May 2013

Hearts ready for gospel, Elliff tells appointees

May 22 2013 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

ROGERS, Ark. – Turner Bowman* walked into a jail cell as the door slammed behind him. He knew all too well the sounds, smells and sights of captivity.

“I was serving as a jail chaplain when God called me not just to a person in physical bondage, but a people in spiritual bondage,” he said.

Bowman, a corrections officer and later a chaplain in the Virginia state prison system, was one of 58 candidates appointed by International Mission Board (IMB) trustees in a May 15 service at Cross Church in Rogers, Ark.

He and his wife Alice*, a family physician, will serve in Central Asia.
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Photo by Paul W. Lee
Dustin and April Schadt, who will serve in sub-Saharan Africa, share testimony of God’s call on their lives in a May 15 IMB appointment service at Cross Church in Rogers, Ark.


Ellen Smythe*, who will work with her husband Stefan* among refugees in North Africa and the Middle East, learned about the hope found in Christ from her adopted sister Shelley.*

“My sister told me about her life in Morocco – how God had changed her life and never forsaken her,” Smythe said.

Taken to an orphanage at age 5 because of her skin color, Shelley heard the gospel from Christian workers and began a relationship with Christ, Smythe explained.

“Hearing her story opened my eyes to the hardships around the world ... and to the idea of mission work,” Smythe said. “I was able to witness the fruit of foreign mission work in my own home, and through that God began to work on my heart.”

On a mission trip to a restricted area, Douglas Murray* recalled a seven-hour bus ride down bumpy roads that required crossing a river and hiking a mountain to reach a remote village. When he asked villagers if they knew who Jesus was, they responded, “No. Where does He live?”

“They had never heard of Jesus,” said Murray, who will serve with his wife Heather* in East Asia. “We go so they can know Him.”

Acknowledging the varied ways in which God calls those like Bowman, Smythe and Murray to a lost world, IMB President Tom Elliff reminded appointees of the uncertainty of the future, the necessity of being filled with God’s Spirit, the reality of being God’s witnesses and the extremity of the locations in which they will serve.

Preaching from Acts 1:6-8, Elliff said, “You don’t know how long you are going to live. You don’t know how long other people are going to live. You don’t know how long it will be before Jesus returns.”

Because of these uncertainties, Elliff warned appointees to live day by day in “the fullness of God’s Spirit” and to be witnesses of His power even in the most restricted, most remote areas of the world.

He also encouraged appointees to recognize that God’s Spirit has gone before them, preparing the hearts of those who have not yet heard of Jesus.

“They are ready. They are eager. In their hearts is emptiness only Christ can fill,” Elliff said. “If they can just hang on, before too long you’re going to get there with the Word of God.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.)
5/22/2013 3:09:37 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Vermont legalizes assisted suicide

May 22 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Legalized assisted suicide has moved from the Northwest to the Northeast and from the ballot box to the statehouse.
 
Vermont became the third state in the country to enact physician-assisted suicide when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation May 20. It joins Oregon and Washington as the only states to permit terminally ill citizens to take their own lives by using lethal drug doses prescribed by doctors.

The New England state, however, is the first to legalize assisted suicide through the legislature. Oregon and Washington both approved the practice in voter initiatives.

The new law means Vermont residents with terminal illnesses “at the end of their lives now have control over their own destinies,” Shumlin, a Democrat, said on Twitter.

Pro-life advocates, however, decried the bill’s enactment.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land called Monday “a sad day for Vermont and a sad day for America.”

“I am saddened that a state of the United States would so abandon the founding principles enunciated in our Declaration of Independence and summarized with the statement ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ that they would completely surrender to the ‘quality of life’ ethic and approve assisted suicide,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a statement to Baptist Press.

“In doing so, they have descended from the mountaintop ‘sanctity of life’ ethic which our forefathers bequeathed us to the dangerous depths and valley of despair known as the mere ‘quality of life’ ethic,” Land said.

Opponents of assisted suicide warned the measure threatens the freedom and lives of defenseless people. They said Vermont’s safeguards against abuse are even weaker than those in Oregon’s law, the first one to gain approval.

The law “provides incentives for physicians and even family members to pressure vulnerable people into dying for the convenience of others,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life (AUL).

It “lays the foundation for deadly acts disguised as ‘care,’“ she said in a written statement.

AUL pointed to the following failures by the law to protect people considering assisted suicide:
  • It enables a doctor who has examined a patient only once to prescribe lethal drugs for him.
  • It does not require a doctor to refer a patient to a psychiatrist to decide if he is depressed or being coerced to take his life.
  • It requires no witnesses when a patient takes the lethal drugs, increasing the potential for people who want to hasten his death to compel him to end his life or to administer the dose themselves.
“This kind of law undermines the humanity of the vulnerable, encouraging a cost-analysis approach to life rather than affirming the humanity of the sufferer,” Yoest said.

Pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith said hospitals, nursing homes and physicians should refuse to take part in assisted suicide – an action permitted by the Vermont law. Some doctors and health-care institutions in Washington have declined to participate under that state’s law.

“Indeed, rather than help kill, doctors and hospitals should post copies of the Hippocratic Oath in their waiting rooms and publicly declare their practice or facility to be an ‘assisted suicide free zone,’“ Smith wrote on his blog. “It would set a great public example by proclaiming loudly that killing is not medicine.”

