May 2017

100 years: Social gospel pioneer’s legacy discussed

May 19 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Theologians of all ideological stripes agree Walter Rauschenbusch was a key figure in 20th-century Baptist history and that his 1917 book A Theology for the Social Gospel marked an important juncture in the social gospel tradition.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Walter Rauschenbusch

But students of theology are divided 100 years later on whether Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) should be remembered as a friend or foe of evangelism and sound doctrine.
“Walter Rauschenbusch was born into a long line of pastors,” said Lloyd Harsch, professor of church history and Baptist studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “His father was the first to become a Baptist. While in his late 20s and early 30s, Walter served for more than a decade as pastor of Second German Baptist Church which was located in the destitute, crime-ridden area of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.
“It was in this context that Walter came to the conclusion that his evangelistic efforts needed to include concern for the social issues affecting the neighborhood,” Harsch told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “Eventually, the social concern came to dominate his ministry. Rauschenbusch reminds us that even worthy issues pursued with the best of intentions can eventually distract us, drawing us away from the important task of sharing the gospel with those around us.”
Published amid the early 20th century’s social gospel movement – which sought to apply Christian principles to social problems like poverty, alcoholism and racial tensions – A Theology for the Social Gospel argued the “old message of salvation” must be “enlarged and intensified” to address social ills.
“The individualistic gospel,” Rauschenbusch wrote, “has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power of God to save every soul that comes to him. But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it.
“ ... The social gospel seeks to bring men under repentance for their collective sins and to create a more sensible and more modern conscience,” wrote Rauschenbusch, who left the pastorate in 1897 to teach at Rochester Theological Seminary in upstate New York.
In developing a theology to support the social gospel movement, Rauschenbusch critiqued historic formulations of some Christian doctrines.
He argued, for example, that the doctrine of biblical inspiration should acknowledge “the human frailty and liability to error” of the biblical authors. The idea Jesus’ death was a “substitution” and that He bore God’s wrath toward sinful humans, Rauschenbusch wrote, was among a collection of “post-biblical ideas” that were “alien to the spirit of the gospel.”
Still, his emphasis on the need for Christianity to address social problems led Rauschenbusch to “a national acclaim rarely accorded seminary professors,” wrote Rauschenbusch biographer Paul Minus.
Neoorthodox theologian H. Richard Niebuhr wrote in The Kingdom of God in America that Rauschenbusch “continued to speak the language of the prophets and St. Paul.” Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in 1960 that Rauschenbusch “left an indelible imprint on my thinking.”
Among Southern Baptists, a former ethics professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Henlee Barnette classified Rauschenbusch in a 1968 sermon as among the “three great prophets” America had produced. The other two, Barnette said, were King and Abraham Lincoln.
Yet Rauschenbusch also drew criticism. In the mid-20th century, neoorthodox theologians like Niebuhr “declared his optimism excessive and certain doctrines deficient,” Minus wrote. King was among those who agreed with that critique.
Southern Baptists who admired Rauschenbusch knew mentioning him in some settings could alienate theologically conservative believers. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor T.B. Maston, a noted civil rights advocate who was influenced by Rauschenbusch, said in his 1973 oral memoirs that he counseled seminary students to avoid referencing the social gospel in Southern Baptist churches.
Using the word “social,” Maston said, “arouses some opposition on the part of some people to what you’re trying to do.”
Barnette similarly wrote in his 2004 memoir My Story that “Southern Baptists had a phobia about the term” social gospel and about Rauschenbusch – “the father of the social gospel.”
That reticence about the social gospel tradition manifested itself when the Baptist General Convention of Texas established a commission in 1950 to address social issues.
Convention leaders called the new commission the Christian Life Commission (CLC) rather than follow the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) lead, which had named its commission charged with cultural engagement the Social Service Commission. Texas Baptists felt a reference to the “social” gospel tradition of Rauschenbusch could undermine support for the new commission, former Texas CLC executive secretary A.C. Miller said in his 1972 oral memoir.
In 1953, the SBC’s Social Service Commission followed Texas Baptists’ lead and changed its name to the Christian Life Commission. Four decades later, the CLC became the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Despite the varying assessments of Rauschenbusch, church historians at SBC seminaries agree a century later that he rightly urged Christians to apply scripture to social issues and that his work should be remembered.
Keith Harper, senior professor of Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP Rauschenbusch “engaged the social, cultural and economic issues of his day.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/19/2017 11:17:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gaines to be nominated for second term as SBC president

May 18 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines will be nominated for a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), his son Grant announced May 17.

