May 2017

PrayerLink expresses its mission in logo’s redesign

May 24 2017 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

Calling on the Southern Baptist PrayerLink leadership team to “fan into flame a passionate pursuit of God in prayer,” Chris Schofield opened the group’s winter meeting as PrayerLink’s first executive director.

“The Lord is not through with what we began years ago,” said Schofield, director of the Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“This ministry cannot be about us. It must not look to the past, but adapt to changing realities and press on to what lies ahead,” Schofield said, according to a report in SBC LIFE’s pre-convention 2017 issue released earlier this month. SBC LIFE is the journal of the SBC Executive Committee.
The PrayerLink leadership team settled on four verbs during its two-day meeting that convey its mission and voted to redesign its logo to reflect its mission.
The new logo incorporates the group’s global prayer focus; its passion to lift up Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17:20-21; and its desire – by praying, connecting, resourcing and serving – to join hands with people of every race and kindred.
“We [primarily] serve through praying,” Schofield said. “Then we serve the greater group by putting together the logistics of our meetings” so others have a model to emulate in their respective settings, whether churchwide prayer services, small group gatherings or associational meetings.
PrayerLink is composed of prayer coordinators from Southern Baptist entities, Woman’s Missionary Union, state Baptist conventions and Southern Baptist ethnic and language fellowships.
Working in collaboration with associations, state Baptist conventions and SBC entities, PrayerLink seeks to foster a Great Commission prayer mindset among Southern Baptists and other Christ-followers and promote Great Commission prayer ministries woven throughout the Southern Baptist network of churches.

NAMB prayer initiatives

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) hosted the PrayerLink leadership team’s Jan. 9-10 meeting in Alpharetta, Ga.
William Brown, NAMB’s supporting church coordinator, and Maggie Green, endorsed missionary services coordinator, introduced two prayer resources designed to undergird church planters:

  • PrayerConnect, “a weekly prayer email sent to subscribers with prayer requests submitted by NAMB missionaries,” Brown said.
  • Pray for Planters, an initiative to enlist at least 10,000 churches to pray for North American church planting missionaries. Pastors and individuals can register at to pray through a list of planters in a specific city, state, province or on college campuses.

“Every believer can pray, and every church can help plant churches,” the website states, encouraging churches to “take the first step” by “choosing a location and committing to pray for church planters there,” asking God to “save lives and transform communities through church planters across North America.”
Church leaders can complete an online form to indicate their desire to pray. NAMB will send a list of planters to pray for and occasional updates of what God has done through their prayers.

PrayerLink fall meeting

Under the theme “God Is Greater Than,” PrayerLink’s Oct. 5-7 meeting will consist of three components:

  • Two “10-20-30 Prayer Experiences” hosted by First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., a one-hour service on Thursday evening and an extended season of prayer on Friday morning.
  • A PrayerLink Forum of invited prayer leaders from across the United States.
  • A Saturday Prayer Vision Tour to pray on-site for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, NAMB, Atlanta “Send City” leaders, local church plants in pockets of lostness, university campuses and church revitalization needs.

Members of this year’s PrayerLink leadership team, in addition to Schofield, are Jerry Dixon, Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey; Claude King, LifeWay Christian Resources; Phil Miglioratti, Illinois Baptist State Association; Roger S. Oldham, SBC Executive Committee; Darrell Webb, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia; Eleanor Witcher, International Mission Board; and Marty Youngblood, Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
Rick Shepherd, minister of prayer and spiritual awakening at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., where SBC President Steve Gaines is pastor, also participated in the planning and strategy session.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, the Executive Committee’s journal.)

5/24/2017 12:47:04 PM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

American views of shame, guilt studied

May 24 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Many Americans are more worried about their reputation than their conscience, a new study released May 23 shows.
They worry less about guilt and fear and more about avoiding shame, according to the study from LifeWay Research that was conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016.

Shame has become particularly powerful in American culture in the internet age, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. A single mistake or embarrassing moment posted on social media can ruin a person’s life.
“What’s our biggest cultural fear?” he asked. “Shame.”
McConnell added, “What’s surprising is not that personal freedom, ambition and doing the right thing are valued by Americans. It’s that risk to our reputation is what matters most.”

Mixed motivations

Shaming has been a part of American life since the days of The Scarlet Letter. Set among the Puritans, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, a young mother forced to wear a scarlet “A” after committing adultery, considered a crime at the time. But Americans gave up on public shaming of criminals in the 1830s, according to journalist Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Since then, Americans have been more concerned about issues like guilt over wrongdoing, McConnell said. That’s shaped how churches have presented their faith to the public, he said.
McConnell said LifeWay Research wanted to know if guilt is still a major issue for Americans. That might affect how Christians talk about their faith, he said, since Christianity also addresses needs such as shame and fear.
“We wanted to know: are churches addressing the issues Americans care about most?” McConnell said.
Researchers asked 1,000 Americans three questions to discover their feelings about fear, shame, guilt and other issues.

