November 2011

‘Let the fire fall,’ said N.C. Baptist president

November 17 2011 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Before leaving his post as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), Ed Yount challenged Baptist leaders this month to pray for revival and reexamine the priorities and purpose of their churches.
Yount noted there is much for Baptists in the state to be thankful for “yet, God has given [them] a tremendous task.”
“We live in a world of 7 billion people, and it is estimated that 6 billion of them do not know the Lord Jesus,” said Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, to messengers Nov. 8 during the BSC annual meeting.
“Of that number, 1.7 billion have no access to the gospel.”
Among the state’s 9.4 million people and more than 230 languages, it is estimated that 79 percent have no active church affiliation. And 5.6 million of them have not put their trust in Jesus, Yount reported.
Right now there are approximately 4,300 Southern Baptist churches in the state with more than 1.3 million Baptists. Among its congregations last year, more than 23,359 people were baptized. In the past five years, 613 churches have been added to the convention.
Yount, however, noted a low percentage of new Christians are joining evangelical churches across the country. According to a report from the North American Mission Board, 99 percent of the growth among evangelical churches has been “transfer growth” – people moving from one congregation to another.

Ed Yount, before leaving his post as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, challenged leaders to pray for revival in a nation that is no longer Christian.

“Only 1 percent is conversion growth,” Yount said. “… the population in America is 313 million, and now 232 million are estimated to be lost.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we no longer live in a Christian nation.”
“The fire is going to fall”
Reading from 1 Kings 18, Yount shared the story of Elijah and how he called down fire from God. Yount contended that “the fire is going to fall” again.
“The fire of God is going to fall on this convention,” Yount told the crowd, “… on our churches and on our nation, and it will be the fire of revival or it will be the fire of God’s judgment, but the fire is going to fall.”
Southern Baptists have become a distracted people, he said. Churches are becoming increasingly “inward.” Many are plateauing and declining.
“If you listen carefully … you can hear the death rattle in the throat of many of our churches today,” he said.
Many of today’s churches are not answering the challenge because they’re too consumed with programs, planning and new promotional campaigns.
“Misplaced priorities will inevitably lead to professional shepherds, developing new ways to entertain worldly sheep,” Yount said. 
Herman’s Story
Yount shared a story of a new Christian, Herman. A few days after Herman placed his trust in Jesus, he shared his testimony with a friend. When the friend laughed at him, Herman told the man he was going to “bust hell wide open” if he didn’t turn his life over to Jesus. Herman’s friend began to “cuss [him].” Herman responded by burning his friend’s hand with a cigarette lighter and telling him, “You think that’s hot, boy? Well, hell is a lot hotter.”
Herman’s pastor later lectured him for not sharing his faith “the proper” way. The pastor told Herman he needed to enroll in “soul winning class” so that he could learn how to do it right.
Herman responded, “Preacher … He got saved! He wants to be baptized with me today!”
“I like the way Herman did it better than the way some of us are not doing it,” Yount said.  “Here’s a man with no training. He’s just burdened about his buddy, and he found a way.”
Today’s churches face more competition than ever before, Yount contended.
“There is a revival going on today, but the Devil is having it,” he said.
“There is a revival of atheism, there is a revival of humanism, a revival of demonism, a revival of sorcery, a revival of immorality,” he said.  “The most dangerous thing today is the surge and the interest of religion that has a form of Godliness but it denies the power of [God].”
Yount said it’s time for Baptists to put aside the “infighting and the petty bickering “ over “personal preferences” and fall on their faces before God.
“With my final words of challenge as your president, I plead with you … go back to your homes and go back to your churches and gather your families and gather your people around the altar of God and pray ‘Oh God, start a revival in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches,’” he said. 
“‘Oh God, send a revival, let the fire fall.’”
11/17/2011 3:21:29 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

S.C. Baptists approve GCR Task Force report

November 17 2011 by Butch Blume

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) – Messengers to the 191st annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved the report of the state convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Nov. 15.

After an hour in which the report was formally presented and then briefly debated and nearly a year after the task force was created, messengers lifted yellow envelopes containing their ballots and voted to approve the report in its entirety.

An amendment that would have nullified recommendation 8 of the report, which alters the process for nominating trustees to serve at the SCBC’s seven institutions, failed to gain acceptance.

The 11 recommendations in the report were approved as a group. Before the vote, task force chairman Ralph Carter said there was “probably a motion coming to divide” the report. He urged messengers not to pick the report apart.

“We’re bringing a single (report) with 11 components,” Carter said.

As the report was being considered, there were 1,568 registered messengers for the annual meeting, an increase of 315 from last year. A large hall on the lower level of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center was filled nearly to capacity.

At the heart of the GCR report were recommendations to increase South Carolina Baptists’ contribution to the International Mission Board by nearly 22 percent over the next three years and to move the SCBC toward a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program receipts with the Southern Baptist Convention over the next five years.

To pay for the initiatives, the report calls for CP budget cuts to the SCBC’s seven institutions (Anderson University, The Baptist Courier, Charleston Southern University, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, North Greenville University, South Carolina Baptist Foundation and South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging) and urges pastors to encourage their churches to increase CP giving by at least 1 percent.

Prior to the vote, Carter asked messengers to consider four “realizations.”

“The Cooperative Program pie has shrunk,” he said. “You can lament that, point fingers or blame the economy. It is a reality we have to deal with.” He noted that CP giving in South Carolina has decreased from $34 million in 2009 to an anticipated $28.6 million in 2012.

“The world is getting exponentially darker, spiritually,” Carter said, adding that 3,600 people groups have never heard the gospel. “We must keep less and give more. Will it require sacrifice? Yes, but it is doable.”

Pointing to recommendation 10 of the report, which calls on churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by at least 1 percent, Carter told messengers that since the GCR report was released in August, 31 churches have pledged to increase their CP giving, representing $320,000 in additional support.

In order for church planting and revitalization to be successful, “we must find the money,” Carter said. “We need to breathe new life into plateaued and dying churches, and we need to plant more churches.”

