November 2014

Group proposes purchase of UNC Battle House

November 17 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The Business Services Special Committee (BSSC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) has received a proposal to purchase the Battle House on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The North Carolina Study Center (NCSC), a newly formed non-profit organization, has expressed interest in purchasing the property.
 
Jimmy Adams is an attorney, a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, and the chairman of the convention’s BSSC. He said NCSC submitted a 15-page proposal and a six-page letter of intent to the committee in August.
 
The Battle House was purchased by North Carolina Baptists in 1964 for $102,500 as a base for Baptist Student Union (BSU) ministry on the university campus.
 
The house is named for Kemp P. Battle, president of UNC from 1876-1891, and a former treasurer of the State of North Carolina. It has undergone many renovations and improvements to accommodate BSU ministry during the 50 years of BSC ownership. It sits prominently in the Historic District of Chapel Hill, directly adjacent to the university’s main campus.
 
In recent years BSU transitioned to the name Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM).
 
The NCSC website (ncstudycenter.org) describes the organization’s mission. “As a study center at UNC, our mission is to welcome the university community into Christian formation and the pursuit of truth for the common good. Translation: we are a hospitality center dedicated to Christian education and community-building.”

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BR photo by K. Allan Blume
There is an offer to purchase the Battle House in Chapel Hill. It was purchased by N.C. Baptists in 1964 to serve as a base for what was then known as Baptist Student Union.

 

Madison Perry, executive director of NCSC, said the vision was born out of a similar Christian study center on the campus of the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Va. He said the center has had a “massive impact on the university culture, the town of Charlottesville and the state of Virginia. It is a great model, and those who look at it have great hopes for what can be done in Chapel Hill.”
 
The UVA center was founded by Daryl Richmond, an unassuming Baptist minister from North Dakota who pastored a church near Charlottesville. “He had a passion for discipleship. He got involved in lifting weights and doing other things to spend time with students and professors to get them connected with truth claims. The Lord blessed his work,” Perry said.
 
The center began with resources aimed at enriching the spiritual life and the mind of the students in the UVA community. It became a hub for initiating many campus ministries and Christian activities.
 
“When I first learned about the center and visited it, I was immediately jealous,” Perry said. “I wondered why there was not anything similar in Chapel Hill. I learned one of the reasons [was] there was not a right location for it.”
 
Supporters of the project have been looking for a “hospitable building close to the campus that can be welcoming to students and faculty,” he said.
 
Perry grew up in Kinston, N.C. He is a 2006 graduate of UNC with a double major in Spanish and political science. He recently completed a law degree from UNC and is taking some divinity classes at Duke University. He plans to graduate in the spring with a master of theological studies.
 
“I am committed to the truth and integrity of scripture. I have never been to a school where I have agreed one hundred percent with what any professor said. Duke has prepared me well to converse with students who are confused about where to find the truth,” he said.
 
“One thing Duke is really good at is studying the philosophical presuppositions underlying modern culture. ... It can be a tremendous blessing to understand where different people are speaking from. I feel better prepared to take scripture seriously for the rest of my life.”
 
Perry explained, “This kind of center brings in all kinds of participants, especially when it is close to the university campus. Where a lot of people are transient, a hospitality center is like a good coffee shop, it’s a good ‘third place’ for people.”
 
They will host regular classes, seminars, discussion groups and speakers. The plan is to engage students and faculty in serious discussions about eternal truth. The hope is to open doors for the discussion of basic spiritual questions with participants.
 
“When I was a graduate student at UNC, I long-respected the Battle House property and the students groups it hosted,” Perry said. “The more I learned about the UVA center, the more I wondered whether a similar ministry would be appropriate for that property.
 
“Given where the Battle House is located, it’s hard to imagine a more welcoming place for any stranger to come and know the love of Christ. Christ’s love does not say, ‘Because you agree with me, therefore I love you.’ Jesus welcomes everyone into His transforming grace.”
 
NCSSC is engaged in consultation with campus ministries and local churches. “We have the strong support of J.D. Greear at The Summit and Pastor Andy Davis at First Baptist, Durham,” Perry said.
 
The letter of intent submitted to the BSSC includes the names of pastors, prominent attorneys in Raleigh and Charlotte, and a seminary professor who have expressed interest in supporting the project. Their acceptance will be finalized “pending approval of this transaction,” the letter says.
 
Adams said the Business Services Committee has reviewed the proposal, but has not voted. They are reviewing the value and history of the property before making any decisions.
 
As a graduate of UNC, Adams said the Battle House “has always been a special place. Carolina was Carolina, in some respects, because of the Battle House for me and a lot of other people. I think from the standpoint of not just me and my family, but a lot of people, the emotional connection to Chapel Hill is at least influenced by our emotional connection to the Battle House.
 
“So that’s a big consideration that I have in my leadership role, [and] I have tried to take this into consideration as I try to do what I am doing [on the committee] in this whole big question of how the convention should use the Battle House, if it should be sold, and if so, how should it be sold,” Adams said.

He came out of the “traditional Baptist background” of First Baptist Church, Columbus, Ga. “When I began at Carolina in the fall of ‘84, I didn’t know anybody in Chapel Hill. The Battle House was where I found my group. I was heavily involved in the BSU for four years. I spent every Thursday night there.
 
“The folks in the BSU were my college friends and my college family. I met a lot of folks who are still my friends today. Most significant to me, I met my wife there. I can tell you which floor board my wife was standing on when I first laid eyes on her.”
 
