November 2012

Miss. president, 1st VP draw unanimous votes

November 26 2012 by William H. Perkins Jr., Baptist Press

JACKSON, Miss. – Messengers to the 177th annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention reelected without opposition David Hamilton, pastor of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc, to a second term as convention president and unanimously approved a Cooperative Program (CP) budget of $32,329,059 for the 2013 fiscal year.

The Oct. 30-31 sessions at First Baptist Church in Jackson were attended by 920 messengers representing 457 churches.

Joe Pate, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenwood, was elected without opposition to a first term as the convention’s first vice president. Donnie Stuart, pastor of Rock Bluff Baptist Church in Pelahatchie, was elected over Gary Wyatt, pastor of North Morton Baptist Church in Morton, for a first term as second vice president. Michael Weeks, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Olive Branch, and Jerry Bingham, missions director for Benton-Tippah Baptist Association in Ripley, were reelected without opposition as recording secretary and associate recording secretary, respectively.

For the first time since 2009, the Cooperative Program budget for next year does not reflect a decrease. While the budget is the same amount as the current year, convention leaders have been heartened by the halt in year-over-year declining budgets.

Funding for Southern Baptist causes remains steady in the new budget at $11,719,284 (36.25 percent). Likewise, funding for Mississippi Baptist entities is the same at $8,103,903 (25.06 percent) and for Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) ministries at $11,635,872 (36 percent). The church retirement and protection category rounds out the budget at $870,000 (2.69 percent) and is the same amount as the current budget.

Messengers approved a resolution commending the use of a Sinner’s Prayer as “a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church.” Two other resolutions commended Edward L. McMillan, longtime professor at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College in Clinton, upon his retirement after 20 years as executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission, and Ruthie Courtney upon her retirement after 26 years as secretary to the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s Board of Ministerial Education.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and the first African American to serve as leader of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, received a standing ovation during his keynote message that closed out the annual meeting on the morning of Oct. 31. Luter also spoke at a post-meeting luncheon for Mississippi Baptist African American pastors hosted by the MBCB Mission Strategy Division.

Also preaching at the annual meeting were Hamilton, who delivered the president’s address; Jim Phillips, senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church in Greenwood, who delivered the convention sermon; and Jim Futral, MBCB executive director, who presented the 2013 MBCB theme interpretation, “Lordship.” Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and former executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention in Vancouver, Wash., presented devotional messages during each the annual meeting’s four sessions.

Praise and Worship were provided by the praise team and sanctuary choir from West Heights Baptist Church; Mississippi Singing Churchmen; sanctuary choir of North Greenwood Baptist Church; Mississippi Baptist Combined Choirs and Music Worship Leaders; and Forgiven Quartet of First Baptist Church in Ridgeland. Congregational worship leaders included James Francis, minister of music at West Heights Baptist Church; Keith Stevens, minister of music at North Greenwood Baptist Church; Slater Murphy, MBCB director of church music; and Derrick Cowan, minister of arts and discipleship at First Baptist Church in Ridgeland.

Frank Gunn, chairman of the Time, Place, and Preacher Committee and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Biloxi, reported that the 2013 annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention will be Oct. 29-30 at First Baptist Church in Jackson. Chip Stevens, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Starkville, will preach the convention sermon. Rickey Blythe, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Albany, was chosen as alternate preacher.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – William H. Perkins Jr. is editor of The Baptist Record of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.)
11/26/2012 3:34:27 PM by William H. Perkins Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Nev. Baptists welcome 9 new churches

November 26 2012 by Baptist Press

RENO, Nev. – Nine new churches were added to the Nevada Baptist Convention (NBC) during its 34th annual meeting at South Reno Baptist Church in Reno.

The meeting’s theme was “Our Hope in a New Day,” based on Romans 5:2-5, and 107 messengers were registered.

David Fee, pastor of Summerlin Community Baptist Church in Las Vegas, delivered the annual sermon. Eddie Miller, director of missions for the Sierra Baptist Association, presented the theme in prayer.

Also preaching were Joe Taylor, pastor of South Reno Baptist, and Michael Rochelle, pastor of Shadow Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas.

Kevin White, the new executive director of the Nevada convention, presented his vision for the future and was prayed over by messengers as he received the mantle of leadership from the previous executive director, Terry Arnold.

A slideshow honored Arnold, who is retiring after serving Nevada Baptists for 24 years, most recently as executive director of the state convention. Arnold and his wife Doris were presented with the gift of a cruise, and several people told how their lives had been impacted by his ministry. A reception in their honor followed.

Also during the Oct. 22-23 meeting, messengers adopted a new constitution and bylaws, and after some discussion, one amendment was presented to change the wording of one sentence. The change to the constitution was in regard to how churches become members of the Nevada convention, now stipulating that they must contribute through the Cooperative Program and must be in harmony with the Baptist Faith and Message.

Previously, there were no guidelines to maintain or remove a church from membership. Also, guidelines for sending messengers to the convention’s annual meeting were added in more detail.

Messengers approved a 2013 budget of $1,995,774, an 8 percent decrease from the current year. The percentage of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded for national and international causes, though, was increased by .5 percent, from 30.5 to 31 percent. The convention anticipates $702,000 in Cooperative Program giving from Nevada churches during the coming year.

Sam Crouch, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Elko, was elected president of the convention. Greg Fields, pastor of Nellis Baptist Church in Las Vegas, was elected vice president.

Four resolutions were adopted.

Among them: Terry Arnold was honored for his service to the convention “in a variety of church-strengthening ministries,” including evangelism director, transitional interim executive director and executive director.

