May 2016

Missouri appeals court orders Baptist foundation’s return

May 25 2016 by Missouri Baptist Convention & Baptist Press staff

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s governance of the Missouri Baptist Foundation must be restored, the Missouri Court of Appeals – Western District ruled May 24.
The decision is among an array of court proceedings stemming from actions by breakaway trustees of the foundation, with $150 million in assets, and four other Missouri Baptist Convention entities in 2000-2001.
The appeals court ruling, announced by Chief Judge Alok Ahuja, upholds all facets of an October 2014 judgment by the Circuit Court of Cole County ordering the restoration of foundation governance to MBC-elected trustees.
The foundation appealed the trial decision to the Missouri appeals court, which heard arguments in September 2015 and handed down its decision May 24 to end some 15 years of control by a self-appointed, self-perpetuating trustee board. The foundation may appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court – its final option after repeated setbacks in the lower courts.
The appeals court, in its ruling, stated that “the Convention has standing to challenge the Foundation’s disregard of provisions of its organizational documents which gave the Convention the right to review and approve any amendments.”
The court cited a 1994 charter of the 70-year-old Missouri Baptist Foundation defining it as “a charitable corporation” under Missouri statutes “to support the mission of Missouri Baptists by ‘developing, managing and distributing financial resources … as the trust service agency of the Missouri Baptist Convention.’”
Repercussions for the breakaway foundation included Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees voting unanimously in 2003 to remove about $877,000 in funds and re-invest those funds with the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma.
“We are so grateful for the court’s decisive ruling,” said John Yeats, the Missouri convention’s executive director. “We are eager to welcome the foundation back into the MBC family, and we look forward to a smooth transition in governance for the benefit of all investors.”
The appeals court also left standing a lower-court ruling on attorney’s fees and costs for the litigation. The trial court had ordered the foundation to pay the convention’s legal fees and costs, finding intentional misconduct on the part of the trustees of the breakaway board.
Church Mutual Insurance paid the MBC $5 million to settle the fee claim in January of this year.
In 2001 the board of the foundation broke from the MBC, changing its charter in violation of a charter clause requiring MBC consent. The purported amendments declaring its board self-perpetuating also violated MBC governing documents.
After months of seeking private reconciliation and even binding Christian arbitration – all of which the self-perpetuating board rejected – the MBC sought a declaratory judgment for a judge’s interpretation of the law and documents, as a last resort to return the foundation to Missouri Baptists.
“Our prayer, and our humble desire before God, is that the foundation’s self-appointed board would graciously acknowledge the court’s ruling and end the prolonged legal battles that have been a distraction to the MBC’s mission of transforming lives and communities with the gospel,” Yeats said.
The Missouri Baptist Foundation was one of five MBC subsidiary corporations which broke from the convention in 2000-2001 by changing their charters to create self-perpetuating trustee boards. The other breakaway entities are the 1,300-acre Windermere Baptist Conference Center along the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home retirement center and Word & Way newsjournal.
Although the breakaway Windermere board continues to exist, the conference center deeded about 970 acres to a lender about 10 years ago in lieu of foreclosure, leading to the 2014 recovery by the MBC of 970 acres for $1.6 million, a heavily discounted price.
Convention court action continues for recovering Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home retirement center. Both entity’s charters contain a consent clause similar to the foundation’s, so the May 24 appeals court ruling may be vital to the resolution of the other cases.
The Word & Way has been replaced by The Pathway newsjournal of the convention.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of the Missouri Baptist Convention and Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston.)

5/25/2016 12:55:26 PM by Missouri Baptist Convention & Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Zoo Church Village helps Arkansas women out of addiction

May 25 2016 by Jessica Vanderpool, Arkansas Baptist News

As most would agree, life can be a real zoo – full of obstacles, struggles and temptations. But The Zoo Church Village in Dennard is helping women overcome these struggles, specifically those involving addiction.
The church is doing so through its new women’s ministry, Zoo Outfitters Operation (ZOO): Outfitting Women to Live Without Addiction, which began in March. The goal of the biblically based program is to help women rid themselves of their addictions to alcohol and drugs.
Pastor Rick Montgomery said The Zoo Church Village, a Baptist church located at the site of an old roadside zoo that has been renovated, is located in one of the most notorious locations in Arkansas for making and using methamphetamine, so the ZOO program is needed.
The program’s focal verse is Titus 2:12, which speaks about the command to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”
A desire to start the ministry had been on church members’ hearts for years, he explained. The church’s property was so run down when they acquired it about five years ago that church members didn’t realize its potential, he said. But as they cleaned it up, they realized God had provided them with a location for ministry.
“So from the get-go, from about six months in, we planned to do this women’s ministry because it’s so desperately needed,” he said.
Several programs are available for men, he said, but not many for women.
“It’s really a need, and I think the New Testament Church is supposed to meet those needs, so we’re really excited about it,” he said.
“You know, if you can’t find Christ, you’re probably not going to get rid of your addictions,” he said, noting he truly believes “Christ is the answer to the problems.”
To participate, women must meet certain criteria, complete a series of interviews as well as a physical and a background check. Each participant must also pay an entry fee and submit to a drug test, though Montgomery clarified that the inability to pay the whole fee or pass the drug test does not necessarily prohibit one from entering the program.
Women are encouraged to pay a little each week, and the program also seeks supporters to give monthly amounts in order to keep the program afloat.
Additionally, women are required to attend church. In fact, they must attend a church service before being considered as a candidate.
Montgomery said the residential program is fashioned after several similar programs, such as Renewal Ranch in Conway.
During the six-month program, women work on the property and attend biblical classes “that direct them to live for Christ.”
“In the process of learning how to live for Christ, some of them will probably find Christ,” he said.
Without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within a person, he said, “Some of these addictions – especially methamphetamine – I think they are just almost impossible to get over.”
In addition, volunteer counselors work with participants weekly.
Montgomery hopes that after women complete the program, the church can help them transition to a local motel for another six months so they can monitor the women as they get jobs and transition into normal life.
“This is just a passion for us. ... We covet everyone’s prayers,” Montgomery said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, Jessica Vanderpool is a former senior assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News.