Oregon reported a record 77 assisted suicides in 2012. Since the law was enacted in 1997, there have been 673 assisted suicides recorded, according to the Oregon Public Health Division.

Washington reported 70 assisted suicides after taking lethal drugs in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available. A total of 157 assisted suicides have been reported in the state since legalization.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
5/22/2013 3:06:31 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Supreme Court takes up major prayer case

May 22 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a prayer case that could have a major impact on the intersection between church and state and finally bring clarity to what is constitutionally allowed – such as the mention of “Jesus” – in prayers at government meetings.

At issue is an open policy in the town of Greece, N.Y., to allow a person from the community to pray before the monthly board meetings. All clergy of all faiths in the community who wanted to pray were welcome to do so, and their names were placed on a list. Each month, the next person on the list was invited. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 ruled that the prayers amounted to an unconstitutional government establishment of religion because most of the prayers were explicitly Christian.

The Second Circuit made clear that praying at the meetings was allowed as long as there was more balance. The town’s policy, the court ruled, “had the effect of affiliating the town with Christianity.” In one portion of the ruling, the Second Circuit frowned on the fact that that two-thirds of the prayers during one stretch contained references to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son” or the “Holy Spirit.”
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SXC photo by Lionel Titu


The Supreme Court agreed May 20 to hear the case, which probably is good news for other towns nationwide embroiled in similar controversies. Including the Second Circuit, four circuit courts have ruled on prayer at government meetings, splitting 2-2, said David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the town of Greece. The high court likely will hear the case in the fall.

“Americans certainly should have the same freedom as the Founders did,” Cortman told Baptist Press. “[Praying before government meetings] was a practice that was established over 200 years ago and certainly should be just as constitutional today.”

The fact that most of the prayers offered were by Christians only reflected the town’s makeup, Cortman said.

“The policy is open and neutral to anyone in the community,” Cortman said. “It’s merely a matter of the demographics of the community that make up the balance of prayers. What is a town to do? Engage in a religious Gerrymander and begin busing in people from all over the state and ask them, ‘What do you believe? What is your religion? How will you pray?’ That is the exact opposite of what the city should be doing. They should just open the forum and let the people in the community pray according to the dictates of their conscience. That’s what this town was doing.”

If the town begins monitoring the prayers and not allowing certain words, you have the “the local government controlling” the prayers – which itself would be unconstitutional, Cortman said.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State brought the lawsuit against the town of Greece on behalf of two residents.

“A town council meeting isn’t a church service, and it shouldn’t seem like one,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Government can’t serve everyone in the community when it endorses one faith over others. That sends the clear message that some are second-class citizens based on what they believe about religion.”

Supporters of the town’s policy point to a 1983 Supreme Court case, Marsh v. Chambers, in which the justices in a 6-3 decision upheld Nebraska’s practice of paying for a chaplain who began each legislative session with prayer. Chief Justice Warren Burger, writing for the majority, said there was an “unambiguous and unbroken history” of legislative prayer dating back to the nation’s founding.

ADF quoted Marsh in its petition to the Supreme Court.

“The prayers in Marsh were offered for sixteen years by the same paid Presbyterian minister and frequently contained explicitly Christian themes,” ADF wrote, defending the town of Greece.

The Family Research Council submitted a brief to the court on behalf of 49 members of the House of Representatives supporting the town of Greece. The brief noted that the “majority of legislative prayers in Congress include explicit Christian content.” It also said that if the Supreme Court were to follow the Second Circuit’s logic and analyze prayers, it “would be a step toward precisely the sort of establishment of religion the [Establishment] Clause forbids.”

The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
5/22/2013 3:00:28 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Death toll 24 and climbing in Oklahoma after tornado’s devastation of Moore

May 21 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

MOORE, Okla. – Dozens were killed as a historic tornado moved through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20 prompting the North American Mission Board to direct all incoming disaster relief funds to the area.

By Tuesday morning the death toll was reported at 51 and climbing, but the medical examiner’s office later revised that to at least 24 deaths, according to The Associated Press.

Many of the victims were children, after the tornado severely damaged two elementary schools. The search for survivors continued Tuesday, and it was unclear how many could still be trapped in rubble, dead or alive.

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Fred Luter expressed concern for the tragedy in the nation’s heartland.

“On behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, our prayers and thoughts are with the families and victims of the tragic tornado in Moore, Okla.,” Luter said in a statement May 21. “Not only our prayers but disaster relief teams from across the SBC are there to assist in any way possible. May God give the citizens of Moore, Okla., comfort, strength and hope during this trying time.”
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The death toll climbing Tuesday morning (May 21) after a two-mile wide tornado moved through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Okla., severely damaging numerous neighborhoods and two elementary schools.


Hundreds of people were injured as the two-mile wide tornado stayed on the ground for 40 minutes, cutting a 22-mile path in a heavily populated area. An early estimate rated the tornado as an EF4, CNN said.

North Carolina Baptists stand ready to respond as well. The N.C. Baptist Men have alerted Oklahoma Baptists of their availability.
 
“We have equipment and team leaders on alert for a possible response,” according to Baptist Men’s Facebook page. “We are maintaining situational awareness and in contact with national leadership. Pray for the survivors as they face the challenges of today.”
 