Another resolution noted that Nevada Baptists have experienced “an extended period of [a] challenging economic environment” and many churches are “struggling to meet financial obligations while continuing to impact” communities with the gospel. The resolution stated that Nevada Baptists would intensify their prayers for fellow churches, “that their needs will be met and Kingdom work will flourish.”

In another resolution, Nevada Baptists said they “join Christians everywhere in accepting the charge to be salt and light,” noting that the political climate in the United States has grown more intolerant of Christian views and standards. Nevada Baptists resolved to hold fast to biblical standards and to vote in a manner that reflects those standards, including on issues of the sanctity of life and marriage.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Nevada Baptist Convention will be Oct. 22-23 at Summerlin Community Baptist Church in Las Vegas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on a report by Donna Campbell, editor of The Nevada Baptist.)
11/26/2012 3:31:44 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Graffiti shines ‘light’ in Sandy’s aftermath

November 26 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEW YORK CITY – East 7th Baptist Church has prayed for the toughest assignments in serving the neediest people. In God’s care, the church has ministered through 9/11 and now is a healing balm to survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

Three weeks after the superstorm killed 110 people along the East Coast – nearly half of them in New York – the church known as Graffiti is busy helping people recover by meeting physical and spiritual needs.

The 40-year-old church that typically draws 100 to Sunday worship has served thousands in the wake of the hurricane through partnerships God has provided, said adult ministries director Kareem Goubran.

“When a disaster hits ... the needs will be long-term [and] the response will be long-term. So pastor Taylor [Field], our director, always said we want to be light, not just lightning,” Goubran said. “We know God’s called us ... as a local church to be light, to give ongoing ministry to people who have been affected.”

In post-Sandy ministry, the effectiveness of cooperation is evident, Goubran said.

“We try to do everything in ministry in partnership because we can’t do it by ourselves,” he said. As New York struggles to return to normalcy, Graffiti Church is helping residents clean their homes, eat and stay warm, working with partners in the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.

East 7th Baptist Church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side continued its clothing closet ministry (right), even as trash accumulated (left) from the church’s flooded basement after superstorm Sandy. North Carolina Baptist Men and other disaster relief volunteers have cleaned several basements in the community, stripping them of damaged drywall, sheetrock, furnishings and debris.

“We did have kind of unprecedented ‘neighbors helping neighbors’” in tandem with ministries offering to help “because there was such a specific need for every building around us. I think we had at one time nine different churches helping us,” Goubran said.

The church is incorporating recovery within its longstanding ministries. While power has been restored to the majority of local residents, many people are still in the cold and dark. Graffiti’s Internet and phone service still had not been restored the day before Thanksgiving, but the church has electricity.

Wednesday’s annual Thanksgiving meal will take the place of the weekly Wednesday night soup kitchen, likely drawing 150 residents who will not only find a traditional Thanksgiving meal, Goubran said, but will benefit from fellowship and chaplaincy care.

Graffiti’s free lunch in the park Nov. 17 became a Thanksgiving in the park when the church distributed hats, gloves, socks and blankets with freshly packaged Thanksgiving meals to go. The Saturday meal, served three weekends each month, drew some who never before had a need to attend, Goubran said.

“It was notable this year when we were doing this, we asked people, ‘What are you thankful for?’ So many people are just talking about that experience with Hurricane Sandy,” Goubran said. “We’ve been hearing people just say, ‘Thank you that you’re reaching out to us.’ People need kind of a listener, a chaplain, a caregiver to [hear] ‘how I was affected, how I’m still affected,’ and you know, ‘Where is God and where is hope in all of this?’”

The church’s afterschool program and computer, ESL and GED classes are all settings for fellowship and healing. The Lower East Side used to be called a ghetto, Goubran said, but is now a dichotomy.

“Now it’s really a tale of two cities. We have the richest and the poorest living right next to each other in the Lower East Side,” he said. “The population that was hit this time was not just people who are in poverty or struggling with addiction, or homeless, or dealing with a mental illness, which is the population we are used to serving. [These are] people who are young professionals who live in the community who just got flooded basements and don’t know what to do.”

Many new faces were evident at Grafitti’s post-Sandy seminar on preventing mold from festering in damaged basements.

“We had over a hundred people that we’d never met before, even though we’re always doing ministry in our community,” Goubran said. “We feel like the neighbors know us and we know them.”

The church also held a “listening” seminar to teach church members chaplaincy skills.

“Let people tell the story. Don’t tell them how to feel. Be pleasant. The same way when you pray you don’t always hear an audible voice, that’s a sign that God is listening to you when you have something to say,” Goubran said in describing the church’s advice. “That’s the posture we take when we engage people. We just ask people, ‘How are you doing since Hurricane Sandy?’ And people will tell their story.”

People have said, “I can’t believe the water came this high. I can’t believe we were out of power for so long.’ Or ‘We still don’t have heat,’” Goubran recounted. “A lot of people say, ‘I’m still cold’ or ‘I still don’t have hot water.’”

Longtime Graffiti minister Johnny Johnson, serving as the church’s flood recovery coordinator, also noted how Hurricane Sandy has allowed a wider reach within the community.

“It’s allowed us to cross racial boundaries and kind of engage Muslims, Asians, Buddhists,” Johnson said, “because when something like that happens, there are no more color lines. The color lines just disappear. It’s about a need and fulfilling that need.”

Johnson, a lifelong New York resident and trained social worker, said Sandy’s storm surge surprised fellow residents.

“This is a historical thing for Manhattan on the Lower East Side, because I’ve lived here all my life. If it ever flooded, it came out of the river maybe about four feet onto the pavement. This time ... it came about three blocks out of the river. People just weren’t prepared for it,” he said, noting that the affected blocks comprise an extensive number of structures.