As committee chairman Adams said, “I want to see what’s best for both the convention and the legacy of the Battle House. It’s always been a place for students. I want it to continue to be that way. I’ve told folks that it would be really very disappointing to one day go to ... the Battle House and find that it was completely inaccessible because it was either a private residence or owned by somebody that locked it up.
 
“That is one of the endearing qualities about the proposal on the table from the [NCSC] group. Although its use will be different from what it was when I was there, because the world has changed, the plan is still to have an open, accessible place for students, in addition to the other plan they have to do apologetics and intellectual Christian thought.”
 
Adams said the university has expressed an interest in the property, but their intention would be to use it for office space.
 
An appraisal is currently in process. The property has historical value, but that may diminish its monetary value and certainly limits what can be done on the property, according to Adams.
 
When asked about the committee’s timeline, he said, “I’m more interested that it be done right than it be done fast. I think the speed will take care of itself. I think the folks that are interested in acquiring the house are more interested in doing it right.”
 
Some other BCM properties have been sold or are in the process of being sold. “A lot of those have been easy situations,” Adams explained. But he does not see the Battle House as an easy decision. “People will disagree with decisions of all types. Sometimes it is more about how a decision was made as opposed to what the decision was.
 
“Having an understanding of how it is currently being used, I think it is being underused because of the way campus ministry has evolved. Even before the change in ministry strategy that was implemented last year, campus ministry at Chapel Hill has been less focused on the use of the Battle House than it was when I was there.”
 
Adams believes the proposal on the table “poses the best combination of all things and likely comes closest to meeting all of the convention’s objectives while at the same time being consistent with and not doing any harm to alumni concerns.”
 
There was a time when everything happened at the Battle House. There were meals, Bible studies, discussions and a lot of fellowship gatherings. But Adams recognizes that ministry trends have transitioned the Battle House away from being the place of gathering. “It has turned into a residential place for a few people,” he said. “The Battle House as a facility has been underutilized as a ministry tool.
 
“Given the overall shift in ministry and the overall use of the building, I feel like being a good steward in this context will completely change the use of the Battle House. I think it can return to its prior position of being a valuable ministry tool in addition to being a place that evokes powerful and positive memories for the folks that experienced it back in my days.”
 
The facility is in poor condition, in part because improvements require special permission due to its status as a registered historical building. New owners will be in a position to return the facility to “its former glory,” Adams added.
 
Although NCSC is not required to be officially endorsed by the UNC administration, Perry said a healthy relationship with the university is important. “We conceive of the university as a place where all voices are welcome. We currently have every reason to expect that will be the case with regard to our activities.
 
“I have found strong support among alumni and friends who are excited about our vision,” Perry said. “A number of alumni and friends of UNC would really value a voice that consistently turns to scripture. ... There are givers who would be willing to donate significantly to insure there is a thoughtful and strong Christian voice on the UNC campus.”
 
John Butler, BSC’s executive leader for business services, said, “For most of the 50 years that the convention has owned the Battle House, it served us well as a place that Baptist students could gather, study, fellowship and worship.
 
“However, changes in technology and culture have dramatically changed the way campus ministry takes place in the last decade. As ministry to students moved directly to the campus through small discipleship groups and direct engagement of the campus culture with the gospel, the sheer number of students involved in the ministry limited the use of the Battle House as a central place for students involved in our ministry to meet,” he added.
 
“We are intrigued by the possibility of this historic property continuing to be used for Kingdom purposes as a Christian study center. God is not through using this property for His glory, and we are committed to being a strong influence on its use and purpose whether as its owner or a partner with another evangelical group.”
 
BSC also owns properties on the campuses of Western Carolina University, Appalachian State University, N.C. State and UNC Asheville. The Asheville property is currently for sale. Property at East Carolina University was sold earlier this year.
 
The BSC board of directors voted to transfer the property at UNC Pembroke to the Burnt Swamp association last month. The Associated Campus Ministry Building at UNC Greensboro is partly owned by BSC.

11/17/2014 3:07:09 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



BCH’s Blackwell highlights triumphs over tragedies

November 17 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Messengers have a hard time not crying each time the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) has a presentation at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting.
 
Filled with music and praise, the Nov. 10 presentation by BCH to the messengers at the meeting was no different. Sharing a story of one of the developmentally disabled adults, Michael C. Blackwell, BCH president, highlighted the story of Sedric, who lives in Stegall Home in Marshville, one of nine homes for special needs adults.
 
Sedric, who turns 28 on Nov. 22, was beaten and burned at age 4 resulting in a traumatic brain injury and confinement to a wheelchair.
 
“He was starved every day,” said Blackwell. “He slept on the floor. He wore the same dirty clothes to school every day.”
 
Teachers would bathe him at the school and change his clothes, but before he went home for the day, they had to change him into his dirty clothes. They knew the punishment he would suffer at home.

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BSC photo by K. Brown
Sedric (in yellow shirt), with some help, stands on stage Nov. 10 during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting with fellow residents of Stegall Home in Marshville. Stegall Home is one of nine homes for special needs adults operated by Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. While staying at BCH, Sedric has undergone surgery on both legs which has enabled him to walk. He walks about 200 feet a day now with the help of physical therapists and other assistance.

 

“He wasn’t even allowed to use his wheelchair at home,” Blackwell said. “It stayed firmly fixed on the front porch, and Sedric had to scoot around on the floor.”
 
