November 2016

Tim Tebow visits students for their Night to Shine

February 15 2019 by Prestonwood Baptist Church Staff

A group of students got the surprise of a lifetime when Tim Tebow showed up unexpectedly at Prestonwood Baptist Church. That evening the church was hosting one of his foundation’s Night to Shine prom events for special needs students.
 

Submitted photo
Tim Tebow visits special needs students prior to their Night to Shine at Prestonwood Baptist Church.

The students are enrolled in St. Timothy Christian Academy, a ministry partner of Prestonwood Christian Academy. The school for students with learning differences in grades 1 through 12 is housed at Prestonwood Baptist Church. The 26 students were gathered in an atrium area for a meeting when Tebow stepped out of the elevator.
 
“I was surprised it was him,” Noah Sullivan said of Tebow’s visit on Friday, Feb. 8. “It’s my first time meeting him. He’s great.”
 
Jacob Phegley, another student, said, “I think it’s very cool that he’s here. He’s very nice. I liked when he said we would all be crowned king and queen.” Tebow wasn’t kidding: later that night, Jacob would be crowned “King Jacob Phegley.”
 
Started by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is a prom night experience for people (ages 14 and older) with special needs. This past Friday, more than 650 churches in America and across the world held their own Night to Shine events, celebrating over 100,000 special needs students in their communities.
 
This was Prestonwood Baptist Church’s fourth year hosting Night to Shine. More than 600 participants from throughout North Texas attended the event, made possible with the help of 700-plus volunteers.
 
“When we named it Night to Shine we did it because we believe that on a night like tonight there’s a lot of things that shine,” Tebow said to the St. Timothy students. “Number one is you guys, that you get a night where you can shine; that it’s a night where the church can shine; it’s a night where all the volunteers can shine; but maybe most importantly, it’s a night where God gets to shine. Is that pretty cool?
 
“We hope you really enjoy it because it’s all about you, and it’s all for you. And guess what, at the end of the night all of you will be crowned king and queen of the prom.”
 
Kaylin Bowman, 14, said she wanted to be a princess, Cinderella, in fact.
 
When Tim introduced his fiancée, 23-year-old Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, he didn’t get to mention that she is indeed, like a princess. The South African model was crowned Miss Universe in 2017.
 
“You know how you said you wanted to be a princess,” he said to Kaylin, “Well ...,”
 
But he didn’t get to finish as he allowed Kaylin to continue talking about why she likes Cinderella – because she wears a blue dress and rides in a carriage and has a horse named Major. But Kaylin said she didn’t plan to wear glass slippers because they would hurt her heels. Kaylin showed Miss Universe how Cinderella wears her hair in a bun.
 
“You did your research!” Nel-Peters responded. “I love that!”
 
Jack Graham, who this year celebrates 30 years of pastoring Prestonwood, watched the encounter unfold and was grateful Tebow’s visit with St. Timothy students.
 
“The fact that Tim took time from his busy schedule today to spend time with the St. Timothy students speaks volumes about his heart and passion for the special needs community,” Graham said.
 
“This is our fourth year hosting Night to Shine, and I can tell you this is one of our favorite events at Prestonwood. We have a special place in our hearts for what we call our ‘Special Friends Ministry.’ What the Tim Tebow Foundation has done in creating Night to Shine is truly a blessing for people with special needs and all of us who are blessed to bless them on this special evening.”
 

Submitted photo
A Night to Shine crowd of 600 gathered at the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church for the fourth year of the outreach to special needs students.

Lisa McNair, St. Timothy Christian Academy’s head of school, also was present, taking note of how Tebow’s visit made the students feel special.
 
“As Tim and his fiancé talked with our students and took pictures and selfies, each one was made to feel significant, even our little ones who may not know who Tim Tebow is. It was indeed a blessing to see this humble champion give the gift of Christ’s joy. Our students have few moments as special as this one; we are so appreciative that Tim took time to make their day exceptional,” McNair said.
 
Tebow, who was visiting several other churches that also were holding Night to Shine events that evening, thanked Prestonwood for their support and for the work the church does with special needs students.
 
“Thank you so much for being a part of Night to Shine. You came in on year two, so you’ve been doing it for four years,” he said, “and you’re one of our biggest churches with about 600 guests you’ll have tonight. It’s so exciting. I want to thank Pastor Graham for his ministry and what he’s done for this city and all over the country – and also for kids with special needs.”

