November 2015

ETS meeting addresses ‘marriage & family’

November 23 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

“Marriage and the family” was the theme around which more than 700 theologians gathered Nov. 17-19 for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in Atlanta.
Southern Baptists David Dockery and Gregg Allison were among the slate of officers elected, with Dockery, president of Trinity International University, elected vice president and Allison, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, re-elected secretary/treasurer. Traditionally, the vice president has gone on to serve as ETS president.
In keeping with the meeting’s theme, ETS members adopted four resolutions on human sexuality authored by Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council. Strachan also serves as president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
The resolutions affirmed “that marriage is the covenantal union of one man and one woman, for life,” that “sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage as defined above” and “that God created men and women, imbued with the distinct traits of manhood and womanhood, and that each is an unchangeable gift of God that constitutes personal identity.”
Professors from all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries presented papers at the meeting, with many addressing themes related to the marriage and family theme.

Donated eggs & sperm in marriage

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it constitutes “reproductive adultery” for a married couple to conceive children using donated eggs or sperm from a third party.
Infertile couples increasingly are turning to donated eggs or sperm as an accepted form of assisted reproductive technology, Lenow stated, with nearly 20,000 uses of donor eggs or embryos in the U.S. during 2013, not to mention additional uses of donated sperm. Noting that Christians are among those using donated eggs and sperm, Lenow described a conversation he had with a male seminary student whose wife had donated eggs for use by her sister and brother-in-law.
The use of donor eggs or sperm, Lenow said, violates three purposes of marriage traditionally identified by Christians: fidelity, procreation and unity.
“Despite the lack of sexual intercourse between the parties, sexual reproduction does occur in this procreative process,” Lenow wrote in the paper he presented. “Thus, the offspring of this sexual process come from a union other than the husband and wife. In every other context before [assisted reproductive technology] was available, such a union would have been declared adultery. Taking the sexual union out of the bedroom and into the medical lab simply changes the location of the union, not the fact that a union has occurred.”

Marital conflict in church history

Robert Plummer, professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary, said learning about the marital struggles of couples in church history can encourage Christians to persevere through trials in their own marriages. In a paper presented with Matthew Haste, associate professor of ministry studies at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry, Plummer recounted notable Christian advice on marriage conflict spanning from the fifth century to the 20th.
The paper was drawn from Plummer and Haste’s 2015 book Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past. Their sources of advice included an anonymous fifth-century commentator on the Gospel of Matthew, the sixth-century pope Gregory the Great, Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus, Puritan Richard Baxter and 20th-century missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot.
“As I have counseled married couples both at my seminary and at my local church,” Plummer wrote in the paper, “one common theme that encouraged struggling couples is to learn of the marital struggles of others. Ironically, how life-giving it is to know that disagreement and disappointment in marriage are both normal and expected (though not without sin).”
Among the historical advice presented by Plummer and Haste, Baxter advised couples to avoid “dissension” by:

  • Mortifying “their pride and passion, which are the causes of impatience”;

  • Becoming “no more offended with the words or failings of each other, than you would...if they were your own”; and

  • Avoiding “all occasions of wrath and falling out about the matters of your families.”

Mutual submission or wifely submission?

Benjamin Merkle, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said some major Bible translations wrongly group Ephesians 5:21, and its command of mutual submission, with Ephesians 5:22, and its command about the submission of Christian wives. That error may cause believers to conclude incorrectly that the type of submission God demands of Christian wives is identical to the “mutual” submission described in the previous verse, he noted.
After arguing from the passage’s grammar that a new section begins in verse 22, Merkle noted that no critical edition of the Greek New Testament placed a break before verse 21 until 1979. “One wonders what new evidence would have caused this shift,” he wrote in the paper he presented.
“In the end, I don’t know the motivation or the decision behind the choices made with regard to the division of the text,” Merkle wrote. “I simply urge both the editors of the Greek New Testaments, along with Bible translators and commentators, to let the grammar of the ... text speak for itself.”

Marriage in the Baptist tradition

Jason Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Seminary, said Baptists have always defined marriage as one man and one woman in a covenant bond.
Surveying Baptist statements of faith from the 1600s to the present, Duesing argued Baptists “have consistently addressed marriage and family in light of cultural concerns” – a point he believes should encourage contemporary Baptists to persist in their opposition to same-sex marriage.
Duesing cited the Second London Confession of 1689 as an example of Baptists’ early support for biblical marriage.
“Marriage,” the confession stated, “is to be between one man and one woman; neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.”
A “great cloud of witnesses” constituted by men and women who supported biblical marriage throughout Baptist history “surround us and stand with us,” Duesing wrote in his paper.

‘God first, family second, ministry third’?

Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Seminary, addressed “unfortunate aspects of the maxim, ‘God first; family second; ministry/career third.’“
“Though I’m all for God, family and ministry,” Coppenger wrote in his paper, “I think the maxim is unwieldy if not cringeworthy. At least, I hope we can use it with caution, for I think it can take us down unfortunate paths.” Among them:

  • “It can play into the old sacred/secular distinction” by implying wrongly that “once you satisfy God, you can move on to other concerns.”

  • “It can make the family a jury, whereby one skeptical or cranky juror can put a developing Christian’s growth on hold. This is the sort of thing that keeps a budding disciple from going on a life-changing mission trip, because the spouse doesn’t like the idea.”

  • The maxim “can suggest that the realms of family and ministry are distinct.” Yet “happy is the pastor whose wife is deeply invested in the ministry of the church he leads, and whose kids are part of the team.”

  • It can provide “the slacker” with an excuse for ministerial laziness. “It is becoming ministerially fashionable to plead family conflict or carve out non-negotiable family commitment zones when one could easily show more flexibility,” Coppenger wrote.

  • The maxim can put family “on the bucket list to be checked off before we get to what we really want to do.”