A resident with Baptist Children’s Homes for seven years, Sedric received a surgery that required his legs be in casts for three months.
 
“Today, with pure determination and with great assistance, he walks maybe 200 feet a day with assistance of caregivers and physical therapists … the first steps he’s taken in 20 years,” Blackwell said.
 
Sedric was among 225 residents and staff members who participated in the BCH “Rise Up” presentation to messengers.
 
“One of these days … I won’t need this wheelchair no more,” Sedric shared. “One day I’ll be in heaven walking the streets of gold with a new body … new legs.”
 
Since becoming BCH president in 1983, Blackwell has spoken in all 100 counties of North Carolina.
 
“We have been honored … trusted and loved and respected for 129 years,” Blackwell said. “We are in 19 North Carolina communities and now have five babies in our new orphanage in Guatemala.
 
“We seek first to honor God by serving His children. All the children you’ve seen tonight … have one thing in common: that is trauma. Behind every face there is distress.”
 
He stressed the need for more financial support than ever. That’s why BCH had 1,328 speaking engagements last year.
 
He encouraged churches to take a Thanksgiving Offering or to put BCH in the church budget.
One of the featured people during the Thanksgiving Offering emphasis “Redeemed” is an alumnus from Mills Home in Thomasville.
 
“As a young boy I didn’t have any hope,” said Joe Knight. “My days were filled with fear, hunger and inferiority. My nights were filled with nightmares … I know and have experienced firsthand what it’s like to go to bed hungry, cold and afraid.”
 
Knight was less than two years old when his father abandoned his mother and five other children. That led to hopelessness and ultimately to deep depression.
 
“Some of my earliest memories of my mother is her sitting and crying for hours on end,” Knight said. “By God’s grace and your generosity my family was rescued by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
 
“Hope came in the form of Christian love and care. With plenty of food to eat, nice clean clothes to wear and all the things that any young boy would need we had. Through Christian counseling and love I was led to Christ and I was baptized in Mills Home Baptist Church when I was 11 years old.”
 
While the Thanksgiving Offering emphasis was Nov. 16-23, churches can donate to BCH at any time or participate in work days or collections of food for the April Roundup.
 
BCH’s presentation was peppered throughout with music. The Porters, a Southern gospel group, began the presentation while children and adults poured in from the back of the meeting hall with colorful T-shirts and balloons.
 
The Porters is made up of a husband and wife (Will and Betty) who have been house parents for more than 25 years. The group includes their son, Shawn.
 
Some of the children sang “Jesus Loves Me,” and Adam Saunders, a house parent for more than 20 years and co-chair of the presentation, sang “When I Think About the Lord” with Roberta Brunck, also a featured alumna for the BCH Thanksgiving Offering. They were joined by Vertical Generation, a youth choir from Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem who provided the main music for the evening session during the BSC annual meeting.
 
Visit bchfamily.org.

11/17/2014 2:49:35 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



One Sacred Effort: Find your place in God’s story

November 17 2014 by International Mission Board, Baptist Press

We can accomplish more together than you or I can by ourselves. That is the guiding principle of Southern Baptist missions.
 
This principle is reflected as churches pool their financial and personnel resources to do missions collaboratively throughout the world through the Cooperative Program (CP) and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) for International Missions.
 
Otherwise, individual efforts would be bound by individual resources. But collectively, Southern Baptists share resources with each other, which results in training, strategy and best practices, coordinated logistical support and provisions for missionary health care and child education.
 
Carlos and Lily Llambes, whose story is featured during this Nov. 30-Dec. 7 Week of Prayer, have experienced the difference this makes firsthand.
 
Before becoming International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries, the couple from Florida went to the Dominican Republic on their own as self-supported missionaries. They struggled to provide for their family of five, sometimes only having a few plantains from their backyard tree to eat for the day. Now funded through CP and LMCO, the Llambes are able to devote their efforts fulltime to evangelism and church starting.
 
Missionaries like the Llambes, sent out by and funded through Southern Baptist churches, are partnering with fellow believers from the U.S. to reach people groups around the world with the gospel.
 
The Llambes have worked with several Florida Baptist churches, connecting them with believers in the Dominican Republic to help them start churches. Also, an Arkansas church team has traveled to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to work alongside missionaries reach out to people groups in the African city.
 
A Texas congregation, who partners with missionaries to reach Afro-Ecuadorians and also the Antandroy of Madagascar, is encouraging other African-American Southern Baptist congregations to join them.
 
Out of the world’s population of 7 billion, more than half live among people groups still unreached with the gospel, some in which there is no ongoing sharing of the gospel among them. Through a combined effort, Southern Baptists are sharing the love of Christ with the nations.
 
In the words of the first Southern Baptist Convention president William Bullein Johnson, the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) was created with the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 “… for the purpose of organizing an efficient and practical plan, on which the energies of the whole Baptist denomination, throughout America, may be elicited, combined and directed in one sacred effort for sending the word of life to idolatrous lands. …”
 
How is Southern Baptist missions funded? 
 
The Cooperative Program helps fund ministries and missions by churches giving through cooperating state conventions. A portion of those funds is then forwarded by the state conventions to the national office of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Slightly more than 50 percent of all Cooperative Program contributions received on a national level are directed to help the work that is taking place through IMB.
 
