May 2019

SBC: Giving increases while baptisms continue decline

May 24 2019 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

Southern Baptist congregations saw an increase of more than $82 million in overall giving in 2018, according to the latest Annual Church Profile (ACP) report. However, other key metrics declined slightly in 2018, including baptisms, membership, average worship attendance and total number of Southern Baptist churches.
 

BP file photo
Bryan Wiles, left, pastor of H2O Church on the campus of Bowling Green State University, baptizes Jon Froman, as one of Froman's cousins assists in the celebration of obedience to Christ.

The number of churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention declined by 88 to 47,456 or 0.19 percent. Southern Baptists also reported 4,085 church-type missions last year, a decline of 291 or 6.65 percent. The number of churches and missions combined is 51,541 congregations. The ACP is compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.
 
“Part of the Annual Church Profile process is for associations and state conventions to connect with each congregation and to confirm they still exist and are cooperating together in ministry,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “This year several states put extra effort into identifying and confirming cooperating churches, revealing the decrease in the number of congregations.”
 
Four state conventions saw double-digit growth in the number of Southern Baptist congregations. The Baptist General Convention of Texas added 44 congregations, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention grew by 31, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention added 22 congregations, and the SBC of Virginia grew by 20. Those figures include churches along with church-type missions – congregations that are not fully independent or self-sustaining.
 
Although Southern Baptist congregations reported increased giving, reported membership of those congregations declined by 192,404, down 1.28 percent to 14.8 million members. Average weekly worship attendance declined by 0.43 percent to 5.3 million worshipers.
 
McConnell noted that while the ACP offers a snapshot of the Southern Baptist Convention, it does not tell the whole story. Seventy-six percent of Southern Baptist churches participated in the 2018 ACP by reporting at least one item on the profile. Almost a quarter of churches did not report any information.
 
“The percent of churches reporting in 2018 is up two percentage points from 2017 but lower than the three previous years (2014-2016) when we had 77 percent participation,” he said.
 
As in previous years, reported totals do not include all of the activity of Southern Baptist congregations, though the summary does include adjustments in some categories for non-reporting congregations.
 

Baptism decline slows

 
Southern Baptist congregations baptized 246,442 people in 2018, a 3.02 percent decline from the 254,122 reported in 2017. Southern Baptists saw a 9.49 percent decline in baptisms from 2016-2017. In 2016, Southern Baptists reported a 4.89 percent decline in baptisms from the previous year.
 
“Seeing our neighbors or children follow Christ in believer’s baptism has never been something to take for granted,” McConnell said. “Every baptism reported signifies change that only the Holy Spirit can bring about. Southern Baptists are blessed to have seen these lives transformed. We pray God will continue to move and that He would empower us to share the gospel with more people in the coming year.”
 
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, agreed, “While this report contains news that concerns us greatly, we need to celebrate every life who was positively impacted by the gospel.
 
“As we look forward,” he said, “it is time to press reset spiritually and strategically in the Southern Baptist Convention. Prioritizing and elevating the advancement of the good news of Jesus Christ into every town, city and county in America, as well to every person across the world, must be recaptured by every church. Urgency is not an option for any of us as Christ-followers. People need Jesus and they need Jesus now. Our generation of Baptists must believe and determine now that we will do whatever it takes to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
 
Several state conventions experienced growth in baptism numbers this past year. State conventions with the largest increases in baptisms in 2018 were the California Southern Baptist Convention, which grew by 2,653 to 12,212; the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which grew by 2,092 to 21,563; the Florida Baptist Convention, which grew by 1,245 to 26,162, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina grew by 469 to 17,511; and the Colorado Baptist General Convention grew by 353 to 1,834.
 

Giving & mission expenditures

 
Total church receipts and undesignated receipts were both up for the second year in a row. Total church receipts reported through the ACP increased 0.7 percent to 11.8 billion. Undesignated church receipts increased 0.87 percent to $9.6 billion.
 
Congregations reported total mission expenditures of $1.17 billion and Great Commission Giving of $572 million.
 
Giving through the SBC’s Cooperative Program is not included in the ACP statistical summary. Those totals are available through Baptist state conventions and the SBC Executive Committee which processes the mission gifts.
 
Individual congregations voluntarily report their ACP data to their local Baptist associations and/or their state conventions. National statistics are compiled and released when all cooperating state conventions have reported.

5/24/2019 10:42:05 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Marshal Ausberry to be SBC 1st vice president nominee

May 24 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Marshal Ausberry Sr., senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., will be nominated as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting, Nevada pastor Vance Pitman has announced.
 

Marshal Ausberry Sr.

Ausberry, who has led the church for 24 years into numerous local and global initiatives, also is the current president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, said in a statement to Baptist Press, ‘As a co-laborer in the Kingdom, I have watched this brother in Christ lead both his church and the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention in humility, and I have found him to be a servant leader who is passionate in his own faith and in seeing God’s Kingdom expanded and reflected through the SBC.’
 
Pitman relayed support for Ausberry from Fred Luter, a former SBC president, and other Baptist leaders in his May 22 statement.
 
