May 2017

Conservatives applaud bill to raise juvenile delinquent age

May 22 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Teenagers that commit low-level crimes should not be tried in court as adults, say some conservative groups in North Carolina, and raising the age limit of juvenile delinquency from 16 to 18 would decrease recidivism and increase rehabilitation, among other benefits. Plus, it’s simply the moral thing to do, according to Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
 
Creech and others, including the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) and Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform (CCJR), have expressed strong support for the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (H.B. 280). The bill, which is currently before the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations, would increase the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18, except in the case of certain felonies.
 
Tarrah Callahan, CCJR executive director, called the bill “an investment in our youth” during a March 20 press conference.
 
“We are throwing children into the adult system and limiting their ability to be productive and successful adults,” she said. “Rather than allowing them to participate in the juvenile system that offers far more rehabilitative opportunities, we are channeling them into a future life of crime.”
 
BCH released a statement signed by CEO Michael Blackwell and COO J. Keith Henry:
 
“Based on our experience in working with children and families we believe that raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction will ultimately lead to significant financial savings, safer communities and better outcomes for children,” said the press release.
 
Depending on the crime’s severity, state law allows court sentences for juvenile delinquents to include prison alternatives, such as returning the individual to a parent or guardian, or placing them into the custody of social services.
 
“The Holy Scriptures teach that justice requires proportionality,” said Creech. “In other words, there should be different kinds and degrees of punishment for offenders of the law. It is not proportional, sensible or moral that our state’s criminal justice system treats 16 and 17-year-olds as adults with they commit minor, low-level crimes. It results in far more drastic and permanent consequences for them.”
 
BCH said, “Young people who land in the adult criminal justice system are twice as likely to commit a crime. They are also disproportionally at risk while in custody – more likely to be victims of rape or assault and to commit suicide.”
 
The bill passed the N.C. House with overwhelming support in a 104-8 vote.

5/22/2017 2:43:38 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



NAMB responds to McRaney lawsuit

May 22 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has filed an official response to a lawsuit by former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD) executive director Will McRaney, who alleges NAMB wrongly interfered with his separation from the BCMD in 2015, engaged in “slander and/or libel” and attempted to interfere with his speaking engagements.

NAMB offices in Alpharetta, Ga.


NAMB’s May 18 filing with a U.S. district court in Aberdeen, Miss., acknowledged notifying the BCMD in late 2014 of its intent to terminate an evangelism and church planting partnership with the convention, alleging the BCMD “became a dysfunctional and difficult ministry partner” during McRaney’s tenure. However, NAMB denied interfering with McRaney’s employment situation or any of his other business dealings and asked for dismissal of the suit.
 
The lawsuit was filed in Mississippi state district but moved to a federal district court in northern Mississippi at NAMB’s request. According to NAMB’s Notice of Removal, Federal law permits NAMB to have the case removed from state court because the plaintiff and defendant are residents of different states and the amount of money at issue exceeds $75,000.
 
NAMB told Baptist Press (BP) in a statement, “After [McRaney] rejected or ignored several offers to meet and discuss these matters biblically, we regret that Dr. McRaney has chosen to involve the courts, however, since he has chosen this venue, we will be good stewards of NAMB’s resources and defend the case vigorously.”
 
McRaney asked in a May 18 statement emailed to journalists, “Why are NAMB lawyers and trustee officers offering general denials, when the complaints and allegations against [NAMB President] Dr. [Kevin] Ezell and others are specific and specific answers are available?”
 
NAMB’s response to the lawsuit claimed McRaney “caused the BCMD to violate the terms of the Strategic Partnership Agreement [for evangelism and church planting] and otherwise hindered and interfered with BCMD’s performance of its obligations.” According to the response, “NAMB was entitled” to notify the BCMD it would terminate the partnership “given the facts and circumstances as they existed at the time.”
 
Contrary to McRaney’s allegation he was terminated from the BCMD, the response stated, “NAMB is informed and believes that [McRaney] voluntarily resigned his employment pursuant to some kind of severance agreement.”
 
NAMB claimed McRaney “seeks to unfairly enrich himself” in filing suit and alleged he “demanded in a letter to NAMB that it pay him ... $7.7 million in damages.”
 
Among other claims in NAMB’s response:

  • “NAMB denie[d] that it published any defamatory statement regarding” McRaney.
  • NAMB denied it interfered with McRaney’s speaking engagements after he left the BCMD.
  • NAMB acknowledged it “situated” a photo of McRaney “in the reception area at NAMB’s office in Alpharetta [Ga.] during some period of time.” But it denied McRaney’s claim the photo “has caused additional damage” to him.
  • NAMB denied that McRaney is “entitled to any relief whatsoever in this action.”

 
NAMB has also argued that if the lawsuit proceeds, it should be transferred from the U.S. district court in northern Mississippi to the U.S. district court in northern Georgia, where NAMB’s corporate office is located.
 
The anticipated next step in the case likely will be a series of motions and responses.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

5/22/2017 1:45:52 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Duggars sue over exposure of childhood molestation

May 22 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Four Duggar sisters sued government officials and a magazine May 18 for releasing documents detailing alleged molestation by their brother Josh.