  • Which of these feelings do you seek to avoid the most?
  • Which of these desires is strongest in your life?
  • Which of these directions do you value the most?

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they avoid shame the most. Thirty-one percent say guilt, while 30 percent say fear.
Education and age play a role in what feelings Americans avoid. Those with graduate degrees (44 percent) are more likely to avoid shame than those with high school diplomas or less (34 percent). Americans ages 25 to 34 avoid guilt (37 percent) more than those 55 and older (27 percent). Middle-aged Americans – those 35 to 54 – are the most likely age group to worry about shame at 44 percent.
Nones – those who claim no religious identity – avoid guilt (35 percent) more than those who are religious (30 percent). Those who are religious avoid shame (39 percent) more than nones (33 percent). Those from non-Christian faiths are most likely to avoid shame (48 percent).
McConnell wonders whether Americans see shame as a bigger threat to their reputation or self-worth than guilt.
“Guilt says, I deserve to be punished,” he said. “But shame says, I am worthless.”

Personal freedom still crucial

LifeWay Research found Americans still prize independence. When asked to name what they desire most from a list of options, 40 percent name personal freedom. Thirty-one percent say respect, while 28 percent say they desire to overcome.
Men (44 percent) are more likely to choose personal freedom than women (37 percent). The nones – those with no religious affiliation – are more likely to choose personal freedom (50 percent) than Christians (38 percent). Personal freedom also matters most for those 18 to 24 (51 percent).
The more Americans attend religious services, the less they value personal freedom. Among those who attend services less than once a month, 44 percent value personal freedom most. That drops to 36 percent for those who attend more than once a month.
Americans without evangelical beliefs (42 percent) are also more likely to value personal freedom than those with evangelical beliefs (32 percent).
The desire to overcome, the study shows, matters more to Hispanic Americans (37 percent) than to white Americans (25 percent). Those from non-Christian faiths (40 percent) value overcoming more than Christians (27 percent).
Christians (35 percent) were more likely to desire respect than nones (21 percent) and those from non-Christian faiths (22 percent).

Make Mom proud

Some of the most interesting findings, said McConnell, came when researchers asked Americans, “Which of these directions do you value most?”
Their options:

  • Reaching my potential
  • Bringing honor to family and friends
  • Having friends in high places

Almost no one (3 percent) chose having friends in high places. Instead, Americans were split almost down the middle between reaching their potential (51 percent) and bringing honor to family and friends (46 percent).
McConnell sees a link between the two. Americans are ambitious, he said, but it’s not always ambition for its own sake.
“We want the people we love to be proud of us,” he said. “Few of us want to let our family and friends down.”
Among other findings:

  • Those with a graduate degree (57 percent) value reaching their potential more than those who are high school graduates or less (47 percent).
  • Nones (63 percent) value reaching their potential more than Christians (46 percent).
  • Christians (52 percent) value bringing honor to family and friends more than nones (33 percent).
  • Those without evangelical beliefs (53 percent) value reaching their potential more than those with evangelical beliefs (42 percent).
  • Those who attend a religious service once a month or more (56 percent) value bringing honor to family and friends more than those who attend less than once a month (42 percent).

McConnell is skeptical of one finding in the survey – the idea few Americans value having friends in high places. He wonders whether some Americans are ashamed to admit they want to be well connected.
Perhaps, he said, making Mom proud is more powerful than having rich friends.
“We all want to be appreciated by the ones we love,” he said.


LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 27–Oct. 1, 2016. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. People in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, market research company GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

5/24/2017 12:46:40 PM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Rural Baptist church sees 900 baptisms in 6 years

May 24 2017 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

In 1995, Joey Hanner was a trucker who was about to give up on his marriage – and he was one Sunday service away from giving up on church too.

Alabama Baptist photo
Rodney Robinson, standing, helps facilitate an evangelism class led by Phil Blair at Union No. 3 Baptist Church near Gadsden, Ala.

“We were going to give church one more try and then we were going to end our marriage,” he said.
They were so mad at each other they hadn’t even realized that day was their 12th wedding anniversary, Hanner said.
And they had no idea it was about to become an even more significant date.
During the altar call, Hanner and wife Connie both separately ran down the aisle, only to look up from tearful, broken prayers and see the other one kneeling there too.
“We both got saved that day,” Hanner said. “God healed me and He got me out of my truck and into ministry.”
And ever since then, he’s had no problems telling anybody and everybody about the hope that Jesus offers.

