predicted.

Simmons said by giving tacit approval of homosexuality the organization loses its moral bearings.

“How will they maintain ‘morally straight’? They have stripped that statement of all meaning,” he said, referring to the Scout Oath. “You’re not just teaching young men how to build campfires.”

Wright said the wording is troubling, leaving the policy open to a myriad of interpretations. The phrases “sexual orientation” and “sexual preference” remove the essential moral fiber from the language.

The phrases imply that a whole host of sexual expressions outside of heterosexuality are simply a matter of natural proclivities, not behaviors that should come under moral scrutiny, Wright said. With their carefully chosen words, the BSA Executive Committee ironically embraced a social agenda, which would be a violation of the Scout guidebook for Scouts or Scout leaders, he said.

Both pastors said their churches welcome the opportunity to minister to youth or adults who struggle with same-sex attraction.

But membership in the church depends on an individual’s trust in the Gospel and desire to live according to biblical standards, Simmons said.

Several Southern Baptist leaders, including Frank Page, Richard Land, Russell Moore and SBC President Fred Luter, have been critical of the Scouts’ new policy.

Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, said the vote “ushers in a sea-change in the credibility of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable boys’ organization for millions of Americans who believe strongly in the principles of biblical morality. To claim that the Boys Scouts is the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training suddenly rings hollow.”

Land, outgoing president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of Scout troops and support the Royal Ambassadors ministry to boys.

Luter said, “My prayers go out to the parents and churches who have been forced to make decisions about being a part of the Boy Scouts organization. As Southern Baptists, our commitment to the Word of God and Christian values must take priority over what is ‘politically correct.’“

R. Chip Turner, chairman of the BSA Religious Relationships Committee and former president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, admitted the language of the new policy is problematic. Turner called the potentially broad interpretation of the statement “scary.” But so, too, is the thought of Southern Baptist churches withdrawing from Scouting and the ministry opportunities it presents, even to young boys struggling with same-sex attraction, he said. Turner wrote an “open letter to Southern Baptists” asking them not to abandon Scouting.

“Are the evangelism and family ministry opportunities now lessened in the church’s Scout unit(s)?” he asked. “Are the lost and un-enlisted any less our responsibility now? I respectfully remind us that the Great Commission remains unchanged and no vote can alter this reality. The local church still owns its Scout units and is responsible for selecting the leadership. As ‘fishers of men,’ are we not to go where the fish are located?”

Moore, president-elect of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission told Baptist Press at the time the decision was announced, “Few, if any, are suggesting the Boy Scouts kick out boys based on their particular temptations. We don’t, and shouldn’t do that in our churches, much less in the Scouts. But this change is more than this. It doesn’t speak in terms of temptations but in terms of the claiming of a sexually politicized identity as morally neutral.”

The revision of the membership policy “highlights how important it is for churches to speak clearly of both our love for all people, including our gay and lesbian neighbors, and the importance of God’s design for human sexuality for human flourishing,” Moore said. “The gospel doesn’t define us, as the culture does, in terms of our wants and desires. The gospel addresses us, all of us, as sinners and calls us to a life of freedom and cross-bearing sacrifice.”

Commenting on Turner’s open letter, Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, said, “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Turner’s letter repeats the BSA party line – we’ve changed; but don’t leave us!

“Our ability to show the love of Christ will not be hampered by choosing not to expose our children to an organization that has taken the first step toward a worldview at odds with biblical morality,” Oldham said. “While Turner’s logic may sound reasonable on the surface, it is based in a flawed understanding of the very gospel it references.

“The Boy Scouts have planted the seed of their own destruction. It may take a while for the seed to germinate fully, but when it does, its flower will not bear the pleasant aroma of the gospel. As ‘fishers of men,’ we are to rescue men and women and boys and girls from the destructive consequences of sin, not subject them to it.”

Responses from other church groups varied.

