November 2011

BSC exec: ‘There is much we can accomplish together’

November 11 2011 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

God is providing an “open door” for reaching the world with the gospel, and North Carolina Baptists have a tremendous opportunity to make an eternal impact, said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), during his challenge at the Convention’s annual meeting Nov. 7-8.
Hollifield challenged North Carolina to be “all in” in helping all peoples know and trust Jesus. In 2012, the Convention will push to mobilize the state for missions through its “Find it Here: Expanding the Kingdom” effort. It’s the third phase of a three-year initiative designed to encourage North Carolina Baptists in evangelism, discipleship and missions mobilization.
“Followers of Jesus have both a calling and a commission to take the gospel across the street as well as around the world,” Hollifield told the crowd Nov. 7.
“God continues to do some great and wonderful things through this large network of Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina … we have ‘power’ through the call and Great Commission given by our Lord.
“What will we do with this power?” he asked.
Economic, spiritual hurdles
Hollifield noted North Carolina Baptists face challenges in reaching a lost world for Christ – both here and abroad.
He noted approximately 320,000 jobs have been lost in North Carolina in the last five years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent in the state in September. The state’s Justice Center reported that during 2010 the owners of nearly 68,000 housing units experienced foreclosures.
“I am keenly aware of the economic challenges people in our churches are facing,” he said, noting he and his wife, Gloria, have traveled and seen closed factories and plants and foreclosure signs throughout the state.
“Aren’t you glad that we serve a God who does not have to manage His Kingdom based upon the financial activities of the bulls and bears of Wall Street?” he asked.

BSC photo by K Brown

Milton A. Hollifield Jr. charges messengers to be "all in" in helping all peoples know and trust Jesus Nov. 7 during the first session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. View the annual meeting photo gallery here.

“God always provides for our needs.”
Hollifield also remained optimistic that God will help North Carolina Baptists overcome the many spiritual challenges they face in expanding His Kingdom.
With the global population now at 7 billion people, Hollifield noted that there are approximately 4.5 billion people who have not put their trust in Jesus. Of that number there are believed to be 1.7 billion who have little to no access to the gospel.
He noted there is one Southern Baptist missionary for every 2.1 million people.
In North Carolina alone, there are 5.6 million people among 9.4 million who have not put their trust in Jesus – and 79 percent of its residents do not actively attend a church. 
“Despite these statistics, I have hope,” Hollifield said.
“A number of our churches in this Convention have already made a commitment to pierce the darkness … to reach souls for the glory of Christ Jesus.” 
“God is blessing their efforts, their strategies, and their ministries,” he said.
A call to all N.C. Baptists
Hollifield challenged all North Carolina Baptists to join the 2012 emphasis in mobilizing for missions.
With the help of God and fellow North Carolina Baptists, Hollifield remains confident that anything is possible.
“By God’s grace, we will become the strongest force in the history of this Convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel,” he said.
“It should go without saying that we can accomplish nothing apart from the providential aid of our God.”
An important guide for achieving its goal, Hollifield contends, will involve remaining consistent with what he referred to as the “Seven Pillars for Ministry.”
These 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. The list has been revised from an earlier version, which was highlighted in the Biblical Recorder from July through October.
“As core values, the seven pillars keep us focused on our vision, help us move from facilitating good ministry to facilitating great ministry, and keep us from looking inward by continually challenging us to look outward and upward as we develop strategies for missions and ministry,” he said.
Last year the Convention formed a Vision Fulfillment Committee, tasked to gather input from North Carolina Baptists on the fulfillment of its long-range strategy. 
The Vision Fulfillment Committee submitted a full report, which has been posted on the Convention’s website along with Hollifield’s convention report.
Cooperation remains a key element in achieving the Convention’s goals. That cooperation, Hollifield added, is achieved through efforts such as the Cooperative Program, in which churches pull their funds together to support Southern Baptist ministries.
“Each local church, regardless of size, can have an equal part in supporting missions when they give an adequate percentage of their income and combine it with contributions from other Southern Baptist churches,” he said.
“The Cooperative Program rose out of the conviction that Baptists can accomplish so much more together than they can independently of one another.”
11/11/2011 2:30:40 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Campbell bans student after lockdown