Steve Gaines

Gaines “has led the convention faithfully” over the past year and been “marked by ... godly traits,” Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., wrote in a statement to Baptist Press announcing his intent to nominate his father at the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., has focused his first year in office on calling Southern Baptists to pray and rekindle a passion for personal evangelism. He has championed the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and internationally.
Grant Gaines stated three reasons he plans to nominate his father:
“First, he has been a consummate statesman in a year full of political and moral turmoil in our nation. Through his example, he has shown us all how to combine both a prophetic voice when need be, as well as wise restraint when certain comments might not be helpful,” Grant Gaines wrote.
“Second, through his emphasis on prayer, he has encouraged thousands of Southern Baptists to a deeper prayer life. Anyone who knows Steve Gaines knows him as a man of prayer, and I would love to see his passion for this spread to even more people and churches over the coming year.
“Third, his emphasis on personal evangelism has been a needed reminder in our convention,” Grant Gaines wrote. “It’s important that we be reminded that without personal evangelism, church planting and global missions cannot be effective.”
Grant Gaines concluded, “As his son, I’ve been able to observe for years now the way my father has exhibited these strengths long before he became president of the SBC ... I would like to see him serve our convention for another year.”
During the 12 years Steve Gaines has pastored Bellevue, the congregation has averaged 492 baptisms annually, according to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP). Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
Earlier this year, Bellevue became the first church that cooperates with the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) to give $1 million through CP during a 12-month period, the TBC reported. The church has designated the same amount for CP in its 2017-18 budget year. In 2016-17, that total represented 4.6 percent of Bellevue’s undesignated receipts, according to the church. ACP data reflects similar totals.
Gaines served as president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2005, preached the convention sermon in 2004 and was a member of the committee that recommended revisions of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000. A current trustee at Union University, Gaines has served in the past as a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources and in various other state-convention and SBC leadership roles.
He is married to Donna, and they have four children and 10 grandchildren. The author of four books, Gaines holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/18/2017 9:47:57 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christ-centered parenting focus of ERLC efforts

May 18 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christ-centered parenting will be the focus of a two-pronged effort in August by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

The ERLC’s 2017 national conference – “Parenting: Christ-centered Parenting in a Complex World” – will be held Aug. 24-26 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
At the conference, the ERLC will unveil a new, small group study in collaboration with LifeWay Christian Resources – “Christ-centered Parenting: Gospel Conversations on Complex Cultural Issues.”
ERLC President Russell Moore expressed his excitement about both projects.
“Many Christian parents feel lost in a rapidly transforming culture,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “Our aim for this parenting focus is to encourage and empower parents to shepherd their children in the gospel, within the context of the local church. It takes more than a village to raise children; it takes the church of Jesus Christ.
“My hope and prayer is that these new resources would point us toward becoming cross-shaped, kingdom-oriented families,” Moore said.
The commission’s fourth annual national conference will seek to help Christian parents apply the gospel in rearing counter-cultural children by addressing such issues as sexuality, pornography, technology, media, sports, school, adoption and foster care.
In addition to Moore, the keynote speakers will be:

  • Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible.
  • Crawford Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga., and author.
  • Andrew Peterson, musician and author.
  • Jen Wilkin, Bible teacher and author.
  • J.D. Greear, senior pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and author.
  • Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife and author.

The conference’s speakers will address topics in plenary addresses, short talks, panel discussions and breakout sessions.
Registration and further conference information is available at The conference’s plenary addresses will be live-streamed at
The first ERLC National Conference, which was held in 2014, focused on applying the gospel to homosexuality and marriage. The 2015 conference was about the gospel and politics, while last year’s event was on gospel-centered cultural engagement.

‘Christ-centered Parenting’ study

The ERLC’s “Christ-centered Parenting” study is designed to equip parents to guide their children of various ages in facing today’s difficult cultural challenges. It will address the following topics in six sessions: gospel-shaped parenting; human dignity; identity; sexuality; relationships; and technology.
Each session will include a 30-minute panel discussion on video hosted by an ERLC staff member to be followed by a group conversation. The panelists – all parents – will be Moore; Wilkin; Ray Ortlund, lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville; Trillia Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach; Ben Stuart, Passion City Church planter in Washington, D.C.; Jackie Hill Perry, poet and rapper; and David Prince, pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.
The study guide includes articles for participants to read between sessions, plus information sheets divided into six age categories of children. Moore and Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC’s executive vice president, are the authors of the study guide, with contributions from other ERLC staff members.
The guide, published by LifeWay Press, will be available for purchase through LifeWay.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/18/2017 9:45:36 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

From prison to praise, NOBTS grad sees God’s hand

May 18 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Standing in front of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) Leavell Chapel on graduation day, Tara Garcia looked back with fondness on her undergraduate experience. But unlike the graduates lined up beside her, Garcia earned her degree inside prison walls.