‘Marshal Ausberry is one of the most impressive Christians I have met,’ Luter said. ‘He is committed to God, his wife and family, his church, and to his affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Because he is a man of integrity, he is well respected by his peers as he now serves as president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention. Our convention will certainly benefit from the wisdom and leadership of Marshal Ausberry as our first vice president.’
 
John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), which planted the Washington, D.C.-area church, said Ausberry is ‘an excellent preacher and a wise leader of a growing congregation. As first vice president, he will fulfill the role with integrity and passion. Dr. Ausberry has been an excellent leader in BGAV life and a personal friend. I can say with confidence he will make himself accessible to all Southern Baptists.’
 
A.B. Vines Sr., the SBC’s current first vice president, said Ausberry is ‘a man of integrity and an exceptional leader. He will continue to bring unity and clear focus to our convention by helping us keep the main thing the main thing, which is to glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.’ Vines is senior pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego and a former NAAF president.
 
According to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile, Antioch Baptist Church averaged 1,035 in worship in 2018; had 1,732 members; recorded 16 baptisms; reported $268,000 in Great Commission Giving encompassing Cooperative Program gifts as well as those to SBC entities and state and associational initiatives. The church’s CP giving of $26,000 reflected 0.8 percent of its undesignated receipts.
 
Pitman, in his statement to Baptist Press, said Ausberry has ‘mobilized the Antioch fellowship to join in God’s activity in its own community and around the world.’
 
Pitman said ‘Antioch Baptist’s heart to impact its community with the transformational love of Christ’ has included a grant program through which its members have invested financially in 10 Title 1 elementary schools in their area, along with providing approximately $50,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors to aid their postsecondary studies.
 
Globally, Pitman said, Antioch has supported mission efforts to India, Russia, Zimbabwe and Canada; worked in the U.S. Virgin Islands in conjunction with NAAF, the Florida Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board (NAMB); aided hurricane relief efforts in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; sent short-term teams in conjunction with the International Mission Board to Southeast Asia, East Africa and Brazil; and supported missionaries in Kenya, Haiti, Antigua and England.
 
Ausberry instituted the church’s Antioch Bible Institute 22 years ago in conjunction with Liberty University, since awarding nearly 100 certificates in biblical studies.
 
The institute, with 15 current students, entails a three-year, six-semester curriculum encompassing 98 lessons each in New Testament, Old Testament and systematic theology. Several graduates subsequently enrolled in seminary studies and one is now pastor of a nearby Southern Baptist church. The institute also has enrolled students from a couple of nearby churches.
 
The National African American Fellowship under Ausberry’s leadership, Pitman noted, ‘continues to strive for increasing African American representation and involvement in Southern Baptist life, including missions, evangelism and church planting. Most recently, NAAF directed intentional support for strengthening and ministering to the churches in the Virgin Islands that had been adversely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In all of this, I see the hand of a brother committed to the gospel and to leading people well to impact the world for the same gospel.’
 
With NAMB, Ausberry also is an assessor on the mission board’s Send Network Assessment team in the capital region.
 
Ausberry holds doctor of ministry and Th.M. degrees in preaching from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.; an M.Div. from Virginia Union University’s Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology; an undergraduate degree from James Madison University in Virginia; and a certificate in Christian apologetics from Biola University in California.
 
Ausberry and his wife of 39 years, Robyn, have three children and two grandchildren.
 
To date, Ausberry is the lone nominee for SBC first vice president to be elected during the convention’s June 11-12 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala. Noe Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, is the lone nominee for second vice president.

5/24/2019 10:38:04 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



TX passes bill to shield churches that report abusers

May 24 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Texas Legislature unanimously passed a bill initiated by Southern Baptists to provide civil immunity to churches that disclose credible sex abuse allegations.
 
The Texas Senate passed House Bill 4345 late May 22 without opposition, two weeks after the House approved the measure. The bill is written to protect charitable organizations, their volunteers and independent contractors from liability when disclosing credible allegations to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.
 
Texas pastor Ben Wright, chairman of the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), helped initiate the bill.
 
“For it to go through without opposition in the House and the Senate is pretty remarkable,” he told Baptist Press (BP), “especially on an issue where there are a lot of people that have different views on how we ought to deal with these issues. Obviously we’re not at the finish line yet.
 
“We need the governor’s signature, but ... I’m pretty optimistic,” said Wright, pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott has 10 days to sign the bill.
 
Wright worked with Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and others to recruit Rep. Scott Sanford, a Southern Baptist executive pastor, to introduce the bill in March. Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy and general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, helped draft the legislation to comply with state laws and meet intended purposes.
 
Wright told BP, “This couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the sort of partnering relationships we have in the SBTC.
 
“This bill, without any of the people who were involved, it probably couldn’t have happened,” he said. “Obviously Rep. Sanford deserves the lion’s share of the credit, but I think it’s just a testimony of what we can accomplish when we work together on things, and when we have relationships like we have here in Texas and beyond.”
 
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards expressed gratitude for the bill.
 
“We are grateful for the passage of this bill and pray that it will serve to make our church ministries safer,” Richards told BP. “I’m also grateful for the initiative taken by Pastor Bart Barber and Pastor Ben Wright in developing this legislation.”
 
The bill is designed to help prevent abusers from continuing the crime in a series of workplaces, Rep. Sanford has said.
 
“Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy,” Sanford noted when the bill passed the House, “and this bill provides the protections for nonprofits to come forward to prevent any future harm.”
 
Informing churches and other nonprofits of the legislation, if it becomes law, is important to its success, Wright told BP.
 
“This bill doesn’t do a lot of good if churches don’t realize that they can pass on information to prospective employers,” Wright said. “The goal we’re all aiming for here is to reduce opportunities for offenders to get further opportunities to commit crimes and misconduct. We need to get the word out for the legislation to have that effect.”
 
Wright also believes the bill could serve as a model for other states.
 
“We would hope that other pastors, other legislators in other states would see what’s been possible here in Texas, and use similar strategies and help protect the vulnerable,” Wright said. “We had representatives and senators urging us, thanking us as Southern Baptists for our engagement on this issue and on a wider range of issues. And I know in a lot of other state legislatures there’d be similar sentiment.”
 
The bill “would make charitable organizations and their employees or volunteers immune from civil liability for good-faith disclosure to an individual’s current or prospective employer,” according to the official House bill analysis, “information reasonably believed to be true about allegations that the individual, while an employee or volunteer of the charitable organization, engaged in sexual misconduct, sexually abused another individual, sexually harassed another individual, or otherwise committed a sexual offense or an offense of public indecency.”
 
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and Texas Private Schools Association are among others who supported the bill.

5/24/2019 10:35:07 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB pledges to ‘be a leader’ in abuse prevention

May 23 2019 by Julie McGowan, IMB

International Mission Board (IMB) trustees heard recommendations May 22 from the firm conducting an external examination of IMB’s handling of past allegations of abuse and sexual harassment and IMB’s present policies and practices.
 

IMB Photo by Chris Carter
IMB President Paul Chitwood responds to an external examination of IMB’s handling of past allegations of abuse and sexual harassment with an apology to victims and a pledge for the future.

IMB President Paul Chitwood responded immediately with an apology to victims and a pledge for the future.
 
Kathryn Nash, leader of the examination task force from Gray Plant Mooty (GPM), presented findings from the firm’s external examination during a trustee plenary session Wednesday. In her statement, Nash reviewed the scope and process of the firm’s examination and various recommendations resulting from the work.
 
“IMB has an opportunity to be a leader within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in prevention and response efforts,” Nash said. “GPM’s recommendations will enable IMB to improve its efforts to protect its personnel and their families and those who interact with its personnel and their families and to effectively and appropriately respond when there is an allegation of child abuse or sexual harassment (including sexual assault).”

Chitwood responded to the presentation from Gray Plant Mooty with an acknowledgement that “churches and mission agencies are not exempt from evil and sin” and the imperative that the IMB, the Southern Baptist Convention and Christian believers altogether must demand the highest standards in abuse prevention and response.
 
“On behalf of the International Mission Board, to any person who has been affected by these actions of anyone associated with IMB, I offer a heartfelt, sincere apology that these injustices have occurred in your lives,” Chitwood said.
 
“I recognize that some people were harmed by the way IMB has responded to these situations throughout our 174-year history and for that, on behalf of the IMB, I apologize,” he said. “I commit to you today that we will do better in the future.”
 
Chitwood noted IMB’s trustees and senior leaders already are at work to implement the recommendations presented by the examination. IMB is “committed to making the changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault), and to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable,” he said.
 

IMB Photo by Chris Carter
Kathryn Nash, leader of the examination task force from Gray Plant Mooty, presents findings from the firm’s external examination during an IMB trustee plenary session May 22.

He called on members of churches in partnership with the SBC to partner “in diligently demanding the highest standards” to respond to incidents of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault), including seeking trauma-informed care for victims. Beyond the SBC, he called on every believer in Jesus Christ to join in the commitment to “absolute excellence in these areas as we represent the global church.”
 
In his response, Chitwood reiterated that the IMB strongly encourages any church, entity, or other employer who is considering working or partnering with a former IMB personnel to contact IMB at references@imb.org to obtain a reference on that individual “so that we can do our part to help you make wise and informed hiring decisions.”

In July 2018, then-IMB President David Platt called for an external examination of IMB’s handling of past allegations regarding child abuse and sexual harassment – including sexual assault – as well as a review of IMB’s policies and practices. IMB trustee officers interviewed numerous potential outside investigators for the task and selected Gray Plant Mooty, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., to conduct the examination. After Chitwood’s election in November 2018, he affirmed his commitment to the examination. See related Baptist Press story.
 
“On behalf of the trustees, I’m grateful that we walked through this process,” said Lisa Lovell, a trustee officer who represented IMB on the task force. “One instance of abuse is one too many. We’ve learned so much, and implementing the recommendations will help us improve our prevention and response efforts.”
 
IMB encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse by its personnel to report it to authorities. In addition, victims can contact IMB on a confidential hotline at (866) 292-0181 or email advocate@imb.org so that IMB can provide care to that victim and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of others.

5/23/2019 11:23:05 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments



SEBTS celebrates first graduates from Hunt Scholars Program

May 23 2019 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

As Chad Welch and Kevin Cox crossed the stage of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) Binkley Chapel, they celebrated not only a personal accomplishment but a monumental milestone in the life of the seminary as the first two graduates from the Hunt Scholars Program.
 