November 11 2011 by Press reports

A former Campbell University freshman faces felony possession of stolen weapons charges after a standoff in Buies Creek.
Jared Dale Knight, 24, had bail set at $400,000 in a Harnett County courtroom Nov. 10. He was involved in a standoff with county deputies on the north side of campus for about four hours Nov. 9.
Campbell expelled Knight and banned him from the campus after the incident, which forced a lockdown on the campus for at least three hours. A SWAT team member finally was able to persuade Knight to surrender. Knight’s Facebook page said he was studying youth ministry at Campbell.
Knight had locked himself in his home located across the street from Campbell’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business. Deputies had tried to serve arrest papers on charges alleging that Knight stole merchandise from a Fuquay-Varina gun shop, where he was employed.
Knight had been arrested in Fuquay-Varina Nov. 8 on a charge of larceny by employee. A $1,500 AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle from Sovereign Guns was missing, and the owner said Knight was shown on video stashing the weapon in his bag. The owner said he realized six more guns – two rifles and four handguns – were missing Nov. 9. Investigators were dispatched to Buies Creek to question Knight, who had been released after posting $3,000 bond.
Larry Rollins, Harnett County sheriff, said Knight slipped out of handcuffs as he was being placed in custody. He ran to a bedroom where guns were stored and locked the door.
Knight’s father, Daimon, of Lubbock, Texas, said his son is an Iraq war veteran whom he believes has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Military officials said in court records that there was no evidence linking Knight’s PTSD to his service in Iraq.
Knight received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force in January 2009 for taking about $10,600 in military property for his own use. He was sentenced to eight months at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
Campbell conducted a background check on Knight before allowing him to rent the house on campus, but the military charges didn’t surface in the check.
Students, faculty and staff learned of the lockdown through the campus’ emergency notification system, which sent direct messages to university email accounts and cell phones. Students were also notified through social network sites and Campbell’s main website. The school updated its emergency procedures following the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. 
Although Campbell prohibits possession of firearms on campus, university spokesman Britt Davis said the decision to kick Knight out of school and off campus was a direct result of the standoff and not because he violated university policy.
“In light of the charges he faces in Wake County and Harnett County, the administration felt it was in the best interest of the university and the community that he be dismissed and prohibited from returning to university property,” Davis said.
Campbell’s decision means that, if Knight posts bond, he won’t be allowed back into the house he rents on campus – the site of the standoff.
11/11/2011 2:04:50 PM by Press reports | with 0 comments

Panel shares about making a global impact in North America

November 11 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Jan Vezikov and his family emigrated from Estonia to Rhode Island in 1989. A few years later his father planted a church in Rhode Island. Not long after that, Vezikov’s father began driving once a week to Boston to lead a Bible study because he also felt a burden for the people of Boston. “He prayed for a church planter,” Vezikov said.
At the time, Vezikov did not anticipate that he would become that planter. After attending college in Providence, R.I., the Federal Bureau of Investigation recruited him to work as a Russian analyst. Vezikov stayed at that job until God called him to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He then moved to Boston in order to plant a Russian-speaking church. Vezikov also helped plant an English-speaking church that began meeting last month.  
“In Boston, people do not have a framework for God or sin. They do not have a Christian perspective or framework. You have to first build the house of a Christian worldview,” Vezikov said.
Bo Ellis, who first met Vezikov during a mission trip to Boston with a group from Southeastern, said it takes time to build relationships. “In Boston, you just have to love people. It can take a year before you earn the right to share the gospel. It’s not just throw up a church and everyone come,” he said.
Ellis and Vezikov were part of a panel discussion breakout session Nov. 8 during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting in Greensboro. The session focused on giving North Carolina Baptists a chance to hear from church-planting catalysts and pastors in Boston, Toronto and New York City, all areas where the Convention is partnering to help impact lostness.
Ellis described Boston as the “land of I’m all set,” as people do not see a need for God. “Some have never really met a Christian,” he said. “They have a reverence for God, but don’t want to come to church.”
The greater Boston area is home to 4.5 million people and less than 2.5 percent are evangelical.
Reaching ‘The Golden Horseshoe’
Toronto is another urban center where spiritual darkness is great. Dan Collison, director of Toronto Church Planting, is working in an area where there is about one church for every 275,000 people and only 40 Southern Baptist churches.
The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) includes a portion of Southern Ontario known as the “Golden Horseshoe,” which extends beyond the GTA down to the U.S. border and includes the entire area that touches Lake Ontario. The GTA includes communities that completely lack an evangelical presence.
Collison shared with those attending the breakout session that many church planters in Toronto are “holding on by their fingernails.” Church planting is a challenge and many planters are experiencing seasons of trials.
Collison asked North Carolina Baptists to pray for the work in Toronto. “Prayer is the overarching air support cover. It’s a spiritual warfare we’re engaged in,” he said. 
Scott Rourk is a Toronto church planter serving in one of the most dangerous areas of the city. The children who attend soccer camps hosted by Rendezvous Church are often harassed by drug dealers. Rourk said when the drug dealers are hanging around he tries to run the soccer camps longer in the day. “We try to play and outlast the drug dealers so they don’t bother the kids,” he said.
Todd Brady, pastor of The River Community Church in Fayetteville, is leading his church to partner with Rourk and Rendezvous in order to plant a church. This summer members of River Community helped Rourk with a Vacation Bible School and soccer clinic.
“We worked with kids from all over the world. It’s a beautiful tapestry of what God is doing,” Brady said. “We need to quit mission vacationing and build relationships long term.”
New York City and beyond
Carlos Soca, another Southeastern Seminary graduate, is looking to begin investing long term in Clifton, N.J. Soca is a second generation Cuban American whose parents came to New York City in 1970 seeking a better future for their family.
Soca was raised Roman Catholic, but at age 16 came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. When Soca moved to North Carolina to attend seminary he had no intention of moving back north, and neither did his wife.
About a year and a half ago Soca heard George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA), speak at Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh where Soca is pastor of Hispanic Ministries.
The BSC is partnering with MNYBA, an association with an area of influence that encompasses New York City and beyond, including Long Island, the lower Hudson Valley and Northern New Jersey. More than 21 million people live in this area, which only has about 240 Southern Baptist churches.
After Soca heard Russ speak about the great need for church planting in his association he and his wife felt God leading them to return north to plant a church in New Jersey. Soca couldn’t get the vast number of lost people in that area off his mind.
“I was one of those people once, walking around without hope, without Christ,” he said.
In the summer of 2013 Soca and his family will move to New Jersey to begin this next chapter of their lives.