The Assemblies of God criticized passage of the resolution, noting in a statement, “We believe that the BSA policy change will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program, as Assemblies of God and many other churches can no longer support groups that are part of an organization allowing members who are openly homosexual,” an Assemblies of God statement read. “In the fractured family and culture today, we recognize that many youth are struggling with sexual identity and behavior. Our Assemblies of God churches seek to help these young people experience sexual purity in their lives, and remain virgins until married to a person of the opposite sex.”

Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), a conservative Lutheran denomination, sent a letter to BSA “imploring its leadership not to make the proposed policy change.” In an additional letter signed by 25 Protestant leaders, Harrison used biblical mandates to outline why the proposed policy should be rejected.

Prior to the vote Vicki Biggs, director of LCMS Integrated Communications, said in an email, “We desire to maintain a relationship with BSA, but cannot compromise integrity to our religious beliefs. We will make a determination about our support and relationship with the organization after we’ve had time to review whatever final determination BSA arrives at regarding a change in its policies.”

Rich Peck, communications director for the General Commission on United Methodist Men, said the organization would continue its affiliation with BSA. But local churches, some of which have voiced disapproval of the policy change, may choose to end their charters. The group had issued a statement in February asking the BSA Executive Board to delay the vote in order to give them more time to consider its implications.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN. Michael Foust and Art Toalston of Baptist Press contributed to this article.)

Related story

Boy Scouts overturn ban on gay members

Related column

The Boy Scouts fall to political correctness
5/28/2013 3:49:45 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iran’s Christians facing ‘systematic persecution’

May 28 2013 by Steve Dew-Jones, World Watch Monitor/Baptist Press

TEHRAN – Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with some harsh reports on the country’s human rights record.

Reports from the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) cite evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution” of Protestants and Christian converts, as part of a widespread violation of international laws.

‘Systematic persecution’

The United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, noted in September 2012 that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, while at least 41 were detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in February that Iran “refuted” the UN’s claim of an increase in discrimination toward religious minorities, claiming “all people of Iran regardless of their religion or ethnicity enjoy equal citizenship rights.”

However, ICHRI’s January report, “The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran,” based on interviews with 31 Iranian Christians between April 2011 and July 2012, claims that “despite the Iranian government’s assertions that it respects the rights of its recognized religious minorities, the Christian community in Iran faces systematic state persecution and discrimination.”

This view is supported by Mansour Borji, advocacy officer for the human rights initiative Article18.

“Sometimes the phrase ‘systematic persecution’ is used so loosely that it sounds like a cliché. However, in the case of Iran’s persecution of Christians, it fits the criteria,” Borji told World Watch Monitor.

“Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, severe restrictions on worship services in Farsi language, a ban on the publication of Bibles and Christian literature in Farsi, threats and harassment of evangelical church leaders, and continued attempts to confiscate church properties – these are all pieces in the puzzle.

“In a nutshell, there is a systematic attempt to deprive churches of membership, literature, leadership training and development, communion with other Christians around the world, and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the international covenants that Iran is a signatory of.”

Christians in Iran

The Cost of Faith report states that Iranian Protestants face the “most severe” restrictions on religious practice and association, through “arbitrary” arrests and detentions, state execution and extrajudicial killings.

The number of Christians in Iran was recorded by the World Christian Database in 2010 as fewer than 300,000 (0.36 percent of the population). “Ethnic Christians” from predominantly Armenian (100,940) or Assyrian (74,000) descent comprised the majority of this figure, while 25 percent of Christians (fewer than 70,000) were Protestants, the bulk of which are understood to be converts from Muslim backgrounds.

It is impossible to know the precise number of Christians in Iran due to the perils of professing a Christian faith (particularly for those from Muslim backgrounds), but the figure seems likely to be significantly larger than recorded. Some Christian organizations, such as Iranian Christians International, claim the number of converts alone could be as high as 500,000.