5/25/2016 11:57:03 AM by Jessica Vanderpool, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments

Floyd among evangelicals to meet with Trump

May 24 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd is among perhaps 500 evangelicals and other conservatives planning to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about his faith and values at a June 21 meeting in New York.
Family Research Council President and Southern Baptist Tony Perkins, and United In Purpose leader Bill Dallas who partners with nearly 50 groups to uphold biblical principles in the U.S., recruited Floyd among a small group of leaders to spearhead the meeting as the steering committee.
Members of the steering committee will question Trump before the larger meeting, but logistics and details of the gatherings were still being communicated, Floyd told Baptist Press. The meeting is billed as an opportunity to share information, values, principles and beliefs.
“We want to talk to Mr. Trump humbly. He doesn’t need to hear us preach. He needs to hear our heart,” Floyd said. “We need to talk to him about what matters to us. The term evangelical is not a voting bloc. The term evangelical is a name tag, a declaration of who we are, about various truths of the Scripture.”

Photo by Matt Miller, Baptist Press
Ronnie Floyd


U.S. Supreme Court nomination opportunities, the sanctity of human life, religious liberty and racial reconciliation are topics Floyd hopes to address in the meeting. He expects to be able to invite other Southern Baptists to the meeting, he said, but is awaiting details.
Two former SBC presidents Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, are other prominent Southern Baptists already involved in the venture.
The meeting is not designed to endorse a particular candidate, and Floyd is not aware that any members of the steering committee have endorsed or taken sides against Trump.
Floyd said he doesn’t know where the meeting will lead, but encouraged Southern Baptists to continue to demonstrate love during this political season.
“Regardless of how passionate they are about all this, we don’t need to judge one another for where people may be and have various positions. There are many Southern Baptists who have supported Donald Trump and there may be many others who end up supporting Donald Trump, and we don’t need to cast suspicion on people that do,” Floyd said. “And if we speak out, we need to speak out about the issues, and we need to be very careful that we speak out in a spirit of love and we do so in a way that honors God.
Trump’s rise to the top of a crowded Republican slate of 17 candidates was unexpected, Floyd said, but evidently indicative of the mood of the nation.
“People can say what they want about Mr. Trump, and they can have their personal opinion, but it is unquestionable that he is speaking to the heart of the American public, or else he would have never” surpassed the other candidates, Floyd said. “America is desperate for leadership.
“Mr. Trump has a very demonstrative way to lead. He led with extreme boldness along the way, making statements that people thought would never be received, but they have been received, embraced and endorsed by many people, and that’s why they have voted for him so aggressively and generously.”
Floyd said he and other Southern Baptists have a responsibility to participate in the political process.
“Evangelicals cannot sit this out,” he said. “I think we have a biblical responsibility and I think we have a responsibility as citizens of the United States to participate and be a part of the political processes of this country. Men and women have died on the battle fields all across this world so that I might have that liberty and that privilege, and I will take that privilege always with humility and give honor to our nation, regardless of where our nation is, because I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Christians must pray, vote and be willing to treat with respect whomever God chooses as the nation’s next leader, Floyd noted.
“Whoever ends up being president, we must support and we must encourage in relationship to praying for them and being engaged in the processes of American life that are afforded to us by the Constitution,” he said. “Southern Baptists need to go to the polls. Southern Baptists need to be leading the way in being a part of this process. We cannot be seen as not interested or so mad we’re not going to be engaged. I just don’t think that’s healthy.”
Floyd expressed disappointed that neither political candidate has discussed racial reconciliation, a topic Floyd will address at the SBC’s annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
“We have a conversation that has been totally ignored, and it’s one of the greatest problems in the country today. I would like to ask Mr. Trump, whoever else is left and ends up running … ‘what do you plan on doing about that?’” Floyd said. “But I also want to tell them, you need to call upon the church to be the church, because in my humble opinion government is not going to solve that. The church has got to step up regardless of what the government does.”
United In Purpose, responsible for many logistics of the meeting, was not available for comment. The groups describes itself as working “to unite and equip like-minded conservative organizations to increase their reach, impact, and influence through the latest technology, research and marketing strategies for the purpose of bringing about a culture change in America based on Judeo-Christian principles.”
Among United In Purpose partners are Americans United for Life, the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches,, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Liberty University, Regent University, Tea Party Express, The Frederick Douglas Foundation, Unity Coalition for Israel and the Kitchen Cabinet.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.)

5/24/2016 12:08:44 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Children’s pastor arrested for sex trafficking felony

May 24 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A sex trafficking felony charge against a children’s minister has left a 4,000-member church reeling.
Jason Kennedy, 46, who joined Grace Baptist Church’s staff two and a half years ago, was arrested May 19 in Knoxville – one of 30-plus individuals charged in a four-day undercover sting operation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and local police.
The church posted a statement on its website May 20 that Kennedy had been terminated; that his background check had not shown any issues; that the church will be praying for Kennedy’s family; and that care and information will be provided “as we walk through this painful time together.”
Senior pastor Ron Stewart told a local TV station, “It’s sickening. There’s something in his past, evidently, and I’m not a psychologist, but I know from my experience as a pastor that the pain and hurt you had as a child sometimes comes out in strange ways as an adult.”
Kennedy, who is married and the father of three children, remained in a Knox County jail Monday, May 23, under $50,500 bail. An initial hearing is slated for May 31. Another minister, from nearby Oak Ridge, also was charged with felony sex trafficking in incidents that occurred within 1,000 feet of an unnamed church.