Something missing

But when Hanner became pastor of Union No. 3 Baptist Church near Gadsden, Ala., six years ago, he knew he and his church were missing something important.
He went to an event in North Carolina where discipleship was emphasized, and with a burdened heart he came back and asked a question to the congregation of about 130 people.
“I asked them to stand if they had been discipled one on one before and only two people stood up,” he said.
That lit a fire in Hanner and it kicked off a movement toward discipleship in the rural church, which sits on 82 acres “15 minutes from everything,” he said.
They’ve seen 900 baptized in the past six years and grown from averaging 130 to 700 on a Sunday morning. And they’ve moved from one service to two.
“We’re a very strong evangelistic church,” Hanner said, noting that about 50 people go out every Sunday and Thursday from the church to make visits in the community.

Photo courtesy of Joey Hanner
Adam Thornton, associate pastor of Union No. 3 Baptist Church, baptizes a young church member during worship.


One on one

But not only that – they follow it up with discipleship, he said. Hundreds have been discipled one on one by other members of Union No. 3 Baptist since he asked that question years ago.
“Since we started discipling, our church has matured. We’ve caught the vision of what a true Acts 1:8 church should look like,” Hanner said.
“When you cross those borders, when you begin to really get into God’s Word, you get to the point where you will go anywhere, say anything and talk to anyone for the sake of the gospel.”
That’s why Dan Garland, director of pastoral ministries and church consulting for LifeWay Christian Resources, said he recommended Union No. 3 Baptist to be featured in a video at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13–14 in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I was impressed with the number of young men who are being discipled at the church,” Garland said. “We’re talking about a church in the middle of nowhere ... and some people drive more than a half hour to be a part. It’s a great church and God is doing amazing things there.”
The key to all of it has been the church growing and maturing in Christ, Hanner said.
“It’s been humbling and phenomenal to see what God has done. We’re just trying to stay out of His way.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist,, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

5/24/2017 12:40:12 PM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 2 comments

Tennessee sued over spousal definitions

May 24 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Four married lesbian couples in Tennessee are fighting a new state law they say denies their parental rights.
The couples, each expecting a baby this year, filed a lawsuit last week against a law mandating that undefined words in state statutes be interpreted to have “natural and ordinary” meanings. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure into law May 5.
Advocates say the simple law mandates words in state legal codes not be extended or changed beyond their natural definition. One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Rep. Andrew Farmer, told NBC News the legislation had “nothing to do with same sex-marriage or gender.”
But lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists are calling the law “sneaky,” arguing it “clearly targets [LGBT] Tennesseans” by requiring words like “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” in state law apply only to opposite-sex couples.
“Make no mistake. The intent of [this bill] is clear,” Jim Obergefell, the primary plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage, said in a statement urging Haslam to veto the bill. “This bill is not about protecting the rights of all Tennesseans. Its intent is to harm [LGBT] Tennesseans and their families.” Obergefell said the law conflicts with federal and state laws that require gender-specific words now be interpreted as gender inclusive.
At least one Tennessee judge agrees.
Days before Haslam signed the “natural and ordinary meanings” law, a Knox County judge granted the legal parental rights of a “husband” to Erica Witt, a lesbian woman fighting for parental rights to a child her former wife conceived by artificial insemination.
Under Tennessee law, a “child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”
During divorce proceedings, attorneys for Erica Witt’s ex-wife, Sabrina Witt, argued the artificial insemination law does not grant Erica Witt any parental rights to the child because she was not the “husband.”
In July 2016, state appeals court Judge Greg McMillan agreed and ruled against Erica Witt.
Three months later, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed a memorandum in the case, disagreeing with McMillan’s ruling.
Slatery stated that, construed literally, the artificial insemination statute runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision because it only accounts for a male spouse, excluding same-sex couples from marriage on the same “terms and conditions” as opposite-sex couples.
But Slatery offered a simple solution: Just interpret the law to mean “spouse” instead of “husband.”
“The legislature’s use of the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ merely reflects the fact that only opposite-sex marriages were recognized in Tennessee when the statute was enacted in 1977. After Obergefell, of course, that is no longer the case,” Slatery wrote.
In early May, McMillan reversed his previous ruling and granted Erica Witt parental rights, including an obligation to pay child support.
But the “natural and ordinary” law threw the whole issue into question again.
The four lesbian couples suing the state say they want the law overturned. They also want a court order clarifying that married same-sex couples and their children should be treated the same as married heterosexual couples and their children, receiving health insurance coverage and social security benefits, granting them equal hospital visitation, and if they divorce, custody rights.
The current struggle – figuring out what to do with marriage-related words – is the result of the fact that “our law has abandoned the natural meaning of marriage,” said David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. “The problem is that giving a word a meaning contrary to its natural meaning requires us to give a new meaning to all the words associated with that word.”
The attorney for the plaintiffs said a hearing date has not yet been set.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