LMCO funds more than 50 percent of the work accomplished through IMB. Named for a courageous Southern Baptist missionary who served in China at the turn of the 20th century, this offering is used exclusively to help provide the day-to-day support for missionaries sent around the globe by Southern Baptist churches through IMB.
 
Approximately 4,800 full-time missionaries (and their 4,000 children) are supported in this way. These missionaries proclaim the gospel, start new indigenous churches through which new believers are baptized, disciple new and established believers in their faith and provide Bible-centered teaching to current and future church leaders, so that churches are reproducing and making disciples in their own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
 
At imb.org/offering there are resources for churches to raise awareness for and to contribute to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
The focus scripture for this year is Matthew 28:19-20 and the offering goal is $175 million. See related videos at imb.org/lmcovideo.

11/17/2014 2:28:40 PM by International Mission Board, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Three Forks Assoc. celebrates 175 years of missions

November 17 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

Prayer, fasting and missions.
 
After a few years of emphasizing obedience in these things, Three Forks Baptist Association (TFBA) was established in 1841 in the mountains of North Carolina. It is named after Three Forks Church – originally founded in 1790 – in Watauga County.
 
Decades before TFBA’s conception, a number of Landmarkists including Daniel Parker and Alexander Campbell preached strongly against the establishment of a state convention and in addition, missions. The Mountain Association, formed in 1799, was known for its “anti-missions” stance where neighbor Yadkin Association was friendlier toward it. In fact, historian M.A. Huggins writes that as “the years passed the Mountain [Association] came to be the recognized leader of the anti-missionary Baptists of Western North Carolina.”

In the early 1800s, a priority of missions – amidst other variables – influenced a number of historical events:
 

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Contributed Photo
O.S. Hawkins, left, was the featured speaker during Three Forks Baptist Association’s 175th anniversary. Barry Nealy is director of missions for Three Forks.

  • In 1805, Martin Ross and others organized the first Missionary Society in North Carolina, called the Philanthropic Baptist Missionary Society.

  • In 1814, the North Carolina Baptist Society for Foreign Missions was established and Domestic Missions in 1817.

  • In the Chowan Association, Ross introduced in 1826 a resolution requesting the organization of a Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

  • On March 26, 1830, The Board of the Baptist Benevolent Society met in Greensboro to pass the motion that the Society be transformed into a state convention. A proposed constitution, written by Thomas Meredith, was presented to the convention which officially affirmed the institution known today as “The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.”

  • Eight years later, Mountain Association declared itself “an anti-missionary body hostile to the Baptist State Convention and other institutions of the day.” Huggins writes, “[T]he formation of the [Three Forks] association occurred about three years after the Mountain [Association] became definitely anti-mission.

According to minutes in 1841, a meeting was held at Three Forks Baptist Church to establish a new association known today as Three Forks Baptist Association. Ten churches were in attendance: Bear Creek, Beaver Creek, Cove Creek, Ebenezer (Zionville), Old Fields, Pine Grove, Roan Creek (First Baptist Church in Mountain City, Tenn.), South Fork, Three Forks North Fork and Three Forks South Fork.
 
On Sunday, Oct. 19, Three Forks celebrated its 175th anniversary at Watauga High School. O.S. Hawkins, CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources, gave the keynote message.
 
Barry Nealy, TFBA’s director of missions, said Hawkins was a great pick for the keynote because he “represents the mission efforts of Southern Baptists.”

Encompassing 37 churches, TFBA has birthed several ministries over the years such as its jail ministry. Nealy said the association’s pastors are enthusiastic about preaching at the jail. “The men and women are … attentive to [the pastors]. We have a couple who act as the chaplains [Kris and Becky Fowler] who go in with pastors. These pastors rotate within [the jail], and speak in each of the cell blocks for ten to fifteen minutes.”
 
Numerous rededications and professions of faith have been made through this ministry.
 
Nealy said Kris Fowler started a nonprofit, Eagle Rock Ministries, which began as a ministry that bought gifts for inmates’ children and families. Last year Fowler had more than $30,000 donated, and approximately 750 children were provided for in four counties.
 
Housed at First Baptist Church in Boone, TFBA’s Christian Outreach Center was started in 2007. The center, directed by Larry Woodrow, aids over 100 families every week to receive food items.
 
According to center’s website, “[E]ach family meets with a counselor for encouragement, guidance and prayer before selecting several food options for their home, much like we do at the grocery store. A team meets on Wednesday mornings to assemble and distribute about 300 food bags to school children selected by their guidance counselors. These are placed in the child’s backpack on Friday at school so that those who need free lunches can have some nutrition available on weekends.”
 
Three Forks also works with local community colleges and universities such as Appalachian State University and Lees-McRae in Banner Elk to minister to campus students.
 
Nealy said another well-received ministry of TFBA is Bethlehem and Beyond. It was created to emphasize the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as the true meaning of Christmas. Connecting with local business owners and the surrounding community, the ministry includes caroling, a live nativity and church parade floats during the month of December.
 
“All of these activities are meant to put Jesus into the discussion and not Santa Claus,” Nealy emphasized.
Nealy said the TFBA has residential quarters to host mission teams for local projects or church retreats. This lodging can accommodate 25 people. “Missions teams will come up and ski in the winter and then go work with a local agency like the Hospitality House. … The ministry of hosting and having lodging is much below what they’d have to pay to stay in a hotel.”
 