Next year’s ETS annual meeting is scheduled to convene in San Antonio, Texas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/23/2015 11:49:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

With Gloria, relief team reports 55 professions of faith

November 23 2015 by Kevin Parker, Baptist New Mexican

Bring someone who can speak Spanish.
That was a key facet of a request to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico to deploy a mud-out team to the Rio Grande Valley after Hurricane Patricia’s remnants inundated a town of 35,000 people in late October.
On the disaster relief team: Gloria Maestas of High Rolls, N.M.
The eight New Mexico volunteers deployed Nov. 7 to Weslaco, Texas, where more than 80 percent of the residents speak Spanish.
The team called 12 days into their two-week deployment to report the results of their work. They had removed sheetrock from eight homes; cleaned three homes with a commercial sanitizing agent; completed two emergency roofing jobs and one siding job.


Gloria Maestas presents a Bible to a resident in Weslaco, Texas, whom she led to profess faith in Jesus. Maestas and her team from the Baptist Convention of New Mexico led 55 individuals to Christ during their deployment to the Rio Grande Valley after flooding from Hurricane Patricia’s remnants in late October.


But “the main reason for the call,” reported Ira Shelton, disaster relief director for the New Mexico convention, “was to report 55 professions of faith.” The spiritual response to the team’s conversations with residents was unprecedented, he said.
While God uses the work of the entire team to create opportunities for conversations, “in the process of talking with homeowners, God got hold of Gloria,” Shelton recounted. She led in 54 of the 55 decisions to follow Jesus. The team’s leader, Larry Schmidt of Ruidoso, N.M., led the other person to Christ.
The uniqueness of the team’s outreach, Shelton said, extended beyond the large number of decisions: Maestas has been struggling with cancer.
“I really wasn’t sure about sending her,” Shelton said. But “God motivated Gloria and took control over her and led her to people. It’s strictly a ‘God thing.’”
Reflecting the New Mexico team’s care for people alongside their disaster relief efforts, follow-up was a concern since the volunteers soon would be leaving. Shelton contacted Terry Henderson, state disaster relief director with Texas Baptist Men, to discuss follow-up needs.
The team provided complete contact information on the new converts – names, addresses and phone numbers – for use by Weslaco-area churches, the local Baptist association and the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ river ministry.
The organizations are “stepping up to reach out to the new converts to make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle,” Shelton said. When he spoke with the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal, he had just gotten off the phone with Henderson. After the two talked, Shelton noted Henderson’s response: “No way is that going to happen,” meaning he would ensure follow-up succeeded.
Texas Baptist Men (TBM) Desaster Relief coordinators were “blown away” with the amount of work the team accomplished and the decisions for Christ, Shelton said. “It was a phenomenally good deployment for us.” TBM has requested a team return on Nov. 30 because 70 other Weslaco homes still need assistance.
In Hurricane Patricia’s onslaught in the Rio Grande region, though not covered on national news, Weslaco and other communities sustained nearly 10 inches of rain, by one newspaper’s account. Sewers were overwhelmed, and flash warnings progressed to evacuations and serious flooding as the rainfall continued, Shelton said. Compounding the problems were people trying to drive through the floodwater, with large trucks creating sizeable waves that pushed floodwater further into homes. The Red Cross opened shelters, and the city evacuated residents from the hardest-hit neighborhoods.
Once floodwater recedes, Shelton said the danger may pass but residents face the rigors of recovery. Many homes, vehicles and possessions are damaged and must be discarded or replaced. Sometimes, building materials inside homes must be removed. Mold can grow quickly inside soaked walls and underneath waterlogged flooring, he said. Many residents are unable to adequately address the demands of flood recovery. They need help. All of this was the case in Weslaco, Shelton said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Parker is editor of the Baptist New Mexican at, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.)

11/23/2015 11:41:34 AM by Kevin Parker, Baptist New Mexican | with 0 comments

Family offers ‘blank check’ to serve overseas

November 20 2015 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

As an accountant, giving someone a blank check goes against everything Brent Kapps* knows. When it came to God’s call for his family, however, Kapps and his wife Brianna* offered their lives as a blank check before the Lord.
“Our call is a call of obedience,” Kapps said. “We don’t want to miss the opportunity to be salt and light wherever God places us.”
After faithfully serving at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, for nearly six years, eventually becoming an associate vice president, Kapps and his family have stepped out in faith to work overseas with the International Mission Board.
They will soon join a team of workers who provide humanitarian aid and community development in areas of Central Asia left in shambles by years of war. Kapps will fill a need for an accountant for the team.
“I want to show people that I am here because I love [their] country,” Kapps said. “We will be able to help serve vital needs and help the country rebuild.”


Southeastern Seminary’s “I am Going” campaign not only influences students to go where God calls them but even its own staff. After serving the seminary for six years, Brent Kapps* and his family answered God’s call to serve with the International Mission Board. Kapps plans to use his accounting experience to build relationships with people in Central Asia and be salt and light in his new community.

It was this call to ministry that initially led the family to SEBTS several years ago. Kapps had been a successful accountant for 10 years, consulting for non-profits on accounting software when his heart began to stir for the Great Commission.
“I began wrestling with passages like Romans 10:14 where it asks ‘How will they believe in him of whom they have not heard?’ and other stories such as Jesus’ call to Peter, James and John to follow Him,” Kapps said.
These passages called Kapps away from his ideal job. “It was a call for me to leave the American dream and say yes to the Lord,” he said.
The family took a step of faith and applied to work overseas. While in the application process, Kapps began taking classes at the seminary to be equipped for ministry.
They did not find a position overseas right away, but not long after that, Kapps was asked to take a position at SEBTS in the finance department.
Kapps saw this opportunity as valuable preparation for ministry and as a way to be involved in the Great Commission right where they were.
“We turned toward our community and began connecting deeply with our neighbors,” he said. “We were able to host Bible studies in our home and lead a few families to Christ. We just used where God had placed us to be His messengers.”
The Kapps family also had many people minister to them during their time at SEBTS, including fellow students, friends and the pastor of their local church in Raleigh. Kapps also credited his supervisor at the seminary, Ryan Hutchinson, executive vice president of operations, with shepherding him both spiritually and professionally. “He has been a huge encouragement to me here and was able to weave spiritual lessons into our day-to-day work,” Kapps said.
Life began to change around February of last year when Kapps heard of a need for an accountant in Central Asia. The job seemed like a good fit, but he was hesitant about the location.
“I tucked it away. I thought that place needed someone braver or more courageous,” he recalled. “It was a great opportunity but one that was too frightening for us.”
Kapps and his wife decided to take a vision trip, first stopping to explore another job in Central Asia. Though the job was interesting and the area was safer than other options, both Kapps and his wife felt unsettled. “We didn’t have a peace, although we were willing to be there. Something was missing,” he said.
While visiting the area they had feared at first, they felt God calling them to obey while giving them the courage to do so. “We knew early on that it was a special place,” Kapps said. “We had peace about being there and how we fit with the team. We knew God was calling us there before we left to come home.”
With peace from God, other things began to fall into place. Kapps’ time at Southeastern Seminary wrapped up in October, and the family left for training before heading to Central Asia.
Kapps said his family – which includes four children – is excited about this new phase of life.
“Troy* (8) expresses this through prayers for the people and the country. His prayers really show his understanding of the Great Commission,” he said. “Ruth* (11) told us she just wants to go wherever God calls us to go.”
Kapps expressed thankfulness for the time his family spent at Southeastern before taking this next step. “It is a Great Commission seminary,” he said. “We were able to be equipped and trained while having the opportunity to serve the local church.
“We are just an average family, and God has given us an open door to go and be a part of His Great Commission,” he said. “It is an honor and a privilege to get to be a part of God’s story that He is writing for this country.
“For many years people all around the world have been bathing this area in prayer, and now we are that family they have been praying for,” Kapps said. “We don’t want to be set apart as different or put on a pedestal. We are all tied in to the Great Commission.”