5/24/2017 12:39:49 PM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Trump’s Israel trip sparks ‘revival of encouragement’

May 24 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

President Trump’s visit to Israel this week drew praise from some Southern Baptists and led some of them to renew calls for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Screen capture from YouTube
President Trump’s visit to Israel May 22-23 included a stop at the Western Wall, the only portion still standing of the Jewish Temple depicted in scripture.

“For several years the Jewish people in America and Messianic Jewish communities have been pleading with our government to bring back the relationship that we once had with Israel and the Jewish people,” said Ric Worshill, president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.
“Israel has never stopped supporting the U.S. Now that President Trump is fulfilling his promises to rebuild our relationship and support of Israel as our main ally in the Middle East, we are seeing a powerful revival of encouragement among Jewish people and Messianic Jewish worshipers [Jews who follow Jesus as Messiah] in the U.S.A. and all around the world,” Worshill told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments.
During Trump’s May 22-23 visit to Israel, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump promised to “stand with Israel” and expressed optimism regarding “a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” according to media reports.
No previous American president has visited Israel this early in his first term, The New York Times reported. Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Old City, the walled section of Jerusalem claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians. The Old City was captured by Israel in a 1967 military conflict with Jordan and remains under Israeli control.
Among Trump’s stops on the trip were the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site traditionally regarded as the location of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection; the Western Wall, the only portion of the Jewish Temple left standing after its destruction in A.D. 70; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Worshill called Trump’s visit “an answer to many years of prayer” and “an important signal to the Middle East nations that the U.S. boldly stands with Israel.”
“Like myself, many Messianic worshipers and Jewish believers feel that President Trump will work hard to help illustrate the truth that Israel desires safety and freedom for all of its inhabitants, including all faiths and ethnic backgrounds,” Worshill said. “Like the U.S., Israel is a melting pot of people from all over the world.”
Worshill added that while “the killing of innocent” Muslims, Christians and Jews in Israel must stop, “I don’t believe there will be true peace in Israel or on the earth until the Lord returns.”
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a Southern Baptist and an Arizona Republican, said Trump’s Israel visit signals “a new day has dawned” in U.S.-Israel relations after some tension between Israel and the Obama administration. At a May 22 press conference in Washington, Franks called on the Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Such a move would be controversial because the United Nations and many countries regard portions of Jerusalem as Palestinian territory. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem likely would be viewed as an endorsement of Israel’s claim to the entire city.
“Jerusalem should never have been a bargaining chip to bring Palestinians to the negotiation table,” Franks said at the press conference according to prepared remarks provided by his office.
“Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and Israel the world’s only Jewish state. America stood with the Jewish people in restoring their ancient state. It is now time to truly recognize her ancient and eternal city as her eternal and undivided capital,” Franks said.
A May 16 letter to Trump from the American Christian Leaders for Israel coalition noted that the Jerusalem Embassy Act, adopted by Congress in 1995, declared the U.S. embassy should be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. The move has never occurred, the letter stated, because each U.S. president since the legislation was adopted has exercised a provision of the law allowing him to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv if “necessary to protect the security interests of the United States.”
“Now we ask you to send a message early in your administration that the United States will indeed honor its strongest and only true democratic ally in the Middle East by respecting its capital city – Jerusalem – and immediately moving the U.S. Embassy there,” the letter stated.
The letter’s signatories included at least five Southern Baptists: Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters; Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta; Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel; Tony Crisp, pastor of Eastanallee Baptist Church in Riceville, Tenn.; and Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told CBN News May 16 she believes “that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.”
In 2016, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution “on prayer and support for Israel” that “commit[ted] to bless Israel” and supported its “right ... to exist as a sovereign nation.”
The resolution added, “We recommit ourselves to pray for God’s peace to rule in Jerusalem and for the salvation of Israel, for the gospel is ‘God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew’ (Romans 1:16).”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/24/2017 12:39:27 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

John Piper to Boyce grads: Embrace life of self-denial

May 23 2017 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

College graduates must reject a life of ease, comfort and material possessions, and embrace the cross-bearing challenges of the Christian life, John Piper said at the May 11 commencement of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

SBTS photo
John Piper preaches during Boyce College commencement, May 12. Piper's daughter, Talitha, was among the graduates.