Founded on missions 175 years ago, TFBA continues their missions heritage to this day.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For more information about Three Forks Association, go to 3forksassoc.org, and for details about the Christian Outreach Center, visit christianoutreachcenterboonenc.org.)

11/17/2014 2:13:25 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Housing allowance survives at appeal court

November 14 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A federal appeals court has overturned a decision striking down the 60-year-old ministerial housing allowance in an action cheered by Southern Baptist leaders.
 
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Nov. 13 that an atheist organization lacked the legal right – known as “standing” – to challenge the portion of a 1954 law that permits clergy to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance.
 
A three-judge panel did not rule on the allowance’s constitutionality but unanimously rejected a Wisconsin federal judge’s invalidation of the provision last November. The appeals court vacated the opinion by Barbara Crabb and instructed her to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction. Crabb had ruled the allowance violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. The Obama administration appealed her decision to the Seventh Circuit Court.
 
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, affirmed the appeals court decision, telling Baptist Press that the “ministerial housing allowance is just and fair, and an equitable recognition of the unique employment situation of clergy.”
 
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said of the decision, “This is indeed good news for ministers.
 
“Throughout the decades, there has been a recognition that the minister’s housing allowance is a vital benefit that is consistent with our Constitution,” Hawkins said in a written release from GuideStone, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) financial and health benefits entity. “We are thankful for the government’s defense of the housing allowance ... and thankful to the appeals court for its decision in this matter.”
 
Hawkins added, “We are mindful that this might not be the last case of its type. Along with our ministry partners at the [ERLC] and our partners in the denominational benefits community, we will continue to remain vigilant to advocate on behalf of pastors.”
 
The Seventh Circuit panel, in its ruling, said it did not address the question of the housing allowance’s constitutionality because the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and its co-plaintiffs did not qualify to bring the suit.
 
The plaintiffs say “they have standing because they were denied a benefit (a tax exemption for their employer-provided housing allowance) that is conditioned on religious affiliation,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote for the panel. “This argument fails, however, for a simple reason: the plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it. Without a request, there can be no denial. And absent any personal denial of a benefit, the plaintiffs’ claim amounts to nothing more than a generalized grievance about [the allowance’s] unconstitutionality, which does not support standing.”
 
The decision “is a great victory for separation of church and state,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
 
“For 60 years, the parsonage allowance has kept the Taxman from mucking around in complex religious questions,” Goodrich said in a written release. “Nobody wants the IRS taxing churches at the whim of atheists with no skin in the game.”
 
Southern Baptists were among numerous religious adherents especially interested in the case. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and International Mission Board signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Becket Fund with a diverse array of religious organizations in support of the housing allowance. GuideStone joined in a brief with other denominational benefit boards as part of the Church Alliance.
 
At its website, GuideStone describes the housing allowance as “the most important tax benefit available to ministers.” The allowance has been especially helpful to smaller congregations because their pastors or ministers – who typically receive lower salaries – benefit from part of their income being non-taxable.
 
Under the federal income tax system, some housing costs are primarily for “the convenience of the employer,” not the employee. As a result, such costs are not considered income. In addition to ministers, those who receive such benefits include members of the U.S. military, workers living overseas and employees of educational institutions.
 
A 2002 estimate offered by then-Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnesota said the housing allowance would save ministers $2.3 billion in taxes during the following five years.
 
In issuing her decision last year, Crabb blocked enforcement of the ruling until the appeals process was complete.
 
Crabb’s decision came as no surprise. In 2010, she ruled that the National Day of Prayer violates the establishment clause. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit unanimously struck down Crabb’s ruling the following year. The appeals court ruled in that case also that Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.
 
The case decided Nov. 13 is FFRF v. Lew. The FFRF, which is based in Madison, Wis., sued the IRS regarding the housing allowance. Jacob Lew is secretary of the Department of the Treasury.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
 

Related Story:

ERLC, IMB, GuideStone urge court to uphold housing allowance

11/14/2014 12:01:23 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gay marriage, ‘faith’ spur judges to resign

November 14 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When Gayle Myrick received a memo from the North Carolina state government threatening criminal prosecution unless she performed gay wedding ceremonies, she knew she had to resign her job as a magistrate – even though resignation left her unemployed and without retirement benefits at age 64.
 
“When you’re grounded in your faith and you know – especially at my age – what you believe and whom you believe, decisions come rather quickly,” Myrick, a former magistrate in Union County near Charlotte, told Baptist Press.
 
Myrick is one of at least six magistrates in North Carolina who have opted to resign rather than marry homosexual couples following a federal judge’s ruling that the state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. For at least two of the magistrates – both of whom have ties to Southern Baptist churches – the decision to resign has brought financial hardship. But they said obeying God required leaving their jobs.
 
“Why can we have a law that’s going to prevent any sect of people from serving in the government?” Myrick said of North Carolina’s requirement that state officials perform gay weddings.

 
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Magistrates in North Carolina are judicial officers in each county employed by the state to adjudicate minor criminal and civil matters like issuing warrants, setting bail, accepting guilty pleas and performing marriage ceremonies. The state’s 670 magistrates are appointed by Superior Court judges.
 
On Oct. 14, all North Carolina magistrates received a memo from Pamela Weaver Best of the Administrative Office of the Courts stating that because a federal court legalized homosexual marriage in the state, magistrates were required to perform gay weddings. Those who refused could face criminal prosecution for committing a class 1 misdemeanor, the memo said, which is punishable by up to 120 days in jail.
 