If you or your church wants to get involved in reaching the cities with the gospel, visit to learn more.

11/11/2011 1:33:25 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

SBC chaplain demonstrates Christ’s peace in war zone

November 11 2011 by Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (BP) – U. S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Kevin Humphrey’s last quarterly report to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) chaplaincy group in Alpharetta, Ga., reads like the script of a Hollywood blockbuster.
But the combat incidents he reports on are real – true wartime stories of battlefield death, horrific injury, bloodshed, bravery and close calls. If it was a movie – and it could be – it could be titled: “A day in the life of a Southern Baptist chaplain serving in Afghanistan.”
“It has been a very challenging time here in Kandahar,” said the 38-year-old NAMB-endorsed chaplain, who serves in the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing. “The dangers are very real and it weighs on the people’s minds here. Back in the summer, there were rocket attacks almost every two days or so and sometimes twice a day,” said Humphrey, adding that the attacks have slowed this fall.

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Kevin Humphrey, second from right, conducts a 10-minute “Combat Service” for eight of his A-10 plane maintainers. This may be the only church service they are able to attend because of their busy mission schedules.

Humphrey says combat deaths in the region come so often that American flags never go more than four days without dropping to half-staff in honor of the fallen.
According to Humphrey – only one of about 190 military chaplains in the Afghanistan “theater” as the military calls it – the Taliban forces in the area are constantly adapting their methods to inflict the most damage and death to U.S. and coalition forces.
“Several dangerous plots have been discovered – many of which can’t be discussed due to the sensitive security considerations. Needless to say, had they not been discovered, the loss of life would have been real and great,” said Humphrey.
One of Humphrey’s most recent “scares” came at the nearby base hospital, where he was volunteering as chaplain so the Navy chaplain usually on duty there could take a well-deserved day off. While Humphrey couldn’t reveal details because of security concerns, the incident came close to claiming his life and the lives of hospital personnel – most of whom had never been so close to dying before.
“It’s brutal at the hospital and the ministry is tough. They’ve had many single, double or triple amputees come through in the last two months. The things you are exposed to there are things that no human being should have to see. But it is a powerful ministry to the staff and patients.”
Humphrey says the dangers are many and come without warning in Afghanistan.
“During a recent rocket attack, a Department of Defense (DOD) compound was hit,” said Humphrey. “Their chaplain was unavailable so I went and ministered to 250 shaken DOD army civilians.
“The building’s generator just happened to go out about 30 minutes prior to the rocket attack so only six people were in the building at the time it was hit. Had the generator not gone out, several people would have been killed. Thanks to God, only six had minor shrapnel injuries.
“I spoke with one man who couldn’t understand why he was not in the building at the time and didn’t die. I shared that God says in Hebrews we are appointed once to die and that our day of death has been fixed by God, and that God has a plan and purpose for our lives. While he is not yet a Christian, he is now seeking God for the first time in his life.”
Humphrey says he conducts seven combat services each week for his units.
“I have preached three times at contemporary services in the Army’s chapel,” said Humphrey, adding that the services are attended not only by American troops, but by soldiers from the coalition nations – Brits, Canadians, Pakistani Christians and others. “It makes me think that this is what heaven will be like, with every tribe and nation.”
In the first service Humphrey preached recently, eight people accepted Christ, 15 in the second service and three in the third.
Although Humphrey’s job as a chaplain is difficult because of the hostile and chaotic environment in Afghanistan – “there is real tension here and some take it much better than others” – his ministry is also very rich.
“The very real presence of Christ has been here in the midst of difficulty,” said Humphrey. “Psalm 91 has become very real for me. I have not feared for my life since I have been here – not because I think I’m brave but because Christ has been so present.”
When Humphrey is not carrying out his chaplain duties, he loves to meet and fellowship with other international chaplains serving in the coalition. On a recent day at a local donut shop, he met with Canadian, British, Dutch, Australian and other American chaplains. As they sat around sipping coffee and munching on donuts, they discussed the state of spirituality back in their home countries.
“A chill ran down my back,” recalls Humphrey. Taking turns, each chaplain – with sadness in their hearts and voices – began describing the deteriorating spiritual state of affairs back home, regardless of their nationality.
“The Dutch chaplain spoke of being in a post-Christian society. He described Dutch people who didn’t even know who Jesus is. Each chaplain gave a similarly negative report from his own nation.”
At Humphrey’s suggestion, the international chaplains now meet and pray every Monday at 11 a.m. (Afghanistan time) for God to move in each nation and to bless their ministries.
“I would ask that all Southern Baptists pray for us, that this might be the beginning of a Great Awakening movement,” he said. “I feel that the fact we chaplains finally got together is no accident. I feel it’s miraculous and one of the reasons God sent me here (to Afghanistan).”
Humphrey and wife, Jennifer, – who’s back “home” at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan – are the parents of five children, ranging in ages from 3-11. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, with a M.Div. degree in 2003, and pastored for three years prior to entering active duty as an Air Force chaplain. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Humphrey, Amarillo, Texas, Humphrey is slated to serve in Afghanistan until January 2012, when he will be re-assigned to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa.
The National Bible Association, based in New York City, has just announced that Humphrey – out of 500 Air Force chaplains – is one of three 2011 recipients of the association’s prestigious Witherspoon Award, given annually to military chaplains representing the Army, Air Force and Navy. The award is awarded in cooperation with each U.S. military branch’s chief of chaplains, and is named for the famous World War I and II chaplain, Maurice Witherspoon.
The award recognizes chaplains who “promote Bible reading in a very creative, unique and effective way and whose actions and day-to-day activities encourage others to read, study and apply the Bible’s principles to their lives.”
Since Humphrey is currently serving in Afghanistan, the association will present the award to his wife, Jennifer, who will fly from Okinawa to New York City for the association’s annual awards gala dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria on Nov. 17.