Many Christians in Iran attend underground house churches, which have grown in popularity since 2001. ICHRI attributes this to “growing repression.”

“Theoretically, Protestants, along with Armenians and Assyrians, are among the Christians recognized in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. In practice, however, they have been persecuted and discriminated against, and have faced significantly more aggressive government restrictions and human rights abuses than ethnic Christian groups,” states The Cost of Faith.

Freedom of religion

Iran fails to comply with a number of laws set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to ICHRI, including Article 18, which obligates all countries to safeguard freedom of religion.

In a speech to mark the launch of the UK’s FCO report in April, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all citizens have certain “unalienable rights,” which are “universal” and not an attempt to spread Western values. These rights, he said, include freedom of religion.

The report states that this freedom is “broad” and “encompasses not only the freedom to hold a belief but also the freedom to share it.”

Iran’s appreciation of this freedom comes under serious scrutiny in both reports through a number of examples of Christians in Iran who have been arrested and detained, “often without fair trial or legal representation” (FCO).

Last September’s release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, is hailed in the FCO report as a “rare positive outcome following sustained pressure from the international community.”

Nadarkhani family for World Watch Monitor
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani greets his wife Fatemah after his release from prison in September 2012. 

However, Alistair Burt, FCO Minister with responsibility for Iran, said the arrest “should not have taken place” and called on Iran to “respect the religious freedom of its citizens.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was re-arrested on Christmas Day, but released on January 7. In March, photographs of a man being hanged were attributed as evidence of the pastor’s death, but these were later refuted.

A number of other Iranian Christians remain in what the UK’s FCO labels “harsh conditions” in prison, including Pastor Behnam Irani, who is said to be in ill health; Farshid Fathi, who after 15 months in detention was sentenced last year to six years in prison; and Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born American pastor who in January was jailed for eight years.

After his incarceration, Abedini’s wife Naghmeh Shariat Panahi told World Watch Monitor that she feared she wouldn’t hear her husband’s voice for the duration of his imprisonment unless the international community fought for his release.

The Cost of Faith claims the bulk of arrests of Iranian Christians are “arbitrary” and political, rather than because of any crime committed.

The most common charges, according to the report, include “propaganda against the regime,” “acting against national security,” “contact with a foreign enemy or anti-regime group” and “colluding with enemy foreigners.”

Iranian law

Apostasy remains “uncodified” in the Iranian constitution, which according to the The Cost of Faith creates a loophole that could lead to the legal prosecution of Christian converts.

“The Iranian constitution explicitly instructs judges to utilize Islamic legal sources where crimes and punishments are not covered by the code, leaving the door open for the continued practice of relying on jurisprudence that holds apostasy to be a capital crime,” ICHRI stated.

In his latest report in March, the UN special rapporteur called on Iran to improve its human rights record by putting a stop to “continued widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights,” including discrimination against Christians.

“Christians should not face sanctions for manifesting and practicing their faith,” Shaheed said. “Christians are reportedly being arrested and prosecuted on vaguely worded national security crimes for exercising their beliefs, and the right of Iranians to choose their faith is increasingly at risk.

“Christian interviewees consistently report being targeted by authorities for promoting their faith, participating in informal house-churches with majority convert congregations, allowing converts to join their church services and congregations, and/or converting from Islam. A majority of interviewees that identified themselves as converts reported that they were threatened with criminal charges for apostasy while in custody, and a number of others reported that they were asked to sign documents pledging to cease their church activities in order to gain release.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – World Watch Monitor (formerly Compass Direct News, where this article first appeared, is a California-based news organization reporting on instances of persecution or pressures facing the Christian church around the world. Used by permission.)
5/28/2013 3:37:08 PM by Steve Dew-Jones, World Watch Monitor/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC Credentials Committee named

May 28 2013 by Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter has named members of the Credentials Committee for the June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.

Royce Sweatman of Harrison, Ark., director of missions for the North Arkansas Baptist Association, will serve as chairman.