TLC photo
The Duggar sisters who filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit in Arkansas federal district court are members of the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family that gained celebrity status as stars of the former TLC reality show, “19 Kids and Counting.”


The federal lawsuit accuses InTouch Weekly magazine and Springdale and Washington County, Ark., of harming and humiliating the sisters in 2015 by releasing documents of confidential interviews of the molestations first reported to police in 2005.
 
The sisters, Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Joy Duggar, who currently live in Washington County, and Jinger Vuolo of Laredo, Texas, are members of the Duggar family that gained notoriety during the nine-season run of the former reality television show, “19 Kids and Counting.” The series showcasing the daily lives of the Christian family was cancelled weeks after InTouch Weekly first published the documents gained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
 
“Defendants’ actions forced Plaintiffs to relive painful memories and experiences that occurred almost ten years prior, resulting in Plaintiffs suffering severe mental anguish and distress,” reads the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville. “Plaintiffs were also subject to the humiliation and extreme mental anguish of being publicly identified nation and world-wide as being victims of sexual abuse as minors and having the details of the most private and painful aspects of their lives released and published to friends, associates, and tens of millions of people throughout the United States and world.”
 
Two of the sisters, Dillard and Seewald, are now featured in the reality television show, “Jill & Jessa: Counting On,” that debuted in March, 2016 on TLC.
 
The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Arkansas Constitution, the Arkansas Child Mistreatment Act and the Arkansas Juvenile Code by disclosing information the sisters and others had been explicitly assured would remain confidential.
 
“In December 2006, the Police Department instituted an investigation … into allegations that Plaintiffs, who were under the age of sixteen at the time, and one other female had been sexually assaulted on several occasions by Plaintiffs’ brother, Josh Duggar,” according to the lawsuit. “As part of the Investigation, police investigators interviewed Plaintiffs. The investigators promised Plaintiffs that their statements would remain confidential and not be disclosed to the public. Plaintiffs’ parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and their siblings also provided interviews under the promise of confidentiality.”
 
The Duggars’ attorneys, Sarah Coppola Jewell and Shawn B. Daniels of the law firm Hare, Wynn, Newell, Newton LLP, have requested a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A fifth molestation victim referenced in the documents is not included in the lawsuit.
 
Government officials redacted information from the offense report and incident report before releasing the documents, attorneys said, but left ample information available to identify the victims, the sisters’ attorneys said.
 
Various government officials in office in May of 2015 when the documents were released are named individually in the lawsuit, including the Springdale, Ark., police chief and city attorney, a Washington County sheriff’s major, and the attorney for Washington County. InTouch owners and publishers are also named.
 
Josh Duggar was never charged for the alleged molestations, but sought treatment in 2015 for an admitted pornography addiction and marital infidelity as a customer of the Ashley Madison adultery service.
 
Dillard and Seewald identified themselves publicly as two of their brother’s victims in a June 2015 FOX News interview, telling their version of the incidents in question. The sisters said they had forgiven their brother and accused the news media of having harmed them more than their brother.
 
“Most of the stuff out there is lies, it’s not true,” said Dillard, who at that time attended the Pinnacle Hills, Ark., campus of Cross Church, the pastorate of former of Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd. “For truth’s sake, we want to come out and set the record straight.”
 
The sisters said distorted public revelations of the improper touching hurt more than the touching itself, which years before had been told to family, friends, law enforcement officials and professional counselors.
 
“I see it as a victimization that’s even a thousand times worse, because this was something that was already dealt with. We’ve already forgiven Josh. We’ve already moved on,” Dillard said in 2015, crying. “It’s not the truth first of all, everything was distorted. We feel like our story was not being told. And we feel like it shouldn’t have been told. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

5/22/2017 1:45:26 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



2017 SBC exhibits highlight cooperative success

May 22 2017 by BP staff

Hear insights in preaching, church planting, adoption and foster care at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program booth at the SBC 2017 Annual Meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix.

File photo by Bob Carey
J.T. Reed of Gateway Seminary removes a covering from the seminary’s booth in the exhibit hall at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis to mark the affirmative vote by messengers to change the seminary’s name from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.


Respected Southern Baptist pastors, SBC entity heads and other leaders will cover a broad array of topics at the booth, opening June 12 at approximately 8:30 a.m. in advance of the annual meeting and continuing through 11:30 a.m. June 14.
 
The presentations at the Phoenix Convention Center will collectively demonstrate the cooperation the Southern Baptist family enjoys in missions and ministry, said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship.
 
“The individuals on stage during these panel discussions represent a broad array of SBC ministries fueled by the Cooperative Program,” Clayton said, “and all of them are aligned behind the promise or message that no matter where you are and no matter where God has called you, as part of the SBC family, you are not alone.”
 
SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., will participate in “The Sacred Desk: Practical Matters in Preaching,” joined by former SBC President James Merritt, lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga. With them will be SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington; and Jonathan Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn.
 
International Mission Board President David Platt is scheduled for the panel, “Churches Send – Southern Baptists Send Together!” as well as the panel “Adoption and Foster Care.” Other entity heads expected to participate are North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell D. Moore.
 