Photo from Knox County Sherriff’s Office
Jason Kennedy

The Knoxville News Sentinel daily newspaper, citing Kennedy’s arrest warrant, reported that he replied by text to an online ad offering sex with two females, one of whom was described as being 15 years of age. Kennedy went to a local motel, placed a $100 fee on a counter, removed his pants and was then arrested.
Kennedy’s arrest comes at a time when the church is marking the 100th anniversary of its founding, according to the News Sentinel. Stewart had planned to retire next month but told the church May 22 he now will postpone those plans, according to a reporter with local TV station WLVT.
The reporter, who attended Sunday morning worship at Grace Baptist, recounted, “Pastor Stewart discussed the importance of relying on God in the midst of a storm. In his sermon Stewart said the church is hurting and that it feels betrayed. Stewart said he spoke with Kennedy’s wife, Sabrina. He said she just wants to ask Kennedy why he solicited minors for sex.” Stewart drew his message from the Matthew 8:23-26 passage about Jesus calming a storm that had terrified His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
The reporter also recounted, “During the church service one of the church leaders announced that Grace Baptist will begin providing counseling to children and adults who are suffering from Kennedy’s actions.”
The full statement by the church follows:
“We are deeply saddened by the recent events affecting our church family. The children’s pastor of Grace Baptist Church has been terminated as a result of his arrest which is in violation of the statement of ethics that he signed and church standards of moral conduct.
“The actions of the children’s pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries.
“The children’s pastor was hired two-and-a-half years ago. The church’s background check turned up no issues that indicate any previous problem. In fact, the children’s pastor in his application affirmed that he had no issues in his background of a criminal or other nature.
“We want to reassure our church family that we are committed to the safety and security of our members, and especially our children. Our security system includes 78 security cameras, electronic check-in, background checks of employees and volunteers, and security officers during gatherings at the church.
“We are praying for the children’s pastor’s family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them.
“We want to assure everyone that we will work to keep the church family together and continue to follow the vision God has given to our church.
“Please know that we will be available to care and provide information as we walk through this painful time together. We thank everyone for their faithfulness and extend our love to all of our church family.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation states on its website:
“– In the United States, on average, every two minutes, a child is bought or sold for sex.
“– The average age of a child sold for sex is 13 years old.
“– Human Trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind Drug Trafficking.”
The Southern Baptist Convention has long advocated for the protection of children, adopting resolutions and offering a library of resources to assist churches in ministering to children in a safe environment.
Among resources are links to the LifeWay Christian Resources’ background checking service; the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website; tools from GuideStone Financial Resources; and a pastor’s search committee handbook. The SBC website also links to resources offered by the Alabama State Board of Missions, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
SBC LIFE, the journal of the SBC Executive Committee, published the special report “Protecting Our Children: Accepting the Responsibility, Embracing the Privilege”, which offers testimonies from the abused and professionals working to protect them, biblical exhortation, statistics and legal help.
The SBC, set to hold its annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis, has adopted four resolutions pledging to protect children from abuse, most recently the 2013 resolution On Sexual Abuse of Children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

5/24/2016 11:55:04 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Serve others and point them to Christ, Akin tells grads

May 24 2016 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

Sent to lead? Perhaps. Sent to serve? Absolutely. These words were part of a charge given to the spring 2016 graduates of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C.
During the May 20 commencement ceremony, President Danny Akin encouraged the seminary and college graduates to follow Christ’s model of service.

SEBTS photo
Jennifer Barnett receives her Doctor of Education diploma from SEBTS President Danny Akin and Director of Ed.D. Studies Ken Coley at the spring commencement ceremony on May 20. 


“The greatest person who ever lived and walked on this earth was a humble servant,” Akin said. “He got down low so that he might lift others up. And now he calls us, those who follow him, to do the same.”
Southeastern’s 63rd graduating class included a total of 237 students receiving 42 undergraduate, 172 graduate and 23 doctoral degrees.
Drawing inspiration from the life of Scottish missionary John Keith Falconer (1856-1887), Akin asked listeners to consider why a young man would leave everything behind to serve Christ in Yemen and ultimately die at an early age.
In quoting Falconer, Akin said, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”
This radical idea, according to Akin, came from none other than Jesus Christ himself. In Mark 10:45, Jesus made a promise that no other ruler or king has or could ever make. “He came to serve,” Akin said. “He came to burn the candle of his life for you and for me.”
After encouraging students to have ministries marked by Christ-like service and sacrifice, he turned his attention to guests who have not believed in Christ. Clearly explaining that the gospel is meant for them and forgiveness can be theirs, Akin said, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. The God who is in heaven will forgive you.”
Akin then sent graduates out into their ministries with words that have become a motto for every Southeastern student: “Because He came, we must go.”