Other committee members, listed by state, are:
  • ALABAMA – Brad Bakane, Gilbertown Baptist Church, Gilbertown; Candace McIntosh, Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Demopolis.
  • ALASKA – Ruby Stogsdill, First Baptist Church, Soldotna.
  • FLORIDA – Jack Roland, First Baptist Church, Ocala.
  • ILLINOIS – Paul Cooper, Marshall Missionary Church, Marshall; Paul Sadler, First Baptist Church, Dongola.
  • KENTUCKY – Brian Burkhead, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Lexington.
  • LOUISIANA – Gary Mack, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans.
  • MISSOURI – Paul Greene, First Baptist Church, Kimberling City; Jeff Hardy, First Baptist Church, Kimberling City; Diann Patterson, First Baptist Church, Webb City; Steve Patterson, First Baptist Church, Webb City; Phillip Shuford, director of missions, Tri County Baptist Association, Nixa.
  • NORTH CAROLINA – Mike Cummings, Bear Swamp Baptist Church, Pembrook.
  • TENNESSEE – Horace Brown, director of missions, East Tennessee Baptist Association, Newport; Van Richmond, New Life Church, Nashville.
  • TEXAS – David Jones, Fallbrook Church, Spring.
  • VIRGINIA – Doug Echols, Bethel Baptist Church, Yorktown.
  • WEST VIRGINIA – John Freeman, Calvary Baptist Church, Chapmanville.
5/28/2013 3:20:07 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tellers Committee named for SBC

May 28 2013 by Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Members of the Tellers Committee for the June 11-12 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston have been named by SBC President Fred Luter.

Kenneth Priest of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will serve as chairman.

Other committee members, listed by state, are:
  • ALABAMA – Wade Rials, Thorington Road Baptist Church, Montgomery.
  • ARKANSAS – Ray Dean Davis, associational missionary, Tri County Baptist Association, Winne.
  • LOUISIANA – Leonard Carter, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; Artia Hypolite, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans.
  • MISSOURI – Danny Decker, First Baptist Church, Warsaw.
  • TEXAS – Rick Blount, First Baptist Church, Houston; John Elkins, First Baptist Church, Brazoria; Daniel Hu, Northeast Chinese Baptist Mission, Houston; Dale Inman, Calvary Road Baptist Church, Conroe; Ryan Jennings, Sandycrest Baptist Church, Pearland; James Jordan, Northeast Houston Baptist Church, Humble; Randy LaLanne, North East Houston Baptist Church, Humble; Robby Magee, Highlands Baptist Church, LaMarque; Jerry McCurdy, Sandycrest Baptist Church, Pearland; Mike Naron, Second Baptist Church, Pasadena; Coleman Philley, Second Baptist Church, Galena Park; Sonny Steed, Sandycrest Baptist Church, Pearland; Rudy Valdes, Bethel Baptist Church, Houston.
5/28/2013 3:17:41 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GuideStone to offer free health screenings during SBC

May 28 2013 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Services

DALLAS – GuideStone Financial Resources will once again offer a free wellness screening to messengers and guests at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting and Pastor’s Conference, June 10-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
The first 500 people screened will receive a free copy of GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins’ book, The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know.
Last year, almost 1,200 messengers and their guests had the free wellness screening, which includes measuring cholesterol and glucose levels. Among those participating was Peggy Hatley, along with her husband Tom Hatley, who is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas. During the 2012 meeting in New Orleans, Peggy Hatley learned she was diabetic.
“We make a point every year at convention to get a wellness screening,” Hatley said. “It’s normally to keep a watch on our cholesterol to make sure it’s not too high.”