Recovery volunteers were urged to contact their team or regional leaders to let them know of their availability.

The North American Mission Board, in charge of the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operation, used Twitter Monday night to signal an exclusive allotment of funds.

“We are currently directing all donations to our disaster fund to Oklahoma City relief. #prayforoklahoma,” NAMB tweeted with a link to a donation form.

Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), circulated a letter Monday night saying he was “deeply devastated by the destruction and loss of life” caused by the Moore tornado as well as those that struck Sunday in nearby areas.

“I pray God gives us the strength to pull together, as His people, to turn this tragedy into a moment that gives Him glory,” Jordan wrote. “Our disaster relief teams are on the scene of every area affected in Oklahoma, and we will not leave the scenes until every family is served.”

Jordan asked Southern Baptists to pray for everyone affected by the disaster and to consider making a contribution to the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief efforts.

“May we be the hands and feet of Christ during these crucial days,” Jordan said.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief teams already were responding to severe weather from Sunday in Shawnee, Edmond and Little Axe when the Moore tornado hit Monday afternoon.

“Within moments of hearing of the destruction in Moore, we put together a rapid response volunteer team to help with the cleanup and recovery efforts,” Sam Porter, the BGCO’s disaster relief director, said Monday night. “Our teams are on the ground now surveying the area and helping where we can be of most assistance.”

At least 80 volunteers from Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief had been deployed since Sunday, including a mobile command center, a mobile kitchen and feeding units, chainsaw teams and about 10 chaplains.

To support Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit donations.namb.net. In North Carolina, visit baptistsonmission.org or contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5606.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
5/21/2013 5:13:59 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



November annual meeting candidates announced

May 21 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Each year the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) looks for new leaders to represent N.C. Baptists and help the convention move forward in serving God’s Kingdom.
 
Some candidates have already declared intentions to run for offices this November. Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, said he will seek the office of president.
 
Timmy D. Blair Sr., this year’s current second vice president and senior pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, said he will look at filling the first vice president spot. For second vice president there are currently two men who have declared intentions to seek this office: Mark Hunnicutt, associate pastor of ministries at Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, and Marc Sanders, senior pastor of Sandy Branch Baptist Church in Bear Creek.
 
Official nominations will be made at the BSC annual meeting in November, and candidates can be nominated during the meeting from the floor of the meeting hall. This year’s meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at The Sheraton Four Seasons/Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
Blanton has led Lake Norman for 16 years. A South Carolina native, Blanton has his bachelor’s degree from Gardner-Webb College (now University). He also has a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor in ministry degree from Drew University Theological School in Madison, N.J. He has also served three other churches: Macon Baptist Church in Macon; Midway Baptist Church in Pickens, S.C.; and Balfour Baptist Church in Asheboro.
 
“I have had the wonderful privilege of serving alongside many N.C. Baptists in various roles of leadership in our convention,” Blanton said. “That opportunity has granted to me a deep appreciation for our state convention and the unique opportunities that we face together in Kingdom work. “Each of these roles have added value and leadership experience.”
 
Blanton has served as moderator of the Randolph Baptist Association and has served several terms on the BSC Board of Directors (BOD). He was president of the BOD (2010-2012) and has also served on the Executive, Nomination and Budget committees. He has also been on the Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute Board of Directors, the Fruitland president search committee (for David Horton, current president), the BSC executive director-treasurer search committee (for Jim Royston) and was president of the N.C. Pastor’s Conference in 2011. 
 
Blanton’s nomination will come from Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
 
“I have known Bob for 40 years,” said Mathis. “We roomed together at Gardner-Webb University. Bob has a servant’s heart with a tremendous work ethic and impeccable character. He would make a great president if this year’s messengers choose to elect him.”
 
Lake Norman holds five worship services each weekend, one on Saturday and four on Sunday. The church has grown from averaging 250 people during a worship service to more than 1,500.
 
During Blanton’s tenure, Lake Norman has raised its Cooperative Program (CP) and missions giving. The church participates in local missions through various ministries including partnering with an African-American church through its Bread of Life food ministry each week and hosting a Hmong congregation on its campus each Sunday. The church is working with a West Virginia association to develop and build an associational camp and is partnering with churches in Moldova and Ukraine.
 
Like Blanton, Blair has been working among N.C. Baptists for a number of years. He attended Fruitland before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla. He received his master of divinity from Luther Rice University in Lithonia, Ga. He has also pastored Bolton Baptist Church in Bolton, N.C., and Salem Baptist Church in Aynor, S.C. “I would like to thank all [N.C.] Baptists for allowing me the privilege of serving you as your second vice president,” Blair said. “Traveling across this beautiful state of ours ... and hearing about what God is doing in so many places has really given me a greater perspective and appreciation for the work of the Kingdom.”
 
“With the Lord’s strength I will do everything I can to serve you with integrity and humility,” Blair said.
Blair’s nomination will come from Stan Welch, senior pastor of West Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville.
 
“Timmy has been a great pastor and leader among our N.C. churches for multiple decades now,” Welch said. “He has faithfully served the Baptist State Convention … for the last two years and has gained valuable experience. He is aware of the difficult days in which we minister, and is optimistic of how our God will faithfully lead us through them.”
 