Johnson has been working with North Carolina Baptist Men and other volunteers to help Lower East Side residents clean flooded basements. His firsthand knowledge has made it easier for out-of-state volunteers to respond, said Gary Holland, onsite coordinator for the North Carolina volunteers.

Holland’s group has completed about 12 projects in the Lower East Side and is still working on three other requests to clear flooded basements. North Carolina’s outreach in New York’s five boroughs could extend into next year, Holland said, depending on requests for help.

“We, the Baptist Men of North Carolina, have worked with the metropolitan area of New York for several years. It’s a good relationship that’s been going on for years and we just wanted to continue that,” Holland said. “About everybody [who] comes to Graffiti falls in love with Graffiti Church. It’s hard to forget them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)
11/26/2012 2:29:58 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Everything Jesus says, that’s what I want to do’

November 26 2012 by Jacqueline Gordon, IMB, Baptist Press

Timbuktu. The name inspires images of far-away lands, mythical realms and immense wealth. Many people are unaware the city actually does exist. Timbuktu was only one of a myriad of splendid cities within the Songhai Empire. For more than two centuries, the Songhai dynasty ruled most of central West Africa, supported by a flourishing trade in gold and salt.
“They were a rare combination of military and mystic might — they had these great warriors, but they also were these sorcerers and magicians who controlled the spirits and could master the spirits of the river,” says John Smythe,* an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary who’s been working among the Songhai of Niger since 2006.
Ruled by a dynasty of Muslim kings, the empire expanded through a combination of practical politics and holy war. The meteoric rise of the empire was matched by its sudden invasion and downfall in 1591. Modern Songhai are mainly subsistence farmers, coaxing millet and rice out of the clay of the Niger River valley. It’s a land of flat-topped hills and wide, washed-out valleys, with deep, rain-cut channels between. Pale red clay and dark brown stone contrast oddly, like a bizarre sand painting.


‘Community is life’

Songhai villages consist of mud-brick houses; walls surround spacious, if bare, yards. Trash litters the streets — there is no other place for it. Animals wander wherever acacia fences do not keep them out. Village life is highlighted by scent. The heat bakes out the odor of moist sand and green growth. The smell of sweat and wood smoke is prevalent.
“Community is life” to the Songhai, explains Smythe. “They understand that tomorrow, ‘I might not have enough rice to feed my family, so I’d better rely on the community.’”
While officially Muslim, the Songhai generally practice animism — alongside daily prayers and reciting the Quran, “there’s still spirit-possession ceremonies. … They are involved in all sorts of witchcraft,” says Smythe. Less than 1 percent of the population is Christian.

Out of the ruins of vanished empires and ancient superstitions, however, a new kingdom is being built among the Songhai, shares Smythe. “A kingdom not built with human hands, a kingdom that’s being built by God made out of living stones.”
This kingdom has not been built without struggle. According to Smythe, Songhai conversion is “a traumatic experience.” Those who step outside of accepted practices are ostracized, even exiled, by their communities. Many villagers refuse to buy or sell with a convert, and family members often shun believers. Pressure to return to the old ways comes from all directions.

A Songhai proverb states: to know someone you must be willing to share a box of salt. Just as a box of salt isn’t quickly used, relationships require investment and time. Three IMB families are now building these relationships among the Songhai of Niger.

One new believer must now eat outside every time he visits his in-laws, as they regard non-Muslims as unclean. Another told his family of his conversion and returned home that night to find all his possessions in a bag outside. Believers are often told, “Only white people can be Christians.” The harshest confrontation came after Smythe and his family moved away from the small town where they had been ministering for three years, when a believer’s wife died suddenly. Ibrahim had been a dedicated Muslim who prayed five times daily, gave charity and donated animals for religious festivals. “I thought in my heart if I [did these things], I was receiving forgiveness,” he says. “I could never know that in my heart … if I was being forgiven or not.”
After repeatedly dreaming of a light “that was Jesus Christ” coming between him and enveloping darkness, Ibrahim became a determined Christian despite rejection by his neighbors and refusal of business. His dedication and encouragement soon led his wife to Christ as well.


A turning point

When his wife died, the village leaders, noting neither Ibrahim nor his wife were Muslim, refused to have her buried, claiming she would be treated like an animal and left to rot.
Only if Ibrahim confessed Islam would his wife be buried and prayed for as culturally required. He refused, and set out to bury his wife alone, but the other believers rallied around him and came to his aid.
This unity in the face of cruel rejection was a turning point for the local church. It demonstrated the church could endure, even without the Smythes’ presence. “It was [a] testimony that, ‘We are not going to go back to our old faith, that we’re here to stay,’” claims Smythe, who now lives two hours away in Niamey, Niger’s capital city.
In the face of opposition, the Smythes and their team “literally got to watch history change,” as this small group of believers grew into the first church ever seen in the region. That church “has continued to grow and understand what it means to be the church,” says Smythe. “… They are a true community that gives as anyone has need and shares as anyone has need.”
The transformation of believers is apparent to their village. Boubacar, once the “number-one bandit” in town and leader of the local fadah, or gang, was so altered that his friends asked him what medication he was on; he claimed, “My medicine is Jesus Christ.”
Boubacar stopped smoking, drinking and fighting, and even broke off an engagement.