Pray for the Kapps family as they seek to share the message of Christ:

  • Pray for peace amid transition. Pray for the whole family to continue to abide in Christ (John 15) and in God’s Word during all the changes that are about to take place.

  • Pray the Kapps family will meet a local family with whom they can share life and learn culture. Ask that their children will be able to learn language from this family and feel accepted into the community.

  • Pray for them as they learn a new language and culture. Pray for them to persevere through the hard days and to get out of their comfort zones.

  • Pray they will make strong connections with their local partners. Pray for them to maintain good connections with their local church and be accountable to them through regular updates and prayer.

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is a news and information specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/20/2015 12:34:34 PM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments

NAE, LifeWay Research define ‘evangelical’

November 20 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and LifeWay Research released an evangelical beliefs research definition Nov. 19 for accurate and consistent use among researchers.
NAE initiated development of the research definition more than two years ago. In partnership with LifeWay Research, the definition was crafted, reviewed and tested for validity.
Numerous surveys seek to capture the opinions and practices of evangelicals in the United States. From tithing behaviors to political inclinations, evangelicals are regularly identified in research and polls. Because researchers use different tools to identify evangelicals, results vary from poll to poll. Even the estimated number of U.S. evangelicals ranges from 23 percent to 35 percent of American adults.
“Evangelicals have been misunderstood and categorized incorrectly so often, and much of that is due to inconsistent identification in research,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “Now we have a way to measure evangelical belief with confidence.”


IMB photo by Will Stuart

The NAE/LifeWay Research definition includes four statements to which respondents would strongly agree in order to be categorized as evangelical:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.

  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.

  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

The NAE board of directors adopted the evangelical beliefs research definition at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Testing for validity

Researchers typically have used two methods to identify evangelicals: self-identification and denominational affiliation. In some research polls, however, evangelicals are identified more by political demographics than religious characteristics. Though the African American Protestant population is overwhelmingly evangelical in theology and orientation, for example, it is often separated out of polls seeking to identify the political preferences of evangelicals.
“Evangelicals are people of faith and should be defined by their beliefs, not by their politics or race,” Anderson said.
NAE and LifeWay Research sought to identify people who hold evangelical beliefs regardless of affiliation or behavior. The framework provides a valid third method to researchers who typically define evangelicals by self-identification or denominational membership.
“We’re not saying these are the only evangelicals, but we are saying this will define someone as having evangelical belief,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.
With input from a diverse group of sociologists, theologians and evangelical leaders, LifeWay Research designed and tested 17 questions that were eventually narrowed to a set of four. The statements closely mirror historian David Bebbington’s classic four-point definition of evangelicalism, but with an emphasis on belief rather than behavior, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“Affiliation and behavior can be measured in addition to evangelical beliefs, but this is a tool for researchers measuring the beliefs that evangelicals – as determined by the NAE – believe best define the movement. And, just as Native Americans might best define who is a Native American, we think evangelicals can best define evangelicals,” Stetzer said.
LifeWay Research confirmed the statements are statistically valid, reliable, and form a valid scale, testing them in online and phone surveys.
People who strongly agree with one statement tend to strongly agree with others, indicating the statements measure a “theological package” of evangelical belief, Stetzer said.
“This simple set of four questions reliably discerns those who share evangelical beliefs from those who do not,” Stetzer said.

Identity versus belief

In a phone survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found widespread agreement with traditional evangelical beliefs.
Fifty-two percent strongly agree the Bible is their highest authority, and 58 percent strongly agree Jesus’ death is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of sin. Almost as many strongly agree it is important for them to personally encourage non-Christians to trust Christ (49 percent) and only those who trust solely in Jesus will be saved (48 percent).
“The biggest challenge in defining evangelicals is that too many people want to affirm evangelical beliefs, to the point you can end up with an unrealistic percentage – no one thinks the majority of Americans are evangelicals,” Stetzer said.
About 3 in 10 Americans fit the NAE/LifeWay Research statistical definition of what would count as evangelical by belief. That number will move a bit due to the format of the questionnaire and the margin of error, but it also aligns with other studies using other methods, Stetzer said. For example, 35 percent of Americans describe themselves as “born again or evangelical Christian,” according to Pew Research’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, and 25 percent identify with evangelical churches.
LifeWay Research found overlap but not perfect correlation among those who label themselves evangelicals, those who attend evangelical churches and those who hold evangelical beliefs. Just 59 percent of Protestants who identify themselves as evangelicals strongly agree with all four statements.
“Identity, belief and behavior are three different things when it comes to being an evangelical,” McConnell said. “Some people are living out the evangelical school of thought but may not embrace the label. And the opposite is also true.”
Differences were particularly apparent among African Americans. Only 25 percent of African Americans who hold evangelical beliefs consider themselves evangelical Christians, compared to 62 percent of whites and 79 percent of Hispanics.
“African American Christians historically have high levels of beliefs that align with evangelical beliefs but tend not to use that term,” Stetzer said.
“And a percentage of people strongly agree with all four of these statements but don’t identify as Christian, which is fascinating,” he said. “Those are some profoundly Christian beliefs.”
Researchers can combine the NAE/LifeWay Research statements of evangelical belief with additional questions measuring evangelical belonging and behavior to get a more complete picture of evangelicalism in America, McConnell said.
Anderson said, “Evangelicals are ‘good news’ people. We appreciate research and want to learn more from researchers about our community. This new method will help get us all on the same page about who are evangelicals.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 8-21, 2015. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity, education and religious preference to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.7 percent, including weight effects. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/20/2015 12:29:16 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Immigrant couple finds friendship, ministry