Representing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the North American Mission Board has more than more than 1,500 endorsed SBC chaplains serving in the military, which requires that all of its chaplains be endorsed and qualified by a recognized denomination. In all, 3400 NAMB-commissioned and endorsed chaplains are ministering in institutions, the military, corporations, healthcare and public safety.

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11/11/2011 1:24:59 PM by Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Army chaplain’s hero is wife

November 11 2011 by Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board

LIHUE, Hawaii (BP) – Talk to Army Chaplain (Col.) Brent Causey long enough and you’ll learn his ultimate hero is not Gen. David Petraeus, retired commander of forces in Afghanistan, now CIA director and his boss for three years as they both served in the war-torn country – although Causey brims with admiration and respect for the four-star general.
Causey’s real hero is Susan, his wife of 28 years, the mother of his two grown sons – both college graduates – and until recently, the woman the war separated him from for the past 13 months. When their first son was only six months old, Brent was deployed to Honduras. When his second son was six months old, Brent was serving in the Gulf War.
“When Brent’s gone, I have to figure out what to do with my life,” says Susan. “You have to keep going because you have responsibilities. I had my sons to take care of.”
Causey, 54, who just returned from Afghanistan to take a new assignment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington, D.C., was one of a few dozen military chaplains who recently attended the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) annual Southern Baptist Pacific Chaplains Conference in Lihue, Hawaii. (SBC Chaplains, wives ‘recharge’ at conference.)
“I try to go to one of these NAMB conferences each year because it’s so important for us to stay connected with our denomination,” said Causey. “The conference is important for chaplains because of the collegiality among the chaplains. They know they have someone to go and talk to and get encouragement. There’s a trust factor. Otherwise, you can be isolated out there on an island, which is detrimental to your ministry.”

U.S. Army and Southern Baptist chaplain (Col.) Brent Causey, left, and an unidentified fellow officer travel via helicopter to visit Regional Command North troops in Afghanistan.