Photo by Boyd Guy
Tara Garcia visits with mentors and professors as close as “family” on graduation day at New Orleans Seminary. Garcia earned her degree through the NOBTS extension center at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. Garcia (left) is pictured with (left to right); Sandy Vandercook, Leavell College professor of English; Rhonda Kelley, wife of NOBTS President Chuck Kelley; and Debi Sharkey, chaplain and director of the NOBTS extension center at the women’s prison.

Garcia completed every class except one prior to her release in January from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel.
“I don’t think you grasp how many lives are changed because of what you have done,” Garcia said she tells her NOBTS professors. “Prison, for me, outside of accepting Christ as my Savior, is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Last year’s graduating class of 13 marked the first conferral of degrees by NOBTS’ extension center at the women’s prison. Soon after, the extensive flooding in Louisiana in August 2016 forced the evacuation of residents to various facilities across the state.
The extenuating circumstances prompted Garcia to ask for a six-month early release, which was denied. In chapel the following Sunday, Garcia faced a moment of truth.
“I asked myself, ‘Who am I doing this for?’” Garcia said regarding her education. “Is it for me? Or is it for the Lord?”
Debi Sharkey, chaplain and director of the NOBTS center at the prison, said Garcia’s testimony that Sunday morning indicated how much she had grown in the Lord. Days before receiving the letter denying early release, Garcia had “mishandled” a different situation and responded at first with grumbling and complaining, then confessed her failure to trust the Lord, Sharkey recounted.
The letter denying early release was “a test the Lord knew she was ready to pass,” Sharkey said.
“Tara gave a testimony in the church service about how she wasn’t happy about the letter that said she would not be released,” Sharkey said. “Then she said, ‘You know what? God is in control and I need to trust God.’”
Three days later, Garcia was released. She beams when telling the story and points to a comparison with the biblical Joseph, saying, “Man says no, but God has the final say.”
Sandra Vandercook, professor of English at the seminary’s Leavell College, knew from Garcia’s first paper that she had potential.
“What I came to know about Tara is that she is exceptional in her desire to do well in all areas of her life,” Vandercook said. “She asked the hard questions, questions that would push her to improve in her writing.”
High grades, mentoring others and a motivation to excel characterized Garcia’s efforts, Vandercook said.
“Most importantly, Tara never wavered in her understanding that her sovereign God had orchestrated her life,” Vandercook said.
Lined up for the graduation processional in the shadow of Leavell Chapel’s 170-foot steeple, Garcia reminisced about a paper she once wrote on the problem of evil and suffering. In the paper, Garcia included how the steeple was the lone light shining for miles around in the early weeks following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.
Though her first time to step on campus was the day before graduation, Garcia said she feels connected to the heartache and loss the campus suffered.
“People say sometimes God has to take everything away from you to make you realize what you have. [In prison] you lose everything. ... You either learn to become dependent on God and figure [out] who you really are and transform into a different person while you’re there or you conform to the society that you’re in.”
Looking back, Garcia sees God’s hand at work. She was permitted to enroll in classes typically reserved for inmates with 10 years or more left to serve. Special permission was granted also for her to take the final course online after the early release came through. While graduation at the four NOBTS prison extension centers is held within prison walls, Garcia is the only graduate from a prison-based program to walk across the Leavell Chapel stage to receive her degree.
A retired deputy warden, a chaplain and volunteer chaplains from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women were present to celebrate Garcia’s achievement. They are “family,” she said.
Asked about God’s faithfulness, Garcia grew thoughtful. “Had He not been faithful, I would not be able to count prison as a blessing.” With a new job and a future she hopes someday includes a master’s degree, Garcia said she is intent on sharing her journey and her Savior with those around her.
“God continues to bless me every day,” she said. “And I’m just so thankful.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/18/2017 9:45:02 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

88-year-old retired pastor fulfills collegiate goal

May 18 2017 by Caleb Britt, Shorter University

As Shorter University’s class of 2017 walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, one graduate received a standing ovation for his long journey.