Finally, Carter said, South Carolina Baptists are “passionate about their ministry partners (institutions),” noting that South Carolina is the only state in the nation with three Baptist universities. Carter said the schools are in “the same business you and I are in: bringing the world to Christ.”

In the three months since the release of the GCR report, Baptists across South Carolina had debated recommendations 8 and 9, which would grant the convention’s institutions more influence in the trustee nomination process, including the option to seat up to one-fifth of their board members from out of state.

Carter asked messengers to “express our confidence in the (university) presidents’ wisdom in making choices” for trustee recommendations, including granting them the right to seat as trustees “loyal, evangelical, conservative Southern Baptists” who don’t necessarily reside in South Carolina.

“The bottom line is, this is about trust,” he said.

Carter then invited North Greenville University president and task force member Jimmy Epting to speak in support of the report.

“We’ve got to show the whole world we mean business,” Epting said. “The key is to have an urgency about getting the Word out to the lost. We want to get our funds out there to reach the unreachable. International missions is the engine that pulls the Cooperative Program train.

“We’re proud to give back, but we’re also asking that you accept all 11 recommendations. Keep it whole. We need this. It does allow us to get more funding, to give more scholarships. But it also allows us to reach the lost.

“Show all those watching that, one thing for sure, that’s a good Baptist family,” Epting said. “They come together and are willing to give it a shot. It’s about one more getting saved. You give 1 more percent, and God will be glorified.”

When Epting concluded his remarks, Carter moved that the report be approved.

Wayne Dickard, pastor of Siloam Baptist Church in Easley, offered an amendment to “retain the current (trustee) nominating system and all rules that govern it.”

“It is a mistake to change a system that has served us so well,” Dickard said. After brief debate, the amendment failed.

No other amendments were offered, but one messenger spoke in opposition to the GCR report “as it is being presented,” and a second messenger said he initially was against the report until he heard Epting’s defense of it, adding, “If (the universities) can give 10 percent, why can’t we give 1 percent (in increased Cooperative Program giving)?”

The question was called for, and messengers, by a wide margin, voted their approval of the GCR Task Force report.

The task force was authorized by messengers to the 2010 SCBC annual meeting and charged with scrutinizing the final report of the Southern Baptist Convention’s similarly-named GCR task force (adopted in Orlando in June 2010) for the purpose of developing a plan for South Carolina Baptists to “respond” to its recommendations. Fred Stone, past SCBC president, appointed the task force members.

South Carolina’s GCR Task Force report recommended that:

1) South Carolina Baptists increase the state convention’s contribution to the International Mission Board by 21.95 percent over the next three years.

2) Church revitalization, missions mobilization/evangelism and church planting be made the primary focus of the SCBC.

3) The SCBC establish a five-year goal of moving the division of Cooperative Program receipts to a 50/50 split between the SCBC and the SBC.

4) Funding to Anderson University, Charleston Southern University, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging, North Greenville University and South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union be reduced by 10 percent from 2011 levels, to be frozen for five years.

5) The executive ministries (Baptist building) portion of the budget be reduced by 5 percent, to be withdrawn 1 percent annually for the next five years.

6) Funding to the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina be reduced by 20 percent in the coming year and that the remaining balance be reduced by 25 percent per year for the next four years.

7) Funding to The Baptist Courier be reduced by 10 percent annually for the next three years, after which time continued funding will be re-evaluated by those serving as officers of the Executive Board of the SCBC and the CEO of the Courier and the board chairman based upon criteria previously agreed upon by the GCR Task Force and representatives of the Courier.

8) The nominating process be altered so as to allow the CEOs of the institutions to have greater input into the nomination of trustees by way of a process that would result in mutual agreement between the institutions and the convention.

9) SCBC institutions be allowed to have as many as one-fifth of their trustees from out of state.

10) A plan be put forth to approach pastors about increasing their churches’ giving through the Cooperative Program.

11) The SCBC requests that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention consider adjusting the budgets of the seminaries and other entities as a means to increasing funding to the International Mission Board.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier (, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)
11/17/2011 3:17:31 PM by Butch Blume | with 0 comments

Elliff inaugurated, 1.5M hear gospel, IMB-church pilot launched

November 17 2011 by Don Graham

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Eight months after unanimously electing Tom Elliff as “God’s man” to lead Southern Baptists’ global missions efforts, IMB trustees officially inaugurated him as the mission board’s 11th leader.

Meeting Nov. 14-15 at IMB’s International Learning Center near Richmond, Va., trustees dedicated Monday evening to inaugurating Elliff during a special service at Richmond’s Grove Avenue Baptist Church.

Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, a guest speaker at the inauguration, compared Elliff to Barnabas in Acts 11:24 – a “good man” of great faith, filled with the Holy Spirit.

“There are 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups (in the world), and God has put on Tom’s heart that we challenge the churches of our convention to go out there and reach all 3,800.... Now that is great faith,” Bryant said. “Tom ... we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called you to this role.”

At the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, an “embrace” initiative was launched to challenge churches to do “whatever it takes” to make Jesus’ name known among an unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) in which less than 2 percent of the people are evangelical Christians and no active church planting strategy is under way among them.

The embrace initiative, born of a prayer-laden collaboration between Elliff and Wright, sets an ambitious goal for congregations of a long-term commitment to a UUPG.

Also during their meeting, IMB trustees appointed 77 new missionaries, all of whom were present at the Nov. 14 inauguration. Elliff spoke about his passion for reaching those who don’t place their faith in Jesus Christ and underscored the importance of anchoring one’s identity in Christ.

“We must not confuse our role at the present moment with our identity – that is, who we are. Sometimes I’m introduced as president of IMB.... That may be what I am doing right now, but that is not who I am. I am a bond slave (of Christ),” Elliff said.

“It haunts me to think of any man, woman, boy or girl ... being alive a million, billion years from now in an actual, awful, but always place called hell, which is the destiny of every person who does not name the name of Jesus and has not repented and received Him by faith as their Savior.

“Jesus had compassion on those who came to Him. It moved Him viscerally. But please understand that what ultimately keeps us going is that what we do is not just for the lost; it is primarily for Jesus’ sake.”