Piper, whose daughter Talitha was among the 147 graduates, is the first person from outside the Southern Seminary community to give the commencement address at a Boyce College graduation.
Piper, founder of Desiring God Ministries and former pastor in Minneapolis, said Christians face a lifelong battle between two competing foundational philosophies, or two opposing selves. This “sacred schizophrenia,” Piper said, forces believers to fight their “false self” that grapples for personal fame, glory, possessions, power and comfort. The true self, however, exhibits self-denial and a godward focus.
“The denying self loves real life that lasts forever, loves Jesus as all-satisfying, loves meaning more than money, loves the praise of holy heaven more than the praise of sinful earth,” Piper said, drawing on Jesus’ lessons about true discipleship in Mark 8:34-38. “The denying self is the true you.”
There will never be a day in which Christians do not hear from the world that having material possessions is equivalent to having an abundant life. In opposition to this, Jesus teaches that the purpose of life is not accumulating resources, but experiencing Him intimately. This will require a lifelong battle to the death against believers’ false, materialistic selves, Piper said.
“You are going to have to make war on your [false] self until you are no longer two, but one glorious self,” he said.
Christians must not seek the approval of a sinful world, but instead the approval of the Son of Man, surrounded by the glory of His Father and holy angels, Piper said. There are two directly opposite audiences watching human lives: the audience of the heavenly realm and the audience of an unbelieving world, and the Christian’s two selves will covet the approval of opposite audiences. They must deny the worldly self and live in their true self.
“Don’t begrudge a few decades of sacred schizophrenia. It will be over soon enough and there will be one self someday – one unified, true self and all self-denying will be over.”
Piper appealed to the life of James Petigru Boyce, founder and first president of Southern Seminary and after whom Boyce College is named. As a student at Charlestown College before he was a Christian, Boyce was spotted by the college president, who said, “There is Boyce, who will become a great man if he does not become the devil.” All people face the same two options, Piper said.
“That’s true for everyone in this room. Those are the only two options in front of you,” he said. “You are all destined to be unspeakably great in eternity or a devil in eternity. Whether you become a devil or great depends on whether you are in the state of sacred schizophrenia.”
The 2017 Boyce College commencement marked the first to feature graduates of the Augustine Honors Collegium, an honors program launched in August 2016 under the guidance of Jonathan Arnold, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history. RuthAnne Irvin, Janae Leeke and Mackenzie Miller were the collegium’s first graduates. The college also honored the first graduate in the bachelor of science in business administration, Jonathan Newlin.
Founded in 1974 as Boyce Bible School, the institution began offering bachelor’s degrees as James P. Boyce College of the Bible in 1998 under Mohler’s leadership. The name was later changed to Boyce College. Students can earn a variety of bachelor’s and associate degrees through numerous programs, including Boyce Online, seminary track and dual enrollment.
More information about Boyce College is available online at Audio and video of John Piper’s commencement address are available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/23/2017 10:01:07 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments

Women’s Advisory Council prepares final report

May 23 2017 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

The Women’s Advisory Council began formulating recommendations during its third and final meeting to present to Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee.

Photo by Roger S. Oldham
Women’s Advisory Council members, left to right, Jackie Anderson, Ana Melendez and Myra Sermon review five of the sixteen research reports submitted by advisory council members during the council’s March 30-31 meeting in Atlanta, Ga.

Appointed by Page in January 2016, the council has sought to gather and share information about perspectives and strategies for women in Southern Baptist churches to help reach the U.S. and the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Page also asked council members to suggest ways to increase the involvement of women in biblically appropriate ways at all levels of Southern Baptist life, identifying and providing support structures to maximize women’s service through their churches as well as in leadership on state and national boards and committees.
Council chairwoman Rhonda Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president’s wife and a leader in women’s ministry, facilitated the March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta during which the council also reviewed findings from a survey it conducted in 2016 and received reports from work teams.
Kelley distributed an 80-page draft report to council members at the meeting, containing findings of 16 topics related to ministry to women compiled by council members and an analysis of the 20-question online survey.
According to the draft report, more than 3,600 women, representing all 50 states, responded to the survey. Those under age 35 comprised the largest group at 26 percent of respondents.
About 21 percent each were between ages 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64 while 11 percent of respondents were 65 or older.
The council sought to increase survey participation from younger women by submitting the survey to collegiate ministers for distribution and to increase the response rate of older women by distributing print copies to senior adult groups.
Among the trends in Southern Baptist churches’ ministry to women revealed in the survey are:

  • While more than four out of five churches have organized ministry specifically for women (81.31 percent), fewer than 10 percent have a full-time church staff position for women’s ministry (9.4 percent).
  • Just over one-third of the survey’s respondents serve in a lay leadership role in some type of ministry to women, ranging from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) to women’s ministry Bible study or prayer groups (34.81 percent), while 3.68 percent serve in a paid full- or part-time role in ministry to women.
  • One-fourth of respondents (24.99 percent) have received specific leadership training for work with women through various leadership conferences, LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum and/or WMU.
  • Nearly 83 percent of women said their churches offer Bible studies specifically for women and 81 percent said their church hosts special events specifically for women.
  • Fewer than three out of 10 women responding to the survey (29.08 percent) said their church provides evangelism or discipleship training specifically for women.