Photo by Dawn Tolbert, Shorter University
Horace Sheffield is congratulated by Shorter University President Don Dowless on receiving his degree May 5. At right is Amanda Brannock, a neighbor who helped the retired pastor complete his coursework.

Horace Sheffield, now 88, first enrolled at Shorter in 1961 and left with 115 credit hours because his own daughters were soon to enter college.
“I didn’t care about having a diploma back then, but I’m getting my degree this time,” the retired pastor said.
On May 5, Sheffield received his bachelor of science degree in Christian studies as the first graduate of Shorter’s online degree program in Christian studies.
He was inspired to complete his degree after 50-plus years, when he read a magazine article about how senior citizens can attend certain colleges and universities without paying tuition, so he came back determined to graduate. He said the Christian studies faculty helped him achieve his goal.
Also helping was his neighbor Amanda Brannock who helped him type his papers and enter online assignments after he wrote them by hand.
“I saw him write until his hands couldn’t write anymore,” Brannock said, “and I’ve seen him focus so hard to the point where his vision wasn’t normal.”
An early literacy teacher at a primary school, Brannock moved to Georgia five years ago “and Horace was one of the first people I met here. He came to my home to talk to my family about accepting the Lord and becoming members of the church. It’s because of Horace I was able to see my husband and my son baptized.”

Donna Flournoy Photography
Shorter University graduate Horace Sheffield gets a selfie with great-granddaughters Bella and Lilly.

Crediting Sheffield with a great work ethic, she said he has been an inspiration to her as he has worked to achieve his goal at Shorter, located in Rome, Ga.
“When he approached me about going back to college, he said it was the only thing in life he had never finished, and he did not want to meet the Lord without that degree. He said he knew nothing about computers let alone own one.
“So I said, ‘Pop [as he’s known by friends], I’ve got a computer and a printer, and I’ll get you internet.’ He gave me the gift of God in my husband and son; I could do no less than help him get an education. We are so proud of him.”
At Shorter’s commencement, Brannock walked across the stage with Sheffield, noting, “We went in as a team, and we wanted to come out as a team!”
The majority of the Sheffield family gathered to celebrate his graduation, including his two children, five grandchildren and 14 of his 15 great-grandchildren.
A Facebook photo gallery of him wearing his cap and gown has gained hundreds of likes. In one photo, he is holding a sign that reads, “With God all things are possible – Matthew 19:26.”
Sheffield’s granddaughter Jill Brazier said he has remained active in ministry, recounting, “Up until about two months ago he was preaching at a truck stop. ... He’d been doing that for the last three years.”
After dropping out of Shorter, Sheffield served as pastor of Hill Crest Baptist Church in Rome until 1976 when he accepted the pastorate of Calvary Baptist Church in Barnesville, Ga., serving there until 1989. He then served as director of missions for the Tugalo Baptist Association in Taccoa, Ga., before moving back to be near family in Barnesville.
At Calvary Baptist, Sheffield is a Sunday School teacher, and he participates in Tuesday night visitation with pastor Allen Newman.
Sheffield said he hopes to motivate people of all ages to get as much education as they can as soon as they can to raise themselves to a higher level.
“I am living proof that you have no excuses,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caleb Britt is a public relations student writer and 2017 Shorter University graduate. Scott Barkley, production editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, contributed to this article.)

5/18/2017 9:44:39 AM by Caleb Britt, Shorter University | with 0 comments

Protection for children’s homes goes to Texas Senate

May 18 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

A Texas bill offering legal protection for faith-based foster and adoption care agencies is on its way to the state’s Senate floor for debate.