Statistical Report
Trustees received good news about the advance of the gospel from Scott Holste, IMB’s associate vice president of global strategy. Holste presented highlights from the 2011 Annual Statistical Report, which compiles data from the previous year on the work of Southern Baptist missionaries and the local believers with whom they partner.

Thanks to their obedience to share the gospel, nearly 1.5 million people were presented with an opportunity to respond to Christ in 2010. Of that number, more than 442,000 became new believers, and more than 333,000 new believers were baptized. Missionaries and local believers also started more than 28,800 new churches.

Holste said God used IMB engagement to accomplish some significant firsts, including newly engaging more than 200 people groups with the gospel, 90 of which are unreached (less than 2 percent evangelical Christian). Missionaries also reported the first believer among 26 people groups, the first baptism among 32 people groups and the first church among 13 people groups.

“That’s really a cause for celebration,” Holste said.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done.

David Steverson, IMB vice president of finance, discusses the 2012 budget with IMB trustees during their Nov. 14-15 meeting at IMB’s International Learning Center near Richmond, Va.

Mark Sauter, who co-leads strategy for IMB’s Deaf affinity group, told trustees of the desperate need for Jesus among the Deaf of Eastern Europe. He spoke of signing the word for “Jesus” in several European countries, only to find that Deaf there didn’t know what he was talking about or only knew Jesus as a “dead man on the cross,” wholly ignorant of the sacrifice that put Him there.

Sauter also told trustees about a haunting question he frequently receives from Deaf believers who’ve recently responded to Christ: “Why has no one ever told us this before? ... My father or my son, who died last year, they would have followed this Christ – they would have embraced this Jesus if they had a chance.”

Sauter stated that “wherever we go, whether there are churches or no churches, the Deaf have been isolated and shut out from the gospel.”

GC2 Pilot
After two years of deliberation and refinement, trustees unanimously voted to implement a pilot program intended to expand the boundaries of partnership between Southern Baptist churches and the IMB. Known as “Great Commission Global Connect” or “GC2,” it will facilitate a church’s ability to take a greater strategic role in sending short-term missionaries to share Christ and plant churches among the world’s unreached people groups.

GC2 missionaries will be fully financially supported by their sending church but will work with and be supervised by IMB leadership. IMB will partner with GC2 churches by providing personnel selection and strategy consultation as well as administrative support and training.

Roger Freeman, chairman of the trustees’ Church and Partner Services Committee and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., said GC2 is not a departure from Southern Baptists’ cooperative missions efforts but a “new dimension to cooperation.”

“This is a heartfelt response on the part of IMB to the GCR (Great Commission Resurgence),” Elliff explained. “Our seminaries have produced an entire new generation of passionate, young, theologically astute and ardently mission-minded pastors.

“The thing that they care about is that we understand, and missionaries understand and Southern Baptists understand, that missionaries are called by God in the framework of a local church. And somehow, in the way we have done missions traditionally, there has been something of a separation.

“They desperately desire to maintain contact between themselves and our missionaries who are on the field ... and we have developed this Global Connect 2 to enable churches to fill that desire.”

Elliff emphasized that churches participating in GC2 would be required to maintain levels of Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving in addition to sending and supporting their missionaries. He also added that GC2 missionaries would be held to the same standards as other IMB field personnel.

“They’re not some privileged people who can hop, skip and jump into the system without chinning the same bar that the rest of our personnel do,” Elliff said.

Ken Winter, IMB vice president of church and partner services, said the GC2 pilot comes with the added benefit of opening a new door for short-term missionary service. In 2009, budget cuts forced IMB to begin sending significantly fewer two- and three-year missionaries.

If successful, the GC2 pilot will create a new avenue for increasing the field presence of these strategically vital short-term teams, as well as breaking ground for future career missionaries.

Each year, Elliff noted, “a major portion of applicants for appointment to career service have had earlier short-term experience with IMB through programs such as Journeyman, Hands On, Masters and ISC. It is anticipated that service through the short-term Global Connect ministry will also become another route to future career service as IMB missionaries.”

The GC2 pilot will include a maximum of 25 sending churches and 100 adults. Trustees plan to assess the pilot’s efficacy in 2013.

2012 Budget
In other business, trustees approved IMB’s 2012 budget of $324.3 million, $175 million of which is expected to come through this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

Charles Fowler, chairman of the trustees’ Finance Committee and senior pastor of Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church, said the 2012 budget was the “most difficult to balance of any in recent years.” To illustrate, he explained that the first draft of the budget prepared earlier this year contained a $37 million gap between projected income and projected expenses.

“Our staff has worked splendidly to bring us to a place where we can enjoy a balanced budget,” Fowler said. “Though we wish the resources were more, we are so grateful for the resources that God does provide to IMB through our Southern Baptist family.”

In a money-saving move, trustees approved a bylaw revision reducing the number of trustee meetings from six to “at least” four times per year.

The 77 new missionaries will be honored at an appointment service Nov. 16 in Hattiesburg, Miss., hosted by Temple Baptist Church. The next missionary appointment service will take place March 21 at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La. Trustees will gather for their next board meeting March 20-21 in Lake Charles.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is senior writer at the International Mission Board.)

Related story

Tom Eliff inaugurated as IMB president, 'bondservant'
11/17/2011 3:02:56 PM by Don Graham | with 0 comments

SBC name change opposed by Tenn. Baptists

November 17 2011 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annual meeting adopted a resolution opposing a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention.

The resolution passed by a show of hands vote during the closing session of the state convention’s Nov. 15-16 sessions at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright announced in September the appointment of a 16-member presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the 166-year-old convention’s name. Wright cited two reasons for the study: church planting limitations related to the convention’s regional name and reduced effectiveness in reaching a 21st-century audience with the gospel.

Phillip Senn, a messenger at the Tennessee convention from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Troy, submitted the resolution titled “Resolution on SBC Presidential Task Force Considering a Name Change of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The resolution acknowledged Wright’s appointment of a task force and said “it has been argued that keeping the name Southern Baptist Convention could cause harm to our missionary efforts worldwide.”