Three days after Boubacar’s conversion, Smythe discovered he intended to take a second wife, a practice common and perfectly acceptable to the Songhai. Smythe, with some unease, shared God’s plan for marriage as found in Genesis. Smythe relates: “His eyes just got huge, and I thought, ‘Oh man, he’s gonna hit me!’ And he looked [at] me and he said, ‘I had no idea God’s Word said that.’” Boubacar went that very day to break off the engagement, despite having already paid the bride price. When asked about his decision, he claimed, “Everything Jesus says, that’s what I want to do.”
Boubacar was one of the believers who came alongside Ibrahim to bury his wife. His example has led many of his former gang members to become believers.
Ibrahim and Boubacar are now leaders in the town church. Men meet in Ibrahim’s compound to sing worship songs, pray together and listen to the Proclaimer, an audio Bible in the Songhai language. 
Female believers meet separately or listen to the Proclaimer with their husbands at home.
“You can’t see a building,” Smythe says about the blossoming movement among the Songhai. “Instead it’s a group of men, it’s a group of ladies huddled under a tree praying together, it’s a group studying God’s Word under a hanger, and it’s a new kingdom being ushered in. … It’s that kingdom that’s going to endure.”
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jacqueline Gordon served for five months as a writer with IMB’s Global Communication Team.)
The Songhai of West Africa are featured in Week of Prayer for International Missions: Dec. 2-9.
  • Theme: BE His heart, His hands, His voice
  • Focus Scripture: Matthew 16:24-25
  • 2012 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal: $175 million
Every penny given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. To learn more about the offering, go to Dowload related videos at

Related story

Songhai believers are true family of Christ

11/26/2012 2:03:35 PM by Jacqueline Gordon, IMB, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Songhai believers are true family of Christ

November 26 2012 by Rose Shephard, Baptist Press

When Ibrahim’s wife died, his Songhai community near Niamey, Niger, refused to bury her because she was a Christian. She, like Ibrahim and other believers, faced daily persecution from their Muslim neighbors. Most Songhai believers do.
“We’ll treat your wife like we would a dog or a donkey – she’s just an animal that should rot,” they told Ibrahim.
The Songhai people are primarily Muslim with many beliefs rooted in animism. International Mission Board (IMB) missionary John Smythe* and his wife spent three years sharing the gospel and discipling Songhai believers in Ibrahim’s village. One of Smythe’s greatest fears in leaving the village was that the Songhai church might crumble. 
Soon after they left, Ibrahim faced the huge challenge of defending his faith while grieving for his wife. Determined to bury his wife, Ibrahim began digging her grave as Muslim villagers yelled insults at him. When his Christian brothers heard what he was doing, they came to help. That day was a turning point for the Songhai believers as they united to be His heart, His hands and His voice.

Ibrahim, a former follower of folk Islam, remains faithful to Jesus in the face of persecution. Ibrahim’s commitment, courage and steadfastness have become an example for the other few believers in his village.

One of Ibrahim’s close friends, Boubacar, commented that he greatly admired Ibrahim’s loyalty to Christ that day. The believers showed the inspiring power of a true family of Christ.
Boubacar is a follower of Christ who experienced a radical transformation. Once a gang leader who had demonstrated hostility toward missionaries in his village, he felt an internal struggle to accept or deny God’s Truth one night. He decided to become a Christian, and his past life quickly became history. After hearing God’s Word concerning marriage, he broke off an engagement to a woman who would have become his second wife.
He stopped smoking and drinking and started witnessing to other villagers in action and word. He realized that “anytime you go out, people will be watching you. … Do your best to do good, because sometimes you will even hear the Muslims saying Christians are righteous, that they are faithful.”
The Songhai church is small but full of dedicated believers like Ibrahim and Boubacar who cling to the gospel. Thanks to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Smythes helped lay a solid foundation for the church to grow in their village before moving on. They also left audio Bible recordings the church depends on to hear the Word of God as they meet to study and discuss the gospel.
“The church has continued to grow and understand what it means to be the church: loving one another, sharing what they have with one another,” says Smythe. “They have their challenges just as every church has its challenges, but they’re facing those with prayer and through God’s Word. … Their greatest desire is that all their village will know the name of Christ.”
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rose Shephard served with IMB in sub-Saharan Africa for five months.)

Related story

‘Everything Jesus says, that’s what I want to do’

11/26/2012 1:43:04 PM by Rose Shephard, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Blasphemy case against Pakistani girl dropped

November 26 2012 by Baptist Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – In a court decision that even a Muslim cleric called a “milestone in the history of Pakistan,” the blasphemy case against a Pakistani Christian girl has been dismissed for lack of evidence.

In his judgment Nov. 20, the justice who heads the Islamabad High Court urged extreme caution in matters related to blasphemy and criticized the practice of fake blasphemy accusations against non-Muslims, according to The New York Times.

Rimsha Masih, reportedly an impoverished 14-year-old with Down syndrome, was arrested in August near Islamabad after neighbors accused her of burning an Islamic textbook. In theory, she could have faced execution.

The accusations led to an international outcry that renewed focus on Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, The Times said. Though the law enjoys widespread support among Pakistanis, critics say it is abused by people involved in disputes or against members of religious minorities, Reuters reported.

A police investigation revealed that a local cleric had framed Masih by adding pages of the Quran to a heap of burned textbook pages that were found in a bag she was carrying, The Times said. He was arrested and then released on bail.

The fact that no one had seen Masih burning pages of the textbook used to teach the Quran to children was central to the judge’s decision.

Her lawyer expressed optimism about what the verdict could mean.

“I feel that with the development today, people who abuse blasphemy law will be discouraged. I hope this will bring a full stop to false blasphemy cases,” Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, Masih’s attorney, said, according to The Times.

The chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, a group of Muslim clerics who sought the girl’s release, called the court decision a “milestone in the history of Pakistan,” The Times said.

Reuters reported that the number of blasphemy cases have been rising in Pakistan, and although the death sentence has never been carried out following conviction, “mobs often take the law into their own hands,” resulting in 52 people being killed after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.