“If a magistrate refuses to discharge the duties of his or her office, including a refusal to perform a marriage of a same-sex couple, that refusal is grounds for suspension or removal from office, as well as, potential criminal charges,” the memo said.
 
In response to the memo Myrick, who attends First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, N.C., resigned three months before she would have become eligible to receive retirement benefits from the state. She also forfeited her $36,000 salary and is now unemployed two weeks before her 65th birthday.
 
“I haven’t had any prospects of a job,” Myrick said. “I’m still hoping I’ll be able to get something because I do need to work.”
 
In addition to needing the income, Myrick said she viewed her job as an opportunity to communicate love and hope to people in difficult circumstances. But had she known performing gay weddings would become one of her legal duties, she said she “would not have taken the oath” of office.
 
In Gaston County, also in the Charlotte area, former magistrate William Stevenson shares Myrick’s objection to performing gay marriage ceremonies. He shares her experience of financial hardship as well.
 
A licensed attorney, Stevenson, 43, gave up a $47,550 salary when he resigned as a magistrate rather than perform gay weddings. To support his two children, he has accepted a temporary job doing administrative work for Operation Christmas Child while he searches for long-term employment.
 
“I’m going on faith,” Stevenson said. “This is all a God thing. I could not do this without the Lord. He has been faithful to bless me financially somewhat since this has happened.”
 
A member of South Point Baptist Church in Belmont, and a supply preacher in local churches, Stevenson said performing same-sex weddings would violate God’s Word.
 
Marriage “is a fundamental thing the Lord has set up” in Genesis, Stevenson said. “Marriage is to be between a man and a woman, and one man and one woman. And of course that’s reiterated by the Lord Jesus.”
 
Had Stevenson remained on the job as a magistrate but refused to perform gay weddings, he could have been disbarred as an attorney and sued under federal law in addition to facing criminal charges. He compared the plight of Christian magistrates in North Carolina with that of Peter and John in Acts 4, where they had to decide between obeying the Jewish authorities and honoring Jesus.
 
“I believe in the rule of law,” Stevenson said. “I believe that the Lord has set up the government over us. But at the same time, there comes a point where one has to choose between following the commands of the Lord and following the commands of the government.”
 
Stevenson worries about America’s eroding moral standards and urges his fellow citizens to repent of their sins before the nation incurs God’s judgment. He also worries about magistrates who object to gay marriage but feel financially unable to leave their jobs.
 
“I know there are a lot of magistrates who are struggling deeply about this, who don’t agree with it but are still on the job,” Stevenson said. “I don’t condemn them at all. I pray for them.”
 
The other four magistrates to resign are John Kallam Jr. in Rockingham County, Gilbert Breedlove in Swain County, Tommy Holland in Graham County and Jeff Powell in Jackson County.
 
State Senator Phil Berger and other state Senate Republicans have asked the Administrative Office of the Courts to honor the religious freedom of officials who refuse to participate in gay marriage ceremonies because of their belief systems, the Charlotte News and Observer reported. Berger said he will file a bill to protect state officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to or marry gay couples based on religious objections.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/14/2014 11:56:00 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Southern Seminary professors receive endowed chairs

November 14 2014 by Hayley Schoeppler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary installed seven faculty members to endowed chairs during the fall 2014 semester. Each of the chairs “has a story,” said President R. Albert Mohler Jr., “one that is integral to the history of the seminary and to Southern Baptists and to the larger evangelical world.”

 
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SBTS Photo
Michael S. Wilder, left, is congratulated by President R. Albert Mohler Jr. during his installation as the J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 11. 

At the final installation ceremony Nov. 11, Mohler emphasized the “significant honor” of the event because professors are elected to an endowed chair by vote of the board of trustees. “Endowed chairs are the means whereby people who are committed to the institution make that commitment clear by providing not just current funding, but the permanent funding of an instructional position,” he said.   
 
J. Scott Bridger was installed as Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, the most recent chair in the seminary’s history. The chair was made possible by a “very timely and powerful gift” from Bill and Connie Jenkins, Mohler said, fueled by their “concern that students at Southern Seminary be thoroughly equipped in the knowledge of the challenge of Islam for the coming generation.”
 
The couple also funded the seminary’s Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, which opened in February 2014. Mohler referenced a recent statement from Pope Francis, in which he challenged Catholic seminaries to take the Muslim challenge seriously. Mohler said that “friends of Southern Seminary have helped us to do that already.”
 
The seminary installed Michael S. Wilder as the J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship. Frost, a “man with a deep passion for the teaching of God’s Word and the dissemination of worthy literature” was a “human instrument for the creation of what became the Baptist Sunday School Board – now LifeWay Christian Resources.”
 
Timothy Paul Jones was installed as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry. Mohler said that the Gheens, a Louisville native, had been “one of the prime benefactors of Southern Seminary” after the school moved to Louisville in 1877.
 
Earlier in the fall semester, Bruce A. Ware was installed as T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology. T. Rupert Coleman, a student under famous New Testament professor A.T. Robertson, graduated with a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary. In 1968, Coleman baptized a nine-year-old Mohler. “I heard the message of salvation preached through T. Rupert Coleman,” Mohler said. Coleman was “the very model himself of a Christian scholar and a Christian minister.”
 