The resolution noted that “messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention have repeatedly turned away such proposals” and that the SBC is “recognized worldwide as a convention of churches partnering together for ‘One Sacred Effort, the Propagation of the Gospel.’”

Among the reasons listed in the resolution for why the name change is not needed:

- “The costs associated with such a name change could be used for things that relate more closely to our task of winning the lost to Christ;

- “Many costs associated with such a name change would be borne by the churches associated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention;

- “There may also be other unanticipated negative consequences of such a name change.”

Messengers resolved to “support retaining the historic name ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ and oppose any change to such name.”

The resolution also stated that “we ask the president of the Southern Baptist Convention to cease the work of the task force” and that a copy of the resolution “be forwarded to each member of the SBC presidential task force, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the members of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

There was little discussion about the resolution. Senn said he supported the document as presented by the TBC Resolutions Committee.

Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, spoke against the resolution, saying “Southern” is a geographical term, not a theological term and that the task force’s assignment is only to study the matter.

“With this resolution we say we are not interested in exploring possibilities that make us more effective,” Robertson said. “At the very least, let’s study the issue.”

Wright, in a statement through Baptist Press after the Tennessee convention adjourned Nov. 16, stated, “We are asking all Southern Baptists to pray for the task force as we study and explore the possibility of a name change. The key question we are asking as we study all possible ramifications is, ‘Would a name change enhance our mission of better fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission in North America in the 21st century?’”

Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., emphasized when naming the task force in September that its role is to advise him on the questions he has given them to consider.

“Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers to an SBC annual meeting,” Wright said. “It is a task force I am asking to advise me as president on whether this is a matter we should bring forward for convention action.”

Wright said he hopes the task force will provide an interim report that he can share with the Executive Committee during its Feb. 20-21 meeting, with the possibility of a final report in time for the SBC annual meeting June 19-20, 2012, in New Orleans.

Any proposed name change, as well as other legal implications involved in a name change, would have to be approved by a majority of messengers at two consecutive SBC annual meetings, according to the convention’s constitution. The task force held its first meeting Oct. 26 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

(Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector (, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and assistant editor Erin Roach contributed to this story.)
11/17/2011 2:59:37 PM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector | with 0 comments

Tom Elliff inaugurated as IMB president, ‘bondservant’

November 16 2011 by Bill Bangham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – A few days before Tom Elliff’s inauguration as the 11th leader of IMB (the International Mission Board), three bite-size packages of Butterfinger chocolate appear on a table at the entrance of his office.

Elliff offers one to a visitor, pops another in his mouth. His eyes crinkle at the edges as he savors the morsel – they are a favorite. Finally the grin that quickly became famous around the office when Elliff arrived seven months ago breaks across his face.

“This is the only kind of bribe I get around here,” Elliff quips – he suspects one of the women at the front reception desk – “and no one ever asks for anything.”

It’s easy to get this far into the president’s office. When you do, you invariably get invited around the corner, past the formal sitting area, into a small room off to the side.
It’s a spare room, decorated with a couple of photographs of and some artifacts from Africa where Elliff and his wife Jeannie served as missionaries. A chair in one corner, and a simple kneeling rail with cushions against one wall on which a map of the world hangs, complete it.

BP Photo

Former IMB President Jerry Rankin prays for his successor as denominational leaders, seminary presidents, IMB trustees and missionaries lay hands on Tom and Jeannie Elliff at Elliff’s inauguration Nov. 14 as the newest president of IMB at Grove Avenue Baptist Church, Richmond, Va.

He will ask you if you would like to pray – and you say, yes. He is, after all, the president. And somewhere in the midst of all this you realize this is not a superior conferring a blessing on a subordinate – this is brother praying with brother, that the heart of the international arm of the Southern Baptist Convention is not where the president sits, it is where he kneels.

Tonight, Nov. 14, at the western edge of the city, the crowd tests the capacity of Grove Avenue Baptist Church, one of the landmark churches of metro Richmond. There are few seats to be had on the main floor; even the balcony takes its measure.

The crowd includes four seminary presidents, entity heads and representatives, the president of the convention, IMB trustees and staff, local pastors and their people and 100-plus missionaries, some of whom will be appointed Nov. 16 at a service in Hattiesburg, Miss. Others will scatter across the globe in a few days to their areas of service.

It is the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) – they have given their missions night to the inauguration – though representatives of Baptist General Association of Virginia, the other convention in the state, also are present and on the program.

“Everyone likes Tom,” someone whispers.

Mark Becton, SBCV president and pastor at Grove, quickly turns the evening over to Jimmy Pritchard, who served as chairman of the presidential search committee and is the current IMB board of trustees’ chairman.

Pritchard talks about the committee’s approximately 18-month search for a new president. There were a lot of candidates – and a lot of suggestions for candidates. But none seemed right. At one point it seemed like they were on a voyage in a rough, turbulent sea. “We decided Jesus was asleep in the boat,” he said, “and He won’t wake up.”

During their search, Bryant Wright, Southern Baptist Convention president, would talk with Pritchard periodically. He would invariably ask if they had someone yet. “I wouldn’t lie to him,” Pritchard says. “I’d just say, ‘We’re coming along.’”

He knew Wright wanted a young gun for president of the missions entity. When they settled on Elliff as their candidate, “I didn’t know what he was going to do with this,” Pritchard says. “Tom is many things, but he’s not a young gun.”

When the phone rang in the Elliff household Dec. 14 last year, “No one was more surprised than Jeannie and me,” Elliff said earlier. He was 66 years old. He had already retired twice – first in 2005 from First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., where he was pastor for 20 years, then in 2009 from IMB as senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations under Jerry Rankin.

He had settled into a life of speaking and writing, authoring a number of books on prayer, spiritual awakening and family life, enjoying his four grown children and 25 grandchildren. He had stood by Jeannie while she successfully battled cancer twice.

Life was good.

Elliff wanted to be sure this new challenge was of God before he accepted it. He knew something of the demands it would place on him – in his last year as senior vice president, Elliff spoke at 54 churches in 52 weeks. He asked the committee to take a second vote. It had to be unanimous, he said, or he wouldn’t consider it.