November 20 2015 by Erich Bridges, IMB

She just needed a friend.
Roopa N.* arrived from India in Richmond, Virginia’s capital city, in 2001. She was young, well-educated, tech-savvy, fluent in English. She had all the tools for personal and professional success. She also was newly married to Tagore, another young Indian with bright career prospects.
But she felt alone. Achingly alone.


Photo by Paul W. Lee/IMB
“Who knew that when we were reaching out to this young woman, God would use her and her husband to start [a ministry to Indians]?” says Jayne K. (right) of her friend, Roopa N. “If you can just reach out and love somebody who needs a friendly face, take that opportunity.”

“I was raised by a very religious family,” Roopa recalled of her Christian upbringing in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. “Whenever I needed something, I used to go to my mom and dad, and they prayed for me. But after I got married and came to the USA, I started feeling really lonely here. There weren’t many Indians that I could connect with at that time. I was also feeling spiritually dry.”
Tagore grew up in a Christian family back in India, too, but had never truly committed his life to Christ. They both landed jobs with a major health insurance company in Richmond, but encountered few other Indian immigrants in those early days. They visited a church across the street from their apartment a few times. People were civil there, but no one introduced themselves or started a conversation.
“Is this what life in America is like?” Roopa wondered. Work hard, make money, go home, waste away in isolation?
Enter Jayne K.*, a member of Grace Community Baptist Church, a small congregation in the western suburbs of Richmond.
Jayne, a busy stay-at-home mom, was part of a Bible study group geared toward Asian women. When a former International Mission Board missionary who started the study moved to another state, Jayne agreed to lead the group, which included immigrants from Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia and India. Jayne, who is married to a third-generation Japanese-American, had long nurtured a warm spot in her heart for Asian women and their spiritual needs. Another Indian in the group introduced Roopa to Jayne, who offered to give her rides to group meetings.
That’s all it took. A smile. A friendly face. An invitation.


Photo by Paul W. Lee/IMB
In His Grip,” a community-wide Indian fellowship for Christians and seekers alike, has found a friendly location at Grace Community Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, for worship, Bible study, fellowship and spicy Indian food. “The intent is to make everyone who comes feel like family, to share brotherly and sisterly love,” says Roopa K.

“I just wanted to love her and give her a group of women to be with, because she was new to this country,” Jayne said. “She was the one who asked me later, ‘Where do you go to church? I want to come to your church.’“
When Roopa and Tagore visited Grace, they found the same kind of warmth.
“The first day, everybody was very friendly and they were like, ‘Hey, how are you? Where are you from?’ They were very welcoming and made us really feel at home and connected,” Roopa said. “That day we decided we were going to come to Grace from now on.”
That was more than a decade ago. Today, Tagore and Roopa – and the two children they’ve added to the family – remain a vital part of Grace. Roopa found the friendship and spiritual support she needed. Now she reaches out to other Indian women, especially Hindus, who need a friend. Tagore got serious about his Christian faith and was discipled by mature believers in the church. Now he’s discipling others – and even leading in the translation of discipleship materials into his native language of Telegu for use in America and India.
Other Indian families have followed them into the church. And “In His Grip,” a community-wide Indian fellowship that opens its arms to Christians and seekers alike, has found a friendly location at the church for its weekly worship, Bible study and fellowship.
“Actually, we call ‘In His Grip’ a family more than a fellowship,” Roopa said. “The intent is to make everyone who comes feel like family, to share brotherly and sisterly love.”

A minority among Indians

Christians are a minority among Indians in Richmond. Most are Hindus; some are Muslims and Sikhs. The Indian believers of Grace and “In His Grip” see it as their mission to reach those who need to know that Jesus is Lord.


Photo by Paul W. Lee/IMB
Roopa N., a lonely immigrant from India, needed a friend in Richmond, Virginia. She found one in Jayne K., who invited her to a Bible study for Asian women. Their contact began a wide-ranging ministry to Indians at Grace Community Baptist Church.

Suresh V.,* the elder leader of the fellowship, explained how he works as a software engineer, but he sees his occupation as secondary work, “because we are called to be full-time ministers in the Lord.”
“There is now a big mission field right here made up of Indians, primarily Hindu Indians,” Suresh said. “So it’s a great opportunity for us. God has used all of us in different ways to reach out to non-Christian friends. Because of personal interaction between friends and sharing of the Gospel, we have seen a great number of people who have accepted Christ.”
Their activities include everything from evangelistic concerts and speakers to Christmas caroling in the community. They even took a cross-country road trip a few years ago, praying on-site in key cities all the way to the West Coast and back. And now they’re touching India itself through Telegu-language discipleship training.
“We are growing in number, and at the same time we’re really understanding the greatest command that God has given us is to share the gospel,” Tagore said. “Through that we are reaching back; it’s always on our minds that we pray for India, especially for the believers as well as unreached people groups.”