2/15/2019 11:37:25 AM by Prestonwood Baptist Church Staff | with 0 comments



Jerry Johnson resigns as NRB president

February 15 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) President Jerry Johnson has resigned, NRB announced Feb. 13.
 
Though neither NRB nor Johnson has stated a reason for the resignation, NRB board chair Michael Little said in a news release Johnson’s departure “leaves no question about his outstanding moral character.”
 

File photo

Johnson stated in his Feb. 12 resignation letter according to NRB’s release, “With conviction that my work as president and CEO is concluded at NRB, I hereby submit my resignation, effective March 1, 2019. It has been a joy to serve the NRB family for over five years. I hope and pray for God to bless them in the days ahead.”
 
Based in Washington, NRB is an international association of Christian communicators whose organizations represent millions of viewers, listeners and readers worldwide via radio, television and the internet.
 
Johnson has served in numerous leadership roles in Southern Baptist life, including president of Criswell College twice and administrative posts at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Little said Johnson, who has served as NRB president since 2013, “has led NRB well and his tenure has been marked by significant growth for our association in a number of ways. ... Dr. Johnson’s departure from NRB leaves no question about his outstanding moral character. Given the days in which we live, I feel obligated to make this clear.”
 
Johnson, 54, was president of Criswell College from 2004-2008 before resigning amid controversy about the direction of the college and its relationship with First Baptist Church in Dallas. First Baptist founded the college and maintained ties through trustee selection. However, Criswell became independent of First Baptist, and Johnson returned as president from 2010-2013.
 
Between his two stints at Criswell, Johnson was Midwestern’s vice president of academic development. He served as dean of Southern’s Boyce College from 2002-2004. Prior to that, he pastored churches in Texas and Colorado.
 
Amid the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence, Johnson was a trustee at Southern from 1989-1998, serving when R. Albert Mohler Jr. was elected president in 1993 and chairing the board from 1996-1998. Johnson chaired the SBC Committee on Order of Business in 2000 and 2001.
 
NRB’s board will meet during the NRB national convention in Anaheim, Calif., March 26-29 and “review plans for future leadership,” NRB stated.
 
NRB COO and executive vice president Troy Miller will assume senior administrative duties in the interim.

2/15/2019 11:32:22 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Louisiana College quits CCCU over LGBT policy

February 15 2019 by Will Hall, Baptist Message

Louisiana College President Rick Brewer has notified the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that the Baptist-affiliated college has withdrawn its membership from the organization.
 
The issue involves a policy passed by the CCCU board of directors endorsing so-called “Fairness for All” (FFA) legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally-protected classes while also articulating protections for churches and religious organizations.
 

Brewer, in a letter to CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra, strongly objected to the CCCU board’s action last October.
 
“Sometimes the answer to such matters is to agree to disagree,” Brewer wrote. “But the import and impact of the ‘Fairness for All’ initiative calls for Louisiana College to respectfully disagree with the CCCU’s stance.”
 
Describing what had been a “long and beneficial relationship” with CCCU, Brewer ended all ties, saying “by conviction I cannot endorse the ‘Fairness for All’ initiative nor be willfully associated with any entity that does.”
 
Louisiana College, with 1,250 students, is affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
 
The CCCU describes itself as “a higher education association of more than 180 Christian institutions around the world” and states its mission is “to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.”
 
According to CBN News, Shirley Mullen, vice chair of the CCCU board and president of Houghton College, explained the CCCU position on LGBT protections as one of practicality for Christian higher education.
 
“[W]e are increasingly persuaded that the most viable political strategy is for comprehensive religious freedom protections to be combined with explicit support for basic human rights for members of the LGBT community,” Mullen wrote in a position paper provided to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which has joined with CCCU in pushing for the controversial legislation.
 
However, Shapri D. LoMaglio, vice president for government and external relations for the CCCU, compiled an extensive justification for the CCCU position and appeared to suggest balance was the key issue, not necessarily the protection of religious rights.
 
“Fairness for All could preserve more freedom for more Americans into the future,” LoMaglio wrote in the online CCCU Magazine.
 
Moreover, she framed her position around what she called a need to “reestablish a positive perception of religious freedom,” which she claimed has been diminished “in large part because of the struggle around LGBT rights.”
 
“[W]e hope that by not just fighting for ourselves, but by also using our political power and privilege to stand up for the rights of our LGBTQ neighbors, loved ones, brothers, and sisters, we can help reclaim the gospel’s witness, reminding all citizens – including those holding views different from ours – that Christ and the Good News he brought are for everyone,” she summarized on behalf of the CCCU.
 