Photo by LoneStarMike via Wikimedia Commons

Biblically faithful agencies who find themselves at odds with the politics of sexual identity are seeking relief from the Texas legislature that would allow them to continue ministering to children in accordance with their faith.
If the bill passes the Senate without amendments, it will go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it.
Despite Republican control of both legislative chambers, House Bill 3859 has received stiff challenges in and out of the Capitol. Answering accusations of “discrimination” and “bigotry” has put many of the bill’s supporters on the defensive. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), religious liberty organizations and conservative lawmakers have dismissed the criticism as unfounded and championed the bill as an essential component of the sorely needed Texas adoption and foster care overhaul.
Its author – Rep. James Frank, R- Wichita Falls – has repeatedly responded to accusations that the bill will prevent gays and lesbians from fostering or adopting or keep teenage girls from accessing abortion services and contraceptives.
“Nothing in 3859 will prevent or even add barriers to same-sex couples who desire to foster or adopt. Nothing,” Frank told the TEXAN. “The bill simply codifies current federal guidelines at the state level and provides a way to refer and make sure all individuals that are seeking to adopt or become foster parents can do so without losing the 25 percent that want to be free to serve and follow their faith.”
Faith-based providers have long partnered with the state of Texas in caring for neglected and abused children and currently make up about 25 percent of providers. And for more than two decades the state has actively sought to enhance that relationship in order to shore up an overwhelmed Department of Family Protective Services.
The agency tasked to protect the state’s neglected and abused children has been under heavy criticism in recent years. Children languish in the system, some even dying while in state care. Burned-out child protective services caseworkers quit. Additionally, an insufficient number of Texans open their homes to foster, and those who do don’t stay long in the system. A U.S. district judge has ordered the state to rectify the problems.
The request for protection by faith-based adoption and foster care agencies – including long-established Texas Baptist Home for Children, an SBTC-affiliated ministry – is not new. A bill offered in 2015 by Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, failed to get traction.
Related bills offered this session in the House and Senate cleared initial committee hearings but, for procedural reasons, lobbyists have worked to advance HB 3859. The bills’ authors, both active members of their respective Southern Baptist churches, adamantly defend the legislation as necessary and non-discriminatory. Frank’s authorship of HB 5 and HB 6, the main foster and adoption care overhaul bills, adds weight to HB 3859 as a necessary component to the reform’s success.
Texas has never prohibited gays and lesbians from taking part in the system. But as the state contracted more with private agencies to recruit and train prospective parents – now about 90-95 percent of the providers – those agencies were allowed to add to the state’s standards for participation. Families and individuals wanting to foster or adopt children must be licensed by one of the agencies.
About 25 percent of those agencies are faith-based. But not all of those put a priority on placing children in the homes of married moms and dads or would defer to the state if a foster child wanted an abortion.
In House floor debate last week Democrats said the bill would bar gays and lesbians from fostering and adopting. They said when private agencies accept state tax dollars they cannot “discriminate” against prospective parents or children.
That is a false argument according to Brantley Starr, deputy first assistant attorney general. In response to questions from Frank about an Associated Press article that some said mischaracterized the bill, Starr said, “The [article] headline wrongly presupposes that all people and entities receiving government funding cannot work in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
He said the fear of increasing litigation has caused faith-based agencies to close in Texas and across the nation.
“Should the state not work with the 25 percent of faith-based providers anymore as they have for decades, force them to choose to change their beliefs about marriage and life or either close their doors to orphan care?” Cindy Asmussen SBTC Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Advisor.
She said that without protection from litigation or attempts to marginalize their ministries, agencies in California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington D.C. chose to shutter their businesses.
To avoid similar losses in their states, legislators in North and South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia and Alabama passed laws similar to HB 3859. The Texas law would require adoption and foster care providers that turn away prospective parents based on religious convictions to direct them to agencies in the area who will serve them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

5/18/2017 9:42:26 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

Her missions journey: from orphan to a doctorate

May 17 2017 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

Mary Ann McMillan never intended to earn a full degree when she enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). She just needed 20-30 hours of course credit to go back to the mission field full-time.

Mary Ann McMillan, once an orphan, receives her doctorate in Christian education from Southeastern Seminary to undergird her missionary service.