Other professors installed throughout the semester were Joseph R. Crider, as Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of Church Music and Worship; Peter J. Gentry, as Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation; and Adam W. Greenway, as William Walker Brookes Associate Professor of Evangelism and Applied Apologetics.

11/14/2014 11:44:51 AM by Hayley Schoeppler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary | with 0 comments



Expository preaching commended to African American pastors

November 14 2014 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS/Baptist Press

Christ-centered expositional preaching is cross-cultural, speakers Thabiti Anyabwile, Victor Sholar, H.B. Charles and Curtis Woods noted at an African American pastors’ conference sponsored by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
“We want to preach in such a way that opens the understanding of our people so that their rejoicing is really in the truth,” said Anyabwile, church planting pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
 
Anyabwile, opening the Oct. 27 conference with a cultural and biblical defense for expositional preaching, addressed four topics: popular objections to expositional preaching in many cultural contexts; Nehemiah 8 as a biblical text that models and calls pastors to expositional preaching; the result of the ministry of expository preaching; and how expository preaching answers the objections that are often raised.

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SBTS Photo
Matthew J. Hall, vice president of academic services, moderates a Southern Seminary panel discussion with professors Jarvis Williams and T. Vaughn Walker, civil rights leader John M. Perkins, and Kentucky Baptist Convention leader Curtis Woods.

 

Objections, Anyabwile said, include the idea that expository preaching is culturally inappropriate or too intellectual. But expository preaching engages culture, and “all of God’s Word is for all of God’s people. And we may only enjoy God rightly when we understand His Word rightly,” he said.
 
Expository preaching, or true biblical preaching, is book-centered, for the people, and “true biblical preaching has not happened until the people understand the Bible,” Anyabwile said.
 
Expository preaching means a pastor reads and explains the text until the congregation understands it, he said.
 
“We get to celebrate from every text the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf in ways that are natural to the text,” he said. “So we haven’t actually expounded the text and done expository preaching until we have understood and helped our people understand how that text relates to Jesus Christ and His finished work on our behalf, because that’s how we go from weeping over our sins to rejoicing in our Savior.”
 
Victor Sholar, senior pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., spoke about various elements of expository preaching and pastoral ministry. Preaching from James 3, he urged pastors to remember they are judged with a stricter judgment as teachers. He noted that “the instrument of our vocation is our tongue” as pastors. The ability or lack thereof to control one’s tongue, he said, is a good way to determine a pastoral calling.
 
Sholar also discussed how preaching is both doctrinal and devotional, and expository preaching challenges how pastors preach because “Christ has a holy passion about how your sermon affects people.” He said that most people want to gain more self-esteem through sermons but the pastor’s job is to esteem his sheep in Christ.
 
“Preaching exists solely for the glory of God,” Sholar said. “The only reason God gives a pastor favor is because He wants His Word to be heard and known.”
 
H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., then preached an expository sermon from Psalm 113. Praise is essential to worship, he said. True worship, like what the psalmist exhorts God’s people, inevitably involves praise and is always about God.
 
In the psalm, Charles pointed out that the call to worship appears three times in the first verse. He offered three points about worship from the psalm: worship is a universal call, Christians should worship God at all times and they should worship Him in all places.
 
“The believing heart finds many reasons to praise the Lord,” Charles said, encouraging pastors to remember God sits above everything and sees all things.
 
The pastors’ conference also featured a panel discussion with Anyabwile, Sholar, Charles and Kentucky Baptist Convention leader Curtis Woods. The panel discussed sermon preparation, influential pastors and authors, and other areas of pastoral ministry. Audio from the conference is available at sbts.edu/resources.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - S. Craig Sanders is the manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. RuthAnne Irvin is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/14/2014 11:33:45 AM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Work continues one year later in the Philippines

November 13 2014 by Baptist Global Relief

Late at night on Nov. 7, 2013, a woman named Belinda sought shelter under her kitchen table. She and her family huddled together as winds from Typhoon Haiyan battered their home in the Philippines.
 
They prayed they would survive. They did, but the gales tore off their roof.

 
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BGR Photo
Volunteers work on a structure in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

“I will never forget Nov. 7, I will never forget the typhoon!” she told visiting volunteer workers. “I will always remember that day and will take the feeling of fear to the grave with me.”
 
According to CNN, Haiyan was a category five storm, possessing winds of up to 235 miles per hour. USAID reported that it caused roughly 6,300 deaths and displaced more than 4.1 million.
 
In the past year, Baptist Global Response (BGR) conducted many projects on affected islands, including rebuilding schools and homes. State Baptist disaster organizations also adopted cities and sent teams to help repair buildings and encourage villagers. Volunteers from Texas Baptist Disaster Relief even helped Belinda repair her house.
 
All of these efforts have paid off considerably. Work on the island of Bohol, which suffered an earthquake in addition to the typhoon, progressed so that BGR began closing out its recovery operations in the area. Also, Baptist Global Response Area Director Ben Wolf said work on the island of Gibitngil even expanded from recovery into community development, and Christian workers started agriculture projects with locals.
 
Tacloban, however, still needs help today. A major city on the island of Leyte, it sustained the worst damage.
 
“The infrastructure was so destroyed that it takes so long to rebuild, and unfortunately … there’s still people in tents a year later,” Wolf said.
 
Wolf and his wife and co-director, Pam, said the Filipino people have very resilient spirits, but they were still devastated by the damage. And for many, those struggles continue as they try to return to school, to work and to normal life. Some are trying to get out of tents. BGR will still be there to help as many as possible.
 