But some conservative Christians are calling the CCCU action “a solution looking for a problem.”
 
Dave Welch, president of the U.S. Pastor Council (USPC), called the FFA legislative initiative by CCCU and NAE “a dangerous situation that is at its core a hostile rejection of God’s created order of male, female, marriage, church, moral law and civil law.”
 
The USPC grew in national fame in 2015 when it helped lead the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that would have allowed biological males to violate the privacy of biological females in public bathrooms and showers.
 
Equating “race, religion and (biological) sex to sexual behavior and mental instability” would open up a legal “Pandora’s Box,” Welch wrote in the Christian Post, and in the end would result in “special rights for a few.”
 
“Christians who still actually believe and follow the authority of the entire canon of Holy Scripture” would be at risk of “civil and criminal punishment,” Welch said.
 
On Feb. 1, Greta Hays, CCCU director of communications and public affairs told the Christian Post no member institutions had dropped out of the CCCU because of its stance on “Fairness for All” legislation. However, Brewer shared with the Baptist Message that Louisiana College’s withdrawal notice was sent Jan. 9 and CCCU had responded that it would make the necessary changes to the organization’s various databases that list member schools.
 
On its website, Louisiana College, in its statement on the “Biblical Design for Human Sexuality” notes, “We believe that all people should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual beliefs,” in its statement on the “Biblical Design for Human Sexuality.”
 
Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, the college states, “is in the narrative of all scripture – from Genesis to Revelation. Marriage, gender and sexuality are not just appendages tacked onto scripture, but are icons of the gospel and human flourishing (Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4).”
 
The college also states: “We come alongside those experiencing same sex attractions who choose to honor Christ by not pursuing those attractions, just as we come alongside all individuals who seek to live in purity before the Lord (Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19-21; Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9- 10). We believe we are created by God in His image as two distinct sexes: male and female (Gen. 1:26-28; Matt. 19:4-5). We believe that each person glorifies God and affirms His infinite holiness and wisdom by living in alignment with his or her birth sex. While we acknowledge there may be confusion and brokenness for some individuals in this area, we do not affirm or support transgender identity or expression. Instead, we place our faith and trust in God’s redemptive plan.”
 
The full text of Louisiana College’s statement follows this story.
 
Louisiana College is not the first Baptist college to exit the CCCU. Union University did so in 2015 due to “the organization’s failure to respond appropriately to two member institutions that have endorsed same-sex marriage,” according to an August 2015 news release. At issue were Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University.
 
Several other Baptist-affiliated colleges are not listed on CCCU’s webpage of member schools, including Shorter University and Truett-McConnell University in Georgia, William Carey University in Mississippi, Wayland University in Texas and Cedarville University in Ohio.
 
**********
 
Louisiana College statement on Biblical Design for Human Sexuality:
 
We believe that all people should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual beliefs. Sexuality is one of the ways by which the marriage covenant between a husband and a wife is sealed and expressed. Marriage is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage in the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race. It is important to note that Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality is in the narrative of all scripture – from Genesis to Revelation. Marriage, gender and sexuality are not just appendages tacked onto scripture, but are icons of the gospel and human flourishing (Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4). Sex misses its purpose when treated as an end in itself or when cheapened by using another person to satisfy pornographic and sinful sexual interests. We view all forms of sexual intimacy that occur outside the covenant of heterosexual marriage, even when consensual, as distortions of the holiness and beauty God intended for it.
 
Therefore, we support the sanctity of marriage (Ephesians 5, Hebrews 13:4). We define marriage as being a covenant between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4-5). We believe in honoring the holy sexual union within the context of that covenant (Hebrews 13:4). Believing that God redeems and restores through life in Christ, we walk alongside those that are seeking to overcome sexual sin (Romans 6-8; Galatians 6:2). As followers of Christ, we turn from sexual immorality in its many forms including but not limited to: pornography, pre-marital sexual relations, adultery, and same sex romantic intimacy and/or sexual relations. We come alongside those experiencing same sex attractions who choose to honor Christ by not pursuing those attractions, just as we come alongside all individuals who seek to live in purity before the Lord (Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19-21; Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9- 10). We believe we are created by God in His image as two distinct sexes: male and female (Gen. 1:26-28; Matt. 19:4-5). We believe that each person glorifies God and affirms His infinite holiness and wisdom by living in alignment with his or her birth sex. While we acknowledge there may be confusion and brokenness for some individuals in this area, we do not affirm or support transgender identity or expression. Instead, we place our faith and trust in God’s redemptive plan.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Hall is editor of the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.)