Hatley only had to wait a few minutes for the results.
“My blood sugar level was 155,” she said. “They said, ‘This is too high. We want you to fast tonight and come back first thing in the morning and we’ll take it again.’”
The next morning her fasting glucose level was 165. Anything over 100 is considered cause for concern.
Diabetes runs in Hatley’s family, so she knew she needed to take things seriously. After returning home to Rogers, she visited with her doctor whose own tests confirmed the results she received at the booth. Hatley said the doctor gave her the choice of treating her diabetes with diet and lifestyle changes, or by adding medicine to her life. She chose to make lifestyle changes.
After meeting with a dietician, she limits herself to no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal. By eating right and monitoring her blood sugar daily, she has lost 25 pounds since August and has managed to keep her blood sugar within the range her doctor prescribed. Hatley said she reads labels carefully at the grocery store and does not bring unhealthy foods into her home anymore. She is committed to making permanent lifestyle changes.
“I realized I needed to make my body a whole lot better,” Hatley said. “I’m 60 years old. I want the things I’m called to do for the Lord to matter, and if I’m not well, I won’t be able to serve Him effectively.”
She encourages others coming to the convention to take advantage of the free screening.
“It’s such a great ministry GuideStone offers,” she said. “I’m going to the booth this year to tell the people working there how grateful I am for the screening.”
The GuideStone Wellness Center will be open each morning at 8 a.m. For best results, it is recommended that participants fast for 12 hours prior to being screened.
5/28/2013 3:12:32 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Services | with 0 comments

‘Impacting Lostness’ plan approved, campus ministry debated

May 24 2013 by Shawn Hendricks | BR Managing Editor

The Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) signed off on a new strategy and structure designed to plant more churches, strengthen existing ones and tackle areas of “lostness.” The board meeting was held May 21-22 at Caraway Conference Center and Camp in Sophia.
Entitled “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making,” the five-year strategy will now go before N.C. Baptists this fall at the BSC annual meeting in Greensboro. The plan will take effect January 2014.
At the heart of the new strategy and structure is the desire to reach 5.8 million North Carolinians, who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. To help accomplish that, the strategy focuses on making more disciples and mobilizing Baptists through training and engaging more ethnic groups located in eight population centers. Read related story
“The reality is that North Carolina Baptists have failed to reach those who are spiritually lost within the borders of our state,” shared Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, in his report. “And in reality we are not making many disciples of those we are reaching.” 
Board members approved the BSC’s plan with an overwhelming majority. But approval didn’t happen without nearly an hour and a half of discussion and debate – nearly all of which focused on the future of N.C’s Baptist Campus Ministry.
Under the new plan, the BSC’s Collegiate Partnerships team will work more closely with churches, part-time leaders, volunteers and associations. Together, they will develop networks to strengthen and expand campus ministry throughout the state.
The main point of contention for some N.C. Baptists has involved the BSC’s plans to no longer support full-time ministry positions on college campuses. This would eliminate nine campus ministry positions.
The nine campuses with full-time staff positions include Appalachian State University, Boone; East Carolina University, Greenville; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill; UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, and Western Carolina University, Cullowhee.
Since announcing the plan, the BSC has received numerous letters and emails from N.C. Baptists regarding campus ministry. The BSC distributed letters for board members to review during the meeting. Those letters voiced concerns that campus ministry will no longer exist or be as effective.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” said Hollifield. “I want to reach more students. I want to keep the students connected to the churches. … I have no interest in us losing the presence of Baptist Campus Ministry on these campuses.”

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, talks with Patrick Austin and Sydney Stikeleather, both representing Baptist Campus Ministry, following the Board of Directors meeting May 21.