Over his 13 months in Afghanistan – serving as top chaplain to Gen. Petraeus – Causey also supervised 186 chaplains throughout the Afghanistan war theater. He also was Petraeus’ “point man” for diversity, responsible for religious leader engagement in the Islamic nation. During Causey’s time there, weekly U.S. Army soldier deaths averaged in the double digits.
“It’s our chaplains on the front lines who, with their faith, bring spirituality and emotional stability to our troops so they can do their mission,” Causey said. “It’s amazing to see the impact our evangelical Christian chaplains – especially the Southern Baptist chaplains – are having on our service people. That’s because they have the answers to the questions most of our soldiers are searching for – questions like ‘Why are we fighting?’ and ‘What’s the purpose of all this death?’
“In answering these questions, chaplains get the opportunity to give the real message of who Jesus Christ is, explain the empowerment Jesus can give, and how He can sustain them through each day’s events.”
Causey declined to discuss the 58-year-old Petraeus’ faith. “But I can tell you that Gen. Petraeus played a leadership role in stressing the importance of spirituality,” said Causey. “He was very supportive of chaplaincy in Afghanistan.
“It was incredible to see the growth of Bible studies and the growth of conversions among our own service people – not just battlefield conversions but the maturity of faith and development of mentorship at all levels. We started out with four of us in Bible study and when I left, 85 percent of our leadership were active in dynamic Bible study – 18 out of 22 of Petraeus’ directorates (direct reports). It’s always an impact when anyone comes to Jesus Christ as Savior, but I saw guys aged 45 and above making first-time commitments to Christ, and at least 40 percent of service people were attending chapel.
“It was a reflection of Petraeus and his leadership in placing importance on spirituality. Gen. Petraeus focused on everyone’s spirituality, not just Christianity. He understood the impact of Islam on the nation and Afghan people and how to go into that environment and meet people where they are without being hostile toward their faith.
“That should be the message of Christianity anyway,” Causey said, adding that this approach caused troops to treat Muslims in a Christian manner. “If you understand Christianity in its fullness, our message is a message of love and forgiveness. You go in with the example of what Christ did in your life and show them grace. You win the world through the love you have through God toward others.”
Causey says having a supportive wife who understands God’s calling on his life has made it easier for him to be effective in his ministry. During their marriage, Brent and Susan have moved 15 times since he joined the Army in 1983. Now they live near Washington, D.C., where Brent’s new post is command chaplain for the nine regions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Susan has a great walk with God so if I don’t get the message from God, she will get it! She has been such a great support to me. When I was named command chaplain in Afghanistan, Susan said ‘God has a purpose for this.’ She has seen the purpose of our 10 deployments, often when sometimes I didn’t.”
Susan Causey, a high school English teacher in the north Washington, D.C. area, calls it a “profound privilege to be the wife of an Army chaplain.
“But we wives are always fighting the battle between trust in God and fear. You watch the news, you see the soldiers coming back maimed or dead. You dread coming home at times for fear of seeing a military car parked in front of your house.
“But yet, you know that God has specifically called your husband and that he is just as safe in God’s hands in Iraq or Afghanistan as he is in D.C. or Kansas. And if injury or death comes, you just trust God to give you the grace to deal with it,” said Susan.
“There is a raw vulnerability when you see your little boys having to say goodbye to daddy as he leaves on a deployment or when, years later, you have to drop your sons off at college as freshmen – realizing not only that your husband missed another milestone because of a deployment, but also because you must return to an empty house.
“God is always faithful – I’ve seen that over and over in so many ways throughout our years in the military. It’s a privilege to serve both my country and God by supporting my husband. I have prayed over the years – through each deployment – that God would redeem Brent’s time in ministry and that there would be souls eternally touched. I believe He has done that.”

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11/11/2011 1:15:09 PM by Mickey Noah, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Senate committee votes to repeal marriage act

November 11 2011 by Michael Foust , Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) – A Democratic-controlled Senate committee passed a bill Nov. 10 that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), marking the first time that a committee in either chamber of Congress had acted to reverse the 1996 law that gives states the ability to make their own marriage laws.

The vote itself was a sign that supporters of gay “marriage” had made strides in the 15 years since the law passed. In 1996, DOMA passed overwhelmingly with margins of 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House. On Wednesday, a bill to repeal that very law passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 10-8 – with three Democratic members who voted for DOMA in 1996 now voting to overturn it.

All 10 Democrats voted for the bill and all eight Republicans opposed it.

The bill, S. 598, won’t become law anytime soon, because it has only 30 co-sponsors – all Democrats – and apparently is short the necessary votes in the full Senate. Even if it passed the Senate, the Republican-controlled House wouldn’t take it up. President Obama supports it.

Long a target of gay activists, the Defense of Marriage Act has two functions: 1) it defines marriage as between a man and a woman in federal law and 2) it gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s gay “marriages.”

Since DOMA was signed into law in ’96, more than 40 states have passed either laws or constitutional amendments explicitly defining marriage in the traditional sense.

“Under DOMA, states can define marriage however they want,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, said. “They can decide for themselves whether they will recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Under this bill, by contrast, states that recognize only traditional marriages will be required to honor same-sex marriages for purposes of federal law.”

Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, argued that DOMA actually harms states’ rights by preventing gay couples in states where gay “marriage” is legal from receiving federal benefits.

Republicans, though, said the focus should be on the 44 states where gay “marriage” is not legal. DOMA, they said, protects those states.

“It is no secret that advocates want to use the courts to force states to legalize or recognize same-sex marriage,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, said.

The strategy, Hatch said, includes using Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution to sue in court and force states to recognize gay “marriages” from outside their borders. Article IV says that states must give “Full Faith and Credit” to the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of other states. If marriage is one of those “public acts” or “records,” Hatch said, then all 50 states could be forced to recognize gay “marriage” if DOMA is repealed.

Significantly, Article IV also gives Congress power to regulate the full faith and credit of states – something Congress did by passing DOMA, Hatch said.

Repealing DOMA, Hatch said, “would mean that these very states might be forced by courts to recognize, as valid, marriages that their own constitutions and laws prohibit.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut voted for the bill and said the day marked a turning point.

“The vote will mark a historic and dramatic step forward in the fight for social justice in this country,” he said minutes before the vote. “... There’s no certainly about when the vote on the floor of the Senate will be, but the cause of justice will be advanced when this committee votes today in favor of repealing DOMA.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said there are Democrats who oppose the bill.

“I don’t believe we’ll have this bill brought up on the floor – not because of the (lack of) time but because a lot of our Democratic colleagues don’t want to vote on it, because it’s not popular (and) it’s not going to become law,” Sessions said.

Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Herb Kohl (Wis.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) all voted for DOMA in 1996 but voted to repeal it Thursday.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. A list of Senate sponsors of the repeal bill is available online at
11/11/2011 1:05:56 PM by Michael Foust , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Convention agencies report on God's faithfulness

November 10 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Kourri, 16, came to live at the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) about two years ago. Her family had recently lost everything they owned because of Hurricane Katrina. Kourri’s troubled family background only added to her struggles.
Kourri shared during the BCH report at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting Nov. 8 about how she became rebellious and angry toward the adults in her life.
That changed when she came to Broyhill Home in Clyde. Her houseparents and the BCH staff showed her God’s love and taught her about the gospel. On Nov. 20, 2009, during a youth group meeting, Kourri prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.
“My life has completely turned around. Day by day I’m becoming closer to God,” she said.
Kourri is just one of many children and teenagers who have experienced hope and healing through the ministry of BCH.
BCH president Michael Blackwell also gave an update on North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM). NCBAM, created in 2008, helps churches and associations learn new ways to minister to aging adults.

Michael Blackwell, the BCH president also gave an update on the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry.

Blackwell highlighted the “Rampin’ Up” initiative on April 28, 2012. One of the requests NCBAM receives most often is for help building wheelchair ramps. On April 28, North Carolina Baptists will partner together to build wheelchair ramps for senior adults across the state.
Church and community relations director Paul Mullen brought the North Carolina Baptist Hospital report. Ever since the hospital opened in 1923 with 88 beds, the goal has been to “care and to cure.”
The hospital now has more than 1,000 beds, two affiliate hospitals and is consistently ranked among the top hospitals in the nation. In fiscal year 2010, the hospital served 728,213 patients.
This year the hospital opened a pediatric emergency department – the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in the state.
Clinical pastoral education continues to be an important ministry for the hospital as each year more than 40 students are trained in clinical pastoral care.
Mullen thanked North Carolina Baptists for their support of the Mother’s Day Offering, which helps patients in serious financial need pay their hospital bills. In 2010, North Carolina Baptists gave $650,410 to the Mother’s Day Offering.
Messengers also heard from Clay Warf about the N.C. Baptist Foundation. Warf, president of the Foundation since 1998, encouraged messengers to financially invest in Kingdom work and in BSC ministries such as BCH and N.C. Baptist Hospital.
One way North Carolina Baptists can do that is through an endowment. To help lead by example, the Foundation gave a $1,000 endowment to three churches – one from each area of the state – registered at the annual meeting.
The church endowment winner from the eastern area was Island Creek Baptist Church in Rose Hill and Billy Overby, director of development, made the presentation.
Charles Fox, central area manager for the Foundation, presented an endowment to Phaniels Baptist Church in Rockwell. Western area manager David Webb presented an endowment to Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby. 
11/10/2011 3:12:29 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

GCP breakfast highlights partnership opportunities

November 10 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

In late August, as the east coast watched to see where Hurricane Irene would strike, Dickie Spargo had his eyes set on something very different. Spargo was preparing to leave that same week for a vision trip to New York City, and although the storm caused the trip to end early, experiences from those three days sent Spargo on a whirlwind of change.
When Spargo returned from New York he knew it wouldn’t be long before he headed back. During the trip he met Boto Joseph, pastor of House of Worship Church in Queens. “I felt a real sense of kinship with Boto,” Spargo said. “In Queens you have the most diverse zip code in the United States. And you don’t see a lot of things about Christ in that neighborhood.”
In Jackson Heights, Queens, 130 languages are spoken and Greek Orthodox, Sikh, Roman Catholic, Hinduism and Buddhism are all represented.
Seeing firsthand the diversity and desperate need for the Gospel is what the vision trip was all about. The Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) coordinated the vision trip and coordinates trips to other partnership areas throughout the year. GCP hosted a breakfast before the Nov. 8 morning session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.
Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia, where Spargo has pastored for 21 years, is intentionally reaching out to its community through ministry efforts such as Hope for Gaston (see article) and Coats for Kids. Ministry at home is important and must continue, but Spargo is ready to step up and do more.
In September, Spargo met with Joseph to talk about how Bethlehem can partner with House of Worship. “I really want Bethlehem to be a catalyst for change in our county, our country and in the world,” he said.
Bethlehem will be partnering with Joseph and House of Worship to plant a church in Queens. “Queens is a very pluralistic area. It’s hard to imagine groups or people any more distinct,” Spargo said.
Although being in Queens helped Spargo understand even more the depths of spiritual darkness and lostness in the world, he also saw the power of God at work. For example, the priest of a Sikh temple in Queens met Joseph, got to know him and attended a service at House of Worship.
“Ministry is relational and it takes time. Seeds have to be watered. We can’t sit back and do nothing. We’ve got to love them,” Spargo said.
One of the first things Bethlehem and House of Worship are going to do through their partnership is “Coats for Queens.” The goal is to collect 750 coats and Bibles and to distribute them to people in Jackson Heights during an outreach event next month
Bethlehem is already involved in sponsoring a similar effort in North Carolina called “Coats for Kids,” which has provided coats for thousands of children in Gaston County who do not have one.
Many people in Jackson Heights are not used to cold weather because they are from other areas of the world. Spargo prays that this outreach is a tangible way to show God’s love and will provide opportunities to share the gospel.
“I pray that our congregation will develop a passion to reach out and love and share the gospel with the people God brings to our own soil,” Spargo said. “God has told me that we as church need to be targeting an area outside our own community. New York City may be the most strategic city in the world.”
George Russ, executive director for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA), would say that Spargo is right on target.
“New York City has always had an international impact. It is a central point for the flow of ideas, people, commodities and money. What happens in New York has always touched the world,” he said to the group gathered for the GCP missions breakfast Nov. 8 during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting in Greensboro.
“Most of the people in the world do live in cities. God is urbanizing the world so we can have access to reach people.”
During the breakfast Spargo and other pastors, mission leaders and lay leaders from across the state heard Russ’ heart for the nations and for his hometown New York City.
Russ explained that while the Pilgrims were settling farther north, the Dutch settled in New York and began Manhattan as a business enterprise for the sole purpose of becoming a worldwide enterprise. “This was fundamentally different from all the other colonies,” Russ said. “The genetic makeup was not religion. It was a government hub with bankers, lawyers and office towers.”
Despite that beginning, Russ said New York City is experiencing an “evangelical renaissance.” The number of evangelicals is growing faster than the population. On average, in 2008 and 2009, one new church was founded in Manhattan every week. 
North Carolina Baptists can join the work being done in New York by helping with service evangelism and mercy ministries, or helping reach people in a high-rise apartment complex. Russ explained that many such complexes are like communities, and it really takes someone living in that community to reach that community.
North Carolina Baptists can partner with an existing church to help plant a church. Or, they may take the Acts 17 approach, coming to the city with a specific platform that will help cross bridges in order to share the gospel.
“When Paul went to Athens he could have gone as a tourist, like the disciples did in Jerusalem. But his spirit was provoked. He had a spiritual discomfort; pain in his heart,” Russ said.
“I pray you will have an inner discontent to enter the city like a missionary. To come as a learner, with no preconceived ideas of what a church needs. Strip away what you think a church needs – a building, a parking lot. All you need are two people who love Jesus and want others to love Him.”
For more information about how to get involved in New York visit To donate Bibles or coats contact Spargo at
11/10/2011 3:05:50 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Pastors encouraged to maintain integrity, balance