5/24/2016 11:30:53 AM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Same-sex marriage advocates work to oust small-town judge

May 24 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, World News Service

In what could be the nation’s first religious litmus test for holding a judicial post, the Wyoming Supreme Court is being asked to dismiss a small-town municipal court judge because of her biblical views about marriage. Attorneys for Judge Ruth Neely, along with a growing list of supporters, argue the efforts of an unelected state commission to remove her from office are rooted in religious bias and misinterpretation of the law.
In 2014, a judge overturned Wyoming’s marriage statute, allowing same-sex couples to get marriage licenses. A reporter asked Neely, the Pinedale municipal court judge and a part-time circuit court magistrate, if she was excited about performing gay weddings. In the opinion of the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, Neely gave the wrong answer: Her biblical convictions about marriage precluded her from solemnizing such a union.
“By adopting this extreme position, the commission has effectively said that no one who holds Judge Neely’s widely shared beliefs about marriage can remain a judge in Wyoming,” attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) wrote in their petition to the state Supreme Court.
Legal scholars from prominent universities, retired state Supreme Court and federal court justices, the Christian Legal Society, and Family Research Council stated in an amicus brief, “By its order and ensuing recommendation, the commission has created a de facto religious test for judicial office in Wyoming.”
ADF attorneys argue a contrived interpretation of state law led to the investigation. As a municipal court judge, Neely has no authority to officiate at weddings. As a circuit court magistrate, she can preside over weddings at her discretion. Neely has never been asked – and therefore never refused – to perform a same-sex wedding.
The judge’s religious beliefs about marriage can be the only “plausible reason” for the commission’s actions her attorneys wrote in their petition. Evidence of bias reared its head during oral arguments when “the commission’s attorney referred to Judge Neely’s church’s beliefs about marriage as ‘repugnant.’”
Kevin Rose, pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church where Neely has been a member for 38 years, called the statement “an argument of intimidation.”
Three times Neely was asked to publically denounce her biblical convictions about marriage in return for dispensation. According to Neely’s testimony, reporter Ned Donovan “offered not to publish a story if she would agree to perform same-sex marriages.”
She declined the offer.
In 2015, the commission offered to forego its prosecution of Neely if she “would agree to resign both of her judicial positions, never again seek judicial office in Wyoming, admit wrongdoing, and allow the commission to publicly state that she had decided to resign in response to a charge of judicial misconduct,” her lawyers wrote.
Again, Neely declined.
In February, a week before filing their recommendation to the Supreme Court, the commission again asked Neely to publicly apologize and agree to perform same-sex marriages.
For the third time Neely refused.
“[They] have clearly targeted Judge Neely for her constitutionally protected religious beliefs and free expression,” Rose said. He was one of a few people aware of Neely’s legal battle before it was publicly disclosed in April. She met with him for counsel and prayer.
Pastor Tim Moyer, director of the Wyoming Pastors Network, said representatives from the 100 churches affiliated with the network met with and prayed for the judge, who lawyers said was not available for comment at this time.
“If Judge Neely is willing to suffer, we need to suffer with her,” Moyer said.
Since the public disclosure of the case, an eclectic band of supporters – from Pinedale’s LGBT residents to the Family Research Council – have rallied to the judge’s defense. 
Within a week of ADF’s submitting a petition to the Wyoming Supreme Court, six amicus briefs, representing millions of people, were filed with the court. Each affirmed Neely’s work ethic and Christian conviction while warning the high court of the commission’s threat to free speech.
Briefs were submitted by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, representing its 6,150 congregations, including Neely’s church; The National Association of Evangelicals; a dozen African-American and Hispanic ministry and public policy organizations; current and former Wyoming state legislators; the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; and Pinedale’s mayor and three of the four town council members.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, and the Southern Baptist TEXAN.)

5/24/2016 11:11:19 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, World News Service | with 0 comments

Hispanic St. Louis community in Crossover plans

May 24 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Already a hub of ethnic outreach, Tower Grove Baptist Church in central St. Louis will extend the gospel to a nearby Hispanic community during Crossover.
A yearly evangelistic outreach, Crossover precedes the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in the host city. It will peak on Saturday, June 12, as local Baptists and volunteers from across the country conduct block parties and other community events throughout the metro St. Louis area.

Tower Grove Baptist Church

For Tower Grove, its Hispanic initiative will entail:

  • a 10 a.m. Sunday worship service June 12 following six days of house-to-house visits by a contingent of bilingual students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • hosting the National Baptist Hispanic Fellowship’s prayer and fellowship gathering from 2-4 p.m. that Sunday.

Elias Bracamonte, the Hispanic fellowship’s vice president and associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., will preach at the Sunday service and lead the afternoon Hispanic gathering.
Tower Grove, marking its 125th year in 2016, already is home to Burmese, Swahili and Vietnamese congregations in various parts of its building at 4257 Magnolia Ave.
Chris Coury, Tower Grove’s senior pastor, cited the availability of the Spanish-speaking seminarians and Bracamonte in noting that “God has brought this together” toward starting a Hispanic church.
“I believe God put us here to reach these ethic groups that are in this area,” Coury said of the initiative toward the nearby heavily Hispanic community called Cherokee.
Chad Logan, Tower Grove’s worship and education pastor and a former International Mission Board missionary in Spain and England, will lead the Hispanic service where Bracamonte will be preaching and Malena Towers of Dallas will be the featured singer in the church’s sound-equipped youth room.
“We will be having lunch after the service and then opening our building for the community,” Logan said. “We have a skating rink, bowling alley, game room and a gym that we will be opening up. We will have bouncy houses and children’s activities on the grounds as well.
“We will also be having organizations to help with the immigration process as well as health and wellness organizations providing free services for those families that need it.”
The bilingual seminary contingent will be among 75 Southwestern students taking an evangelism class led by instructor of evangelism Brandon Kiesling.