Blair has held leadership roles in the Columbus and Little River Baptist associations. He also was an officer for Luther Rice N.C. alumni and was on the board of ministers for Campbell University. Blair has served on the BSC Program, Place and Preacher Committee from 2006 to 2009. He was chairman of this committee in 2009.
 
Blair writes a column called “Timeless Truths” for the Angier Independent and has led mission trips to South Carolina, West Virginia, New Mexico, South Dakota and South Africa.
 
Hunnicutt has been on staff at Mud Creek since 1996. He has served on the Committee of Nominations for the BSC and has been an instructor at Fruitland since 1998. Hunnicutt holds degrees from Fruitland, North Greenville College and Masters International School of Divinity.
 
“I love being a N.C. Baptist,” Hunnicutt said. “All my life I have been served by N.C. Baptists. As a kid I experienced Christ at N.C. Baptist camps and retreats and as a young adult I was equipped in their institutions. I want to give back by using my spiritual gifts to serve the people, leadership and churches of the North Carolina Baptist Convention.”
 
He will be nominated by Phil Ortego, senior pastor of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington. He said there were several reasons why Hunnicutt would be a good second vice president.
 
“First, Mark is a man who loves the Lord Jesus and consistently models what it means to live the gospel in all areas of life,” Ortego said. “Secondly, Mark loves the local church and has proven this through his service at Mud Creek Baptist Church where he has served as pastor of ministries for the past 17 years.”
 
Ortego also referenced Hunnicutt’s work with N.C. Baptist Men, his mission endeavors and his “heart to serve the Baptists of North Carolina.” 
 
A N.C. native, Sanders has a bachelor’s degree from the University of N.C. at Chapel Hill and a master of divinity from Duke University Divinity School. He has continued to pursue theological education through taking classes at Southeastern Seminary.
 
“I believe that my education has afforded me a unique opportunity to fine tune clear and concise biblical responses to questions while in the midst of a liberal and at times hostile academic environment,” Sanders said.
 
He pastored Enfield Baptist Church where Cooperative Program giving expanded in his more than five years there. He also served in leadership in North Roanoke Baptist Association. He has almost completed three years at Sandy Branch Baptist, where CP giving is at 12 percent of undesignated gifts. Overall the church gives 22 percent of its budget to missions. The church has helped raise $20,000 specifically for church planting efforts over the last 2.5 years in Ohio and the Montagnard community in N.C. as well as helping with ministries within public schools.
 
He is currently serving as missions development council chairman of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association. He has served on the BSC Committee on Convention Meetings and the Credentials Sub-Committee. He is currently on the BSC Committee on Nominations and is the 2014 vice-president elect for the N.C. Pastors Conference.
 
Sanders’ nomination will come from Scott Faw, senior pastor of Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Siler City.
 
“Marc is a loyal Southern Baptist and a leader among leaders,” Faw said. “He is currently the pastor of the Sandy Branch Baptist Church in Bear Creek where he is doing an outstanding job for that congregation.
“In the last several years Marc has led missions teams to the states of Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio. Marc will serve us well as North Carolina Baptists.”
5/21/2013 5:09:45 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



‘One in a million’: Fruitland committed to paying debt, shaping lives

May 21 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Since 1946 Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute has maintained a strong reputation for training pastors and church leaders. Today between 20 to 25 percent of all Baptist pastors in North Carolina and South Carolina are graduates of the school, which is located in Hendersonville, N.C.
 
“I don’t know of any college or seminary who has such a high number of graduates who are serving as pastors in the state,” said David Horton, the school’s president. “They are serving as missionaries in the USA and in various countries around the world. And they all got their start right here in Fruitland.”
 
Horton recently learned of another surprising statistic when a survey revealed that more than 50 percent of the school’s graduates continue their education in other schools, receiving not only a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree, also. Twelve percent of Fruitland’s graduates go on to earn doctorates.
 
“During our alumni day last year a Fruitland alumnus said to me, as sincerely as he could possibly say it,” Horton recalled, “‘After I graduated from Fruitland I went on to receive my bachelor’s degree, a master of divinity and a doctorate. If I had to turn in all of my degrees and could only keep one, I would keep my degree from Fruitland.’ He said, ‘Fruitland is foundational to everything else I did – my ministerial effectiveness, my academics. It all came back to my training at Fruitland. Fruitland enabled all of the other accomplishments.’”
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“Fruitland is a great deal,” Horton said. “A student who comes to Fruitland is getting an affordable, first-class education, along with a foundation for life and ministry that cannot be compared to any other educational opportunity.”
 
Sixty percent of the school’s budget comes from Cooperative Program (CP) gifts through Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC). This keeps tuition low, even lower than most community colleges.
 
But the funding challenge of Fruitland is like that of seminaries. Almost no graduates become highly paid executives who can afford to make big donations to the school. “Our alumni are very loyal. There is a high degree of loyalty, but typically a low level of income among them,” Horton said.
 
Fruitland feels the pinch now as they attempt to raise $1 million dollars to repay a loan. Before Horton became the president, the school borrowed $1.2 million from the BSC in 2007 to expand their chapel in honor of outgoing president, Kenneth Ridings.
 
Horton said, “The chapel was so small we could not hold graduation ceremonies on the campus. It was expanded to seat 600 people. Now we can accommodate graduation ceremonies and host major conferences. It has been a tremendous benefit to us.”
 