November 10 2011 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Day two of the North Carolina Baptist Pastor’s Conference Nov. 7 featured powerful sermons and exhortations from God’s Word.
Clayton King, founder and president of Crossroads Worldwide, used 1 Kings 19 to illustrate how pastors can navigate both the highs and lows in pastoral ministry. “It’s a real short walk from your highest point to your lowest,” he said. “Victory makes us vulnerable; weakness makes us strong.”
King talked about a number of things pastors can do to maintain balance in ministry. For example, he encouraged pastors to take guilt free vacations every year, and to get away from the pressures of ministry on a regular basis for their spiritual and physical well being, as well as for the benefit of spending uninterrupted time with family.
He then taught on the importance of following the example of Jesus Christ in regards to spending time each day in fellowship with God. “Follow the example of Jesus,” King said. “If Jesus had to maintain his relationship with God, how can we think we are any better?”
Larry Wynn, vice president of evangelism with the North American Mission Board, followed King with a message from Matthew 9:35-38. Wynn told pastors that success in ministry starts with prayer and compassion directed toward the people in their communities.
“We need to pray for a labor force that will penetrate lostness where God has placed us,” he said. “We must see people the way Jesus sees them. We must lead our churches to see people through the eyes of Jesus Christ.”
Wynn said Jesus Christ gives believers the perfect example to follow in order to reach the lost, and if pastors are serious about reaching the unreached in their communities, they must be willing to reach out to those who are hurting. “What moved Jesus ought to move us,” Wynn said. “He was moved by the world’s pain and sadness.”
The morning session concluded with a message from John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Bisagno drew from his more than 35 years in full-time pastoral ministry as he shared 12 disciplines for a blessed ministry. He said of all the traits a pastor should possess, integrity and humility are two of the most important.   
“Integrity is paramount,” Bisagno said. “You do what people would expect you to do when no one is looking or taking notes.”
Speaking on humility, Bisagno reminded the audience that pride comes before the fall. “You better be careful how you treat people on the way up because you will meet them on the way back down,” he said.
Conference attendees participated in a question and answer session with Wynn and Bisagno, with most questions focused on the differences between church planting and church revitalization. 
Wynn said although church planting and church revitalization are equally important, it is time to increase training in church revitalization.
Bisagno, who also serves as adjunct faculty with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said more than 80 percent of his students do not want to take a pastorate at an established church. Yet, Bisagno said the most important thing is for a pastor to serve where God wants him to serve. “God has to do the calling,” he said.
David Dykes, senior pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, preached the final sermon of the conference. Dykes spoke on the topic of overcoming discouragement in ministry, based on Exodus 15: 19-27.
Drawing from Moses’ experience with the grumbling Israelites at Marah, Dykes said criticism is part of ministry. “If you’re in the ministry, you are a target for criticism,” he said.
Dykes added that pastors can use criticism as an opportunity for spiritual growth when they learn to take it to the Lord in prayer. “Whenever you are criticized, think about the abuse that was leveled upon the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dykes said. “When you take His suffering and baptize it in your bitterness, then it’s not so bad after all.”