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Micah Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood, and Woman’s Missionary Union Executive Director and Treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin are also in the three-day line-up.
 
The SBC mobile app and TalkCP.com will post a complete schedule of panel discussions during the three days in Phoenix.
 
Other reports for the exhibit hall surrounding the SBC’s annual meeting follow:
 
INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD (IMB) – Visitors to IMB’s booth will have an opportunity to explore how, for 172 years, Southern Baptists have partnered to see an ever-increasing, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled force of men and women pursuing the nations for the glory of His name.
 
Visitors also will discover how IMB is partnering with churches to challenge congregations toward meaningful engagement in God’s global mission. The exhibit includes six interactive experiences designed to inspire and equip attendees to explore how they can utilize their unique skills in God’s mission through praying, giving, going and sending.
 
NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD (NAMB) – Learn how NAMB is helping pastors and churches more effectively engage the mission field in the United States, Canada and beyond. The exhibit will focus on its “Pray for Planters” initiative, an effort to engage 10,000 SBC churches in prayer for North American missionaries.
 
“Every church, no matter the size, can pray,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “And every missionary, regardless of where they are serving or what challenges they are facing, needs prayer.” Any pastor who commits his church to the prayer emphasis will receive a free T-shirt and resources to help his church pray for missionaries. More information can be found at prayforplanters.com.
 
NAMB will also highlight its Send Network for church planting and its Send Relief outreach for compassion ministries.
 
LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES – LifeWay’s 6,800-square-foot Christian store will offer a wide selection of books, Bibles and other Christian products. LifeWay will present interactive displays highlighting the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation and other church resources.

Among exhibit features:

  • Ministry experts from LifeWay’s Resources division will host training sessions for kids, students and adult discipleship ministries. Topics may include “Small Groups as a Discipleship Strategy,” “Levels of Biblical Learning,” “Creating a Gospel Culture in Your Church” and “Characteristics of Discipleship.” A schedule of sessions will be available in the LifeWay exhibit.
  • Messengers will be able to obtain information about the free LifeWay breakfast scheduled for Tuesday (June 13) at 7 a.m. in North Hall A (Level 300) of the convention center. The event will focus on the essential role of Bible engagement in discipleship. Reservations can be made at Lifeway.com/SBCbreakfast.
  • LifeWay Groups Ministry experts will help messengers plan and select appropriate materials for group Bible studies.
  • LifeWay Films will have information about a special screening 8-9 p.m. Monday (June 12) of the new film “Run the Race,” featuring Tim Tebow.
  • Book signings are scheduled in the LifeWay store throughout the convention by numerous authors including Kay Warren, Robby Gallaty, Lisa Harper, Greg Laurie, Frank S. Page and Trillia Newbell.

 
GUIDESTONE FINANCIAL RESOURCES – GuideStone’s Wellness Center 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, and participants will receive a comprehensive report to take to their personal physicians for follow-up.
 
In the main GuideStone 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 services. Churches will be able to order free materials for the June 25th Mission:Dignity Sunday showcasing GuideStone’s outreach to retired ministers and their widows in urgent financial need.
 
GuideStone will offer its Retirement Income Solutions meeting, for those who plan to retire in the next five to 10 years, on Tuesday (June 13) from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. in room 124B (Level 100) of the convention center. Registration is available at the GuideStone booth.
 
Visit the GuideStone booth and receive a free copy of GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins’ upcoming book, The Christmas Code: Daily Devotions Celebrating the Advent Season.
 
ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION (ERLC) – Those who visit ERLC’s booth can pick up the latest issue of Light Magazine, featuring content from Russell D. Moore, Nathan Finn, Steven Smith, Robert George and many others. The theme of this issue is “500 Years of Reformation.”
 
Register to win one of two ERLC resource gift packs featuring the most recent books from ERLC authors and resources from featured speakers at this year’s ERLC National Conference. Each pack will include a full set of the newly launched Gospel for Life series, edited by Moore and Andrew T. Walker, as well as two complimentary registrations to the 2017 ERLC National Conference August 24-26 in Nashville, Tenn. This year’s conference theme is “Christ Centered Parenting in a Complex World.”
 
Attendees can register at the ERLC booth for the conference by signing up for ERLC Highlights, a new resource featuring top content from ERLC on key issues of the day and delivered directly to your inbox each week.
 
GATEWAY SEMINARY – Gateway Seminary’s 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, Ore. areas. Visitors to the booth may purchase tickets to the Gateway Alumni and Friends Luncheon, set for Wednesday (June 14) in Rooms 129A and B in the north building of the convention center. At the luncheon, Gateway President Jeff Iorg will report on the activities of the past year, including the opening of the new San Francisco campus and first year at the Los Angeles-Ontario campus. The seminary will also present its distinguished alumni awards. Luncheon tickets are $10 each and may be purchased in advance at Eventbrite (eventbrite.com/e/sbc-alumni-and-friends-luncheon-tickets-32860175670).
 
MIDWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (MBTS) – Celebrating Jason K. Allen’s fifth year as president, guests visiting the MBTS exhibit booth will receive Allen’s recently published book, Discerning Your Call to Ministry. Each book comes with a $250 scholarship and other potential prizes. Admissions team members will be ready to answer questions about Midwestern’s opportunities for training in ministry and missions. The new Timothy Track and Ph.D. Residency programs, the 81-hour M.Div. and other undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and online degree programs will be featured. Purchase tickets to the For the Church Phoenix Luncheon Tuesday (June 13) for $15, and tickets to Midwestern’s Alumni & Friends Luncheon set for Wednesday (June 14) for $25. At the alumni and friends luncheon, Allen will highlight five leadership lessons gathered during the past five years at MBTS. Early bird pricing for events is available online at mbts.edu/ftcphx and mbts.edu/sbclunch.
 
NEW ORLEANS BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (NOBTS) – 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 feature an informational brochure regarding the seminary’s upcoming centennial celebration which begins Oct. 3 and runs through October 2018. In keeping with tradition, small bottles of Louisiana hot sauce will be available to visitors.
 
SOUTHEASTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (SEBTS) – The SEBTS exhibit is designed to benefit church ministry and the pursuit of biblical education. Check out this year’s exhibit and learn about courses offered at the College at Southeastern and SEBTS. Talk with admissions staff and faculty, including President Danny Akin, Bruce Ashford, Chuck Lawless, Jamie Dew, Jim Shaddix and Keith Whitfield. The booth will feature book giveaways and the spring issue of Southeastern magazine, “Preaching and the Great Commission” as it relates to church planting, mentorship and sermon delivery.
 
SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (SBTS) – Throughout the annual meeting, the Southern Seminary exhibit will offer a variety of giveaways providing resources for pastors. One giveaway is a new resource by SBTS Press, “Essential Reading on Preaching,” featuring contributions by seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Hershael W. York, David E. Prince and others. Along with promotions and interaction opportunities with faculty, the seminary will distribute the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine. Themed around preaching in a secular age, the magazine features articles by Mohler and Michael Pohlman, and a profile of SBTS alumnus Andy Davis. 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 set for Wednesday (June 14). More information is available at sbts.edu/alumni/sbc17.
 
SOUTHWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (SWBTS) – SWBTS will reflect its ongoing passion for preaching the Word and reaching the world. Visit the booth to receive free books and resources, including a Phoenix landmarks and restaurants guide, and two new additions to the Seminary Hill Press “Everyday” series on parenting and pastoral ministry. SWBTS representatives and faculty will be available to discuss seminary programs and answer questions. The booth will feature several seminary-produced videos highlighting SWBTS students equipped for their call and making a global impact for the Kingdom of God.
 
WOMAN’S MISSIONARY UNION (WMU) – The WMU exhibit will showcase new ways for individuals, families and churches to engage in missional discipleship. Discover resources from WMU and New Hope Publishers, and online leadership opportunities.
 
Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps, a WMU ministry, is celebrating 20 years of changed lives. Learn how to participate as a volunteer, mentor or coordinator at one of 195 sites in the U.S.
 
WorldCrafts, WMU’s fair-trade division, is helping share the story of Charles Mulli as told in the movie, “Mully.” The booth will distribute free tickets to a special pre-screening of Mully, set for Monday (June 12) at 6:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. This film tells how one man’s obedience to God transformed a nation. Prior to the screening meet Mulli and his wife Esther, Monday from 2-5 p.m. at the WMU booth. New resources from WorldCrafts, including a devotional book and small-group study guide including the Mulli family’s story of discipleship, are designed to help Southern Baptists identify ways to personally impact the issues of poverty, sex trafficking, orphan care and adoption. Additional resources related to adoption and orphan care from New Hope Publishers will be available. Register to win various WMU giveaways.
 
BAPTIST GLOBAL RESPONSE (BGR) – What will help you minister to the world’s hurting, helpless and homeless more effectively? How can BGR better equip your church to serve the sick and hungry? At this year’s BGR booth, churches will have an opportunity to tell how their congregations are helping people around the world.
 
By telling individual stories of outreach, participants will discover ways BGR can come alongside and better help their churches connect with people in need. Participants will also learn about those whose lives have been changed through Southern Baptists’ care. Each person who shares a story will have a chance to win a Kingdom Growers Coffee giveaway basket.
 
BGR is an international disaster relief and community development organization that connects Southern Baptists to those in need.
 
SOUTHERN BAPTIST FOUNDATION – How can I help this generation touch the next generation for Christ? What will my 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 visitors to the Southern Baptist Foundation booth will be encouraged to explore. Visitors will be challenged to think about causes they love and discover ways to support them. Resources and services to facilitate giving, glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom will be showcased. For more information, visit the booth or email sbfdn@southernbaptistfoundation.org.
 