On May 12, McMillan received her doctorate in Christian education, adding on to her master’s degree in intercultural studies that she received in 2013 after deciding it would prove useful for her future.
The Lord was cultivating in McMillan a desire to go overseas to minister in closed countries, so she realized that having a doctorate in education would provide the platform for that goal.
For McMillan, it’s incredible that she received her doctorate, knowing that she came from humble and challenging beginnings. She was an orphan until the age of 7, moved into foster care and then was adopted “into a family that should not have adopted a child at all,” as she recalled.
Her time in college was spiritually transformational as she became involved in a campus ministry and decided to follow Jesus as a junior in college. It was after she became a believer that God began giving her a heart for the mission field.
“Right before I was graduating college I really felt the Lord calling me to do missions full-time. I just didn’t know what that looked like so I actually went overseas with the [International Mission Board] as a Journeyman,” she said of the mission board’s two-year program.
McMillan’s first year in a closed country was difficult stemming from obstacles to her ministry as an African American woman. She remembers times being chased down the street or having items thrown at her due to racial oppression.
“I had a curfew at 4 in the afternoon because it got dark at 4 and the majority of the ministries started at 8 at night, but I had to be in early because of my race,” she recalled. “So that’s why they decided to allow me to switch countries so I ended up in the Czech Republic my second year.”
Even in the midst of spiritual and racial oppression, God proved Himself powerful during that first year as McMillan and her teammates were doing ministry one day. While some women were gathered in a field listening to a translator share his testimony, one of the women spoke up.
“She stopped him and said, ‘I don’t want to hear your story. I want to hear hers,’” McMillan recounted, “and pointed at me. She said that ‘I’ve never seen a person of color before and I want to hear how she became a believer and why the Lord is so important for her.’”
At that moment, McMillan had the opportunity to share the gospel with the group of women.
She had finished her two-year Journeyman term when she stepped onto the campus of SEBTS. Everything was new and the difficulty of reverse culture shock was in full swing. She remembers a professor who noticed she was struggling and encouraged her lovingly but truthfully.
“I can teach you anything you want to know in your classes, but your relationship with the Lord is more important than anything,” he said. “You can get all the schooling you want, you can have the best job, succeed in life, but if you don’t have a good relationship with the Lord you’re not going to make it.“
McMillan eventually became involved at Imago Dei Church, worked for SEBTS and, in April 2016, moved to California to work at Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren. She is the training director for the PEACE Center, a program in which churches in different countries partner together in church planting, leadership development, health care and educational needs.
The PEACE Plan became very personal to McMillan when she took a trip to Rwanda, a country that Saddleback has partnered with for years, where she saw how local churches were caring for orphans. In fact, 35 orphanages had been emptied because children were being given a home through families in local churches.
McMillan was so impacted by the experience that she used this orphan care model within the local church to inspire her dissertation at SEBTS.
Ken Coley, director of Ed.D. studies at SEBTS, said he will never forget the first time he met McMillan “and she shared her dreams of completing her doctorate in preparation for being prepared for God to use her on His mission field. Well, she’s seen two dreams come true – she has earned her doctor of education degree and has a very special base of operations there at Saddleback to reach the world for Christ.”
The Great Commission is still the heartbeat of McMillan’s calling on her life. She hopes to one day either go overseas as a career missionary or stay in the States to train others to go from the classroom to the nations. Graduation is a little surreal for McMillan this time around as she knows that this is the last degree she will receive from SEBTS.
“It’s so weird to think about this whole journey and going to seminary and it’s like, man, [I] started out as an orphan and now I’m becoming a doctor,” she said.
The doctor of education program is a 60-hour degree involving learning through the classroom, mentorship and research to be grounded with a biblical foundation in order to teach the next generation. To learn more about education degrees at SEBTS, email or call 919-761-2490.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is the news and information specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/17/2017 2:17:31 PM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Gallup poll records ‘humbling’ moral decline