View the Pastor’s Conference photo gallery here.
11/10/2011 3:01:56 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Miss. Personhood amendment defeated

November 10 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

JACKSON, Miss. – On Nov. 8 Mississippi voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined human life as beginning at conception, capping a campaign that had divided the pro-life community and delivering a blow to the nationwide personhood movement.

The personhood amendment known as Initiative Measure 26, lost by a margin of 58-42 percent, a surprising margin for an amendment that just days ago was expected to pass. The proposed 21-word amendment stated that the word person included “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” The “cloning” reference was aimed at prohibiting research cloning.

Personhood supporters said the amendment would have ended abortion in the state and would have directly challenged Roe v. Wade, but opponents made sure the campaign was about anything but about abortion – or at least most forms of abortion.

The main opposition group, Mississippians for Healthy Families, claimed in campaign ads that Initiative 26 would have prohibited the use of contraception such as the pill and would have banned abortions in the cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life was in danger. Most TV and radio ads by the group made those points, claiming, for instance, that a woman with an ectopic pregnancy would not be allowed to have an abortion. “You can be pro-life and still vote no,” a nurse said in one of the television ads. The group also said the amendment would ban in vitro fertilization.

Yes on 26, the primary group supporting the amendment, countered by saying the amendment would not have banned contraception, IVF, or abortions to save the life of the mother, although the group conceded that abortions in cases of rape or incest would be prohibited. Amendment supporters tried to counter the rape argument by making public the testimonies of people who had been conceived by rape.

Despite Mississippi’s pro-life nature, though, the Yes on 26 campaign had trouble overcoming arguments that the amendment did more than ban abortion. It’s the second state to reject a personhood proposal; Colorado did so twice, in 2008 and 2010.

Mississippi’s conservative credentials aren’t to be questioned: Its 86 percent approval of a constitutional marriage amendment in 2004 remains the highest of any state.

“Personhood USA firmly believes that our campaign fell victim to the outright lies of our opposition, and because of their lies, children will continue to be murdered in Mississippi,” said Keith Ashley of Personhood USA, the national organization behind the initiatives. “... Our opposition’s most successful tactics were steeped in falsehoods.”

Personhood USA, Ashley said, will continue trying to pass personhood initiatives not only in Mississippi but nationwide. Personhood initiatives could be on the ballot in other states next year.

“We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people because we are assured that it is the right thing to do, and we are prepared for a long journey,” Ashley said. “... The time has come for America to stop treating the unborn as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

The amendment did not have the backing of all the major pro-life groups.

It did receive support from the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Yet National Right to Life and Americans United for Life – two groups that often are at the forefront of promoting state-level pro-life bills – remained neutral. Within the past two years, those two groups helped pass laws in about eight states prohibiting abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation.

The pro-life divide was not over personhood – each neutral group agrees that life begins at conception – but rather over whether personhood amendments are the best strategy. Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, said some pro-lifers were concerned that the amendment was being promoted at a time when the Supreme Court is not ready to overturn Roe. Five of the court’s nine justices are on record as supporting Roe. Forsythe, though, said he didn’t believe the amendment would have directly challenged Roe.

“A direct challenge to Roe would be a criminal prohibition on abortion,” he told Baptist Press prior to the vote. “This is not a criminal prohibition on abortion.”

Asked if he instead favored an “incremental” strategy to challenging Roe, Forsythe responded that he believed in “accumulated victories.”

“We believe in accumulated victories, and we work for accumulated victories.”

Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest said Wednesday that the defeat of Initiative 26 was not a setback for the pro-life cause.

“(The) long and noble legal precedent for the personhood of unborn children did not suffer harm by the defeat of the ballot initiative in Mississippi,” she said. “This measure would not have led to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but had a symbolic appeal for pro-life Americans. It was not drafted in such a way that it would conflict with Roe.”

She added, “The measure would have restrained government actions – government-funded abortions – and not abortions conducted by individuals or enterprises such as Planned Parenthood.”

Still, Yoest said, the tactics used by Initiative 26 opponents showed the “willingness of the abortion lobby to fight with every dollar it possesses, with half-truths and with mud-against-the-wall tactics.”

National Right to Life released a statement to Baptist Press saying, “National Right to Life believes the unborn child is a person. National Right to Life Political Action Committee’s strategy and focus for 2012 will be to elect a pro-life president and pro-life majorities in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.”

James Bopp Jr., an attorney who works for National Right to Life, told The Wall Street Journal he feared a personhood amendment would force the Supreme Court to reaffirm and even broaden Roe. That, he said, would be “the death knell to all other regulations on abortion.”

Ashley, of Personhood USA, seemed to counter the arguments of his fellow pro-lifers when he said, “A personhood amendment, recognizing everyone as a legal person, is the right thing to do. It is always right to protect our citizens. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
11/10/2011 2:56:39 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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