On the drive home from meeting with the committee in early January 2011, Elliff’s mobile phone rang somewhere between Denton and Dallas. The vote was unanimous. Later votes taken by the entire board of trustees also were unanimous.

The moment of inauguration comes when Jerry Rankin – Elliff’s predecessor as IMB president – places two chairs side by side on Grove Avenue’s podium. He invites Tom and Jeannie Elliff to sit in them. Soon the podium is filled as denominational leaders, seminary presidents, IMB trustees and missionaries lay hands on them while Rankin prays for the new president.

Elliff’s remarks at the end of the service are brief. He reads from 2 Corinthians 4, focusing on verse 5.

“There are some issues God doesn’t want us to forget,” Elliff says, noting that God asks us to remember who we are. “We are bondservants,” he says. “We are brothers and sisters. Let’s not confuse our roles with who we are. You know what will kill us? Thinking we’re something we’re not.

“I am introduced as president of IMB, but I am a brother and a bondservant serving the lost of this world. That is who we are.”

Elliff reminds us of what we do. “We preach. We preach Jesus Christ is Lord,” he says. “What we do is not just for the lost; it’s for Jesus’ sake.

“Do not forget who you are and what you do.”

When Tom Elliff finishes speaking, he kneels in prayer. All the brothers and sisters in the auditorium kneel with him.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bill Bangham is a photojournalist and writer for IMB in Richmond, Va.)

Related story
Eliff inaugurated, 1.5M hear gospel, IMB-church pilot launched
11/16/2011 2:39:33 PM by Bill Bangham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Report: Jailed Iran pastor facing abuse, torture

November 16 2011 by Baptist Press/Compass Direct News

TURKEY – The mistreatment of a pastor in Iran awaiting a decision on his death sentence for refusing to recant his faith amounts to physical and psychological torture, a source close to the pastor's family said.

Yousef (also spelled Youcef) Nadarkhani, sentenced to death a year ago after a court of appeals in Rasht, Iran, found him guilty of leaving Islam, is in deteriorating health, according to a member of Nadarkhani’s denomination, the Church of Iran, who requested anonymity.

He said that communication with Nadarkhani is limited, but that sources close to the imprisoned Christian indicated that he has undergone physical and psychological torture.
“Certainly he was hit, but his (telephone) conversations are heard (by authorities),” the source said. “We know that he has been in extreme situations, and we consider that torture. When you have spent time in a solitary cell unable to talk to others for a long time, or you are told you will be killed, this is also torture.”

The court in Rasht, 150 miles northwest of Tehran, was expected to pronounce a verdict on Nadarkhani’s appeal in October, and sources said the court’s long silence bodes ill. Instead of pronouncing a verdict, the court sent the Christian’s case to the nation’s Islamic authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, to make a ruling.

Authorities have also continued to pressure Nadarkhani to recant his faith while in prison. Last month they gave him Islamic literature aimed at discrediting the Bible, according to sources, and instructed him to read it.

Some sources indicate a ruling could come the second half of December. One said some Iranian Christians believe that, in the face of international outrage over the case, the government would announce a verdict near the Christmas holidays so that it would receive less notice. On Nov. 10, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reported that a verdict on Nadarkhani’s case was expected in mid-December, regardless of whether there is a ruling by Khamenei.

Authorities arrested Nadarkhani in his home city of Rasht in Oct. 2009 on charges that he questioned obligatory religion classes in Iranian schools. After finding him guilty of apostasy, the court of appeals in Rasht in November 2010 issued a written confirmation of his charges and death sentence.

At an appeal hearing in June, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence but asked the court in Rasht to determine if he was a practicing Muslim before his conversion. The court declared that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion, but that he was still guilty of apostasy due to his Muslim ancestry.

The Supreme Court had also determined that his death sentence could be annulled if he recanted his faith. The Rasht court gave Nadarkhani a chance to recant Christianity in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law), but Nadarkhani refused to do so. His final appeal hearings ended on Sept. 28, and the court was expected to make its final decision two weeks from the final hearing.

“For the moment, we are waiting,” said the Church of Iran source. “We have no response for now. The only thing his lawyer told me is that the file went to the Supreme Court, but normally we should have had a response by now.”

There are two more Christians from the Church of Iran, a denomination that Iranian Christians accuse of being “non-Trinitarian,” who are also serving prison sentences. Behnam Irani has been in prison since he was arrested on April 14 in Karaj, charged with “propaganda against the system.” Authorities were due to release him on Oct. 20, but instead they handed him a letter just days before informing him that a five-year prison sentence from 2008 for “action against national security,” which had been suspended, was effective immediately due to the second conviction on a similar charge, according to Mohabat News.

The other incarcerated Christian, Mehdi Foroutan (also known as Petros), has been in prison in Shiraz for two months, serving a one-year sentence for propaganda against the state and “action against national security,” according to sources.

As Christians in Iran are held hostage to the government’s political whims, the source said, the key to their freedom is continued pressure from the international community.

“The pressure is the most important thing,” he said. “When the Iranian state sees pressure, they will understand the world hasn’t forgotten Yousef, Behnam and Petros.”
11/16/2011 2:35:57 PM by Baptist Press/Compass Direct News | with 0 comments

Study: Gays can change sexual orientation

November 16 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A major seven-year study published in a mainstream journal is challenging the secular notion that gays and lesbians cannot change their sexual orientation.

The longitudinal study followed 61 subjects for between six and seven years and found that 23 percent of them reported successful conversion to heterosexual orientation and function and another 30 percent reported stable behavioral chastity with a significant dis-identification with gay orientation. Twenty percent of the subjects had given up and embraced a gay identity.

It is believed to be the first study of its kind – that is, one that followed people over a series of years and monitored success or failure. The study followed subjects who voluntarily were taking part in Christian ministries affiliated with Exodus International, the nation’s largest ministry devoted exclusively to reaching out to homosexuals.

Partial results of the study were released in 2007 and 2009 but now are being published in a peer-reviewed journal, which its authors hope gives it more credibility to those who had criticized it. The study is published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Volume 37.