SEBTS photo
Kevin Cox, left, and Chad Welch, right, are the first two graduates to come out of Southeastern Seminary’s Hunt Scholars Program, which began in 2015 as a way for those called to the pastorate to receive both their B.A. and M.Div. in as little as five years.

“This program allows hardworking students to maximize both their time and finances,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “But even more importantly, it provides a very intensive five-year program of sequential studies that prepares them well for the ministry. My hopes for this program have really exceeded my expectations.” 
 
The Hunt Scholars Program began in 2015, allowing students to receive their bachelor of arts and master of divinity in pastoral ministry in as little as five years. Since its inception, the Hunt Scholars Program has exceeded its enrollment projections each year and has doubled in size in the last academic year.
 
“I’m elated! I pray every student sensing God’s call to pastoral ministry will look at this program at SEBTS. I could not hope for a better seminary, faculty or program,” said Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Ga. for 32 years and senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board.
 
The program allows for students like Welch and Cox to learn under exemplary professors who have extensive experience in pastoral ministry in the local church.
 
Chad Welch remembers his call to ministry clearly after the death of his grandfather in 2013. Anxious about the eulogy he was asked to deliver at the funeral, he distinctly remembered that the moment he stood up to speak “was the most comfortable, relaxing feeling I’d ever experienced.” From that moment on, Welch resolved to follow Christ in the same way his grandfather did. 
 
As Welch read scripture daily, he found himself inescapably experiencing God’s confirming call on his life in numerous ways.
 
“Every single day for four weeks I prayed with a different excuse and every single day I’d have that excuse [addressed] in scripture the next day,” Welch said. 
 
As Welch realized that his call truly was from the Lord, he contacted his longtime friend, Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. Capps encouraged him to look into enrolling in the Hunt Scholars Program.
 
Kevin Cox heard the call to ministry as a teenager but ignored it for many years. After graduating high school and attending trade school, Cox went straight to work. It wasn’t until many years later at a men’s retreat that Cox committed to follow through with the call God had placed on his life as a boy. With that call, he knew he would need to go back to school for training. That’s when his brother-in-law told him about the Hunt Scholars Program. Cox remembers being hesitant about what job prospects would look like graduating from SEBTS at 53, but he stepped out in faith and enrolled, along with Welch, as one of the first students in the Hunt Scholars Program.
 
“For me, it was just that confirmation of what I ran away from in my teenage years,” said Cox, who lives in Maryland with his wife of 32 years.
 
One of the most valuable aspects of the Hunt Scholars Program for both Welch and Cox has been through the pastoral ministry enhancement course, which connects students and pastors through roundtable discussions. These discussions take place with the other Hunt Scholars over breakfast, allowing for them to ask questions and hear the pastor’s transparency on successes, failures and struggles he has experienced through his years of ministry. In the 2018-19 academic year, students had the chance to hear from pastors Crawford Loritts, Vance Pitman, David Platt and Bryan Chapell and many others.
 
Cox believed his calling is to full-time vocational ministry, which he hopes to pursue after graduation.
 
In addition to serving in a local church and looking for new ministry opportunities, Welch hopes to continue pushing his app, CrossTalk, into new outlets, including K-Love and the Billy Graham Chaplain’s Rapid Response Team. The app helps people grow in their faith, share the gospel and connect people to a church they can call home.
 
For both Cox and Welch, the Hunt Scholars Program is worth the time and effort and has shaped them relationally, academically and spiritually.
 
“We are thrilled that our Hunt Scholars Program has produced its first graduates,” said Scott Pace, director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership and the Johnny Hunt chair of biblical preaching.
 
“These pastors are tangible expressions of God’s faithfulness to SEBTS and they embody the godly character, spiritual giftedness, and ministerial skills that our program is designed to cultivate and develop.”

5/23/2019 11:19:06 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments



Missionary to urban Scottish youth dies of cancer

May 23 2019 by Mary Jane Welch, Baptist Press

Gena Wilson, a missionary to Scotland who walked the 2014 New York City marathon representing cancer survivors, lost her third battle with the disease May 13 at home with her family in Beaufort, S.C.
 

IMB Photo by Paul W. Lee
Gena Wilson, who died of cancer May 13, crossed the finish line of the 2014 New York Marathon with U.S. Army veteran Cedric King. A photo of King and Wilson at the finish was featured in the Nov. 6, 2014, issue of TIME magazine. Her mother, Betty Barton, and sister, Glenda Londono, both from Beaufort, S.C., walked part of the race with her.

Wilson, 51, who served more than 20 years as a Southern Baptist missionary, “shared hope because she had hope,” said Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board (IMB).
 
“A battle with terminal cancer did not dissuade her because death held no power over her. Might the Lord of the harvest send out more hope-givers like Gena into His harvest,” Chitwood said.
 
John Brady, IMB vice president for global engagement, said Wilson “showed us what it means to run the good race. She had a fierce love for the people of Scotland, especially the disadvantaged youth in Glasgow.”
 
“As she openly shared her battle with cancer, those who knew her on both sides of the ocean saw clearly how much she loved God and how it led her to love others.”
 