May 17 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Gallup poll indicating Americans are more “left-leaning” than ever on 10 of 19 moral issues has been called “humbling” and “chastening” by a Southern Baptist Convention seminary president. A Fordham University ethicist critiqued the poll as “deeply misleading” for suggesting moral permissiveness is limited to liberals.
In its annual Values and Beliefs survey, the Gallup polling organization found that record percentages of U.S. adults believe it is morally acceptable to use birth control (91%), get divorced (73%), engage in opposite-sex sexual acts outside marriage (69%), engage in same-sex sexual acts (63%), have a baby outside of marriage (62%), commit physician-assisted suicide (57%), view pornography (36%) and practice polygamy (17%).
The only two practices to register record low moral approval were capital punishment (58%) and medical testing on animals (51%).
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. called it a “humbling, indeed chastening reality that on none of these moral issues has there been long-term change in a more conservative direction ever since the dawn of the 21st century.”
That reality “is also very clarifying in terms of understanding what we’re now up against” in the secularized culture, Mohler said May 16 in his podcast The Briefing.
Since the inception of the Values and Beliefs poll in 2001, according to a May 11 Gallup news release, researchers have noted “meaningful change in a liberal direction” on 13 of the 19 issues from this year’s survey. Gallup added that “no issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions.”
Approval of same-sex sexual acts has seen the greatest jump in approval, increasing 23 percentage points over the years to its current approval rating. The second greatest approval increase has occurred for having a baby outside marriage – a 17 percentage point jump. Sex between an unmarried man and woman has seen a 16 percentage point increase in approval and divorce a 14 percentage point increase.
The 43 percent approval of abortion is virtually unchanged since 2001, as are 9 percent approval of extramarital affairs and 65 percent approval of gambling.
Mohler said the data evidences “the loss of the binding authority of biblical Christianity where it had once bound the consciences not only of individuals but of the general society, especially on issues such as the definition of marriage and the understanding of gender and, of course, the regulation of sexual practices.”
Seven of the eight practices to register record-tying or record-setting approval this year are condemned in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), either directly or by implication. Birth control is the only one not mentioned, though the BF&M calls children “a blessing and heritage from the Lord.”
A May 15 op-ed by Fordham ethicist Charles Camosy published by the Catholic news agency Crux critiqued Gallup’s release for “radically simplify[ing] a complex nexus of beliefs and values.” Gallup’s “slapping moral positions with [the label] liberal or conservative is problematic,” he wrote.
Some liberal feminists, Camosy claimed, oppose pornography while research suggests conservatives may consume more porn than liberals. Similarly, some traditionally liberal states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland “have rejected” physician-assisted suicide while some conservative libertarian states in the west have legalized it, he wrote.
On a positive note, Camosy said it is “remarkable” that a majority of Americans opposes abortion and “extraordinary” that a majority opposes pornography despite cultural pressure to affirm both.
Rod Dreher, senior editor of The American Conservative and author of The Benedict Option, wrote in a May 12 blog post that the cultural trends noted by Gallup are “not going to turn around anytime soon.” In response, believers must educate themselves in the fundamentals of Christian doctrine “to know what ... [the] love [of Christ] entails – and what it excludes.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/17/2017 2:13:51 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

France rejects a third gender category

May 17 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

France’s highest court has rejected the notion of a “neutral” gender.
The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision denying a French citizen with a sex development disorder the right to use “neutral” as an official gender.
The Cour de Cassation, France’s supreme court, ruled that the distinction between male and female was “necessary to the social and legal organization, of which it is a cornerstone,” and that the recognition of a neutral gender would have “profound repercussions on rules of French law” and necessitate legislative changes, according to Agence France-Presse.
The plaintiff, a 65-year-old psychotherapist from eastern France known by the pseudonym Gaetan Schmitt, was assigned male at birth despite having intersex genitalia. Schmitt is married to a woman and has an adopted child but claims to be neither male nor female.
In 2015, a family affairs judge in Tours ruled in Schmitt’s favor, but an appeals court overturned the ruling last year.
Schmitt’s attorney, Bertrand Périer, called the high court ruling a “missed opportunity,” in an interview with The New York Times. “I don’t see why France’s social or legal organization would necessitate gender binarism.”
Périer said Schmitt was raised as a boy because his mother wanted a son.
“Gaetan is neither a man nor a woman. They do not feel like a man or woman. They cannot become a man or woman. And they do not want to become a man or woman,” Périer said, referring to Schmitt with a plural pronoun.
Only a few countries, including Australia, Nepal, India and New Zealand, have a legal third gender. Other countries allow parents to delay declaring a gender for babies born with a sex development disorder, but only for a limited time.
Schmitt plans to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
But even if that court reversed last week’s ruling and affirmed the family affairs judge’s declaration that Schmitt should have a right to use a “neutral” gender because of a sex development disorder, the ruling would still link gender to biology.
Some activists say that is unacceptable and are pushing for laws like New Zealand’s, which allow transgender and cross-dressing people, in addition to those with intersex genitalia, to also use a third category – “gender diverse” – as their legal gender.
But gender is inherently biological, according to a scientific study released earlier this year that found more than 1,500 sex-specific genes throughout the body.
The study by Moran Gershoni and Shmuel Pietrokovski at the Weizmann Institute of Science was looking for an explanation for the prevalence of certain diseases in men and women.
They found many genes are expressed – or copied out to make proteins – differently in men and women in many more ways than previously imagined.
“Overall, sex-specific genes are mainly expressed in the reproductive system, emphasizing the notable physiological distinction between men and women,” the report, published in BMC Biology, said. “However, scores of genes that are not known to directly associate with reproduction were also found to have sex-specific expression (e.g., the men-specific skin genes).”
In addition to 1,559 sex-specific genes, Gershoni and Pietrokovski found more than 6,500 genes with significant sex-differential expression. These sex-linked genes were found not only in reproductive organs and the mammary (milk-producing) tissue, but also the skin, skeleton, heart, brain, lungs and stomach, among other areas.
For example, they found genes that were highly expressed in the skin of men related to the growth of body hair and genes highly expressed in women related to fat storage. They also found a gene mainly expressed in the brain of women that scientists think might protect the female neurons from Parkinson’s, a disease with a higher prevalence and earlier onset in men, and a gene expressed in the liver of women regulating drug metabolism, providing molecular evidence for the known fact that men and women process drugs differently.
The study said more research is needed to understand how the differences between men and women cause disease and change the way each sex responds to treatment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