The Women’s Advisory Council is composed of 18 women from 14 states and represents different age groups, stages of life, ethnic backgrounds and ministry positions.
Its final report will contain specific recommendations to address four questions that surfaced during the council’s initial meeting in January 2016.

  • What ministries, training and resources are provided for Southern Baptist women?
  • What evangelistic methods and resources are effective in reaching women with the gospel?
  • What additional support is needed by women across the convention?
  • What recommendations should be made to the SBC Executive Committee for consideration to increase involvement of women in biblically appropriate ways in Southern Baptist life?

The council will present its final report to Page just prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix at the “Many Faces of the SBC” booth in the exhibit hall on June 12.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the Executive Committee.)

5/23/2017 10:00:40 AM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Grady Cothen, former president of 2 SBC entities, dies

May 23 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press and Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Grady Cothen – the former chief executive of a state convention, a Southern Baptist university and two Southern Baptist Convention entities – died May 19 at The Orchard retirement home in Ridgeland, Miss. He was 96.

SBHLA photo
Grady Cothen, who died May 19, served as president of the Baptist Sunday School Board from 1974-84.

Among his service to Southern Baptists, Cothen was executive secretary of the Southern Baptist General Convention of California (1961-66), president of Oklahoma Baptist University (1966-70), president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (1970-74) and president of the Baptist Sunday School Board (1974-1984). The California convention has since been renamed the California Southern Baptist Convention, and the Sunday School Board has become LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Few Southern Baptist leaders have made so deep a mark in so many different places as did Grady Cothen,” New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley said in a news release. “He came to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when it was in a crisis. He brought stability and a foundation upon which our future was built. We thank God for giving our convention such an excellent leader.”
When Cothen arrived at New Orleans Seminary, it was experiencing “depleted enrollment, financial deficits and crucial faculty vacancies,” according to the news release. Under Cothen’s leadership, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported in 1974, the seminary experienced more than 15 percent growth of its student body.
The first alumnus to serve as president, Cothen led New Orleans Seminary through a restructuring and helped it launch a doctor of ministry degree. In 1984, he told Baptist Press (BP) his service at the seminary “was perhaps the closest to my own sense of personal call” of any ministry position during his career.
At the Sunday School Board, according to BP, Cothen established four priorities for his administration: to provide in-depth Bible study curriculum, to equip believers for the work of ministry, to enrich and support family life and to encourage ministers and their families.

NOBTS photo
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Grady Cothen (right) receive the seminary’s distinguished alumni award from professor Ray Robbins in 1971.

Under his leadership, the Board purchased the Holman Bible Publishing Company, now part of B&H Publishing Group, and enlarged its program of continuing education for ministers among other accomplishments, BP reported in 1984.
LifeWay President Thom Rainer told BP the purchase of Holman in 1979 stemmed from “Cothen’s vision and leadership.”
The acquisition “has benefited both LifeWay and the Southern Baptist Convention, by allowing us to develop and publish the Holman Christian Standard Bible and now the Christian Standard Bible as faithful translations stewarded by Southern Baptists,” Rainer said. “We can be thankful he had the foresight to step out in faith in making that critical acquisition.”
The latter years of Cothen’s Sunday School Board tenure included stomach cancer surgery and a series of related health issues that led to his retirement for medical reasons in 1984.
Cothen told the 1980 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference that the day he received his stomach cancer diagnosis, a news story in his local paper noted a 13 percent survival rate among those with his condition. That reality prompted reflections on his life and ministry.
“I thought to myself, if it’s all done today and there’s never another moment, what a glorious privilege God has given me,” Cothen said according to Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal. “What a glorious time spending your life for God. If He says it’s enough, glory, it’s good enough. When you gaze down the gun barrel of eternity, there is no more sweet thought in life than that we’ve done the best we could for God.”
Cothen also recalled, “I stuck out my tongue at the devil and said, ‘Get back, you rascal. God has overcome death.’”
An advocate of the moderate cause during the SBC’s conservative resurgence, Cothen finished second to Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley in the 1984 SBC presidential election. The resurgence led Cothen to write two books, What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? in 1993, and The New SBC: A Moderate Looks at Fundamentalism in 1995.
Cothen was born in 1920 in Poplarville, Miss. He received an undergraduate degree from Mississippi College, a master of Christian training from New Orleans Seminary and three honorary doctorates. He pastored churches in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alabama.
His wife of 63 years, Martha “Bettye” Cothen, died in 2005. He is survived by his wife Mary Colmer Cothen and three children as well as grandchildren great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.
A memorial service was held May 20 at The Orchard retirement home, with interment in Mascot, Tenn., where his first wife is buried.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director for news at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/23/2017 9:47:50 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press and Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Seminary marks 20-year nurture of ministers’ wives