SEMINARY EXTENSION – Seminary Extension continues to offer theological education and ministry training that is biblical, accessible and affordable. The ministry is still focused on having an immediate impact for the Kingdom of God through the local church. If interested in studying with Seminary Extension, please stop by the booth for more information. Seminary Extension looks forward to visiting with former students, instructors and friends. Student services associate Carmen Ferreira and Seminary Extension director Randal Williams will be at the booth each day, and look forward to seeing guests there.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

5/22/2017 1:45:06 PM by BP staff | with 0 comments



Record 467 degrees awarded at Southern’s commencement

May 22 2017 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

Ministers of the gospel are not partakers in a career, but recipients of a divine calling, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in his commencement address May 19 to the 2017 graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

Photo by Emil Handke, SBTS
Raymond Johnson, lead pastor at The Journey Church in West Chester, Pa., received his Ph.D. in New Testament at Southern Seminary’s May 19 commencement. The seminary’s doctoral graduates have reached the 2,000 mark in the 125-year history of the program.


During 219th commencement exercises on the seminary lawn, 318 master’s and doctoral students received degrees. A week earlier, 149 Boyce College students graduated, with the combined 467 degrees representing the largest commencement in Southern Seminary’s history.
 
“At every Southern Seminary graduation we remind one another of the great and essential fact that the Christian ministry is not a mere profession – it is a divine calling,” Mohler, SBTS president, said. “The ministry is one of Christ’s gifts to His church. It is among the most serious – and indeed the most serious – and joyous of all callings.”
 
In an address titled “As It Had Been the Face of an Angel,” from Acts 6:8-15, Mohler encouraged the graduates to be encouraged by Stephen’s example, who remained steadfast in the face of false accusations, his face shining like an angel’s.
 
The contemporary depiction of angels in popular culture often misses the point, Mohler said, as angles in the Bible are messengers of God who inspire awe and fear.
 
“That is the ministry of the Word of God – the ministry we celebrate in these graduates today,” Mohler said. “We dare to pray that when they preach, when they bring the message from God’s Word, in this sense their faces look like the faces of angels – not cute, never harmless, not ready to jump off of a greeting card, but fearless, faithful, forceful to the end.”
 
The work facing Southern Seminary graduates is inherited from a previous generation, Mohler noted, and commencement provides an opportunity to reflect on the faithfulness of spiritual forebears and to anticipate new ministries for newly trained gospel workers in the years ahead.

Photo by Emil Handke, SBTS
Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, offers the New Testament reading during Southern Seminary’s May 19 commencement. His daughter and son-in-law both received master’s degrees.


Just as the prophet Joel foretold that old men would dream and young men would see visions, so too seminary graduates are driven into the world with powerful dreams and visions for how they can be used for the Kingdom.
 
“These graduates go out now to build upon what others have already built. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid,” Mohler said. “Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering what others have planted, even as we plant what others will water. ... In the church age, ministry is handed from generation to generation. Our humble determination and our heart’s desire must be to receive this charge and to serve faithfully – planting and watering in the fields of ministry and taking care how we build upon the foundation laid before us.”
 
During graduation, Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and chairman of the board for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., read a portion from the New Testament. His daughter Lauren and son-in-law Michael McAfee both were among this year’s graduates. Michael, an M.Div. graduate in the school of theology, is director of Bible engagement for the Museum of the Bible.
 
The 2017 graduating class also featured the 2,000th recipient of a doctor of philosophy degree in the 125-year history of Southern Seminary’s doctoral program.
 
David Casas, of Lawrenceville, Ga., earned his Ph.D. from the school of theology; his dissertation was titled “A Defense of the Spiritual Interpretation of the Image of God.” Casas is a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Ga., and teaches Old Testament at Luther Rice University.
 
The terminal research degree was established at Southern Seminary in 1892 as a doctor of theology, making SBTS one of the early free-standing institutions to offer such a degree. Trustees approved a change to the Ph.D. in 1974.
 
Also during graduation, Mohler presented the annual Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence to Jeremy P. Pierre, associate professor of biblical counseling and the seminary’s dean of students. Pierre has taught at Southern since 2011 and is the author of “The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life” and co-author of “The Pastor and Biblical Counseling.” Pierre also is a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He and his wife Sarah have five children.
 
The recipient of the 2017 Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award was Elias Coye Still IV, a master of divinity graduate from North Carolina.
 
Mohler’s entire address will be available in audio and video at equip.sbts.edu. A complete manuscript of the address is available at albertmohler.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

5/22/2017 1:44:35 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



SBTC DR teams end response to tornadoes, move to Missouri

May 22 2017 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) disaster relief (DR) teams ended a nearly two-week deployment to East Texas May 13, where they assisted victims of four tornadoes that hit in late April and early May.

Photo by Bill Bumpas
SBTC disaster relief crews cut up fallen trees with chainsaws and remove debris with a tractor.


SBTC DR efforts focused on the communities of Canton, Emory and Fruitvale, said Mike Benton a DR “white cap” leader from Bishop, Texas.
 
More than 346 volunteer days were logged as some 25-35 DR personnel per day completed 79 work orders by tarping roofs, clearing debris and doing chainsaw work on damaged and downed trees, said Scottie Stice, SBTC director of disaster relief.
 
SBTC chaplains and crews made dozens of spiritual contacts, resulting in nine professions of faith, Stice noted.
 