“The results that we report in our study suggest that change is definitely not impossible, and it’s probably not uncommon, either,” coauthor Stanton L. Jones, a psychologist at Wheaton College, told Baptist Press. “That doesn’t mean that change is easy. We think that these results need to be taken into account as a way of respecting the religious freedom of individuals.”

Baptist Press reported on the earlier findings in ’07 and ’09. Having the study published in a peer-reviewed journal, Jones said, is significant.

“It signifies that the methodology meets the basic requirements for being taken seriously as a piece of scientific literature,” Jones said. “Critics still dismiss the study. They say, ‘Well, it’s only one study,’ or they say it’s not a large enough sample. But I think the study stands as a significant challenge to the reigning views on this matter, especially given that the major mental health organizations say in alternate voices that change of sexual orientation is impossible or that change in sexual orientation is highly unlikely.”

A statement on the American Psychological Association’s (APA) website says that promotion of change therapy “contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”

“All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation,” the APA statement says. “To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation ... is safe or effective.”

Changing attitudes on the subject isn’t easy, Jones said. Stories about gay people who tried but didn’t change tend to get more media attention, he said. Also, he noted, the issue has become political. When Attorney General Eric Holder announced in February that the Justice Department would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, part of Holder’s reasoning was that there’s “a growing scientific consensus ... that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable.” The study by Jones and coauthor Mark A. Yarhouse of Regent University directly challenges that argument.

“To admit that the study has any validity is to draw into question ... the change in (public) policies,” Jones said.

The study does not examine why some people are more successful in changing their orientation than others.

“We can’t answer that,” Jones said.

Some critics say the study was deficient because it did not record the physical responses of subjects to sexual stimulus. In some mainstream circles, that is done by placing pornography in front of the subjects and either monitoring the physical response or monitoring the brain for a response. But such a test, Jones said, would have gone against what Exodus strives to obtain – sexual purity in both thought and practice.

“Christians and others who are pursuing a moral framework for change don’t look at that as a benign interaction,” Jones said. “ ... People who are undergoing change don’t want to submit themselves to exposure to gay porn as a measurement method as to whether they have changed.”

Jones and Yarhouse caution against projecting success ratios based on their study. For instance, they say, it would be wrong to say that 23 percent of people can change their orientation, just because 23 percent of the people in their study did so. Nevertheless, they say, the study shows that change is possible.

“I know individuals who have been married for 20 and 30 years after coming out of the gay community,” Jones said. “The claim that nobody has ever changed is not substantiated either by our study or by any number of powerful anecdotes that are out there.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Learn more about the study at Read the entire study for a fee.)
11/16/2011 2:29:30 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

UPDATED STORY: N.C. Baptists back marriage, gambling resolutions

November 15 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) learned how they can be “All In” with missions mobilization during a shortened two-day format Nov. 7-8 in Greensboro. Messengers approved a $33.5-million budget and three resolutions – two of which targeted gambling and marriage. They also heard a report related to the social use of alcohol and affirmed a recommendation involving the BF&M.
“All In,” based on 1 Timothy 2:3-6 and highlighting God’s desire for all to be saved, was the theme for this year’s annual meeting. There were 1,719 messengers and 138 visitors to the annual meeting at the Koury Convention Center. With more than 4,300 churches in the BSC, around 700 sent messengers to the meeting.
“I call all North Carolina Baptists to join us, to commit, to invest, and to dedicate themselves in 2012 to expanding the Kingdom for the glory of our Lord and Savior,” said Milton A.Hollifield Jr., the Convention’s executive director-treasurer.
“This vision requires a laser focus and sacrificial commitment by all who wish to see its fulfillment.
“Are we all in?”
Increased budget
A $33.5-million Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2012 was approved Nov. 8. The higher budget marks the first time since 2008 that the Convention has raised its budget.
This increase reflects an overall 2.5 percent increase and a .5 percent increase in giving to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), raising the amount to 35.5 percent ($11,892,500) of the BSC budget. The Convention has consistently raised the budget for the SBC by .5 percent the last several years.