David Moench, who leads IMB work among peoples of Western Europe, used the word “formidable” to sum up the friend and coworker who had fought to help disadvantaged youth in urban Glasgow. “No challenge was too great for her to tackle,” he said.
 
Kris Howington, IMB staffer who first got to know Wilson in seminary, agreed:  “Gena was always larger than life! When I think of Gena, these words come to mind: family, friends, Scotland, laughter and Jesus.”
 
“She loved them all,” Howington said. “And,” she added, “she loved to laugh and make others laugh! Oh, how she could make you laugh!”
 
Lisa Farrell, another IMB staffer who knew Wilson, remembered a call from Wilson soon after she arrived in Scotland. “Lisa, I go with my Scotland friends to play soccer, and I am playing with the world.”
 
 Wilson said so many nations were represented in those soccer games that she was in her “sweet spot.”
 

IMB photo
While undergoing aggressive treatments for cancer in the U.S., the late Gena Wilson’s message stayed the same: "Cancer is not my biggest problem. Jesus has already taken care of my biggest problem, so the best is yet to come."

In her early years in Scotland, Wilson worked as assistant treasurer for the organization of Baptist missionaries there, a job that brought her to the office in Moench’s home three days a week. She discipled his daughters, said Moench, later inviting each to spend several weeks as an intern in Scotland during their high school or college years. Several, he noted, are now on the mission field themselves.
 
When Wilson wasn’t in the office, she was working with Scottish youth. When she applied to return to Scotland after two years as a missionary Journeyman, Wilson wrote that she wanted someday to work among “youth who did not have the same opportunities as others.”
 
She did just that. In 2001, Wilson moved into an urban high-rise, where she stuck out as “the American” who for some inexplicable reason chose to live in one of the city’s poorest areas. She led assemblies in the local high school, but mostly got to know local teens over a basketball or volleyball game, hamburgers at a café or Bible study in the apartment.
 
At first a novelty, she became more like a mother figure to some of the troubled youth in her neighborhood. Graeme was one of those. When he was suspended from school, she counseled him.
 
A teacher at the school where Wilson served as chaplain said Graeme was one those kids always getting into fights and skipping school until he met Wilson. As Graeme saw the way Wilson lived – and loved – he was moved to become a Christian and graduated from University of Glasgow. Although his faith wavered as he saw others succeeding without relying of God, he continued his friendship with Wilson.
 
Wilson lived in that high-rise until she was kicked out because the building was to be imploded. But she moved nearby to continue her ministry among disadvantaged urban youth.
 

IMB photo
In a local restaurant in Scotland, missionary Gena Wilson laughed with Graeme McKelvie, whom she befriended as a youth and is now a law graduate of the University of Glasgow.

During a scheduled trip to the United States in 2011, Wilson went to the doctor because of back pain. Moench and his wife Laura happened to be in her hospital room when the doctor came in. Wilson had a tumor wrapped around her spine, he said. She would need surgery and chemotherapy.
 
From the beginning, Moench said, Wilson was very open about her battle with cancer, and God used that to touch many. She shared her journey through Facebook and YouTube videos, which were played in the school where she had been chaplain. She kept sharing her story for eight years, he added, giving people in Scotland and America an opportunity to hear about God through her faithfulness.
 
Because of her openness, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society asked her to participate in the 2014 New York City marathon to raise awareness of the disease and money for its cure. Wilson walked the marathon, 26.2 miles, in over nine hours – and returned to Scotland.
 
In Scotland, Moench said, Wilson showed her willingness to face other challenges. At one point, she found herself the only Southern Baptist missionary in Scotland working with urban deprived youth. She knew the students she was reaching needed more than she alone could offer. She built a partnership with the Baptist Union of Scotland and local churches and set out to recruit coworkers from among Southern Baptists in the United States.
 
When the cancer returned a third time, Wilson wanted to stay in Scotland but also knew how much her family in South Carolina wanted her home with them. Shortly before she left, she turned over leadership to a career missionary couple whose team included a missionary apprentice couple and three missionary Journeymen.
 

IMB photo
"I'm in an area where God is providing opportunities for real, authentic, genuine relationships," said missionary Gena Wilson in Glasgow, Scotland.

Wilson was born in Livingston, Tenn., and grew up in Beaufort, S.C. She received her master’s degree in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., where she participated in basketball and tennis.
 
She is survived by her parents Betty and John Barton, and Glenn and Susan Wilson; a sister, Glenda Londono, a brother, Greg Wilson (Julie); and other relatives.
 
A memorial service was held on Saturday, May 18, at the Baptist Church of Beaufort.
 
A video feature on Wilson can be viewed at vimeo.com/71043564.

5/23/2019 11:13:38 AM by Mary Jane Welch, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Refugees ‘people that need help,’ simulation shows

May 23 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Imagine having to either flee with the one child in your arms or run amid gunfire in search of your other children perhaps already killed by terrorists attacking your community.
 

Photo submitted by John Barnett
A Refugee Loss Simulation exercise at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., encouraged participants to share Christ’s love with refugees.

Brian Moore was one of about 100 others who encountered such a decision May 15 at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. – but that experience was only a simulated exercise of loss.
 