“Many families were helped with the clearing of trees and debris. Canton has served as a great example of how SBTC disaster relief volunteers are able to minister to spiritual needs as well as meet physical needs,” Stice said.
 
Benton praised all volunteers, noting one group from Bellville, Texas, who were particularly skilled in climbing as high as 35 feet in the air to reach large broken limbs that could have proved hazardous.
 
“They did a lot of good work. They cut limbs from trees and handled the ‘widow makers’ [dangerous limbs] that were our biggest concern,” Benton said.
 
Benton also lauded Canton’s Crossroads Church, which hosted SBTC volunteers. “They were very helpful and gracious. They fed us way too much food, some of the best food we’ve ever had on deployment,” Benton said.
 
While the SBTC’s participation in East Texas ended last weekend, a DR team was dispatched to Doniphan, Mo., on May 14, to work with Missouri Disaster Relief in their response to the historic floods in their state, Stice said, adding that two additional crews will deploy to Missouri the week of May 22.
 
“When we finish in Missouri, we will focus on Arkansas,” said Stice, alluding to recent flooding in that state.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rogers writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

5/22/2017 1:44:03 PM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Gaines calls for 21-day fast before Phoenix SBC

May 19 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines has called Southern Baptists to 21 days of prayer and fasting leading up to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.


The fast will begin May 23 and end June 12, the day preceding the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting, Gaines announced May 18 in a written call to prayer. He defined fasting as “doing without something in order to focus more attention on the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom,” adding that “prayer and fasting are essentials in the Christian life.”
 
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., urged all Southern Baptists to participate in the fast. Some may feel called to “go without food for 21 days and just drink liquids,” he wrote. Others may opt to “eat less than normal and drink only water,” skip one meal per day for 21 days or fast from a technology like television.
 
“While no one knows exactly how or why God uses our prayers and fasting, no one who believes the Bible can doubt that He does,” Gaines wrote. “... God does things when we pray and fast that He does not do if we don’t pray and fast.”
 
Among the prayer requests Gaines asked Southern Baptists to emphasize: “an outpouring of God’s manifest presence” in Phoenix; “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”; the salvation of many souls at the June 11 Harvest America crusade with evangelist Greg Laurie; and divine blessing for the June 11-12 SBC Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting.
 
Gaines’ full call to prayer is printed below.
 

21-Days of Prayer and Fasting

I am asking you, our Southern Baptist Convention family, to pray and fast for our annual meeting in Phoenix as we gather together on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 13-14. Specifically, I am asking you to join me in a 21-day period of prayer and fasting prior to that. We will begin our time of prayer and fasting on Tuesday, May 23, and go through Monday, June 12.
 
Most Christians understand the need to pray, but what about fasting? Fasting is doing without something in order to focus more attention on the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. The primary way to fast, according to scripture, is to do without food. Jesus clearly expected His disciples to fast after He ascended back to heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18, “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fast.” Instead, He said, “When you fast.”
 
Prayer and fasting are essentials in the Christian life. The early church was birthed in a prayer meeting (cf. Acts 2), not a business meeting. Likewise, foreign missions was birthed in a time of intense prayer (referred to in Acts 13:2 as “ministering to the Lord”) and fasting. While no one knows exactly how or why God uses our prayers and fasting, no one who believes the Bible can doubt that He does! While we don’t know how prayer and fasting work, we know that they do work. God does things when we pray and fast that He does not do if we don’t pray and fast. That is not a “works” mentality. Rather, that is an “obedience” mentality. God blesses our obedience to His commands, and Jesus commanded us to pray and fast.
 
Prayer with fasting denotes earnestness, seriousness and fervency. We live in dangerous and desperate days. Our society is rotting and reeling at its core from the onslaught of every imaginable sin. Our Southern Baptist Convention is declining in membership and in the number of people being saved and baptized through our churches and missionary efforts. For too many years we have been in a numerical decline. We are also in a spiritual battle. It is time to use the weapons God has granted us. Prayer and fasting are two of the most powerful weapons we have as we wage war with the spiritual forces of darkness that oppose us in these pivotal days.
 
Will you join us May 23 thru June 12? Some of you could easily go without food for 21 days and just drink liquids. Others must eat in order to take medicine. Even so, you can still engage in a variety of fasts. For instance, you could eat healthily (vegetables), eat less than normal and drink only water for 21 days (cf. Daniel 1). You could fast from watching television and spend that time reading your Bible and praying. You could skip a meal a day for 21 days and spend that time “ministering to the Lord and fasting.” Most anyone can do at least one of these, even if they take medicine.
 
As you fast and pray for all that will take place as we meet in Phoenix, please pray that we will experience an outpouring of God’s manifest presence. Pray that we will experience the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf. Ephesians 4:3). Pray for our Crossover witnessing emphasis on Friday and Saturday. Pray for the Sunday night evangelistic rally led by Pastor Greg Laurie. Pray for the Pastors’ Conference on Sunday night and Monday. Pray for our SBC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Pray for every preacher that will preach and every person that will make a presentation. Pray that God will speak clearly to us through His Word. Pray that our business will be conducted in a loving and orderly manner. Pray that God will come down in our midst as we sing and worship Him.
 