The strategy will have to be contextualized and based on the individual needs of each campus to be most effective, Hollifield added. He cautioned that many of the final details of the plan will not be worked out until a 2014 budget is approved in the coming months.
“It’s a new model that is in the process of being formed,” Hollifield said. “We’re going to use what model we need to use to be effective on those campuses.”
For now the BSC plans to hang on to their campus ministry facilities, some of which are old, rarely used or in need of repair. How each building is utilized in the future will depend on the specific needs of the students, Hollifield said.
One statistic that is fueling the need for change with campus ministry, Hollifield said, involves the number of college students who are leaving the Church after graduation.
“When they leave home and go away to college, more than 85 percent never return to church,” Hollifield said. “You look at these thousands upon thousands of students that are on these campuses … [and] I’m concerned that many of these students are not connecting with a local church while they are there. … I’m concerned there is a tendency to see the campus minister as their pastor, and … they don’t get connected to the church.”
Board members also raised questions and concerns regarding the number of college students who are active in campus ministry efforts.
According to a BSC report, there are around 1,000 total students involved in campus ministry at the nine schools that have a campus minister. BSC staff shared during the meeting that about 2,400 students were “reached” last year through campus ministry on more than 38 N.C. college campuses.
“That’s less than 100 people per campus,” said Phil Addison, a board member and pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church. “You’re talking about campuses that have 10,000 to 20,000 people on them.  Don’t get me wrong. What’s the value of a soul? I understand that. But at the same time, we have to be realists and stewards. ... Something is going to have to change. It’s got to change.”
“I personally … see [the new strategy] as a good thing. I see it as an opportunity to let other churches get involved.”
But some board members expressed skepticism about the new plan. Concerns involved manpower, logistics and an uneasiness with a new approach toward campus ministry.
“I’m really bothered by this,” said Gerald Morris, a board member and director of missions with the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. “That’s where I met my wife. ... I did not grow up with a family that went to church on a regular basis. … That is what kept me going. … This has been thrown out there so fast.”
Sydney Stikeleather, an ex-officio board member and president of the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) for the state, also expressed concern about the strategy. She explained how she had felt like a rug had been “pulled out from underneath [her]” when she learned UNC-Charlotte, where she is also president of the school’s BCM, was losing its full-time campus minister.
But during and after the meeting, Stikeleather expressed optimism toward the plan.
“The main thing I took away from this meeting is that none of these people want to see campus ministry end,” she wrote in an email to campus ministry leaders across the state.
“They recognize the need of the gospel on campus, and they want to spread God's love in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
Stikeleather appealed to fellow campus ministry leaders to get involved and work with Baptist leadership, churches and associations.
“No one understands your campus and your students better than you,” she wrote. “You are a vital part of the success of BCM in the future. … I must ask you to do one of the most difficult things us sinful, selfish, prideful human beings can do: let go and trust God. … I am excited about the future of BCM. I am excited to see churches take a stronger role in the lives of our students. I am excited to see more students in churches. More than anything, I am excited to see what God has in store for all of us.”
In other business …
  • board members approved a name change for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which is owned and operated by BSC. If approved by N.C. Baptists this fall, during their annual meeting, the new name will be Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Read more about Fruitland.
  • the BSC’s Executive Committee approved the naming of the Jim and Nancy Jacumin Family Retreat Lodge, an 80-bed facility that includes meeting rooms, and kitchen space. The lodge is part of Caraway’s New Beginnings campaign to expand and improve the campus. The Jacumins are members of East Valdese Baptist Church in Valdese. Jim Jacumin is a former N.C. senator and former member of the Board of Directors. The Jacumins gave $250,000 toward the construction of the lodge, which is set to begin in the coming weeks.
  • board members learned that high-speed Internet will be available on the Caraway campus within two weeks.
The next Board of Directors meeting will be held Sept. 24-25 at Caraway.
5/24/2013 2:17:30 PM by Shawn Hendricks | BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Praise band helps Baptist Children’s Homes

May 24 2013 by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

The band members of Awestruck Worship will tell you that creating music is as much about helping others as it is about writing and performing.
When the group, the worship team of Awestruck Church in Gibsonville, N.C., began production for its sophomore-recording project in January, they started looking for a ministry they could help support. The band discovered that ministry was within a 30-mile drive in Thomasville.