Though she was granted bail in September, Masih and her family have been in hiding because of fears for their safety, The Times reported.

In an earlier report by Open Doors News, Masih’s lawyer said Masih and her family would remain in Pakistan once her legal ordeal was over. They would try to settle back into something resembling a normal life rather than seeking asylum outside Pakistan, Chaudhry said.

“This is the first case of its kind when a person charged under the strict blasphemy laws is exonerated from the accusation,” Chaudhry told Open Doors. “This case has also brought for the first time a debate on how these laws are misused to target innocent people.”

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, used Masih’s case as an opportunity to insist the blasphemy law must not be used as a cover to settle personal scores, Open Doors reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
11/26/2012 1:34:28 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Calif. Baptists weigh Focus 21 recommendations

November 25 2012 by Terry Barone, Baptist Press

CLOVIS, Calif. – California Southern Baptists celebrated their diversity and considered Executive Board recommendations regarding the Focus 21 Task Force during the Oct. 23-24 annual meeting at Clovis Hills Community Church.

Highlighting the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) theme, “United: Every ethné, for Christ,” the meeting featured three congregations involved in reaching an ethnic group other than their own:
  • Chinese Baptist Church of Orange County in Anaheim, which is involved in ministry on the Pala Indian Reservation near San Diego. The church also reaches Hispanics.
  • First Southern Baptist Church of Parksdale in Madera, in a community that transitioned 20 years ago from primarily Anglo to Hispanic. The Parksdale church started a Hispanic ministry and in 1997 gave the property to the Hispanic congregation, Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza, which continues to serve the Madera community.
  • Fellowship Church of Burbank, a mostly Anglo congregation, which hosts six primarily ethnic congregations in its facilities weekly, including Afghani, African American, Arabic, Armenian, Hispanic and Korean. Sunday services begin at 10 a.m., are staggered throughout the day and conclude at 7:30 p.m. The Burbank congregation also is helping sponsor four church starts in the San Fernando Valley Baptist Association in northern Los Angeles County.
The CSBC Executive Board reported on the Focus 21 Task Force recommendations referred to the board in 2011 for implementation. The task force was appointed in 2010 and charged with discerning how California Southern Baptists could “most efficiently and effectively focus ... efforts for the glory of God in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Don Fugate, chairman of the CSBC Executive Board and pastor of Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, said the board considered the recommendations and reported on four of the seven. He noted the remaining three recommendations would be studied and reported to the 2013 annual meeting.

About the task force’s “clarifying cooperative churches” recommendation, Fugate said the convention will report only cooperating churches, which is currently defined in the CSBC constitution as those “in sympathy with the purpose of this Convention” and have contributed to the Cooperative Program (CP) and are in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Nearly 2,200 churches identify themselves as members of CSBC; however, as of Sept. 12 when the board’s report was adopted, the number of churches meeting the definition of “cooperating” stood at 1,108.

Also reported to the convention was the recommendation dealing with “communicating more effectively.” Fugate noted the avenues already in place and the new technologies being engaged by the CSBC communications group. He said the group would continue looking at ways to communicate and the Executive Board would seek to prioritize resources for communications initiatives.

He said the board was recommending a change in the CSBC Executive Board bylaws in relation to the “planning for the future” recommendation which addresses the process of electing an executive director. The CSBC Executive Board will consider the issue at its January 2013 meeting.

A task force recommendation from the board that messengers did consider was “enlarging California’s influence,” which dealt primarily with California Baptist University seeking a larger trustee board and a larger number of “global trustees” defined as members of Southern Baptist churches in the United States or churches cooperating with their respective Baptist conventions outside the U.S.

The recommendation called for an increase in the number of trustees from 36 to 40 and an increase in the number of global trustees from eight to 12 and added wording to the global trustee definition to allow “members of evangelical churches of like faith and order in California or worldwide.”

Several messengers questioned the definition of “evangelical churches of like faith and order” while others questioned who would arbitrate such matters. However, other messengers affirmed the university for its growth from fewer than 1,000 students in 1995 to more than 6,400 in 2012 and said the trustees would be properly vetted by the university and the CSBC Committee on Board Nominations before being brought to the convention in annual session for election.

A voice vote was too close to call and a ballot vote was taken. Messengers defeated the motion by a margin of 53-47 percent of the ballots cast.

Another recommendation dealing with “enlarging California’s influence” allowing the university to solicit direct funding from churches was approved without discussion.

The Executive Board will bring recommendations to the 2013 annual meeting addressing Focus 21 recommendations to “prioritize church planting,” “prioritize global responsibilities” and “denominational overlap.”

The church planting suggestion calls on changing or eliminating programs so that 25 percent of the CSBC Cooperative Program budget can be spent directly on funding church planters in California.

The global responsibilities suggestion calls for the state convention to move to a “50/50 split” of CP funds between the state and national convention within five years.

In other business, messengers approved a 2013 operating budget of $10,819,487 million, just $46,927 less than in 2012. The budget includes an anticipated $6.8 million in Cooperative Program giving from member churches, an increase of $360,000, or 5.6 percent, over the current year.

The CSBC increased its CP giving to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by 12.5 percent, earmarking $2,210,000, an increase of $245,800 over the 2012 allocation. The allocation represents 32.5 percent of the CSBC budget, a 2 point boost from the current year. The budget does not include any preferred/shared CSBC-SBC items in its allocations.

Messengers approved a motion to waive the 50/50 allocation of the CSBC challenge budget (in excess of the CP objective) in years when a distribution to the SBC Executive Committee would be made using accumulated surplus funds.