‘Awaken America’

At the subsequent National Baptist Hispanic Fellowship gathering, Bracamonte said attendees will hear from Guillermo Soriano of North Carolina, one of the organizers of the new SBC Hispanic Leaders and Pastors Network, and Ramón Osorio, national church mobilizer with the SBC North American Mission Board.
Soriano, consultant for North Carolina Baptists in Hispanic evangelism and discipleship, has described a vision for the network to nurture collaboration and communication among Hispanic pastors, leaders, churches, associations, fellowships, networks and organizations and with SBC entities for the fulfillment of the Great Commission with the Great Commandment.
Bracamonte said the Hispanic fellowship’s session in St. Louis will parallel the SBC annual meeting’s theme: “Awaken America, Reach the World” drawn from Acts 4:31.
“Everyone is welcome,” Bracamonte said. “We are excited to be part of Awaken America. More than ever, we need to reach out to this lost generation with unity and prayer. The National Baptist Hispanic Fellowship is thankful to be part of the missions effort to promote baptisms and Cooperative Program giving.”
Bracamonte added thanks to Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president, for leading Southern Baptists to be “more inclusive to [ethnic Baptists] to participate in ministry within the convention and to work together for Kingdom work.”
The National Baptist Hispanic Fellowship, organized in the 1980s, is the oldest Hispanic organization in Southern Baptist life. Bracamonte said its annual meeting will focus on prayer for spiritual awakening, Oct. 27-29 at Iglesia Bautista Casa de Dios in Wichita, Kan.
Hispanic involvement in the SBC annual meeting will heighten Sunday and Monday evenings, June 12-13, with two large-scale events:

  • the annual AVANCE dinner and celebration Sunday evening sponsored by the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources and the Executive Committee.
  • an inaugural meeting – with a dinner, TED-styled talks and panel discussion – of the new Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance on Monday evening.
5/24/2016 10:25:13 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

2016 SBC exhibits: missions, ministry & elections

May 23 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Interviews with the three Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidential candidates and the launch of a new missions blog spot will highlight the Cooperative Program booth in conjunction with the 2016 SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
The offerings will be included in three days of dialogue and celebration of the gospel advancement the Cooperative Program affords among Southern Baptists, said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship.
“We are approaching this year’s annual meeting in St Louis with two overriding objectives: engaging in conversation about the Cooperative Program and celebrating gospel advancement through SBC efforts,” Clayton told Baptist Press. “The panel discussions at the CP stage are designed to give face-to-face access with many of our entity leaders and an opportunity for pastors and messengers to hear directly from SBC leaders about important and relevant issues.”
The booth will display the partnership the Cooperative Program ensures, SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said.
“We have a partnership in the gospel and we are bound together by our commitment to the Great Commission,” Page said. “Our ties to each other are stronger than time and distance, and stronger than our circumstances. Wherever God has called you, as Southern Baptists, we are not alone.”
The booth will operate June 13 from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., June 14 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and from 8 a.m.–1 p.m. June 15 in the SBC exhibit hall.
Interviews with SBC presidential candidates will occur June 13 beginning with a 9:30-9:50 a.m. session with candidate David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans, and immediate past SBC president Fred Luter, who will nominate Crosby. Interviews continue from 10:20–10:50 a.m. with J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Jimmy Scroggins, Greear’s nominator. Candidate Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., will be on stage from 4:30-4:50 p.m., with former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who will nominate him., an interactive, missions-focused blog site for Southern Baptists, will officially launch June 13 with blog posts by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, International Mission Board President David Platt, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell and others.


Photo by Adam Covington
Brian Frye, left, collegiate evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, interviews a panel on replanting dying churches at the CP platform during the 2015 SBC annual meeting. Panelists included: left to right, Brad O'Brien, pastor of Redeemer City Church in Baltimore; Mark Hallock, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood, Co. and Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board.

“Our goal is to create a CP stage and platform much like the one we have every year at the annual meeting,” Clayton said, “except it is digital and available throughout the year ... not just three days in the summer.”
Other CP booth offerings will include an 8:30 a.m. June 13 panel discussion on “Pastoring Your Church Through Cultural Conflicts,” with Greear, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore and City Church of Tallahassee, Fla., pastor Dean Inserra.  
National African American Fellowship President K. Marshall Williams, Page, Gaines and others will be featured in a 9 a.m. June 13 discussion on “Current and Future SBC Issues.”
The full schedule is available on the “SBC Annual Meetings” app and available for free download on the Apple App Store, Google Play and at
The schedule is also accessible through
Reports of other entities’ and ministries’ plans for the exhibit hall surrounding the SBC’s annual meeting follow:

International Mission Board & North American Mission Board

To simplify the connections for churches to engage in Southern Baptist missions, North American Mission Board (NAMB), International Mission Board (IMB) and the SBC Executive Committee will once again share the same booth. Those who visit can learn more about getting their churches involved in taking the gospel to unreached people groups internationally and in church planting in North America.
IMB: For more than 170 years, the IMB has partnered with Southern Baptist churches to take the gospel to the nations. And visitors to IMB’s portion of booth will have an opportunity to literally walk through the legacy of Southern Baptists’ history that has built the opportunities for the future – a legacy of innovation, endurance, passion, commitment, risk-taking and stewardship.
Visitors also will discover how the entity is partnering with churches to creatively expand pathways to get the gospel to unreached people and places. The exhibit will challenge attendees to think about “missions” in a new way by leveraging the seasons of their lives and their God-given skills to go overseas as a student, professional, church planter, retiree or in other creative roles.
NAMB: In the past five years, NAMB has focused on equipping churches and helping those churches discover the next generation of missionaries in their pews. Evangelistic church planting and church planter support have been major highlights. Using creativity and human connection, IMB and NAMB both will focus on stories of gospel transformation, connected through the light of life.
“The power of the gospel is demonstrated in so many ways,” said Dustin Willis, NAMB senior director for marketing and events. “Evidence of that power is seen in changed lives. The power of those changed lives compels mission, borne in relationship, fostered in community – those are the stories we will highlight at the combined IMB, NAMB exhibit at the SBC.”
Messengers at the St. Louis annual meeting will have the opportunity to take their next steps in missions, both individually and as churches, with IMB and NAMB at the exhibit.

LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay’s 8,000-square-foot Christian store will offer a wide selection of books, Bibles and other Christian products, many at clearance prices. Other LifeWay areas will present interactive displays highlighting LifeWay’s church resources. Among special features of the LifeWay exhibit:
– Small group experts from LifeWay’s Resources Division will help messengers plan and select appropriate materials for small group Bible studies.
– Messengers will also be able to obtain information about the free LifeWay Breakfast scheduled for Wednesday (June 15) at 7 a.m. in the America Center Dome. The breakfast will feature a leading change in the church and attendees will receive resources worth more than $100. Reservations can be made at
– LifeWay Films will have information about a special screening Monday evening (June 13) of a new documentary, “The Insanity of God,” that examines experiences of persecuted believers.
– A special story time for kids will be held in the B&H Kids area Monday and Tuesday (June 14) at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
– Book signings by numerous authors are scheduled in the LifeWay store throughout the convention including all three candidates for SBC president: David Crosby, Steve Gaines, and J.D. Greear. Also signing books will be Mark Dever, Jimmy Draper, Robby Gallaty, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Jack Graham, Greg Laurie, Anne Graham Lotz, David Platt, Ed Stetzer, Don Whitney, and Rhonda Kelley and Dorothy Patterson.
– Exhibits will feature LifeWay “OneSource” endorsed products and providers designed to give individuals and churches trusted purchasing options for items such as church signs and furniture, copiers, buses, and background checks.

GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone’s Wellness Center once again will offer free health checks, valued at up to $150, allowing messengers and family members to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose measured. Medical professionals will be on hand to answer any questions about the results.
In the main booth, representatives will offer reviews of participants’ retirement accounts and answer questions about GuideStone’s life and health plans, property and casualty coverage, and other GuideStone services. Churches will be able to order free materials for Mission:Dignity Sunday, to be held June 26, to support GuideStone’s ministry to retired ministers and their widows in urgent financial need.
GuideStone will give away copies of President O.S. Hawkins’ book, “VIP: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose,” to the first 500 families at GuideStone’s Wellness Center. GuideStone also will make available free copies of “The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer” and “The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action.” Quantities are limited.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Those who visit ERLC’s booth can pick up the latest issue of the newly relaunched Light Magazine, featuring content from Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, Thomas Kidd, Sen. Ben Sasse and others. The theme of this issue is “Religious Liberty and the Common Good.”
ERLC will give away a pastor travel pack with signed copies of the most recent books from your ERLC authors and a craft coffee set with resources for churches. Also, ERLC will give away two complimentary registrations to the 2016 ERLC National Conference on August 25-26th in Nashville. This year’s conference theme is “Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.” Attendees can register to win by signing up for the ERLC’s “The Weekly” at the booth. The Weekly is a weekly email rundown of top news stories and commentary on today’s most pressing issues.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Golden Gate Seminary is poised for a name change if messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention give final approval. If the vote is affirmative, the seminary’s exhibit will change from “Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary” to “Gateway Seminary” immediately afterward. The display will focus on the benefits of gospel-centered education offered at the seminary’s five urban campuses in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and Portland areas. Alumni and friends also can purchase tickets at the booth to the institution’s luncheon, if space is still available. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by emailing or calling 888-442-8709, ext. 315. The event will be held on Wednesday (June 15) in America’s Center immediately following the morning session.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Visitors to Midwestern Seminary’s exhibit area will experience personal interaction with the school’s senior leadership, faculty and staff. Stop by to learn more about the school’s growth and vision for the days ahead. Admissions team members will also be ready to answer questions about the many opportunities for training in ministry and mission. A host of programs and initiatives will be highlighted: most notably, Midwestern Seminary’s 81-hour M.Div., doctoral studies and online degree programs. Additionally, booth giveaways will include 2,500 “For the Church” T-shirts with individual state designs as well as some new designs, which will be unveiled at the annual meeting.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The NOBTS booth highlights main campus programs, distance learning options and the Entrust Mentoring Community. The seminary enlistment team is on site to guide potential students as they seek to answer God’s call to ministry and prepare for service. Alumni are invited to visit the booth to reconnect with faculty and staff and to hear the latest news from campus. This year, NOBTS will launch the #PrayNola initiative by asking booth visitors to join the seminary in praying for local churches, church plants and ministries in the Greater New Orleans area. In keeping with tradition, small bottles of Louisiana hot sauce are available to those who visit.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Whether you want to begin your theological education or find resources for your church, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS); exhibit has something for everyone. Chat with admissions staff about the many degrees from The College at Southeastern and SEBTS. Spend time with faculty, including Bruce Ashford, Chuck Lawless, Jamie Dew and Charles Quarles, to get insights and suggestions for your ministry. Find out about helpful resources for your church, such as Southeastern’s new GO Certificates – theological education for lay leaders. There will be book giveaways, ministry presentations and more.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Throughout the annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) exhibit will have a variety of giveaways providing resources for pastors. One giveaway is a new resource by SBTS Press: “More Faithful Service,” featuring contributions by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Hershael W. York, Daniel S. Dumas and others. Along with promotions and interaction opportunities with seminary faculty, the seminary also will distribute the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine. Themed around the future of Christian higher education, the magazine features articles by Mohler, profiles of SBTS alumnus Greg Thornbury and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Convention attendees can connect with alumni, professors, friends and prospective students at the exhibit’s seating area, as well as purchase tickets for the annual alumni luncheon on Wednesday (June 15). For more information, go to