God will do things when we pray and fast that He will not do if we don’t. I am asking you to join me in calling on the name of the Lord Jesus in prayer and fasting as we come together in Phoenix.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

5/19/2017 11:52:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Live to ‘give glory to God,’ Kelley tells NOBTS grads

May 19 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

God’s holiness, sovereignty and glory were underscored to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) graduates for their new chapters in ministry by President Chuck Kelley during commencement May 13.

Photo by Gary D. Myers
During New Orleans Seminary’s commencement May 13, President Chuck Kelley challenged members of the 2017 graduating class to bring glory to God with the way they live.


“You are to so live your lives that those who see you will give glory to God because of the way you are living,” Kelley exhorted the seminary’s 144 graduates.
 
Focusing on God’s nature with a walk through scripture, Kelley began with John 1 and Isaiah 6 to show God’s holiness; Psalm 139 to demonstrate God’s sovereignty; and Revelation 5 to remind that glory belongs to Christ.
 
Kelley concluded by encouraging graduates to let scripture animate their lives and ministries, saying, “Leave with His Word in your heart, in your mind and coming out of your mouth.”
 
Steve Lemke was recognized for his 20 years of service in his final graduation as provost, receiving a standing ovation. He will transition to the role of vice president for institutional assessment Aug. 1 and was named provost emeritus.
 
“I pray regularly for you,” Lemke told the graduates. “I pray that God will enable you to be strong and powerful in your ministry and for the Kingdom, that God will use you in a powerful way.”
 
Lemke looked back to a similar role his father played when, as Louisiana Tech’s graduation marshal, his father led the procession into the commencement ceremonies. Following in a similar role as his father, Lemke said, made his graduation duty at NOBTS “very special for me.”
 
Kelley, praising Lemke for his service, said that under Lemke’s leadership NOBTS had experienced “unprecedented enrollment,” added degree programs and expanded the accessibility of theological education. Lemke is the best qualified candidate to now move into the position of overseeing the seminary’s accreditation, Kelley said.
 
Paul Gregoire, the seminary’s registrar, was recognized for 30 years of service, marking his 105th graduation to superintend.
 
“Graduation would not take place without him,” Lemke said of Gregoire.
 
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 113 master’s degrees – including 68 M.Div. degrees, 29 with specializations – and 31 doctorates – four Ph.D., 21 D.Min. and five D.Ed.Min degrees and one doctor of musical arts.
 
NOBTS/Leavell College granted 63 bachelor degrees, including bachelor of arts in Christian ministry degrees to nine Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates at Angola, one at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel and two at Phillips State Prison in Buford, Ga.
 
The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate and awardee with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

5/19/2017 11:40:30 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Mormons pull older teens from BSA, open own program

May 19 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Mormon church is pulling its older teens from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 2018 but said the decision is not related to BSA policies opening Scouting to gay and transgender males.


Rather, the BSA Venturing and Varsity programs designed for 14- to 18-year-olds no longer meet the church’s needs, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said May 11 in announcing its decision. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the church will start its own program in place of Venturing and Varsity, programs limited to the U.S. and Canada.
 
“In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14-18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church,” the statement “Questions and Answers about Changes to the Young Men Program (Q&A)” said at mormonnewsroom.org. “This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.”
 
The Mormon church made an exception for 14- to 18-year-old boys who want to continue in Scouting to earn the Eagle Scout rank, saying such boys would be “registered, supported and encouraged.” Mormons will continue to use BSA Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs for boys ages 8-13.
 
The BSA expressed appreciation to the Mormon church, BSA’s first and largest sponsorship partner in the U.S., and said it looks forward to continued cooperation with Mormons. Through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, BSA serves about 330,000 Mormon youth.
 
“Although thousands of youth and leaders who participate in Venturing crews nationwide embrace and support the program, we recognize that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners,” BSA said in a press release. “We anticipate that many youth from the LDS Church will continue to participate in Scouting beyond the age of 14 as young men work to earn the Eagle Scout rank.”
 
About 185,000 Mormon teenagers currently participate in Varsity and Venturing, church spokesman Eric Hawkins told The New York Times.
 
When BSA opened its leadership to gay men in July 2015, the Mormon church released a statement saying it was “deeply troubled” by the decision and would reexamine its association with Scouting.
 
“When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August (2015), the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined,” the church said in the July 2015 statement. “The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
 
After BSA assured local troops of the freedom to set their own leadership standards, the church no longer took issue with the BSA policy, according to the church’s latest remarks.
 
“The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive,” the church said in its Q&A. “The Church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so.”
 
BSA’s earlier policy change in May 2013 to open its membership to homosexuals did not contradict Mormon policy; rather, Mormon boys are expected to remain sexually pure in practice.
 
The church made its decision before BSA announced Jan. 30 a change in its membership rules to allow transgender boys (girls who identify as boys) to become Scouts, the church said in its Q&A.
 

Will girls become Scouts?

After the latest BSA change opening its membership to girls who identify as boys, the National Organization for Women (NOW) petitioned BSA to allow girls to join Boy Scouting regardless of their gender identity.
 