“For people in northern Africa or in the Middle East, when they make a decision it affects the life of a loved one,” said Moore, who participated with his wife Kayla in a Refugee Loss Simulation at the church. For the Moores and the others who attended, written notecards represented family members and key possessions.
 
“If they’re going back to a village, like one of the incidences was, and there’s gunfire, they have to make the decision, ‘Do I just take the one child I have now and go into the woods, or do I go back into the village and risk my own life to see if my two boys are alive,’” Moore told Baptist Press (BP). “For us, that’s just a notecard, but for them, that’s somebody in their family.”
 
 Long Hollow Missions Pastor Greg Wilton described the exercise as simple yet profound.
 
“Those who participated put themselves into the minds and situations of those experiencing extreme loss,” Wilton told BP. “Our prayer at Long Hollow was for people to empathize with refugees and displaced peoples and then to do something about it. Our action plan is to connect them with local ministries that are engaging these people here in greater Nashville.”
 
John Barnett led the exercise, one of many he conducts as a Kentucky Baptist Convention missions strategist.
 
“As we begin to understand what a refugee goes through and the loss that they face, we are moved by compassion to not only help them, but also to love, serve and share Christ with them,” Barnett told BP. “Also, many refugees are believers, and it is sad to think that widows, children and believing families get off a plane in America, and not one believer is there to serve them.
 
“We have new opportunities to share Christ with people who have never heard the gospel, and we have opportunities to develop real relationships, share Christ, and reach the nations in the US,” he said. “The Great Commission is not an option clause; it is a command from our Lord.”
 
Refugees are more prevalent than ever before, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with one person forcibly displaced every two seconds globally. UNHCR counts 68.5 million displaced persons worldwide, including 25.4 million refugees, 3.1 million asylum seekers and 40 million people displaced within their countries of residence.
 
The simulation emphasized the human aspect of the tragedy, Moore said.
 
“These are moms and dads and women and children who have lives and don’t want to leave their country, but some of them have been forced to do so,” said Moore, who, with his wife, is pursuing a mission post with the International Mission Board. “If it’s a refugee coming from another country they can be viewed as a burden, but we have to maintain the human element to it and say these are people that experienced trauma, and they didn’t ask for it.”
 
The refugee crisis is a defining marker of today, Barnett said.
 
“The refugee crisis is global and has impacted countries around world,” Barnett said. “So the question is this: ‘What will be written about Southern Baptists during this time?’
 
“Did we shrink back, look the other way, or did we reach out to not only help and serve people who are hurting and in need,” Barnett said, “but did we do it with gospel intentionality, [that is] share Christ?”
 
Offering help is not difficult, Barnett said. It can involve helping someone learn to navigate the city, visit the doctor or register in school, helping as a tutor, or just spending time with a refugee.
 
“It opens up huge doors,” Barnett said. “The message is simple, ‘God has not forgotten about you.’”

5/23/2019 11:10:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Eaton explains why he’s running for recording secretary

May 22 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Eddie Eaton, pastor of Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church, believes his “well-rounded” experience as a victim’s advocate, deputy sheriff and pastor gives him a “unique perspective” on the role of recording secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
That is one of the reasons he agreed to be nominated for the position at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., he told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview.

 
Mike Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla., announced May 16 that he will make the nomination during the June 11-12 gathering, according to Baptist Press.
 
“I’ve seen all different sides of helping victims, dealing with the perpetrators and then pastoral ministry along with that,” Eaton said, referring to current efforts in the SBC to respond to sex abuse in churches.
 
An investigation by two Texas newspapers published in February outlined hundreds of cases of sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches over the past 20 years. SBC President J.D. Greear and other Southern Baptist leaders have called for a comprehensive response to the problem.
 
“I began my career in law enforcement as a victim’s advocate,” Eaton said. “I was dealing with sexual abuse and domestic violence, helping victims of those crimes not only deal with the aftermath ... but also walking with them through the [recovery] process.”
 
Eaton also expressed concerns about the lack of term limits on the office of recording secretary. SBC messengers vote annually to decide who will fill the position, but the number of years an individual may serve in the role is indefinite.
 
The recording secretary is responsible for keeping records of all convention meetings and serves as a voting member of the SBC executive committee, which conducts business on behalf of the convention throughout the year. Other similar offices, such as the SBC president and executive committee members, are limited in the number of terms they may serve.
 
While emphasizing that he supported the current recording secretary, John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, Eaton said he believes Yeats’ tenure of more than two decades in the position is too long. Missouri church planter Jon Nelson announced May 3 that he will re-nominate Yeats at this year’s SBC annual meeting.
 
“For all I know, he’s done a great job,” Eaton said. “I have voted for him in the past. … I just do not believe in my heart that somebody should be in that position for that long.”
 
Eaton and Yeats are the only two candidates to be announced for recording secretary to date.

5/22/2019 1:30:01 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Noe Garcia to be nominated as SBC 2nd vice president

May 22 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, will be nominated as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting, Tennessee pastor Micah Fries has announced.
 
Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, said Garcia can be “a tremendous asset to the SBC” at a time “when Southern Baptists are struggling with questions like how we can see more people trust Christ, how to reach our increasingly diverse communities, and how we can continue to see our influence spread far beyond the Southeastern United States.”