Just love people

Jayne, who shared that first smile with a lonely young woman years ago, puts it this way:
“I feel like a little link in a big, long chain. But really it was God,” she said. “Who knew that when we were reaching out to this young woman, God would use her and her husband to start this? If you can just reach out and love somebody who needs a friendly face, take that opportunity.”
For more information, go to and to locate people groups near you and find practical ways to reach them.
*Last name omitted for security.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)

11/20/2015 12:16:55 PM by Erich Bridges, IMB | with 0 comments

Tennessee Baptists set BF&M as standard for nominees

November 20 2015 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) increased their Cooperative Program (CP) giving to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes and amended their constitution and bylaws to require members of boards and committees to act in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).
Gathered Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Millington, Tenn., 953 messengers from about 320 churches also adopted resolutions opposing the U.S. Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage and decrying government funding of Planned Parenthood.
Attendance was down from the 1,172 messengers who gathered in the Nashville area last year but up from the last time the convention convened in West Tennessee three years ago.
Messengers adopted a budget of $34,250,000 for 2015-16, the same dollar amount as the 2014-15 budget. The primary difference is that 43.90 percent of CP receipts will be forwarded to SBC missions and ministries, compared to 42.07 percent in the current budget.
“We are moving toward 50/50 and we are on track to meet it by 2018-19,” TBC Executive Director Randy Davis told messengers. “It requires sacrifice, and all of our entities are making an effort to help us get there.”


Photo by Corinne Williams
Elected as new officers of the Tennessee Baptist Convention were, from left, Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Dyersburg, second vice president; James Noble, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Memphis, vice president; and Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church, Kingsport, president.

Among the new slate of officers elected were: president, Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport; vice president, James Noble, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Memphis; and second vice president, Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg. All three were elected without opposition.
Upon recommendation of the convention’s arrangements committee, Gary Jared, pastor of Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Chattanooga, was elected to preach the 2016 convention sermon, with Eric Stitts, pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, serving as the alternate.

Bylaw amended

After considerable discussion, messengers approved the following amendment to the TBC’s constitution and bylaws: “No person shall be nominated to serve on the governing bodies of the boards and institutions of the convention, on committees of the convention, or in any other elected leadership roles in and with the convention, unless the person has agreed that he or she will, if elected, covenant to serve in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”
The day before the amendment was approved, some messengers expressed concern that its passage would make the BF&M a “creed.”
“When this was presented in convention in 2000, we were assured this would never be a litmus test for anyone serving on any TBC committee or board,” said Kim Allen, pastor of Little West Fork Baptist Church in Clarksville. “I speak against this. This becomes a creed and we are not a creedal people.”
Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, disagreed. “It is important that we clarify that BF&M has never been a creed and it is not being used as creed in this report. It is a minimum statement of our faith,” he said.
“We are only asking committee members to act consistent with and not contrary to minimum standards. It is not a requirement to believe every single detail in BF&M,” Robertson said.

Resolutions adopted

Among four resolutions adopted, messengers voiced displeasure with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges which redefined marriage to allow for same-sex marriages.
The resolution, approved without opposition, noted that “no governing institution has authority to negate or undermine God’s definition of marriage” and that “the religious and conscientious liberties of individuals and institutions should not be infringed upon as a result of living according to deeply-held biblical convictions about marriage.”
The resolution further stated, “Tennessee Baptists, regardless of opposition or any legal actions that may be taken against us for living out our biblical convictions, will not cease to stand upon the sound doctrine of Scripture which is God’s inerrant and infallible Word.”
A resolution in support of defunding Planned Parenthood, which receives more than a half billion taxpayer dollars annually, said the TBC “stands in strong support of the sanctity of human life and seeks to redirect the use of funds currently being appropriated to Planned Parenthood to instead be used for health services provided by ethical health care providers in communities throughout the state and nation which do not perform abortions.”
The resolution encouraged Tennessee Baptists “to pray and also to petition our elected officials representing the state of Tennessee in Congress to boldly stand in support of the sanctity of human life and to make it a priority of greatest importance to eliminate all taxpayer/government funding of Planned Parenthood.”
Messengers also approved a resolution in support of the “Million More by ‘34” strategy, which calls for Tennessee Baptists to baptize at least 50,000 people annually by 2024 and for Southern Baptists to baptize at least a million people each year by 2034.
Messengers voted to allow Robbie Leach, pastor of Beech Park Baptist Church in Oliver Springs, to read a resolution he presented in support of the nation of Israel but which was not reported for messenger consideration by the resolutions committee.

Theme interpretations

Pastors Michael Crandall, Bruce Chesser and James Noble interpreted the annual meeting theme: “Reach Now...Whatever It Takes.”
Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg, told how doors have opened for him in his community to minister to firemen and victims of fires, then to become a fireman and to minister to sheriff’s deputies and paramedics. Crandall said he also witnesses to people in a gym he goes to.
Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, cited “the urgency of now,” referring to John 12 and Ephesians 5:16.
“God help us to put the focus where it ought to be. God help us to stop playing church and to get concerned again about people in our communities that are lost and without Christ,” Chesser said.
Noble, the newly elected TBC vice president, told believers not to be ashamed of the gospel, noting, “I’m glad that we have some Tennessee Baptists ... today who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Messengers celebrated 35 years of partnership missions with a banquet and commemorative program. New partnerships were adopted with the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist State Convention of Ohio that will begin in 2017. In addition, leaders from the TBC and the Guatemala Baptist Convention officially signed papers for a partnership that was approved last year and will begin Jan. 1, 2016.
Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist for the TBC, reported that 171 volunteers already have been to Guatemala this year. Otto Velasquez, president of the Guatemala Baptist Convention, told messengers, “We have already been blessed by those from your convention who have come to Guatemala.”
In other business:

  • A motion regarding the CP giving of churches where board and committee nominees are members was referred to the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards.

  • Davis’ executive director report was divided into five segments, each highlighting one of the convention’s Five Objectives: seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024; having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024; planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024; realizing an increase in local church giving through CP that results in each congregation giving at least 10 percent of its undesignated receipts by 2024; and realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.

  • The 180th anniversary of the Baptist and Reflector, the convention’s newsjournal, was recognized with a special presentation by Davis to editor Lonnie Wilkey.

  • Special recognitions were presented to Kenny Cooper, who is retiring this year as president of Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, and to Bryant Millsaps, who is retiring as president of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.

  • Messengers heard a report from Davis regarding the Chubby Challenge, which he issued at the start of the year encouraging Tennessee Baptists to improve their health by losing weight. He reported that the TBC staff lost 178 pounds or 4 percent of their body weight. In addition, Davis said 44 Tennessee Baptists signed up online to participate in the challenge. Those 44 individuals lost 633 pounds. Among them was Ryan Culpepper, pastor of Mary’s Chapel Baptist Church in Ripley, who lost 148 pounds and 15 inches off his waist.