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will reflect its ongoing passion for preaching the Word and reaching the world. Free books and resources – including a guide to landmarks and restaurants in St. Louis – will be distributed, and SWBTS representatives and faculty will be available to discuss the seminary’s programs and answer questions. The booth will also feature several seminary-produced videos highlighting successful students and Southwestern’s global impact.

Woman’s Missionary Union

National Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) exhibit will feature ways churches can engage their members in discipleship through a comprehensive and holistic approach. Five distinct sections of the exhibit will help visitors discover ways to learn, pray, give, serve and support missions. Highlighted opportunities will include ongoing WMU missions discipleship programs for preschoolers, children, youth and adults; hands-on missions opportunities sponsored by WMU; fair-trade products from WorldCrafts; and Bible studies and books on missional living from New Hope Publishers. Visitors can also register to win a number of giveaways.

Baptist Global Response

This year, Baptist Global Response (BGR) is focusing the theme of its booth on the plight of global refugees and forcibly displaced persons. The booth will feature a display of practical items and goods, such as food packages, hygiene kits and shelter materials, that represent the aid Southern Baptists are supplying to those displaced by the crisis in Syria and Northern Iraq. BGR hopes to raise awareness among convention attendees about how God is using Southern Baptists to help during this unparalleled human disaster, and it wants to suggest practical ways they can meet needs and share Christ’s love.

Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives

Governed by the Council of Seminary Presidents, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA) is the largest and most accessible collection of Baptist material in the world. The SBHLA exhibit will feature historic photographs of Baptist life, events, churches, ministries and missions. In addition to information on the library and archives, the booth also will have brochures on church archives and information on, a website sponsored by the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions (ALABI). Say farewell to Bill Sumners, retiring director of the SBHLA after 33 years with the collection and welcome the new director, Taffey Hall.

Southern Baptist Foundation

How can I help this generation touch the next generation for Christ? What will your legacy be? Can I make an impact for Christ? How can I support Kingdom work after I am gone?
These are just a few of the questions that await SBC messengers at the Southern Baptist Foundation’s booth. Visitors will be challenged to think about the causes that they love and how they can give to them. Resources and services to facilitate giving, glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom will be showcased. For more information, please visit the booth or email

Seminary Extension

Seminary Extension has been training volunteers, leaders, teachers and pastors for Southern Baptist churches since 1951. It’s original mandate from the Southern Baptist Convention was to offer opportunities for theological education and ministry training to people where they live. It still meets that mandate today. For those interested in studying with Seminary Extension, please stop by the booth for more information. The SBC’s annual meeting provides Seminary Extension the best opportunity each year to visit in person with those they have been serving and serving with through the years. Director Randal Williams and student services associate Carmen Ferreira will be in the booth each day.

Global Hunger Relief

The Global Hunger Relief booth will inform pastors and church leaders on the global hunger crisis, as well as provide free resources to aid their churches in becoming involved in live-saving solutions. Nearly 800 million people around the world live with constant hunger, and 1 in 6 in North America are undernourished. This tragedy is a reality for SBC churches and their communities. Seven Southern Baptist organizations – Baptist Global Response, SBC Executive Committee, ERLC, IMB, LifeWay, NAMB and WMU – have partnered together to see lives and communities changed forever through Global Hunger Relief.
Visitors to the booth will receive information for free downloadable resources to equip your church to participate in Global Hunger Sunday, including an article from ERLC President Russell Moore, videos, small group curriculum and more. They will also have an opportunity to talk personally with Southern Baptist workers engaged in the battle to alleviate hunger around the world.

5/23/2016 12:04:46 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Zika threat prompts abortion discussion