The chapel holds more than eight events annually with attendance of more than 500, in addition to four weekly chapel services.
 
“There was a lot of optimism in 2007,” he said. “Things looked bright regarding paying the loan quickly. But as the chapel went up, the economy went down. Repaying the loan has been very slow. The state convention has been patient with us.
 
“We believe it is a matter of integrity that we repay the debt. Some have asked if the convention could forgive the loan. Our board considered that and with one voice they expressed that we are totally committed to repaying the loan.”
 
Through Fruitland’s “One in a Million” campaign, its board is appealing to all N.C. Baptists to make a special contribution toward the goal of raising $1 million. This will pay the debt, which is now about $850,000. It will also allow the school to renovate other buildings that are in need of repair.
 
“We want to find 1,000 churches or individuals who will give $1,000 dollars over the next 18 months to meet this goal,” he said. “I know budgets are tight, but most churches who love Fruitland can find $1,000, especially when they see they are enabling those pastors and church planters on the field in these crucial times.”
 
In October, N.C. Baptists will have an opportunity to take a special offering to honor Kenneth Ridings and to show their love for Fruitland’s mission.
 
“Kenneth Ridings has touched so many people over the 40 years of his teaching at Fruitland, his preaching across several states and his leadership as Fruitland’s president for 11 years,” Horton said. “We hope people will want to honor this great man of God with a gift to pay for this building.
 
Horton added, “We need our friends to do three things. First, please pray for Fruitland. I am really serious about that. That is the best gift they can give us. Pray for the hand of God and the anointing to be on Fruitland.
 
“Second, keep sending students our way,” he said. “Third, we need financial support. Please give to the Cooperative Program, and please help us in this special challenge to pay our debt.”
 
“… You can’t put a value on what it means to train someone to be a minister of the gospel, and to deal with a soul that hangs in the balance between heaven and hell. Is anything more important than that? We ought to put our money into schools and churches that are dealing with souls.”
 
Two Fruitland alumni shared how the school has impacted their lives.
 
“God used those two years to mold and challenge my spiritual life,” said Don Holder, a 1992 Fruitland graduate and executive director of Hebron Colony Ministries in Boone, N.C.
 
“He used godly, well prepared men to encourage and equip me with the tools to study and present His Word to a struggling and seeking world. I’m convinced that Fruitland is one of the best places anywhere to equip you for expository preaching and teaching.”
 
Another graduate is Don McCutcheon, the retiring team leader for evangelization for BSC.
 
“Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute provided the spiritual, theological and ministerial foundation that continues to direct and influence all that I am and do,” McCutcheon said. “Since I came from an unchurched background, the practical and effective instruction from godly leaders assisted me greatly in both understanding and applying the truths of God’s Word.” 
 
Fruitland’s stated purpose is to glorify God, serve the local church, and fulfill the great commission. Their purpose statement says the school is “... to develop Christian leaders who think biblically, communicate the gospel effectively and serve in Christ’s kingdom with godly character, competence and commitment.”
 
Fruitland offers on-campus classes, online classes, hybrid classes and satellite campuses. All are successful. Fruitland has a satellite campus in Monroe that consistently has 20 to 30 students.
 
Satellite campuses for Hispanic students, under the direction of Robert Fernandez, meet in Winston-Salem, Statesville, Sylva, Wilmington and on the Fruitland campus.
 
“My heart’s desire is to see existing churches revitalized and new churches planted,” Horton said.
 
“I think we’ve got to have both. Fruitland graduates have a great track record of going into some of these churches that are dying. I can name case after case of those kinds of churches, where our graduates have gone there, and today those churches are alive again and doing well.”
 
Fruitland also is developing two new degree tracks that focus on church planting and apologetics. Fruitland class credits can transfer to many colleges and universities with some universities and seminaries providing full credit.
 
There are special transfer-credit partnerships with North Greenville University, Columbia International University, Piedmont International University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Most graduates want to continue their education after Fruitland, Horton says. “I think students come out of Fruitland well grounded and prepared to continue their education anywhere they want to go.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For those interested in learning more about Fruitland and the One in a Million campaign, please contact them at (828) 685-8886, or email J. D. Grant at vpdev@fruitland.edu. Fruitland’s website is http://www.fruitland.edu.)
5/21/2013 5:02:17 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Attorneys caution Scouts of legal fallout

May 21 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Attorneys are warning of dire legal ramifications resulting from a change in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) membership policy as delegates prepare to consider the proposal at their national meeting Thursday, May 23.

Two attorneys’ opinions were circulated to all 1,400 national BSA voting delegates May 17 in an email from Lee Beaman, president of the BSA Middle Tennessee Council Board.

The proposed membership change would leave in place the prohibition on homosexual Scout leaders but would allow youth who identify as gay to join. The Middle Tennessee Council said earlier in May it “will not vote to approve the resolution” but to retain the current membership policy.