The 2016 annual meeting will be held Nov. 15-16 at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

11/20/2015 12:07:08 PM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Boy in Barbie ad blurs gender identity, experts say

November 20 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Mattel’s Moschino Barbie commercial featuring for the first time a boy playing with the doll could help normalize gender confusion and distort God’s intended image of humanity, experts in gender identity issues and ministry to those experiencing same-sex attraction told Baptist Press.
Jeff Johnston, a Focus on the Family issues analyst who overcame same-sex attraction as a young adult, said the advertisement helps normalize societal gender confusion.
“The ad is a symptom of so many things that have gone wrong in our world and are affecting children, such as children growing up without fathers, the breakdown of marriage, the blurring of gender roles and hyper-sexualized media,” Johnston said. “I’m very concerned by this push to feminize boys. The commercial normalizes and celebrates gender confusion: boys acting and talking like girls.”
Bob Stith, Southern Baptist gender issues expert and founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Southlake, Texas, also sees the advertising approach as a negative, and believes parents should not buy their sons toys that are “clearly feminine.”


Screen capture from YouTube
The advertisement for Mattel’s new Moschino Barbie doll is the first to feature a boy, at right, playing with a Barbie.

“Male children can certainly be drawn to things that are considered more feminine,” Stith said. “They may be more artistically inclined, more sensitive. This is not a bad thing. The danger is when we as a culture encourage that child to pursue a feminine identity.”
Johnston agreed.
“We don’t want to be overly rigid in labeling toys as ‘boys’ or ‘girls.’ Children should have some flexibility and freedom in their play,” Johnston said. “However we do want to guide our children towards the truth that boys and girls are different. Those differences are good and worth celebrating; God built them into us at creation.”
The advertisement in question features a boy with a haircut similar to that of Moschino clothing line creative director Jeremy Scott. The initial batch of 700 copies of the doll sold out within an hour of its launch on Net-a-Porter Nov. 9 for $150 each, Scott posted on Instagram, and the doll was selling on secondary markets for $400-$800 each, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Scott is featured in Out Magazine’s Out100 2015 list.
“Moschino Barbie is so fierce,” the preteen boy says in the commercial with two girls, as he places a tiny black and gold purse on the doll’s arm. He then places a tiny black cellphone to the ear of the doll, who is wearing color-coordinated black and gold clothing. “It’s for you Moschino Barbie,” he says, winking his eye.
Both Johnston and Stith noted the boy in the ad is presented as effeminate. Stith pointed specifically to the boy’s mannerisms, voice inflections and even the little wink at the end.
Johnston said, “The boy is clearly intended to look like a younger version of the man who designs the Moschino line of clothing. ... Moschino has a history of wading into dark, highly sexualized territory and Mattel’s partnership with this designer takes the toy company there, too.”
The designer Scott “is gay identified, believes that fashion should be ‘transgressive’ and has designed highly sexualized clothes for men and women,” Johnston said. “This is not a good model for children.”
Gender confusion led to his own same-sex attraction, Johnston said, who is now married and the father of three sons.
“Gender confusion was a factor in my own struggle with homosexuality and is a factor for many men and women with same-sex attractions, behavior and identity,” he said. “We shouldn’t be fostering this confusion in children.”
Stith said the issue with the ad is not the abandonment of “gender stereotyping,” but rather “abandoning gender identity” in a culture also bent on eliminating gender distinctions.
“It seems clear also that many today think that it is ultimately helpful to a child to affirm him or her if they manifest tendencies that are not generally considered to be consistent with their biological gender,” Stith said. “This ultimately adds to a child’s confusion rather than lessening that confusion. It has contributed to a culture that seeks to convince the world that it is harmful – and even evil – to seek to help a child grow into his true gender identity, but it is a good thing to give them drugs and ultimately surgically mutilate them.”
Children have to be taught to grow into the men and women God intended, the experts noted.
“Parents should gently steer these boys toward a healthy sense of masculine identity and toward relationships with other boys and men,” Johnston said. “Fathers and male role models are critical here; they help the boy leave the world of women and enter the world of men.
“Churches and families can be a huge factor in teaching God’s design for humanity, relationships and marriage,” he said. “God made us male and female in His own image, and blurring those distinctions distorts God’s image in us.”
In today’s culture, Stith said, it is more important than ever for churches to learn how to encourage children to accept their biological gender identity.
“We must understand and teach that there is nothing inherently wrong with a male child who is sensitive and/or artistic,” Stith said. “He may have no interest in hunting or playing sports. That doesn’t determine gender identity. I am also not too concerned with very young boys playing with dolls. This can help them learn and express tenderness. But this should not be what they play with exclusively and it shouldn’t be long term.”
Stith referenced a previous Baptist Press first-person article on gender identity, written by Ricky Chelette, executive director of Living Hope Ministries in Dallas. The article offers several parenting tips on connecting with sensitive boys.
“After all is said and done, it still comes down to the truth that God created them male and female,” Stith said. “Regardless of what culture says and does we must never compromise on that truth.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/20/2015 11:38:34 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Peoples Next Door’ continues amid refugee controversy

November 19 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

A new initiative for ministering to international people groups in North Carolina was announced at the 2015 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 2-3 in Greensboro. The effort is called Peoples Next Door N.C. and it is part of the Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) under the Church Planting and Missions Partnerships team, led by Chuck Register.
The initiative’s goal is to assist individuals and churches in identifying and engaging international people groups in North Carolina with the gospel. At least 154 distinct people groups currently live in the state.
“God, in His sovereign will, has seen fit to bring the nations to North America,” Register said. “Now it is up to His people to be obedient in reaching those He has brought to us with the gospel.”
Political asylum seekers from countries like Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia are among the people groups in North Carolina.