May 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In the United States and Latin America, abortion has entered the discussion of how to combat the Zika virus.
With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing in April that Zika infection during pregnancy can cause “microcephaly and other severe brain defects” in unborn babies, some abortion rights advocates, including members of Congress, have suggested broadening access to abortion among Zika-infected women.
But Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), told Baptist Press that Zika, in addition to the real threat it poses, has become “an opportunity that pro-abortion people are blowing out of proportion to try to scare people into changing the abortion laws.”
Harrison, a Michigan-based physician, said, “The push to change abortion laws is not based on science, and it’s not based on a love of humanity. It’s based on simply the fact that some people want abortion worldwide. We, as Hippocratic physicians, do not believe you treat people by killing them.”
Citing a French Polynesian study, Harrison said pregnant women appear to be at risk of having babies with microcephaly only if they contract Zika during the first trimester. Even then, the risk of fetal microcephaly among infected women is 1 percent.
Microcephaly is a condition in which the brain does not develop properly, resulting in a smaller-than-normal head sizes and severe disabilities in some cases. In adults, Zika generally results in no symptoms or mild symptoms.
An Associated Press article put the risk of fetal microcephaly among infected pregnant women at “somewhere between 1 and 29 percent.” The CDC websites states, “If a pregnant woman is exposed, we don’t know how likely she is to get Zika. If a pregnant woman is infected, we don’t know how the virus will affect her pregnancy.”
The CDC has reported “active Zika virus transmission” in at least 48 countries and territories spanning from South Pacific islands to the Americas to Africa, and activated its Emergency Operations Center to the highest level of responsiveness.
Still, Harrison concluded, “The hysteria surrounding Zika is kind of a made-for-television production – or I should say a made-for-legislation production. It’s important that women understand what the risk is, but it’s also important for women not to become terrified of what the risk isn’t.”
In the U.S., the Senate and House are working to craft a response to President Obama’s request for $1.8 billion in emergency Zika funding. Bills approved by both chambers contain language barring federal funding from being used for abortions – a reality that drew objection from Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Louise Slaughter, Jan Schakowsky and Barbara Lee.
The four pro-choice congresswomen said in a statement according to The Hill, “By including ... language that denies access to abortions for women receiving Medicaid, women in the Peace Corps and military, federal workers and others, it continues discriminatory policies that deny women vital reproductive health care services based on their income, their insurance and where they work.”
Dee Redwine, Latin America regional director of Planned Parenthood Global, said the restrictive abortion laws of most Central and South American countries inhibit an adequate Zika response.
“Governments cannot, on one hand, discourage pregnancy, while at the same time limiting their commitments to and funding for family planning and access to safe and legal abortion,” Redwine said according to LifeSiteNews.
In February, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue sent a letter to then-Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump calling them to “put aside ... ideological objections and support universal contraceptive coverage until we better understand the Zika virus and can control its outbreak.”
Asked by BP whether “universal contraceptive coverage” would include birth control methods typically regarded by pro-life groups as abortifacients, a NARAL spokesman said it is “a broad concept” that does “not necessarily” specify “the particular type of contraception they would choose to employ.”
Harrison, of AAPLOG, said even though present versions of U.S. legislation prohibit Zika funds from being used for abortion, they do not prohibit the government from “advocating for abortion” as a response to Zika or contracting with organizations that provide abortion to secure prenatal care for Zika-infected women.
AP reported CDC officials thus far “have declined to discuss the issue of abortion services” in connection with Zika.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

5/23/2016 12:00:47 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rainer shares roadmap to helping pastors lead change

May 23 2016 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

The email addressed to LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer sounded urgent. The subject line: A plea for help.
“I am a pastor and I’m about to give up,” the email began. The pastor went on to share his frustration in trying to lead his church to make much-needed changes. “Every time I try something, I get hit hard by critics and bullies,” he wrote. “My wife wants me to quit.” He ended by asking Rainer for advice on how to lead change in the wake of so many obstacles.
Rainer receives multiple letters, emails and comments a month from pastors saying they are discouraged trying to lead their churches to change. His latest book, “Who Moved My Pulpit?” is a response to those asking for advice.
“I wrote this new book with a heart for those church leaders,” he said. “Most pastors and church leaders don’t know how to lead change. But it’s an important and perhaps the most difficult aspect of leadership.”
Published by LifeWay’s B&H Publishing imprint, Who Moved My Pulpit? comes out at a time when many churches are in need of change. Research shows nearly 9 out of 10 churches are either declining or growing more slowly than the communities in which they are located.
“Change is absolutely necessary in our churches,” Rainer said, “but it is difficult and risky.”
Leading change in churches is more difficult today than it was 20-25 years ago, Rainer said. That’s due in large part to the pressure of today’s ever-changing culture on church members.
“The world outside the church has shifted so drastically away from Judeo-Christian values that church members want to hold onto the methodologies, ministries and programs they know and are comfortable with within the church,” he explained. “When change happens in the church, they are told they have to let go of those things they know, and that is yet another major frustration.”
The book, available June 1, is a collection of stories drawn from the experiences of pastors and congregations navigating change. Readers will learn valuable lessons from the mistakes and successes of others. One of the biggest mistakes a leader makes when leading change is not praying first.
“Leading change in the church can only work if it is God-led, God-powered, and God-ordained,” Rainer writes.
Another mistake, he said, is moving forward without making sure the congregation is on board with the change – and not measuring how others are responding to change.
“The greatest determinant of whether change will be effective is how well the leader is being received as a change agent,” he noted.
Rainer provides an eight-stage road map for leading change, which includes prayer, communicating a sense of urgency, building an eager coalition, providing a voice and vision of hope, dealing with people issues, moving from an inward to an outward focus, picking low-hanging fruit and implementing change.
Who Moved My Pulpit? takes some of its cues from retired Harvard professor John Kotter’s “Leading Change.” “Some of Kotter’s principles have a biblical foundation even though the book was not written with biblical intentionality,” Rainer said. “I had recommended his book to pastors for years, but many couldn’t connect with it because it’s a business book. I felt I needed to write a book for pastors and church leaders that would communicate some of these same change principles.”
For churches unsure they need to change, Rainer offers these five signs:
  1. The church is not growing.
  2. There is ongoing conflict within the church.
  3. Most of the church’s ministry and budget are focused inwardly.
  4. The church doesn’t have a positive presence in the community.
  5. The church has a high turnover of leadership.
If leaders take only one thing away from the book, Rainer hopes it will be to lead change with prayer. “Even if they only do that one thing, they are depending on the power of God to change the hearts of people more than any type of strategic methodology,” he said.
“Prayer is not an option in leading change in the church.”
Rainer hopes pastors will have the courage to make a difference in their churches and lead change well. Tens of thousands of churches are in need of revitalization. “God has called pastors to lead change for such a time as this,” he noted.
To learn more about Who Moved My Pulpit?, visit
5/23/2016 11:56:01 AM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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