“Because of the impact Scouting has had on my life, I am deeply committed to ensuring that the B.S.A. remains in a position to impact the lives of America’s boys and mold them into young men,” wrote James Bopp Jr., an attorney in Terre Haute, Ind., who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and has won four cases presented at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among the legal concerns Bopp raised:
  • While the current membership policy is immune from constitutional challenge under the Supreme Court’s decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, a change in the BSA’s official position on homosexual membership would open the organization to “a veritable Pandora’s box of litigation whereby the B.S.A.’s opponents can argue that the new policy is not entitled to constitutional protection,” Bopp wrote.
  • The proposed policy is vulnerable to attacks that it is internally inconsistent both morally and logically.
“From a constitutional perspective, the dual nature of the policy – allowing homosexual boys as members but excluding homosexual adults as leaders – would reopen the question of whether the B.S.A.’s expressed viewpoint that homosexuality is inconsistent with the values embodied in the Scout Oath and Law” is acceptable, Bopp wrote, adding that opponents would argue the Scouts have “abandoned the protections of Dale.”

Bopp said it’s difficult to assess whether the Scouts would prevail in the Supreme Court again if given a chance, but he predicted at least some lower courts would side with opponents and require the Scouts to admit all persons.
  • Because of a vagueness of language, the proposed policy could require the admission of transsexual girls into the Scouts. Rather than using the term “homosexual,” the proposed policy refers only to “sexual orientation or preference.”

“Whatever policy is ultimately decided,” Bopp counseled, “the voting members should ensure that the language chosen accurately reflects their intentions.”
  • Defending the proposed policy in court would be politically and financially damaging to the BSA. The proposed policy is not likely to be viewed any more favorably in the broader culture than the current policy, Bopp said, and litigation “will only reignite the controversy in the public arena and subject the Boy Scouts to even more pressure from opponents” calling for the Scouts to admit homosexual leaders.

Financially, the Scouts would be “forced to engage in full-blown litigation on all fronts,” with the cost of litigating even a single constitutional case to the Supreme Court reaching into the millions of dollars.

Bopp predicted it would take several years and multiple cases before the issue would appear before the Supreme Court again, and the Scouts would be “forced to defend a multitude of lawsuits across the country and in numerous courts.” The cost of such an effort, he said, could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“For these reasons and others, I urge the voting members to vote against the proposed resolution,” Bopp wrote.

In a second letter sent to the voting delegates in the same email, Orlando attorney John Stemberger, also an Eagle Scout, offered 10 reasons to vote against the proposed membership policy. Some of his reasons were similar to those listed by Bopp.

Among Stemberger’s concerns:
  • The proposed policy “will inevitably create an increase of boy-on-boy sexual contact which will result in further public scandal to the BSA, not to mention the tragedy of countless boys who will experience sexual, physical and psychological abuse.”
  • “The leaders setting forth the proposed policy clearly did not have the safety and security of the boys in the BSA as their paramount concern,” Stemberger wrote.
  • The proposal “forces and requires every chartered Scouting unit, regardless of religious convictions, to accept ‘open and avowed homosexual’ boys in their program.” This is much worse than the original idea for a local option, Stemberger said, because it fails to respect the religious beliefs of the churches that charter more than 70 percent of all Scouting units.
  • A mass exodus of parents, Scouts and other supporters can be expected if the proposal is adopted, leading to a severe financial crisis. “Camps will close, executives will be let go and properties will be sold off as a result of the vast loss of finances from major donors, private foundations and declining membership,” Stemberger wrote.
  • The proposed policy “robs parents of the sole authority to raise issues of sex and sexuality with their kids” by injecting a “sensitive and highly-charged political issue into the heart of the BSA, against the wishes of the vast majority of parents.”
  • The proposal stands in direct contradiction to the BSA’s 2010-12 study which determined that the current membership standards prohibiting “open and avowed homosexuality” was “the absolute best policy” for the Scouts. A handful of top BSA officials, Stemberger said, “caved from the pressure and criticism they received from their own adult peers.”
“What kind of message are we sending to young people when the adults trying to teach them to be ‘brave’ cannot muster up the courage to stand up for the values that are clearly best for the BSA?” Stemberger wrote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
5/21/2013 4:57:29 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



After the attack & devastation, Pakistani collegians impart hope

May 21 2013 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

LAHORE, Pakistan – The Pakistani college students stepped gingerly through the pile of bricks, barely recognizing the church building. Its once-white walls were ashen from hours of burning and heat still radiated from glowing embers.

Sarah and Vijay Cheema* stood frozen, taking in the scene up and down the street, unsure what to do. All around them, people were hurting as they sat in front of their damaged homes, 180 in all in the mostly Christian-minority community.

Sarah’s attention turned to a crying 4-year-old girl who said she hadn’t eaten in two days. Her family’s food and money burned with their home. Sarah immediately opened her backpack and shared her own snacks.
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BGR photo
Sarah Cheema* comforts a young girl at the outset of long-term project by Sarah and other collegians to help Joseph Colony residents recover from a March 9 attack in Lahore, Pakistan. *Name changed


“My heart broke,” Sarah said. “It’s very painful to see so many hurting at once, especially the young ones who did not understand what had happened.”

An angry mob descended on Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan, on March 9, wreaking havoc after accusations that a Christian made a derogatory comment about Muhammad, an illegal act under to Pakistan’s blasphemy law. While Muslims are frequently accused of blasphemy, members of Pakistan’s small Christian community are especially vulnerable.

Sarah and Vijay Cheema, who are brother and sister, had watched news reports of angry crowds destroying sections of the small colony and, the next day, decided to take friends across town to offer help.