World Relief High Point Facebook photo

One group in particular – Syrian refugees – became a source of national controversy after a Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris, France.
A Syrian passport was found near the site of one of the Paris bombings, and Islamic State supporters have allegedly expressed intent to infiltrate the West while posing as refugees.
President Barack Obama recently ordered his administration to prepare for the admittance of up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. More than 30 state governors across the nation have voiced opposition, calling for a halt on the resettlement of incoming Syrian refugees in America, due to potential terror threats.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is among those in favor of bringing Syrian immigration to a standstill, and at least one N.C. representative has suggested the National Guard round up and deport those currently living in the state, according to The News & Observer.
State officials say 44 Syrian refugees are already settled in North Carolina, making up about 5 percent of the total refugee population.
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement utilizes nine non-profit organizations, most of which are faith-based, to manage the immigration and assimilation of asylum seekers.
World Relief is one of those organizations, and GCP often connects churches and individuals with their N.C. offices for ministry opportunities among refugees.
Andrew Timbie, office director for World Relief High Point, said he works closely with the individuals and families resettling in North Carolina.
“I know the names of every refugee that comes into North Carolina through my office,” Timbie told the Winston-Salem Journal. “And I know it months in advance.
“I also know their middle names, their birth dates, ethnicity, religion, what country they are coming from, their languages, their previous occupations, and other facts.”
He added, “I also know where they work now and where they live and even their updated phone numbers.”
Timbie also praised the involvement of volunteers. “[M]ost refugees are even connected to members of local churches who help these refugees live life on a daily basis,” he said.
“Through World Relief, N.C. Baptists can minister to arriving immigrants as they work through a host of resettlement issues, such as housing, medical care, food acquisition and education,” said Register.
The Peoples Next Door N.C. initiative and the GCP’s effort to help refugees and other immigrants will continue despite the political controversy.
“Regardless of a person’s origin of birth, the need of every human heart remains the same,” Register said, “all people, from every nation, need Jesus.
“Therefore the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, through the Peoples Next Door N.C. initiative, is committed to assisting North Carolina Baptist churches as they engage all people groups, brought to North Carolina by our sovereign Lord, with the life-transforming message of the cross.”

11/19/2015 2:44:48 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

IMB missionary tells of terror and hope in Paris

November 19 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Colby Corsaut sat sleepless in the early morning hours of Nov. 14, reflecting on the terror that broke out across Paris, France, the night before. He and a group of friends had walked through the middle of a global terror scene, and he now felt his call to serve the people of France was as sure as ever.
Corsaut moved to France in early 2015 with his wife and children to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

IMB reported shortly after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that all personnel were safe, but safe isn’t the same as untroubled. So, in those moments of uncertainty immediately following the tragedy, Corsaut began to write about his experience, coping with the tragedy at hand on his personal blog.

‘Listen to the sound …’


Panic overtook crowds at Stade de France following blasts near the stadium.

“It all started with soccer. I hate soccer. Slow and mildly entertaining sport for my tastes,” said Corsaut, “but [it’s] something my people here in France love so I want try to love it for their sakes.”
Corsaut, who is an Oklahoma native, and nine friends attended the exhibition match between the French and German national soccer teams.
“When we arrived at the stadium the energy around the match was electric,” he said. “We sang La Marseillaise, slurred some cheers in our broken French and prepared ourselves to be wooed by … the ‘beautiful game.’”
Only a short time passed before the stadium’s energy shifted from electric to unnerving. After hearing a loud boom, Corsaut said to a friend, “I think a bomb just went off.”
His friend assured him it was a theatrical cannon firing or something similar. Corsaut’s experience suggested otherwise.
“When you go to football games at the University of Oklahoma they use cannons sometimes, but they are from visible places and at times that make sense,” he said. “This was not like that.”
A few minutes later another blast rattled the ground underneath their feet.
“There was a wave of anxious noise that rumbled through the stadium and people got noticeably nervous,” said Corsaut. The experience he describes was captured on video and circulated widely online. It records the sound of the explosions and the reactions by spectators.


Islamic State strikes the ‘city of light’

Chilling news reports began rolling into U.S. media outlets as a series of attacks rocked Paris, including the blasts near the stadium. The violent acts took place at more than a half-dozen locations across the city, killing at least 129 and injuring many more. Makeshift bombs and automatic weapons were the barbaric instruments of choice for the perpetrators who identified themselves as Islamic State supporters.
Attackers had planned to carry out further mayhem at Stade de France that evening, but Associated Press reports that a combination of good security, quick thinking, modernized stadium infrastructure and apparent mistakes in the terror plans appeared to have averted a massacre.
Corsaut and his group tried to calmly exit the stadium, but panic overtook the crowd.


Colby Corsaut and son

“It could only be described as a wave of pure terror,” he said. “People were running for their lives, thousands of them, all at once. I have only seen such things in movies, but I can tell you that they do not feel the same as this. Absolute chaos.”
The group decided to make their way toward the nearest train station, as did hordes of others.
Corsaut admitted to being equally afraid of the unpredictable crowd as he was of the explosions. A potential stampede could be deadly, since he was limping from a knee injury. In addition, “The next killer could be the guy standing next to you.”
The group made it onto a train, but just after the first stop everyone was ordered to exit the train and leave the station as quickly as possible.
“Running broke out again and it felt like we were back to square one,” said Corsaut. “[W]e fought to keep our group in one piece. The worst thing for us was not so much that we were moving slow, but the potential of losing somebody in our group.”
They were still miles from home, but the group began walking. “We decided that movement was key,” Corsaut said.
“It was not until we were already in the middle of the city that we learned about how widespread the situation really was,” he explained. “We were essentially walking directly through the middle of it. The attacks were on all sides of us.”
Corsaut said, after reflecting upon the events of the night, that God gave the group an unusual sense of peace as they trekked through the city amid the mayhem.