“My wife and I were Googling orphanages on the Internet, and we ended up at the website of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina,” said Tyler Ricketts, a singer, guitarist and songwriter for Awestruck Worship.

Ricketts is also the worship pastor at Awestruck Church. Ricketts grew up in Greensboro and attended a Baptist church, but he had not heard of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) until discovering it on the Internet. For nearly 130 years, BCH has provided help for troubled and hurting children, as well as others with special needs, throughout the state.
“It was almost this instantaneous feeling that we needed to get to know BCH and help,” Ricketts explained.
“There aren’t just children overseas who need help – there are people right here in our backyard.”

Contributed photo
Awestruck Worship’s song “Enough” costs less than $1 to download. All proceeds from the sale will help the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina with its “Sweet Dreams” bed sponsorship.

Ricketts brought the idea to the other band members and leaders at the church.
“It was really a no-brainer,” Ricketts said. “And the song ‘Enough’ is a small place for us to start.”
“Enough,” the first single from their upcoming CD, was released March 19. And just as the group connected to BCH through the Internet, the band hopes to connect to listeners through online music stores, including iTunes, where “Enough” is being sold.
“The message of the song is that God alone is enough,” Ricketts said. “No matter the hard times you’ve gone though, He’s always there for you.”
“Enough” costs $.99 to download, and the band is donating all proceeds to purchase BCH “Sweet Dreams” bed sponsorships. The band has set a goal of reaching 10,000 downloads by Christmas so that multiple bed sponsorships, enough to help boys and girls living in three children’s cottages, can be purchased. The bed sponsor program is a way for individuals, churches and groups to help provide a safe bed, hot meals and caring house parents to meet the residents’ daily needs for a full year.
“We are grateful Awestruck Worship has chosen to use their music to impact the lives of Baptist Children’s Homes’ boys and girls,” said BCH President Michael C. Blackwell.
“This is a remarkable gift of both financial resources and God-given talent.  And it serves as a powerful example of Christ’s hands and feet to the children in our care, many who are learning about the love of Jesus for the very first time.”
“It’s such a small price that goes a long way,” Ricketts said. “We don’t want to stop with 10,000 downloads. It’s also about awareness – that’s the big thing. People can ask their co-workers and other people they know to download the song, and they can let them know about BCH.”
Awestruck Worship and BCH are promoting the initiative on their individual Facebook pages. The band also plans to share about BCH when they perform at upcoming shows throughout the year.

“Awestruck is always about someone else,” Ricketts said. “If we create music for fame or money, then we’ve missed the point of why we’re in this.”
“I hope the children at BCH see us as the hands and feet of Jesus,” he added. “I want them to feel welcomed and loved.”
5/24/2013 1:57:34 PM by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

Boy Scouts overturn ban on gay members

May 24 2013 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas – Delegates to the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Thursday (May 23) approved new membership guidelines that open the ranks of the organization to homosexual members. Young men who openly claim to be homosexual may now participate as Scouts. 
The decision, the BSA leadership said in a statement, was based on “growing input from within the Scouting family.” That input led to a national review of policy, or a “comprehensive listening exercise,” resulting in a resolution to remove the restriction “denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”

Some 1,400 delegates to the National Council approved the change in membership standards by a margin of 61-39 percent, but changes to the adult leadership policy of the organization, which forbids homosexual Scout leaders, was not up for vote and remains in place. Rules on sexual misconduct, heterosexual and homosexual, also remain in place for Scouts and Scout leaders.

John Stemberger, who has waged a national campaign to keep the ban on homosexual Scouts in place through the website, said the “most influential youth organization in America had turned a sad corner.”

“The Boy Scouts of America have demonstrated that values are not timeless,” Stemberger said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts are now teaching kids that when your values are no longer popular, change them.”

Stemberger added that BSA leaders had succumbed to the pressure of special interest groups by making the change to the membership policy. “The leaders of the Boy Scouts of America,” he said, “make decisions like politicians placing their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.”