“I remember that like it was yesterday,” Vijay recounted almost two months later. “Our lives changed that day. We knew that we had to help but we were just poor students. We wondered how God could use us if we had no money.”

What the Forman Christian College students lacked in funds, however, they made up in energy and drive. They rallied a larger team of friends from the student body, around 18 in all, and put out collection boxes for clothes, money and food. The international relief organization Baptist Global Response (BGR), meanwhile, helped the students buy blankets, pillows, utensils and other supplies through resources provided by BGR’s General Support Fund.

“We see this as an opportunity for BGR to enable local students to do what they had a heart to do. But it is more than providing aid to a hurting community,” said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs BGR work in Central and South Asia. “It’s an investment in the future leaders of this country. It’s an opportunity for these students to learn practical lessons about servanthood and look at the world beyond their own little circle.”

The students’ mentor at Forman Christian College was the one who matched BGR with the relief effort for Joseph Colony residents. She used the project as a way to challenge her students to think “long-term” by really finding out what people in the community needed. She encouraged them to focus on forming relationships and listening as the victims told their stories. Helping involved more than just meeting physical needs, she told them, but addressing emotional and spiritual needs as well.
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BGR photo
More than 180 homes, six shops and two churches were burned and destroyed in the March 9 attacks on Joseph Colony, Lahore, Pakistan. Students from Foreman Christian College in Lahore offered help to those affected by the mass destruction. 


The female students on the relief team quickly saw the emotional aspect of the horror. Noor Swati* said there was a great need for women to just sit and listen to other women. In Pakistan, customs hold that women not talk to men, Noor explained. Since most of the relief workers from agencies and government forces were men, the women were not receiving the emotional support they needed or items specific to women such as baby clothes, diapers and under garments.

Swati and Sarah sat for hours at a time, holding women and crying with them. Mother after mother recounted the trauma of losing everything in their homes, especially their daughters’ dowries. Families spend years collecting the clothes, linens and money that make up the wedding tradition. They had no hope of ever replacing the dowry and were worried that their daughters now might never marry.

“I really wanted to help them. They were living on the street. Some of the women were eight months pregnant living like that,” Swati said. “Our Bible says that we are to love each other and show compassion. We tried to do everything we could to help.”

The student relief team has made 18 visits to the Joseph Colony community, four of which involved distributing aid. The other visits have been for follow-up and investing in lives. The students even celebrated Easter with the community in the newly refurbished church.

“When we started, we had no idea it would be this much work or so hard,” Vijay said. But, he said, “We have learned a lot about being servants and to be tolerant. It is important to help everyone and not just a select few.”

The college senior said tolerance was the hardest lesson of all. When the team distributed blankets, pillows and household items, crowds grew demanding. People pushed and shoved to get to the front for fear the supplies would run out. One Muslim man kept trying to “face off” with Vijay but the college student ignored him for fear of trouble or a fight.
 
Finally, the man managed to cut Vijay off and looked him in the eye. Then, to the students’ surprise, the man thanked them for being kind to everyone – Christians and Muslims.

“Now that man and I are friends. I visit his family every time I go back,” Vijay said with a smile. “Our project might be done but our relationships continue.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response.)
5/21/2013 4:46:04 PM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Barbaric’: Scientists clone human embryo for first time

May 17 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The “brave new world” of human cloning apparently has arrived, and critics are waving the warning flags.

Oregon-based scientists reported May 15 they had cloned human embryos, reportedly the first successful attempt at such cloning, as a means of producing embryonic stem cells. The researchers extracted stem cells from the clones, destroying the days-old human embryos in the process.

The scientists used basically the same cloning method utilized in 1996 by Scottish researchers to create the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep.

News of the successful experiment seemed certain to revive the cloning controversy, which has been dormant in recent years. One of the battlegrounds likely will be in Congress, which could see new efforts to ban human cloning. Those efforts probably will involve debates on the extent of a prohibition – on cloning for reproductive purposes or for both research and reproductive purposes.
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The extraction of a nucleus from an egg, seen here, is one of the steps involved in cloning.


Critics – who point out cloning an embryo for experimentation is reproductive by nature because a new human being has been created – criticized the successful research announced in the journal Cell as both unethical and unnecessary. Supporters of the cloning technique sometimes call it “somatic cell nuclear transfer” – which simply is the scientific name for cloning.

“Let’s be clear – what these researchers are doing is creating a cloned human being in order to destroy that human being to harvest its stem cells for the benefit of older and bigger human beings,” Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told Baptist Press. “There are words for such activity – barbaric and uncivilized.”

The cloning technique used by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon National Primate Research Center was a version of somatic cell nuclear transfer, the method used to create Dolly. The researchers transferred the nucleus of a cell that contained a person’s DNA into an egg that no longer had its nucleus. After stimulation, some of the embryos developed to a stage where they produced stem cells.

Daniel Sulmasy, a professor of medicine and a bioethicist at the University of Chicago, told National Public Radio (NPR), “This is a case in which one is deliberately setting out to create a human being for the sole purpose of destroying that human being. I’m of the school that thinks that that’s morally wrong no matter how much good could come of it.”

Opponents of cloning and embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), which is lethal for the human embryos, pointed to other stem cell research that has surpassed ESCR in therapies in human beings and is not ethically controversial. Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, giving hope for the development of cures for a variety of diseases and other ailments.