5/17/2017 2:11:26 PM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Two jailed Christians pardoned amid Sudan persecution

May 17 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A pastor and another Christian unjustly imprisoned in Sudan are free after presidential pardons, but their release came just days after the government destroyed the last Christian place to worship in Soba al Aradi, a suburb of the capital Khartoum.

Photo from Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor

The May 11 release of Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) pastor Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor of Omdurman and Christian activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur ended 10-year prison sentences the two had been serving since December, 2015. The men were wrongly accused of espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, Morning Star News reported.
In what is considered a systematic attack on Christian churches, the government on May 7 destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ in Soba al Aradi. It’s the latest incident in a string of 12 churches the government has demolished in the community since 2011, Morning Star News reported May 8. The loss of the church established in 1989 and most recently used by three congregations leaves no place for Christians to worship in the town.
International religious liberty advocates, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Middle East Concern (MEC) and Jubilee Campaign, praised God for the release of Tawor and Abdumawla. The groups continue to advocate for Christians in Sudan who have been increasingly persecuted since the 2011 secession of South Sudan.
“We welcome the release of Reverend [Abdelrahim] and Mr. Abdumawla, and are pleased they are finally able to return to their families after 17 months in detention,” CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said. “However, their case highlights our profound concerns regarding the rule of law in Sudan and the politicization of the criminal justice system by the National Intelligence and Security Services, which pursued the case against them. We continue to call for the government to review and reform the powers of this body and to end the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities on spurious grounds.”
Freedom for the two ends a case that began in 2015 and involved two others who were previously released. SCOC head of missions Kwa (also spelled Kuwa) Shamaal and Czech aid worker Petr Jasek were both jailed on charges including espionage, waging war against the state and gathering false news information, as well as inciting hatred between classes. Shamaal was acquitted and released in January; Jasek received a presidential pardon in February.

Photo from Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Abdulmonem Abdumawla

The arrest of the four was related to their support of a financial campaign that raised $5,000 for the medical care of Darfur student Ali Omer, injured and burned during a student demonstration in 2013, CSW said. The government claimed the money was in reality support for rebel activity in the South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur regions.
In its campaign against Christian churches, Sudan ordered in June 2016 the destruction of at least 25 churches, claiming they were built on government-owned land or land zoned for residential or other uses. Churches targeted include SCOC, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Jehovah Witness and Pentecostal congregations. Similarly situated Muslim mosques are allowed to remain standing, Christians told Morning Star.
“There is a nearby mosque in the area where the (Soba al Aradi SCOC) church building was destroyed, but it was not demolished,” Morning Star anonymously quoted a source May 8. In late April, the Khartoum Bahri Administrative Court rejected a case brought jointly by the churches to have the demolition order overturned, CSW said.
On April 3, a member of the Bahri Evangelical Church was stabbed to death while peacefully demonstrating against government efforts to confiscate and sell the church and its school, according to reports. Younan Abdullah, an elder of the church that is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), died of stab wounds, World Watch Monitor reported May 2. A second church member and stabbing victim survived.
On April 26, police and an armed mob occupied the church compound and school, including houses and offices, MEC reported April 27. During the takeover, police arrested and detained for 12 hours the wife and three young children of SPEC guard Azhari Tambra while he was away from home. The family’s belongings were destroyed and they were not allowed to return to their home, MEC said.
The religious freedom advocacy group Open Doors ranks Sudan fifth on its 2017 World Watch List of countries with the most severe Christian persecution. Sudan has been a U.S. State Department County of Particular Concern since 1999 because of its human rights violations and treatment of Christians.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


5/17/2017 2:02:14 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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