Messengers defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed churches to elect messengers based on CP giving rather than church membership. The amendment was modeled after the SBC constitution that allows the election of messengers based on either membership or the amount of money “paid to the work of the Convention.”

A number of constitutional and bylaws amendments related to officers of the convention were adopted this year and in essence did away with the position of second vice president and gave the convention’s planning committee the responsibility of appointing the music director for the annual meeting.

Garnering 78 percent of the vote, Mike Nolen, pastor of Southwinds Church in Tracy, was elected president for 2013 over Port Wilburn, pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo. Nolen replaces Steve Davidson, pastor of the host congregation who was ineligible to run having served two one-year terms, the maximum allowed by the CSBC constitution.

D.D. Alexander, pastor of Holy Tabernacle of God Baptist Church in Los Angeles, topped Daniel Cassels, pastor of Life Way Fellowship in Santa Maria, for vice president with 69 percent of the votes cast.

Roger Byrd, a member of Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, was appointed music director. Byrd serves as CSBC music and worship specialist. Beth Downy, the executive assistant to Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director, was elected recording secretary.

Messenger count for the annual meeting totaled 400. The 2013 annual meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22-23 at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Barone is editor of the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.)
11/25/2012 4:06:00 PM by Terry Barone, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fla. Baptists continue toward 50/50 CP split

November 25 2012 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

ORLANDO – Jacksonville pastor Tim Maynard was elected president of the Florida Baptist State Convention (FBSC) during its Nov. 12-13 annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

Messengers approved a 2013 Cooperative Program (CP) budget of $31.6 million, an amount identical to the 2012 budget. The budget, based on gifts from Florida Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program from June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012, will increase giving to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by 1 percentage point to 41.5 percent.

The increase in the SBC portion sustains a commitment by Florida Baptists to raise the percentage allocated nationally to an even 50/50 percent division of funds between the SBC and state.

“We are on track to be 50/50 in the next seven years,” John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, told messengers.

The $31.6 million will be divided between the SBC, 41.5 percent; Florida Baptist Convention operating budget, 46.60 percent; and Florida Baptist entities, 11.81 percent.

Affected by the economic downturn and decreased giving from the churches, since 2005, the convention has pared $10 million from its budget and downsized its staff by 58 employees, or 25 percent of its workforce.

In the presidential election, 640 votes among a reported 896 messengers registered Tuesday morning were cast. Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church, received 374 or 59 percent of the vote, with Clayton Cloer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando, receiving 264 votes or 41 percent.

Maynard, 58, who also served three years as president of Florida’s State Board of Missions, the convention’s governing body, was nominated by Marvin Pittman, a layman from First Baptist Church in Bartow.

Just hours after the election, Maynard told the Florida Baptist Witness he was already feeling the “weight” of how to bring Florida Baptists together to “refocus on what’s truly important.”

“I really have a heartbeat for seeing genuine unity happen in this convention,” Maynard said. “One of the things that really, really matters to Jesus is unity. If we can’t stand as a unified people, I don’t know that we have much to share with the state. I think it’s going to require a true heart change, genuine repentance in the hearts of the people.”

In nominating Maynard, Pittman had noted his leadership in the state and in his church, and cited Fruit Cove’s commitment to missions and the Cooperative Program, which funds the mission enterprise of the Florida and Southern Baptist conventions. The church gives at least 10 percent through the Cooperative Program annually; $80,000 to $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions; and $45,000 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Missions.

“Tim’s leadership style is to cast a vision and to invite others to join him,” Pittman told messengers. “His cooperative and humble spirit [and] his personal commitment to the task encourages those around him to come together to reach the common goal.”

William Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, in nominating Cloer, praised him for his leadership, and said the former Florida Baptist Pastors’ Conference president had spearheaded “the fight to amend our state constitution to preserve the sanctity of biblical marriage and he led the revision task force calling our churches to repentance and renewal.”

Elected to serve with Maynard was layperson Jack Roland of Ocala First Baptist Church, first vice president; Chris Coram, associate pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church of Okeechobee, recording secretary. Roland topped Kevin Goza, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Apopka. The other two officers ran unopposed.

At the conclusion of the meeting, 936 messengers had registered, with 148 visitors, for a total of 1,084 in attendance. The last time the convention met in Orlando in 1999, 1,556 messengers registered.

The theme of the meeting, “What Really Matters,” focused on family, faith, relationships and legacy. David Uth, pastor of the host church, presided over the convention, serving his second one-year term.

Jeff Singletary, pastor of Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, a multi-cultural congregation in the heart of Tampa, delivered the annual convention sermon. He urged Florida Baptists to contend for the gospel in the midst of the “seismic shift” of morality in America as demonstrated by the recent Election Day results.

“I have come this morning, brothers and sisters, to call you and to challenge you to contend for the faith as you’ve never done before,” Singletary said, preaching from Jude 3.

“If we don’t get up, stand up, look up, speak up, America will go the way of the church in England. Yes, history will merely repeat itself in America and God will write ‘ichabod’ on the American church – ‘The glory of the Lord has departed,’“ Singletary said.

Singletary is the second African-American in the history of the FBSC to preach the annual sermon. There are 240 African American congregations affiliated with the FBSC.

Other convention speakers included retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary, a decorated Vietnam veteran who shared his courage and survival on the battlefield, and Cindy Winters of Maryville, Ill., widow of slain pastor Fred Winters. Marriage enrichment counselor Emerson Eggerichs led a time for couples to recommit their respect and love to each other.

Sullivan reported to messengers that the state is “on target” with six Great Commission Resurgence recommendations approved by messengers at the 2010 Convention meeting.

“Every recommendation has been implemented or is in the process of being implemented,” Sullivan said.