Baptist State Convention of North Carolina photo by K Brown

From left: Timmy D. Blair Sr., Mark Harris and CJ Bordeaux are the new officers of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Of the SBC portion, 50 percent goes to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent goes to the North American Mission Board (NAMB). This leaves 22.16 percent for the seminaries and 5.05 percent for other ministries and administration.
The BSC keeps 39 percent ($13,059,650) of the state’s CP dollars for its ministries, and the rest is divided among institutions and agencies (18.1 percent or $6,057,850) as well as GuideStone and church protection benefits (7.4 percent or $2,490,000).
Last year’s budget was $32,685,480. The amount allotted to institutions and agencies dropped from 20.8 percent (2011) to 18.1 percent (2012). There was also a drop for North Carolina ministries: from 44.2 percent (2011) to 39 percent (2012). This reflects the addition of the GuideStone and church benefits plans.
About 10 years ago, GuideStone began phasing out its contributions to state conventions to help pay for the retirement and protection benefits for N.C. Baptist church staff members.
For the sixth consecutive year, N.C. Baptists have raised their monetary support of the church planting and missions development group, totaling a nearly 100 percent increase. The evangelism group also sees a significant increase to offset the reduced support from NAMB. Other ministries and agencies reflecting an increase in allocated funds include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, North Carolina Baptist Hospital (School of Pastoral Care), Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, the Biblical Recorder and North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry.
The 2012 budget is the first in decades that does not include funding to BSC affiliated educational institutions – Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill College and Wingate University. The Convention will continue to support scholarships to these institutions.
Marriage, gambling resolutions
Three resolutions were approved by N.C. messengers. One was a general resolution thanking the host city. The other two, however, tackled some significant issues in the state.
Jim Jacumin proposed a resolution supporting an amendment recognizing marriage is between a man and woman. The amendment will go before North Carolina voters in May.
Jacumin is a member of East Valdese Baptist Church in Valdese, N.C., and a member of the BSC Board of Directors. He serves on the BSC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee.
"This resolution speaks for itself, but it also tells us a lot about ourselves,” Jacumin told the crowd before they approved the resolution. “Today we’re about to make a decision that will test our obedience (to God)." 
Phil Addison, pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church in Stony Point, proposed a resolution against the expansion of Class 3 or Las Vegas style gambling in North Carolina. Addison is also a member of the Convention’s Board of Directors on the evangelization committee.
"With each passing year and each new legislation session that comes into effect, it seems it is becoming a progression that has now led us to what in my opinion is a very predatory and a very malicious way of bringing people in to really take advantage of them,” Addison said.
“We as a convention really need to oppose any gambling and especially an expansion of where live dealers are going to be bringing people in. This does not increase wealth. It simply takes advantage of people and we shouldn’t be for that.”
Addison’s first attempt was sent to the BSC’s Resolutions Committee for consideration, and messengers added another miscellaneous business session in the afternoon to revisit the resolution.
In the afternoon, Addison mentioned suggestions from the committee “greatly shortened” the resolution.
Noah Crowe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Robbinsville and a member of the Eastern Cherokee Indians, spoke in support of the resolution.
“I stand today in support of this resolution, giving voice to many ... members who were never asked if we wanted gambling on our reservation and never even given an opportunity to vote on the issue,” Crowe said.
“Now alcohol, which we were told would never be pushed, but is now being sold in the casino.”
Crowe said gambling began as a “small agreement” or “compact” entered into by the men of the tribe but “has now blossomed into a large gaming enterprise” bringing in millions of dollars.
He mentioned a gamblers anonymous meeting going on weekly for the tribe.
No messengers spoke in opposition of any of the resolutions.
Officers ran unopposed and have been elected to a one-year term.
President Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, was nominated by Marty Jacumin, senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. First vice president Conley J. “CJ” Bordeaux Sr. is pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, and second vice president is Timmy D. Blair Sr., pastor of Piney Grovel Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. Bobby Blanton, senior pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, nominated Bordeaux, and Lee Pigg, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, nominated Blair.

Photo by K. Brown

Bobby Blanton, president of the Board of Directors (BOD), gives the BOD report at the annual meeting.

The annual meeting will return to Greensboro next year but in a different venue. The meeting will be Nov. 12-13, 2012, at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
Messengers approved Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, as Convention speaker for 2012 and voted Larry Wynne, NAMB vice president of evangelism, as a possible backup speaker for Ezell.
Reports and recommendations

During the Board of Directors report, messengers affirmed a recommendation and approved four amendments to the Convention's govering documents. One of the reports involved policies addressing the social use of alcohol, and another the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M 2000). Two committees were formed to address these issues earlier this year in response to questions raised by messengers during the 2010 meeting.

One of the committees affirmed current policies on alcohol consumption for the BSC staff, BSC supported church planters and individuals recommended to serve on the committees and boards of the BSC.

Messengers approved the recommendation by the Board of Directors to adopt a resolution that affirms the BF&M 2000. The Board of Directors handling of both issues was included in their written report to the annual meeting.
Messengers approved four proposed amendments to the governing documents which included the following: 

The first motion proposed an amendment to Article VI. Membership: Composition of the Articles of Incorporation. The purpose of the amendment was to bring clarity to the use of “members” and “messengers.” A statement was added affirming that both can be used interchangeably. This motion required a two-thirds majority.

The remaining three proposed bylaw amendments that were approved applied to Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (Fruitland), which is operated by the Convention. The bylaw amendments update and make consistent the BSC bylaws with Fruitland’s revised Constitution. Each motion required a simple majority.

The Board of Directors also reported on the formation of the Convention’s Vision Fulfillment Committee.

The committee conducted a study across the state this year of partner church’s perceptions of the BSC’s effectiveness in funding and implementing the BSC’s vision, which was rolled out through its Seven Pillars for Ministry: Biblical Concepts for a Christ-Centered Vision.

The seven pillars include: practicing fervent prayer, promoting evangelism and disciple-making, strengthening existing churches, planting new multiplication churches, reaching North Carolina’s international community, embracing unreached and unengaged people groups, and engaging young church leaders.

To read the entire report go to Or, click here to read more about the alcohol policy report.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, contributed to this report.)
11/15/2011 4:02:10 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Q&A: Songwriting duo shares why hymns matter

November 14 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The word “hymn” usually doesn’t lead to thoughts of “modern,” but modern hymnwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty are trying to change that.

That doesn’t mean they want churches to stop singing the old hymns – just the opposite – but they do want churches to see that modern songs can have a similar lyrical depth.

The husband-wife team from Northern Ireland just released their third CD, “Joy: An Irish Christmas,” and in late November will embark on a U.S. Christmas tour. Christians who have never heard of the Gettys may nevertheless have sung one of their songs, “In Christ Alone,” which was co-written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend.

Baptist Press interviewed the Gettys Nov. 2 after they sang in chapel at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn. Following is a transcript:

Baptist Press: Why are you so passionate about hymns?

Keith Getty: I think the things we are most passionate about are, first, making sure that congregations are able to sing together and, secondly, making sure that the Word of Christ dwells in us richly. When you look at the New Testament, the radical thing about the church wasn’t its performance capabilities, it wasn’t buildings, it wasn’t even artistry. It was the fact that these people from every background were coming together to sing. In other words, what congregational singing represents is actually what the church represents. The whole concept of congregational worship is to represent the church here on earth as to what it will one day be in heaven. So it is a unifying thing.

The second thing is, when we look at the models of hymns that we have in scripture, we have all the Old Testament hymns – mostly hymns of faithfulness like the song of Moses and the song of Aaron, which go on for 30-40 verses. We have the Psalms, which is our Old Testament songbook. And then we have the early hymns of the New Testament, which take us through the central gospel story in Philippians and Colossians. There is a strong sense of God’s faithfulness, but there’s just a much greater level of lyrical depth. Songs can be short, they can be long. They can be any structure. That’s not the issue. But we do have to write songs of substance, because there is a direct correlation with what we sing as to how we live our lives. In the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy, the people were told they had to learn the song. It was 20-30 verses of what God had done for His people. They were told to learn the song so it would be a witness against them if they ever fell away. That’s how important what we sing is to how we live our lives.