Pray for the people in Tacloban who still need homes and jobs. Pray they will find comfort in God as they struggle to get back on their feet, and ask God to grant endurance to Christian workers associated with BGR so they can see this recovery to the end.
 
Visit goBGR.org to donate toward disaster recovery in the Philippines and all over the world.

11/13/2014 12:46:34 PM by Baptist Global Relief | with 0 comments



Desperate prayer leads ‘Miracle’ to trailer park

November 13 2014 by Margarat Colson, IMB/Baptist Press

She wasn’t supposed to live.
 
Born more than a half century ago to a 17-year-old mother, the newborn was not expected to survive more than a few days, if that long.
 
Her mother, not yet a Christian, turned to the distraction of television, where a preacher inspired her to pray. She bargained with God that if He would save her baby, then her daughter could serve Him as a missionary.
 
As the baby grew stronger and was finally released from the hospital weeks later, nurse after nurse told the young mother the fragile infant should be named, “Miracle.”
 
The prayer guided the daughter’s life from that day forward.
 
“As a child in elementary school, I remember lining up my dolls on the floor, all over the bed, just everywhere in my room,” said the woman, reflecting on her childhood.
 
“I would pretend that they were from everywhere – even here in North America – and had never heard the name of Jesus before. I would stand in front of them and tell them about Jesus.”
 
Even as a young adult, “The Father grew me, as He still is growing me, and gave me a great love for the nations,” she said.
 
Fast forward decades later to today, and that miracle baby, Pam Whitehead, is a missionary.

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IMB Photo by Mark Sandlin
Old and young alike join in the challenge for The Lighthouse at Conestoga Mission to give $100 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Every time another $4 is given, a word from John 3:16 is added to the board. When the goal is reached, the entire verse is posted. "I wanted the goal to be one they could reach, but challenging at the same time," explains Pam Whitehead.

 

Dedicated servant

While she’s not physically serving in a remote village on the other side of the world, she senses a call from God not only to live and serve in North America, but also to serve internationally.
 
“The Father called us (Pam and her late husband, John) to Conestoga,” an impoverished mobile home park in Monroe, Ga., where she has been serving the past 10 years.
 
“After the Father called John home (in 2010), He was still calling me to Conestoga,” Pam says.
 
“The Father told me when He called us to Conestoga that He would still be sending me to the nations, which He has,” she explained.
 
To Allen Hill, an International Mission Board (IMB) trustee and interim director of missions for Appalachee Baptist Association, where the mobile home park is located, Pam’s missionary zeal is unmistakable.
 
“Pam has a heart for the world, not just for Conestoga Mobile Home Park,” he said. She has been on numerous mission trips throughout the world, including serving on mission teams to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, in 2008, and in London, England, in 2012.

 

Prayer warrior

Wherever she finds herself – either walking among the people who call Conestoga home or walking among people groups who are at home throughout the world – one thing is certain.
 
She will be praying.
 
“Prayerwalking is a lifestyle for me,” Pam said.
 
She defines prayerwalking as “praying on-site with insight – asking the Father to use all of our senses to lead us in how to pray – asking that we see through His eyes and with His heart of compassion.”
 
In addition to actual prayerwalking, the missionary says she also has tried “virtual prayerwalking” by looking at pictures, objects and even videos as she is praying.
 
“Then there is prayer-driving,” she added, “when we can’t actually prayerwalk the location or maybe physically you cannot prayerwalk – but you can prayer-drive!”
 
One missionary family for whom Pam and the Conestoga Christians regularly pray is the Kelley* family serving in South Asia. In 2008, as the family of four was preparing for service through IMB, they met and became fast friends with Pam.
 
A year later, Pam joined Joanna Kelley* and eight other women on a prayer journey to the country where the Kelleys would eventually serve.
 
“This was a time of God confirming my call to our country, even in our waiting,” Joanna said.
 
The Kelleys moved to South Asia in 2011, and Joanna says the prayers of Pam and the Conestoga Christians continue to strengthen and encourage them.
 
“We know that, because people are praying specifically for our people, God is opening doors for us, setting divine appointments and preparing the path for His people to respond to the gospel,” Joanna explained.
 

Prayer Requests

The believers at The Lighthouse at Conestoga Mission ask fellow Christians to join them in praying for missionaries like the Kelleys. Here are a few other prayer requests Pam shared:

  • Pray for more people who need to know Jesus to move into the trailer park.

  • Pray for believers who live in the trailer park to grow in their faith and boldly share Jesus with others.

  • Pray for volunteers to come to the trailer park to prayerwalk, help with Vacation Bible School and children’s camp, preach, make door-to-door visits, etc.

  • Pray for Pam’s strength, energy, rest, good health, wisdom, discernment, spiritual growth and obedience to God.

  • Pray for a doublewide trailer for the mission to meet in.

  • Ask God to provide the mission with a minivan for ministry.

For more information about the ministry or opportunities to serve, email Pam Whitehead at pwhitehead1@charter.net.
 
*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Margaret Colson is freelance writer who lives in Georgia. This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Nov. 30-Dec. 7 with the theme of “One Sacred Effort – Find your place in God’s story” from Matthew 28:19-20. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches support approximately 4,800 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $175 million.

 

Related Story:

‘These people give everything they have’

11/13/2014 12:22:47 PM by Margarat Colson, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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