Coping with tragedy

“As I sit here, I have a deep sense of gratitude to the Lord who shepherded us along a path that would eventually lead us home. I limped home with the help of some friends. We passed police lines and blocked streets. The walking made us feel better. It was progress. One foot in front of the other was a helpful therapy as we passed the Seine and crossed the bridge into the south.”
The group eventually made it to a place where someone was able to pick them up in a van, saving them extra miles of walking.
The ride home offered a quiet moment to think about what they had just experienced.
“Honestly, I do not think I have felt this weird, emotional cocktail of anger and heartbreak since I saw the planes hit the World Trade Center,” said Corsaut. “Everybody seems to remember where they were when they heard the news. It was like that.”
Though tragedy is always difficult, this attack has only served to reinforce Corsaut’s calling to take the gospel to France.
“Maybe it is for just such a time as this that [God] has brought my family to France. These are important days in the life of France and long ago the Lord worked to position us here,” he said.
Corsaut concluded by asking for prayer: “… our deepest desire is for you to pray for us to be bold with the gospel. Pray for the hearts of the French people who have yet to know what life looks like because all they know is death.
“It is no small understatement to say that [God] is the best thing we have to offer to France. It is also not wrong to say that it is worth any cost in order to introduce Him to them. … We would love for you to link arms with us as we mourn, pray, share and heal alongside our people.”
The Corsaut family is supported through the IMB by Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving. Nov. 29-Dec. 6 is designated as a week of prayer for international missions. The goal for the 2015 offering is $175 million. Gifts can be submitted online at or by mail: IMB Development, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

Related Story:

In Paris, 'death, pain & terror' met by prayer, hope

11/19/2015 12:23:30 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Syrian refugees: balancing compassion & security

November 19 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With at least 31 U.S. governors opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states following terrorist attacks in Paris, Christians have found themselves discussing the appropriate balance between security and compassion in immigration policy.
Various media outlets reported at least one terrorism suspect in Paris entered Europe among a wave of migrants last month by falsely identifying himself as a Syrian refugee. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the U.S. since 2011, CNN reported, but the Obama administration has agreed to allow 10,000 more in 2016.
Among the governors to oppose continuing resettlement of Syrians in their states are at least two Southern Baptists: Alabama’s Robert Bentley and Georgia’s Nathan Deal.
Bentley tweeted he “will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.” Deal said in a Nov. 16 letter to President Barack Obama, “While we have empathy for the hardships that innocent Syrian people face, the terrorist attacks in Paris raise a need for additional scrutiny of those claiming refugee status.”


IMB Photo by Jedediah Smith
Each day thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after fleeing war and persecution in their home countries line up to take one of several daily ferries to Athens.

The last time the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) spoke to immigration was 2011, when a resolution “on immigration and the gospel” called for both compassion to immigrants and border security. Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix that year adopted the resolution by what Baptist Press estimated at the time as a 70-80 percent majority.
The resolution noted that “our Lord Jesus Christ lived His childhood years as an immigrant and refugee” and highlighted Scripture’s admonitions “to show compassion and justice for the sojourner and alien among us.” The statement also “ask[ed] our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders.”
Preeminently, messengers “call[ed] on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status.”
The resolution concluded, “We affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is ‘Whosoever will may come.’“
Paul Jimenez, chairman of the 2011 SBC Resolutions Committee, said Christians must avoid the unbiblical responses toward Syrian refugees of “fear, anger and isolation” on one hand and “humanitarian assistance without due vigilance” on the other hand.
Christians should “praise and submit to the government that executes justice against evil and protects its people,” Jimenez, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., said in written comments. “It has not been given the sword or its authority in vain by the Father, but for our good (Rom. 13:1-7). Meanwhile, the love of Christ should compel us to demonstrate our compassion for the individuals and families ravaged by war. Our actions of mercy display the fruit of the gospel in us and a desire to see the gospel reach all people.
“At times like these, the lines of this framework get blurred. Instead, we should highlight them in bold colors for the world to see our faith in the Father and reflect His love for people,” Jimenez said.
Earlier this month, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina adopted a resolution “on impacting lostness among immigrants.” The Nov. 3 resolution observed that “North Carolina Baptists may not agree on specific public policy responses” to immigration crises, but it noted unity in the “call to extend love and compassion to those who are vulnerable and to reach all people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Jarrod Scott, a North Carolina pastor who proposed the resolution, said America’s response to Syrian refugees should strike a balance between protecting U.S. residents from terrorism and loving the refugees fleeing war and genocide.
“We need more consideration before there is a quick, kneejerk reaction of ceasing the resettlement,” said Scott, pastor of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale, N.C. He clarified that he was not accusing any specific governor of an inappropriate reaction to the Paris attacks or to Syrian refugees.
Christians must never, Scott said, “operate just out of fear.”
“It’s somewhat inconsistent for us as a church to be sending out missionaries into environments where they are at risk for the sake of love and sharing the gospel,” Scott said, “and then ... not be willing to embrace some degree of risk to reach, in some cases, the very same people” when they seek refugee status.
Scott acknowledged, however, that individuals, churches and governments play different roles in the handling of refugees.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, agreed. He said “there’s a lot of confusion among Christians on the right response to Syrian refugees because many people do not understand that while we as Christians have one responsibility individually, government has another responsibility.”
Individuals, Jeffress said, must “show compassion for these refugees,” support relief organizations and call on government to combat the terrorist group ISIS. “But government has another responsibility, and that is to secure our borders.”
Citing Acts 17:26, Jeffress said “having a secure border is not an anti-Christian sentiment. And while our government right now says we can trust them to properly vet refugees that come into our country from Syria, many Americans, like myself and these governors, don’t believe that government is capable or willing to do that.”
A Nov. 15 YouTube video of Jeffress responding to the Paris terrorist attacks was viewed more than 78,000 times during its first three days online. In the video, he identified radical Islam as the cause of the attacks and distinguished between the responsibilities of individuals and governments.
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called Christians “to remember human dignity” without neglecting appropriate border security.
“The screening of refugees is a crucial aspect of national security, and we should insist on it,” Moore said. “At the same time, evangelicals should be the ones calling the rest of the world to remember human dignity and the image of God, especially for those fleeing murderous Islamic radical jihadis. We should remember the history of the 20th century, of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and refuseniks from the Soviet Union who were largely ignored by the world community.
“We can have prudential discussions and disagreements about how to maintain security,” Moore continued. “What we cannot do is to demagogue the issue, as many politicians are doing right now. An entire generation of those fleeing genocide will be asking if there is an alternative to the toxic religion they’ve seen. Will they hear evangelicals saying ‘Jesus loves you’ or ‘Who then is my neighbor?’ There are massive implications for both answers.”
As nations debate the appropriate political response to Syrian refugees, the International Mission Board continues to share the gospel among them, and relief organizations such as Baptist Global Response work to help meet refugees’ physical needs.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Story:
Why evangelicals are torn over admitting Syrian refugees

11/19/2015 12:12:57 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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