Research with adult stem cells in human trials has produced therapies for more than 70 afflictions, including cancer, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart damage, Parkinson’s and sickle cell anemia. Work with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells also has shown promise. This technique, first used in 2006, involves reprogramming adult skin cells into stem cells virtually identical to those in human embryos. Research with neither adult nor iPS stem cells involves the destruction of embryos, unlike ESCR.

ESCR – though highly touted because of the capacity of embryonic stem cells to transform into any cell or tissue in the body – has yet to treat any disease in human beings and has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said iPS cells “make the supposed necessity of embryo-destructive research increasingly unnecessary. I am perplexed as to why we continue to pursue such dehumanizing research when morally preferable alternatives are readily available.”

David Prentice, a stem cell expert and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said, “Modern science has passed this by.... [T]he entire faulty concept of using the cloning technique has been superseded by uncontroversial techniques.”

Opponents of cloning and ESCR also warned about a potentially nightmarish future now that the human cloning barrier has been broken.

The cloning technology “will open the door to human engineering and a brave – but highly dangerous – new world,” Prentice said in the written statement.

“Given that science has passed cloning by for stem cell production, this announcement seems simply a justification for making clones, and makes reproductive cloning and birth of human clones more likely.”

Sulmasy, a member of President Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, said, “We already know there are people out there who are itching to be able to be the first to bring a cloned human being to birth. And I think it’s going to happen.”

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, who led the cloning effort by the research team, rejected such fears.

Human cloning “is not our focus, nor do we believe our findings might be used by others to advance the possibility of human reproductive cloning,” Mitalipov said in a written release from OHSU.

There is no federal prohibition on any form of human cloning. The House of Representatives passed legislation to ban cloning for both research and reproductive purposes in 2001 and 2003, but the Senate never voted on a comprehensive ban. Some senators supported the prohibition of cloning to produce a child but not cloning for research.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
5/17/2013 2:24:25 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ky. Baptist board adopts 50/50 CP allocation

May 17 2013 by Dannah Prather, Kentucky Baptist Communications/Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) Mission Board has approved details of the 2013-14 budget to move Kentucky Baptists to a 50/50 allocation of Cooperative Program dollars between Kentucky Baptist and Southern Baptist causes.

When Kentucky Baptists, in 2010, passed recommendations from the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force, the goal was to reach the 50/50 allocation, minus Cooperative Program Resourcing (CPR) funds, in the next decade. CPR dollars are set aside to educate Kentucky Baptists on CP missions and to promote the unified giving approach among the state convention’s 2,400 congregations.

The new budget enables Kentucky Baptists to reach the mark seven years ahead of the schedule set by the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force.

The vote on the $22.5 million budget proposal was without discussion or opposition from board members during the May 6-7 meeting at the Kentucky Baptist Building in Louisville.
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The leap forward is made possible by last year’s restructuring of the KBC Mission Board staff and changes in CP allocations to 10 Kentucky Baptist affiliated entities and institutions. Those changes were approved as part of the new budget, and over two years will shift approximately $700,000 in CP funds to the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and other SBC causes.

The funding changes were developed by a 14-member study group formed last year of Kentucky Baptist pastors, church members and other leaders charged with assessing the relationship between the KBC and its affiliated entities and institutions. The KBC Mission Board’s administrative committee accepted the group’s recommendations in March.

Changes in CP allocation over the next two years for each Kentucky Baptist affiliated agency/institution are as follows:
  • Baptist Health from $5,617 to $5,000
  • Sunrise Children’s Services from $311,708 to $300,000
  • Crossings Ministries (Kentucky Baptist Assemblies) from $339,752 to $300,000
  • Western Recorder newsjournal from $341,079 to $275,000
  • Kentucky Baptist Foundation from $296,146 to $235,000
  • Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union from $447,551 to $440,000
  • Campbellsville University from $1,269,760 to $1 million
  • University of the Cumberlands from $1,269,760 to $1 million
  • Clear Creek Baptist Bible College from $540,323 to $535,000
  • Oneida Baptist Institute from $360,215 to $355,000
In a report to the mission board, Daryl Cornett, chairman of the agencies and institutions committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, noted that the organizations “are in a time of great transition.”

Cornett added that the entities are accepting the changes in CP giving “with a great deal of grace” in order for Kentucky Baptists, as a convention, to reach the goal of an equal distribution of CP dollars between KBC and SBC causes.

In addition to the proposed CP adjustments, the Mission Board approved three general recommendations for all KBC entities and specific recommendations for each agency or institution.

General recommendations include:
  • Expecting authentic Cooperative Program promotion, including administrators, trustees and employees modeling CP loyalty.
  • Inviting the executive director-treasurer to join their trustee boards as an ex-officio member.
  • Striving to perpetuate an atmosphere that reflects a high view of Scripture, doctrine consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message and commitment to the Great Commission and cooperation.
Adam Greenway, chairman of the board’s administrative committee, said the recommendations to the entities and institutions are non-binding. They are suggestions compiled by the study group to re-evaluate the relationship between the KBC and its 10 affiliated entities.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dannah Prather is marketing & media relations associate for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
5/17/2013 2:15:49 PM by Dannah Prather, Kentucky Baptist Communications/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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