Among the implemented recommendations was a spiritual renewal emphasis, “ReVision Florida”; a move toward the 50/50 percent distribution of Cooperative Program funds; and development of evangelistic pastoral leaders through increased availability of theological education.

An emphasis on church planting regionalization produced 117 new church starts in 2012, Sullivan announced. “The best calculation that we can make about planting churches is that about 20 percent of every dollar that comes through the Florida Baptist Convention goes to church planting. We are on target in planting churches in the state of Florida,” he said.

“The best partner we have in the state of Florida is the North America Mission Board (NAMB). I commend Dr. Ezell for cooperating and listening … . I am thankful to God for the NAMB and for their help in planting churches,” Sullivan quipped.

Also implemented was a reorganization and regionalization of staff along convention priorities.

Sullivan credited the convention staff for the “excellent and efficient progress” made in accomplishing the goals. “Our staff has been exceptional in making adjustments and assuming additional responsibilities and maintaining relationships throughout the state.”

In presenting the State Board of Missions report, Maynard told messengers, “Let me tell you something about Florida Baptists. I have been behind the scenes for eight years and I am more excited to be a Florida Baptist than I have ever been. I have seen what happens behind the curtain. I am so impressed with who we are.

“This convention follows Jesus Christ, nobody else,” Maynard continued. “This convention sets the paradigm. This convention sets the pattern that will be followed. I believe the way that we get to 50/50 will be the way other conventions will follow.

“There are no greater missions organizations in the world than the ones we support with Cooperative Program dollars,” Maynard said.

There were no questions or dissenting votes during convention business reports and no miscellaneous business or recommendations offered by messngers.

Next year’s meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11-12 in Jacksonville at North Jacksonville Baptist Church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, and Joni B. Hannigan, managing editor, contributed to this article.)
11/25/2012 4:02:26 PM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ind. Baptists urged to reach state’s 7M people

November 25 2012 by Steve McNeil, Baptist Press

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Indiana Baptist leader Cecil Seagle challenged messengers to the 54th annual meeting to reach the estimated 85 percent of Indianans who have no relationship with Jesus.

Seagle, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI), told messengers to avoid the trap that says, “We live in the Midwest and it’s a hard place to take the gospel.” To accept such a perspective denies the power of Jesus to change lives, Seagle said during the Oct. 14-15 meeting at Waynedale Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Preaching on the meeting’s theme of “Sent,” Seagle encouraged messengers to reach Indiana’s population of 7 million people, noting that one-fifth of SCBI churches recorded no baptisms in the past year.

Seagle posed several questions regarding Christian maturity and brotherly love:
  • “Are we able to come to the altar and stop judging others and allow Him to penetrate deep into our own life?”
  • “Is there any unreconciled strife among us? If there is bitterness or issues among us, it needs to be reconciled.”
  • “How much is pride an issue for you?”
He asked messengers to seek revival in Indiana through prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Messengers approved a 2013 budget of $4,303,221, slightly less than the 2012 amount of $4.33 million, and lowered its Cooperative Program gifts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries from 38.5 percent this year to 37.5 percent in 2013.

Of the $2,687,266 the SCBI expects to receive next year in CP gifts from its churches, $1,679,542 will go state convention mission and ministry, $931,725 to national/international Southern Baptist Convention causes, and $76,000 to Guidestone to assist with pastor annuities.

Newly elected SCBI officers are president, Randy Forsythe, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Portage; first vice president, Dave Trimble, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Haven; and second vice president, Bob Parnell, pastor of Black Oak Baptist Church in Gary.

In addition to Seagle, speakers included Warren Haynes, a missionary with the Northwest Baptist Association, and former SCBI pastor Rich Fleming and his wife Jodi who now serve in Mexico with the International Mission Board.

The SCBI’s 2013 annual meeting will be Oct. 14-15 at Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve McNeil is communications team leader for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.)
11/25/2012 4:00:24 PM by Steve McNeil, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ky. Baptists fast-track 50/50 CP allocation

November 25 2012 by Drew Nichter, Baptist Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. – With approval of the 2013-14 budget, Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) messengers have fast-tracked a 50/50 allocation of their Cooperative Program (CP) funds with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The action was taken during the Nov. 13 KBC annual meeting at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, attended by 651 messengers.

KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood presented a CP allocation budget for the coming fiscal year that will see the convention achieve a 50/50 split between KBC and SBC ministries much sooner than the 10-year goal that was recommended by the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force (GCTF) in 2010.

Two years ago, KBC messengers adopted a report from the task force that established a decade-long plan for achieving an even distribution of CP funds, minus shared expenses.

The 2013-14 budget accelerates that plan by several years, factoring in 10 percent of the budget as shared expenses. In the original plan, the GCTF called for such expenses to account for only 4 percent of the budget.

At $22.5 million, the total budget goal is $1 million less than that of the current fiscal year – a reduction of about 4.25 percent.

While the budget is presented as an even split between KBC and SBC causes, the 10 percent in shared expenses – $2.25 million – will remain with the KBC to be used for promoting the Cooperative Program, benefitting both the state and national conventions. In actuality, 45 percent will be distributed to the SBC. If the budget goal is met, that would total $10,125,000.

In presenting the budget to messengers, Chitwood said the plan to accelerate the transition to a 50/50 split is a two-step process. Approval of the 2013-14 budget is step No. 1.

Step No. 2 comes with the 2014-15 budget that will be voted on at next year’s annual meeting in Paducah. The shared expenses – or “Cooperative Program resourcing” as Chitwood termed it – will be reduced from 10 to 7 percent.