Noe Garcia

 
Garcia has led the Arizona church since 2016. He previously held staff positions at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas; First Baptist Church in Nashville; and Second Baptist Church in Houston.
 
He is a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Council and the SBC Executive Committee’s (EC) Convention Advancement Advisory Council and a trustee of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He served on the 2017-2018 SBC Evangelism Task Force and the EC’s Young Leaders’ Advisory Council and, in 2017, was a member of the SBC Committee on Committees.
 
North Phoenix Baptist Church, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile in 2018, recorded 97 baptisms, averaged 1,480 in worship attendance, counted 12,365 members and gave $100,000 through the Cooperative Program (CP), or 2.5 percent of $4,013,313 in undesignated receipts. CP is Southern Baptists’ unified channel of support for missions and ministries in each state and across North America and the world.
 
“When Noe arrived at North Phoenix the church was 90 percent Anglo,” Fries said. “Today their staff estimates that half of the church is made up of ethnic minorities.”
 
Garcia holds a doctor of ministry and executive leadership degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; an M.Div. from Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif., where he is an adjunct professor; and an undergraduate degree in kinesiology from East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas.
 
“Noe’s story,” Fries said in announcing Garcia’s nomination May 18, “is one of grace and redemption. Growing up in a deeply broken home, Noe began using drugs and alcohol in the sixth grade. He continued to walk far away from the Lord until he attempted to commit suicide at 18 years old. It was after this experience that God grabbed his heart and Noe began walking with Him.”
 
Garcia and his wife Clancey have four children.
 
To date, Garcia is the lone nominee for SBC second vice president to be elected during the convention’s June 11-12 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

5/22/2019 1:22:02 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sexual abuse perceptions studied by LifeWay Research

May 22 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Research

Many Southern Baptist churchgoers believe still more revelations of sexual abuse and misconduct by pastors and other church staff will be exposed, but few know of specific individuals in their church whose misconduct is still hidden, according to a new study from LifeWay Research.
 
The 2019 Sexual Misconduct and Churchgoers Study by LifeWay Research and sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources explored the perceptions and experiences of Southern Baptist and Protestant churchgoers.

Click to view full size
 

Brad Waggoner, acting CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, commended SBC President J.D. Greear on the way he has led the convention to view the issue of sexual abuse. “Protecting people from abuse of any kind should be of utmost importance to churches and our convention,” Waggoner said. “LifeWay decided to sponsor this research because it’s imperative we make our churches safe places for people to hear the gospel and grow in their walk with Jesus Christ.”
 
The study found 1 in 3 (32 percent) Southern Baptist churchgoers believe many more Protestant pastors have sexually abused children or teens than have been currently exposed. More disagree – 43 percent – while 25 percent say they don’t know.
 
Fewer Southern Baptist churchgoers say there are many more undiscovered instances of Protestant pastors who have sexually assaulted adults – 29 percent – while 46 percent disagree and 25 percent don’t know.
 
Click to view full size

Relatively few, however, know someone attending their church who has sexually abused a child (3 percent) or sexually assaulted someone (3 percent) but has not yet come to light.
 
“Perceptions are reality,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, based in Nashville. “When almost a third of churchgoers sense there is an avalanche of abuse and assault cases coming, churches must address this head on even if few say they actually know someone whose abuse is still hidden.”
 
Room for improvement
 
More than a third of Southern Baptist churchgoers (37 percent) say they have been victims of the following types of sexual misconduct: unwanted sexual joking, unsolicited sexual messages, unwanted compliments and inappropriate glances.
 
Researchers asked those victims where the misconduct took place. Seven percent say the misconduct occurred at church.
 
Six percent of those Southern Baptists who say unwanted sexual joking was directed at them say it happened at church. The same is true for 7 percent of those who received unwanted compliments that implied the person viewed them sexually, 3 percent of those who received unwanted pictures or sexual advances via text or direct message, and 6 percent of females who experienced prolonged glances or staring at their chest.
 
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When asked if they received compliments that implied the person viewed them sexually, 6 percent of Southern Baptist churchgoers say they heard such remarks as a child and 15 percent as a teenager. When asked from where the person had given the sexually-insinuating comments, 36 percent say school, 34 percent say their home or family and 10 percent say church.
 
Similar issues continued in adulthood. Southern Baptist churchgoers are more likely to say inappropriate behavior occurred in settings other than the church, but some still reported occurrences in church.
 
Some churchgoers expressed wariness over the greetings they receive from others at church. Around 1 in 6 (18 percent) say some attendees express physical greetings in ways that seem to go beyond a simple gesture.
 
A 2018 LifeWay Research study found 1 in 8 Protestant pastors said a church staff member had sexually harassed a member of the congregation at some point in the church’s history. One in 6 pastors said a staff member had been harassed in a church setting.
 
Overall, in the 2019 study, most SBC churchgoers (86 percent) say the church is a better environment when it comes to encountering sexually inappropriate comments compared to other places where they socialize with people. That’s slightly better than the 75 percent of all Protestant churchgoers who say the same. Few Southern Baptist churchgoers (1 percent) believe the church is a worse environment, while 6 percent say it is the same as other places and 7 percent aren’t sure. 
 