Stemberger add that Thursday was the last day he would wear a Boy Scouts of American uniform. He said he plans to call a coalition together to discuss creating a new youth organization centered on biblical values, a call echoed by many religious leaders.

“We had hoped to keep sex and politics out of Scouting,” Stemberger said. “We grieve today not because we are leaving the Boy Scouts of America, but because the Boy Scouts left us.” He believes the BSA can expect to lose no fewer than 200,000 members and $30 million in funding.

Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page, who had met with Scouting leaders and had urged them to maintain the current policy, said he was “deeply saddened” that the BSA overturned its “constitutionally protected expressive message that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. 

“We know that the pressures exerted against the voting members of the 1,400 chartered organizations by homosexual activist groups have been unrelenting,” Page said. “We are grateful for each voting member who voted in the minority; but our sadness for the Scouting organization as a whole cannot be overstated.”

Page said the vote “ushers in a sea-change in the credibility of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable boys’ organization for millions of Americans who believe strongly in the principles of biblical morality. To claim that the Boys Scouts is the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training suddenly rings hollow.”

“We continue to pray for our country. We believe we are in desperate need of a genuine spiritual awakening that will transform lives through the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Page said.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land predicted a mass exodus of religious groups from the organization.

“Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.”

The “supposed compromise” satisfies no one and signals the BSA will only become more inclusive of gays, Land said.

“The supposed compromise takes away their best defense. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts did not have to have homosexual Scout masters because the homosexual lifestyle was contrary to the core values of Scouts. If you’re going to allow opening gay Scouts to participate in Scouting, then it’s no longer a core value,” Land said. “And so what we’re going to see now is a flood of litigation by pro-homosexual groups arguing that the continuing ban on gay Scout Masters is … prejudice and they will win. They will win, because the Boy Scouts have stripped themselves of their defense the Supreme Court used.”

Land advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of Scout troops and support the Royal Ambassadors ministry to boys.

The statement from the BSA leadership said the new membership policy is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the organization enough time to implement the policy and communicate it to its 116,000 units. The statement also said the organization would not be distracted from its mission by a “single, divisive and unresolved societal issue.” Leaders said there are no plans to review the issue further.

Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the decision lands the “sexual revolution’s onward march” square in the middle of Scouting.

“Few, if any, are suggesting the Boy Scouts kick out boys based on their particular temptations. We don’t, and shouldn’t do that in our churches, much less in the Scouts,” Moore told Baptist Press. “But this change is more than this. It doesn’t speak in terms of temptations but in terms of the claiming of a sexually politicized identity as morally neutral.”

Local Scouting troops sponsored by evangelical, Roman Catholic or Latter-day Saints congregations, Moore said, “will be pressured to mute a definition of ‘morally straight’ that includes a sexuality intended only for the lifelong one-flesh union of a man and a woman in marriage.”

“Depending on how radically the BSA applies this new policy to local troops, I suspect many will be seeking an alternative to the Boy Scouts to train up boys toward a life of virtue,” Moore said.

The revision of the membership policy “highlights how important it is for churches to speak clearly of both our love for all people, including our gay and lesbian neighbors, and the importance of God’s design for human sexuality for human flourishing,” Moore said. “The Gospel doesn’t define us, as the culture does, in terms of our wants and desires. The Gospel addresses us, all of us, as sinners and calls us to a life of freedom and cross-bearing sacrifice.”

The culture is confused, Moore said, as it always is in a fallen world.

“Our voluntary associations, even the most venerable of them, are increasingly ambiguous about what it means to live a good life rooted in the permanent things,” Moore said. “Our churches cannot, and will not, share that ambiguity.”

The BSA statement ended by acknowledging the different opinions held on the matter of homosexuality, but said children were “better off when they are in Scouting.” 

To view the Boy Scouts of America statement in full, go to:
5/24/2013 1:53:09 PM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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