May 23 2017 by Annie Corser, SBTS

Alumni and students celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with testimonies from graduates from 1999 to 2017.

Photo by Ali Marsh, SBTS
A gala to celebrate the Seminary Wives Institute on its 20th anniversary at Southern Seminary featured current and former instructors, alumni and students.

Each testimony revealed the eternal impact of SWI on women who have served in ministries from Louisville, Ky., to as far away as Zimbabwe.
The history of SWI dates back to February 1997 when Mary Mohler hosted some faculty wives to discuss interest in creating a new program to train seminary wives.
On May 8, 1997, 85 women attended an informational meeting for prospective students. The result of that meeting launched the SWI program that fall with 125 students kindled by the vision of Mohler, wife of SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr., and three cofounders: Sharon Beougher, who still serves as an SWI faculty member; Virginia Walker; and Menda Sue Hatfield.
“People showed up; classes started,” Mohler said at a May 4 gala to celebrate SWI’s 20th anniversary. “And we were on a roll and things were going well, but we needed help ... and the Lord so kindly grew this faculty as He grew Southern Seminary’s faculty.
“And so as my husband is hiring these wonderful new faculty members, wives were coming along with them, and the amazing fact is God in all this was bringing faculty wives who had an interest in helping us, and each had an interest that was not already being covered,” Mohler recounted.
Notable SWI faculty who helped set the foundation for the program include Tanya York, who came in 1997; Jodi Ware, 1998; Katherine Magnuson, 1999; Jaylynn Cook, 2000; Nora Allison, 2003; and Caffy Whitney, 2005.
Karen Allen, a 2006 graduate and former SWI instructor, shared how her first class immediately challenged her to pray fervently for the lost, including her mother. As she learned evangelism from Sharon Beougher, Allen joined with other women to pray for her mother.
“And within those six weeks, I got a telephone call on a Wednesday night at about 11:30 at night – my mom was coming in from church late because she had stayed to receive Christ with her pastor,” Allen told the gala attendees.
This is “eternal fruit” from the faithful work and teaching of SWI, said. Allen, wife of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen who now serves as the director of a similar program, Midwestern Women’s Institute.
“It has been said imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I unashamedly would tell you that I took everything that I could from SWI and copied it where I’m at Midwestern Seminary because I wanted something that would benefit these ladies like I had received,” Allen said.
Kyndra Moore shared through a video testimony how SWI equipped and impacted her in now serving with her husband and family as IMB missionaries in Zimbabwe.
“I didn’t know what God had in store for us and this was certainly not on my radar,” Moore said. “But God knew. … He knew what He was training me for and He used SWI to prepare me.”
Moore said the “biggest thing that SWI did for me was it taught me that I wasn’t just going to be the wife of someone who was trained, but I was going to be trained myself. … SWI helped me to be a partner in ministry with my husband so that we together can do what God has called us to do, to reach our potential and to make the name of Jesus known to the nations.
“So, thank you, SWI. Thank you, Mrs. Mohler. Thank you, all of the staff who poured into me, and poured into our ministry. And I know that your fruit is endless; it’s reaching Zimbabwe,” Moore said.
From the first graduating class, Sandy Davis shared her experience of coming to the seminary since 1990 and facing the confusion of being taught that God’s Word was not inerrant. She credited SWI as God’s blessing to teach her the inerrancy of God’s Word and keep her grounded in the faith.
Helen Logan, a 2000 graduate and former instructor, expressed gratitude that SWI taught her that her worldview “needs to line up with God’s Word.” Because of that, she is able to use what she learned as she teaches and trains up her own children as well as modeling a biblical worldview for church members.
During SWI’s 20 years, 309 students have graduated from the program, with an additional 14 graduates this May, for the high calling of being a minister’s wife, prepared through biblical studies courses taught by a world-class team of Southern Seminary faculty and SWI faculty.
SBTS professor Robert Plummer, in an SWI promotional video, said, “When I first saw the lineup of the courses that are taught in SWI and I learned about the instructors that were teaching them, I was astounded. I mean we have the top-notch; we have world-famous systematic theologians, New Testament scholars and church history professors.” It’s “not just a Sunday School class, this is a serious academic exercise to be equipped and prepared to minister in the local church,” Plummer said.
Additional gala participants included cofounder Virginia Walker; former instructor Karen Cheong; 1999 graduate Michele Linn; 2001 graduate and former instructor Maria Moore; 2001 graduate Rebekah Jenks; 2015 graduate Monica Sani; and 2017 graduate Jess Crawford.
In closing, Mohler reflected on her time at Southern, contrasting her experience as a student wife in 1983, when the teaching in Norton classrooms did not uphold the inerrancy of scripture nor the exclusivity of the gospel, to being the SWI director in 2017 with a faculty who “joyfully teaches by faith alone, in Christ alone, in grace alone, the whole gospel.”
“And on this night we celebrate that for 20 years, for two full decades, in those same Norton classrooms we have had almost 3,000 student wives take classes in a program that celebrates the high calling of ministry wives with no apologies,” Mohler said.
For more information on the Seminary Wives Institute, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Annie Courser writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/23/2017 9:43:49 AM by Annie Corser, SBTS | with 0 comments