“The findings of this study are similar to previous research through the years,” McConnell said. “Churchgoers and the church setting have statistically fewer cases of immoral behavior, but those issues still have a very real presence.”
 
Church preparation & optimism
 
Most Southern Baptist churchgoers believe their church is prepared to handle issues of sexual abuse and trust their congregation to respond appropriately if confronted with instances of misconduct.
 
A majority say their church would respond to someone who had experienced sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape with respect (73 percent), sympathy (70 percent), privacy (62 percent) and protection (56 percent). Few believe their church would ignore the person who shared their experience (2 percent), see them as an attention-seeker (2 percent) or as partly to blame (2 percent).
Click to view full size
 
Nearly 8 in 10 Southern Baptist churchgoers (76 percent) consider their congregation at least somewhat prepared to help someone who has experienced sexual assault, with 38 percent saying their church is very prepared. Fewer than 1 in 10 (7 percent) believe their church is unprepared. Eighteen percent aren’t sure.
 
The vast majority of Southern Baptist churchgoers (95 percent) agree their church is a safe place where adults are actively protected from sexual assault in the church; 3 percent aren’t sure and 1 percent disagree.
 
More than 8 in 10 (86 percent) believe their church is at least somewhat prepared to protect children from sexual abuse in ministry programs, with 62 percent saying their church is very prepared. One in 20 (5 percent) say their church is unprepared and 9 percent are unsure.
 
Virtually all Southern Baptist churchgoers (96 percent) say their church is a safe place where children and teenagers are protected from sexual abuse. Few aren’t sure (3 percent) or disagree (1 percent).
 
Southern Baptist churchgoers believe safety measures have improved in the last decade. Three in 4 (74 percent) believe their church is more prepared to protect children from sexual abuse than 10 years ago. Few say their church has had no additional preparation (6 percent) or was doing well then and now (7 percent). Thirteen percent say they don’t know.
 
“Those in the pews are noticing progress in the prevention efforts at their own church,” McConnell said. “Additional steps need to be taken and clearly communicated, however, so that more can say their congregation is very prepared to protect those who attend from sexual assault and child sexual abuse.”
 
If someone did experience sexual abuse, Southern Baptist churchgoers feel confident their church would be a safe place for victims.
 
More than 9 in 10 (92 percent) say someone who experienced sexual abuse as a child or teenager would find healing at their church; 4 percent disagree. Similarly, 94 percent say their church would be a place of healing for adult victims of sexual assault; 2 percent disagree.
 
Eight in 10 Southern Baptist churchgoers (80 percent) say an adult attending their church could share that they have experienced sexual assault by a fellow attendee and be believed. Fourteen percent aren’t sure and 6 percent disagree. 
 
“When a church communicates it is a safe place for those who are hurting to find healing, it teaches truths about the identity and worth of every individual,” McConnell said. “More importantly it answers the fundamental question of whether God cares.”
 
If sexually inappropriate things happened within the church, 5 percent believe church leaders would try to cover it up. Nine in 10 (90 percent) say their church is likely to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.
 
Churchgoers also have faith in their leaders to correctly address sexual misconduct that may occur in the church even if it is costly or hurts the congregation’s image. Around 8 in 10 (83 percent) agree their church would respond appropriately, regardless of the cost.
 
If sexual misconduct allegations were made against a pastor, most Southern Baptist churchgoers say they would want a careful investigation of the facts (79 percent), the truth to be made known (66 percent) and the alleged victim protected (54 percent). Four in 10 (40 percent) would want the police involved. Fewer say they would want the pastor protected (17 percent), doubt the validity of the accusation (11 percent) or want the situation dealt with quietly (9 percent).
 
Most Southern Baptist churchgoers feel safe attending their church. Few current churchgoers say they have ever attended less frequently because of advances from other attendees (2 percent). A similar number of churchgoers say they have ever stopped attending a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously (3 percent) or because they didn’t feel safe from sexual misconduct (2 percent).
 
“Among people who are currently attending church, few said they stopped attending because of issues related to sexual misconduct,” McConnell said. “This does not measure, however, any who left due to these problems and have not returned to any church since.”
 
McConnell said although the research indicates churches are suffering from negative perceptions with many churchgoers bracing for more pastor-related sexual abuse stories to emerge, it hasn’t worsened churchgoers’ opinions of their own church or caused them to attend less frequently. But they still see areas church leaders should prioritize.
 
“From the perspective of the pew, there is room for churches to improve their process to prevent sexual abuse and assault, their communication of what is being done, and their handling of investigating accusations,” McConnell said.
 
For more information on the study, visit LifeWayResearch.com, view the complete report or a video summary.
 
Methodology
 
The online survey of 1,815 Americans was conducted Feb. 27 to April 8, 2019. Respondents were invited to participate from a large national panel. Respondents were screened to only include adults whose religious preference is Protestant and who attend church services once a month or more. Southern Baptists were oversampled (457 completes) to provide reliable estimates for this subgroup, and subsequently downweighted. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity, education and Southern Baptist affiliation to more accurately reflect Protestant churchgoers using statistics published by Pew Research. The completed sample of 1,815 surveys provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Due to mandatory reporting requirements, respondents could not be asked if they personally had been a victim of child sexual abuse or sexual assault.
5/22/2019 1:10:10 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



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