“It’s long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting,” NOW President Terry O’Neill said in the Feb. 21 issue of Circa. “Women can now hold all combat roles in the military, and women have broken many glass ceilings at the top levels of government, business, academia and entertainment.”
 
The rank of Eagle Scouts would benefit girls in various ways including college admission, O’Neill said, noting that Scouting Canada has been co-ed since 1998.
 
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his May 11 Briefing podcast, questioned whether BSA would continue to be a male organization.
 
“The interesting policy line right now is that the Boy Scouts require membership to be limited to boys or those who identify as boys,” Mohler said. “We’ve already seen the Boy Scouts of America repeatedly capitulate to the sexual revolution. But the big question now is whether they’ve got to capitulate all the way to ceasing to being the Boy Scouts.”
 
Historically, BSA staunchly defended its right to limit its leadership and membership to heterosexual males, winning a legal battle in 2000 in the U.S. Supreme Court.
 

Related news

The Archdiocese of Kansas City is severing ties with Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA), Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a May 1 statement, describing GSUSA as no longer a compatible partner. Instead, the archdiocese will work with American Heritage Girls, a mentoring group based on Christian values.
 
“With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture,” Naumann said, the Girl Scouts no longer is “a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the gospel.”
 
Naumaan said GSUSA accepts transgender girls on a case-by-case basis and supports birth control and abortion by donating funds to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood.
 
GSUSA, in a statement on its website, denies any partnership or association with Planned Parenthood.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

5/19/2017 11:31:46 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Embrace gospel’s ‘foolishness,’ MBTS grads exhorted

May 19 2017 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) academic year concluded in celebratory fashion May 12 as graduates, families and friends gathered for the 61st commencement, launching theologically-trained gospel ministers into service.

MBTS Photo
Midwestern Seminary graduates Brandi Arndt and Colton Strother participate in the recessional following commencement exercises at Midwestern Seminary on May 12. Arndt earned her master of theological studies degree and Strother received a master of divinity degree.


The seminary’s largest-ever graduating class of 135 students received 31 undergraduate, 82 graduate and 19 doctoral degrees and three diplomas from Midwestern Women’s Institute.
 
In his commencement address, President Jason Allen challenged the graduates to “embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry.”
 
In an expository message from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Allen noted significant contrasts in the text. There is a stark difference between God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom; between God’s glory and the glory of man; between the ways of God and the ways of the world; and between two paths and two destinies that every man and woman on earth will know.
 
As such, there is a need for ministers of the gospel – which will seem as foolishness to those who do not know Christ as Savior, Allen said.
 
Allen listed seven exhortations about what it means to embrace the foolishness of gospel ministry:
 
First, he encouraged the graduates to value their degrees. In a world that sees the earning of a degree as self-validation, Allen told graduates to see it differently.
 
“We value the degree, and I challenge you to value the degree, not for the credentials that it gives you, but value the degree for what it represents – that is, a season of ministry preparation and training....”
 
Second, Allen said graduates should celebrate their accomplishments but never forget their weaknesses. Many may have come to seminary without the blessings of family and friends, he said, noting that type of opposition will likely be ever-present throughout their ministries. In spite of this, Allen stated that it is “a glorious reality to be in the defined minority that is guaranteed to be victorious.”
 
Third, Allen exhorted graduates to embrace the collision of worldviews, not to back away from the battle.
 
“The quicker we are willing to stand on these truths [the simple message of the Word], embrace them and own them, and realize that doing so puts us in direct conflict with the world, the quicker we will be secure and satisfied in your life in ministry,” he said.
 
Allen’s fourth and fifth points were for graduates to be committed to the foolishness of preaching and, more specifically, to making the cross central to their ministries.
 
“Be committed to a cross-centered ministry, a cross-centered pulpit and a cross-centered life. ... The message we preach is 1,000 times true regardless of what the vast masses of humanity think of it in any generation,” he said.
 
“We take our calling seriously because we believe with all that we are that the gospel is true, that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and that these graduates are giving their lives to serving the church because there is no grander or more glorious thing to give their lives to.”
 
Allen’s final points to graduates were to remain tender to the plight of the lost and to minister for God’s opinion, not man’s.
 
He concluded the message saying, “Have a life and ministry and family in which you aim to please the One who matters, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when your time is up and your service is over, and some boasting is done, you and those affected by your ministry are boasting in the Lord.”
 
Following his address, Allen announced Midwestern’s Professor of the Year: Morlee Maynard, director of the D.Ed.Min. program and professor of Christian education who has taught at the seminary since 2010.
 
Maynard came to Midwestern Seminary from LifeWay Christian Resources, where she worked 30 years in various areas, including preschool Sunday School, family ministry, adult ministry, discipleship and evangelism and church library ministry.
 
Maynard holds a doctorate in educational ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University. She has written three books, Understanding Today’s Preschoolers, Understanding Young Adults and Happy Times with People (about younger preschoolers). She and her husband Ken have one adult son, Jonathan.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

5/19/2017 11:24:27 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



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