Baptist Press: What distinguishes a hymn?

Keith Getty: There’s no scientific answer. If you go to England, they will tell you that hymns are songs in the English tradition of hymn writing, and something like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” or “I Come to the Garden” or “Because He Lives” are gospel songs, and modern worship songs are worship songs. If you go to America, everything written before 1980, for the most part, is called a hymn, and everything written after about 1980 ... suddenly is a worship song. So everybody has a different definition of it. Because they have an artistry that is slightly more timeless and slightly stronger, I kind of gravitate toward (hymns). And I think there is something to be said about valuing the heritage that we have. I walk around Nashville, and there are all sorts of heritage sites – civil war battlefields, buildings, that represent something of our heritage. It seems a curious arrogance to me that musicians only want to sing songs that are contemporary; I say that to myself as well, because I’m a writer and I want to use my own songs. We need to have some understanding of the past that we can learn from, because each generation will be visited through the eyes of history as having its strengths and weaknesses.

Baptist Press: So you see that we lose something when we don’t sing hymns?

Keith Getty: I think when we don’t listen to those who have gone before us and we don’t have some sense of understanding from the past ...

Kristyn Getty: And we don’t acknowledge that we’re part of something greater than ourselves. People have been creating music and art for generations. We can’t assume that we operate in a vacuum and are not connected to anything but ourselves. (Singing hymns and recognizing the past) helps us be better, it helps us not be arrogant in how we consider ourselves. And it helps us also be mindful of what it is we’re passing on to the next people.

Baptist Press: When you’re writing a hymn, what is the goal?

Keith Getty: To write a piece of art that somehow helps a congregation of people be illuminated by some character of God, and respond to it in a song. In congregational worship, you’re writing for an artist, and that artist is singing to an audience. In congregational worship, the artist is the congregation and the audience is God.

Baptist Press: What role do hymns play in teaching theology?

Keith Getty: We learn through many different things. Scripture is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, and 20 percent of it is poetry. So, immediately, you have to look at it and ask, “On what levels do we learn?” So if you’re asking us, should hymns be used as expositional Bible teaching? No, they shouldn’t be. They’re pieces of art. A song with a great lyric and a bad melody is an awful song. The point is that your soul and your emotions are engaged with others around you to sing. It is a piece of art like poetry is a piece of art. It’s creating a picture, it’s creating an illustration.

Kristyn Getty: And no song can tell the whole story. We try to structure a song in such a way that it tells a story or carries a thought in some sort of coherent pattern through a song, as opposed to several different phrases put together that are all true, and of course you can sing them in that way. But we enjoy being able to take a theme – like “Joy Has Dawned,” which tells the Christmas story – and follow that right through as to what it means. You can probably find many passages in scripture which tie to the various lines in that song. One time we did the song called “By Faith,” and I tried to put an entire chapter of Hebrews 11 into the song. And they were saying, “You’re going to give the congregation a headache if you make them sing that. Let’s try to stand back from this a little. What’s the whole movement of the passage saying?” You only have three minutes to sing it, and it’s not necessarily the place for me to have people cite Hebrews 11. There’s more creative ways of getting the main points across. There will be points that we miss, but then we’ll write another song about it. There’s always something to write about.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
11/14/2011 1:53:15 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Scroll fragments to be featured at 2011 SBL

November 14 2011 by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications

FORT WORTH, Texas – Old Testament scholars will present their research on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments during the 2011 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in San Francisco, Nov. 19-22.
Southwestern Seminary currently owns nine Dead Sea Scroll fragments, housing the largest collection of fragments owned by an institution of higher education within the United States. The seminary will host an exclusive exhibit of the scrolls from July 2, 2012, to Jan. 11, 2013. Experts in Old Testament scholarship on the seminary’s faculty have studied the fragments in preparation for SBL.
“This is very humbling and exciting,” said Ryan Stokes, assistant professor of Old Testament at Southwestern and an expert in the literature of the Second Temple period. “It is an incredible opportunity that our faculty members have to work on these fragments.”
Those who will present their research during SBL include the following Southwestern Seminary faculty members: George Klein, professor of Old Testament; Eric Mitchell, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology; Ishwaran Mudliar, assistant professor of Old Testament; Joshua Williams, assistant professor of Old Testament; and Stokes.
The seminary has also invited other scholars to present during this section of SBL. Bruce Zuckerman, director of the West Semitic Research Project and associate professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Southern California, led a team that photographed Southwestern’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments last September. During SBL, he will discuss the imaging technology that allows scholars to publish ancient texts in high-definition as well as to read otherwise illegible texts.

SWBTS photo by Nic Hervey

Bruce Zuckerman, director of the West Semitic Research Project, shows Southwestern student David Keever how the imaging technology works.

Peter Flint, professor at Trinity Western University and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, and Sydnie White Crawford, professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will discuss the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relevance to biblical studies.
For more information on the annual meeting of the SBL, visit
Scrolls now online
Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been stored for decades in a climate-controlled exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem are now available in digital form to anyone with an internet connection.
A website ( developed by the Israel Museum and Google allows online visitors to examine the scrolls in minute detail with the help of a magnifying feature.
Pages for each of the five scrolls – the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on the Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll – also contain brief videos and explanatory notes.
According to the museum announcement, details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through ultra-high resolution digital photography at up to 1,200 megapixels each.
Photographer Ardon Bar-Hama used UV-protected flash tubes with an exposure of 1/4000th of a second to minimize damage to the fragile and light-sensitive scrolls, the museum said.
Dating from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D., the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near the Dead Sea. The region’s arid environment helped ensure their survival.
“We have seen how people around the world can enhance their knowledge and understanding of key historical events by accessing documents and collections online,” said Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s Israeli research and development center, in a statement.
“We hope to make all existing knowledge in historical archives and collections available to all, including helping to put additional Dead Sea Scroll documents online.” 
11/14/2011 1:39:18 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Displaying results 31-40 (of 89)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9  >  >|