KBC officers

Paducah pastor Dan Summerlin was elected as KBC president. When the 2013 meeting convenes at Lone Oak First Baptist Church there next November, it will mark the first time since the General Assembly of Baptists in Kentucky was renamed the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1961 its president will be pastor of the host church.

All five new officers ran unopposed. In addition to Summerlin, they are: first vice president, Tom James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green; second vice president, Tommy Tapscott, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of East Bernstadt; secretary, Wilma Simmons, a member of Big Spring Baptist Church; and assistant secretary, Pat Reaves, a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Louisville. Both Simmons and Reaves were re-elected to their respective posts.


KBC messengers overwhelmingly approved a resolution on protecting freedom of speech and the exercise of religion in the United States.

The resolution refers specifically to President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as growing public support for same-sex marriage. In the face of both issues, the resolution urges Kentucky Baptists to “support candidates and policies that are consistent with a biblical worldview.”

Furthermore, the resolution affirms that Americans’ exercise of religion “requires a faith that is public” and denounces “any labeling of a historical, orthodox interpretation of Scripture as ‘hate speech,’ ‘bigotry’ or ‘prejudice.’”

The KBC is “standing with individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions who are trying to follow their freedom of religion and their right to follow biblical standards,” said Chip Pendleton, the resolutions committee chair, in introducing the resolution to messengers.

The resolution also affirms those who speak in favor of a “traditional definition of marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.”

Another resolution calls on churches “to recognize the opportunity God is providing us by bringing the world to us” in ministering to the state’s growing foreign-born population.

“Kentucky has undergone quite a seismic shift in demographics over the last few years,” Pendleton told messengers. That shift includes more than 3 percent of the state’s population coming from other countries. It is estimated that as many as 50,000 of those individuals are undocumented.

Acknowledging that all men and women are “endowed with the image of God,” the resolution condemns “any form of bigotry, mistreatment or exploitation” of Kentucky’s foreign-born population. It also encourages repudiation of “harassment or exclusion from human rights on the basis of immigration status.”

The resolution calls on Kentucky Baptist churches to organize ministries for the ethnic people groups in their communities, ministering both to their physical and spiritual needs.

“We pray for our congregations to demonstrate the racial reconciliation which is only possible through the gospel,” it states.

In another resolution, messengers expressed their appreciation for the 175th anniversary of the formation of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, as the KBC was originally known. The name was changed to Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1961.

Convention-goers also looked ahead to 2013 when Woman’s Missionary Union will celebrate its 125th anniversary and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions turns 100 years old.

Other business

– The KBC Mission Board voted unanimously to postpone a vote to end its partnership agreement with Georgetown College. Convention messengers were notified of the board’s decision at the KBC annual meeting the next day.

The decision to delay the vote to sever ties between the two entities came on the heels of an announcement by Georgetown College President William Crouch that he plans to retire next year.

Floyd Paris, chairman of the KBC’s administrative committee, told the Mission Board Nov. 12 that the school is in a time of transition and the vote should be delayed “to see which direction they’re going to go” in finding a new president.

Crouch announced Nov. 2 that he would end his 21-year tenure at Georgetown College on June 30, 2013. A 12-member committee to find his successor has been formed.

In recent years, rifts have developed between the college and the convention, prompting a KBC workgroup in September to recommend severing all ties to the college.

In contention, according to the workgroup, were issues related to the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, with ties to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, that is housed on the Georgetown campus; a recent, broader revision of the college’s “Christian Identity” statement; and removal of a prior requirement from college bylaws that 75 percent of the trustees be Kentucky Baptists.

Georgetown College is the oldest Kentucky Baptist-affiliated educational institution, dating back to its founding in 1829. An agreement between the KBC and Georgetown inked in 1942 allowed the convention to select the school’s trustees in exchange for annual funding.

In 2005, the college and the convention negotiated a deal that allowed Georgetown to revert back to an independent, self-perpetuating board of trustees. Yearly Cooperative Program contributions to the school were phased out over four years, ending in 2009, leaving only the exisiting ministry partnership.

– Messengers approved a change to the convention’s constitution and bylaws that requires a church to have been a “bona fide contributor through the Cooperative Program” in the prior fiscal year in order to be represented at annual meetings.

The change received a first reading at last year’s convention in Florence. It passed unanimously, far exceeding the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass.

The reworded Article IV also decreases the minimum number of churches’ messengers from two to one. Moreover, the criteria for additional church representatives was amended as one messenger for every 250 “resident members.” The maximum messengers a church can appoint remains at 10.

According to the KBC’s Committee on Constitution and Bylaws, the changes reflect the committee’s belief that “the Cooperative Program should be the uniform financial baseline for determining if a church is in friendly cooperation with the KBC.”

Next year’s KBC annual meeting will be Nov. 12 at Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

New KBC president

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Paducah pastor Dan Summerlin, elected as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, preached the convention sermon in 2010 and was elected as KBC first vice president that year.

Summerlin was part of the 15-member Kentucky Great Commission Task Force that recommended a 50/50 allocation of Cooperative Program funds between Kentucky and Southern Baptist missions causes by 2020.

A member of the SBC Executive Committee, Summerlin is less than a month from marking 10 years as the pastor at Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah. An Alabama native, he holds both a master’s degree and doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

According to the 2011 Annual Church Profile report, Lone Oak First Baptist Church gave $291,933 (9.54 percent of its undesignated receipts) to the Cooperative Program, ranking No. 3 among all KBC churches in total CP gifts. The church also reported 55 baptisms.

The Western Recorder did a question-and-answer article with Summerlin that can be accessed at

(Compiled from reports by the Western Recorder.)
11/25/2012 3:55:10 PM by Drew Nichter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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