‘I will pray for you,’ draws personnel warning

May 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Baptist mother of two has filed religious discrimination and retaliation charges against a school system that threatened to fire her for privately telling a coworker she’d pray for him.

First Liberty photo
Augusta, Maine public school employee Toni Richardson was threatened with termination for offering to pray for a coworker in a private conversation at school.

Attorneys for Toni Richardson, an educational technician with the Augusta (Maine) School Department, are awaiting a response from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the complaint filed May 16. First Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas and the Maine law firm Eaton Peabody filed the complaint May 16 regarding the September 2016 incident at Cony School.
“We want to make sure that teachers and employees everywhere understand that you can certainly talk about your faith in private conversations at work,” First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys told Baptist Press, “and that no employee, whether at a school district or elsewhere, should be punished or be threatened with dismissal for engaging in private conversations that say something like, ‘I’m praying for you.’”
The coworker, a fellow member of a Baptist church in Augusta where Richardson leads the nursing home ministry, thanked her for her prayers, First Liberty said in a press release. But an Augusta Schools administrator “interrogated” Richardson, “asking whether she had ever identified herself to coworkers as a Christian or privately told a colleague she was praying for him,” First Liberty said.
Four days later, the school told Richardson in a coaching memorandum that “she could not use ‘phrases that integrate public and private belief systems’ while at school,” and threatened her with discipline or termination. The school cited the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, commonly known as separation of church and state.
“I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a coworker, ‘I will pray for you,’” Richardson said in the press release. “I am afraid that I will lose my job if someone hears me privately discussing my faith with a coworker.” According to the memorandum, the document would not be placed in Richardson’s personnel file, and Richardson has subsequently received “all excellent marks” on an annual employee evaluation, Dys said.
The Augusta case and others typically arise out of a misunderstanding of the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state, Dys said.
“I don’t know that it is often intentional that people are trying to punish people for their religious beliefs, but more often they’ve bought into this idea that there is a so-called separation of church and state which requires them to stamp out any public displays of religion,” Dys told BP. “What we have in fact, though, is a constitution that provides neutrality by the government towards religion. And instead ... we’re seeing an increasing hostility towards the free exercise of religion by state actors.”

Michigan Bible class

In a related story, a civil rights group cited the Establishment Clause in its complaint against a Bible class taught off campus once a month for students of two elementary schools in Freemont, Mich.
Fremont Public Schools cancelled the last session of the Bible Release Time class that was to meet May 22 at Freemont Wesleyan Church, school superintendent Ken Haggart said in media reports.
The school will make changes in the program to make sure it complies with the law, Haggart told Freemont-area ABC affiliate WZZM-TV May 18, but said he’s confident the program will return in the fall of the 2017-2018 school year. The class is allowed by Michigan law, the school said in class permission slip sent to parents.
The class meets eight times a year, according to the flyer, with sessions scheduled monthly since Oct. 17, 2016. Fourth graders at Pathfinder Elementary School and Daisy Brook Elementary School are invited to participate in the optional class.
The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA), a group founded in 2014 to defend the Bill of Rights, complained that the program was discriminatory because it promotes one religion over another, Haggart told WZZM.
On its Facebook page, MACRA said it would monitor at least one of the schools, Daisybrook Elementary, to guard against the program’s return.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

5/23/2017 9:37:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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