2/15/2019 11:24:39 AM by Will Hall, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



Church with a food truck worships in parking lot

February 15 2019 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

Jayson Albers, who grew up in a Baptist church, made a living for a long time as an opening shift supervisor for Ryan’s steakhouse.
 


Submitted photo
Keith Akins baptizes "Country" at The Church at Southside's Sunday gathering in a parking lot in downtown Birmingham, Ala. Country subsequently died of cancer. "I know without a doubt he is with Jesus," Akins says.

“When they would start a new restaurant I would go in and train them on how to open the store,” he said.
 
Then life came crashing down – his wife and son died in an accident, something which he speaks little about. One thing led to another and Albers started living in a tent in 2000 near the railroad tracks in Birmingham, Ala.
 
He’s been there ever since.
 
“I pretty much know everybody on the streets, and everybody knows me,” Albers said.
 
But a few years back somebody different started showing up in the city’s homeless camps – Keith Akins, an Alabama native who felt God calling him to start something new.
 
“We looked into church planting, and we didn’t know exactly what that was going to look like, but we wanted to go into some of the dark and forgotten places in the city that people are leaving,” he said.

So Akins moved his family into Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood and started hanging out with Albers and others who called the city streets home. Akins and some of his friends would go to the homeless camps, cook on Coleman stoves and share a meal with the homeless. Sometimes they would gather up as many people as they could and take them to restaurants.
 
No matter where they ate one thing was sure – they had no lack of things to talk about.
 
“It was like reading the gospel,” Akins said. “Jesus loved to sit down and share a meal. We would just sit down, eat and just have normal conversations. We built some strong relationships.”
 
He talked to them a lot about Jesus over the course of three years – and a lot about church. By that time he had started one in his home – The Church at Southside – which had grown to need its own building. But more than anything Akins wanted it to be a place where anyone felt comfortable.
 


Submitted photo
The Church at Southside draws more than 100 people for its breakfast, Sunday worship and food distribution at a parking lot in downtown Birmingham, Ala.

He asked his homeless friends if they would come. And they said no.

“I was always met with stories about how they didn’t have the right clothes. I would tell them this is different, they could come just as they are, but they would say, ‘No, I’ve been to church before,’ and then tell me horrific stories,” Akins said. “It broke my heart.”
 
As The Church at Southside began meeting in a leased space in hopes of including the homeless, not one homeless person came through the doors.
 
“I remember asking God, ‘I know You’ve put them on my heart – what do You want me to do?’ and I felt the Spirit urging me – ‘Why don’t you go to them?’”
 
At that point, Akins said, the church was nearing the end of its lease, and the congregation of around 40 voted unanimously not to renew it.
 
“We didn’t know exactly what it would look like,” he said, “but we thought – what if we let the church be mobile?”
 
They got a food truck and started filling it with food and supplies, and they pulled up in a parking lot downtown and met there.
 
“For three weeks nobody showed up, and it was just us,” Akins said.
 
But he remembers vividly the first couple who came – Paul and Amanda.
 
“We had doughnuts and juice, and we gave them every doughnut we had and told them we’d be there again next week, to bring their friends,” Akins said.
 
That was the first Sunday of November 2016, and The Church at Southside hasn’t missed a Sunday since, rain or shine. Those first two people grew to six, then 10 as word “got around and got around and got around,” and now more than 100 show up every Sunday at the parking lot where they meet behind an ad agency.
 
Every Sunday morning they serve a hot meal prepared by people in the church, then eat together and have a worship service. In the past two years the church has served more than 10,000 meals.
 
After the service each person is given a bag of canned food and dry goods.
 
Albers is the one who unloads the van and packs up the food bags. “It’s not a snack bag,” Akins said. “We actually give a meal like a can of beef stew, pork, chicken or tuna fish – something that’s going to stick to your gut.”
 


Submitted photo
A food truck filled with food and supplies plays a key role in The Church at Southside's outreach to the homeless. Each week, members bring a variety of items for breakfast, with bags of canned food and dry goods distributed from the food truck after worship.

It’s “not your normal church,” he said, crediting the help of a couple, Keith and his wife Jamie, and a handful of others in addition to Albers.
 
Akins said the church wants to welcome everyone with open arms, no matter what their life looks like. If there’s sin, the love of Jesus will meet that once they meet Him.
 
“It’s people from all different walks of life,” Akins said. “Not all of the people who come are homeless – some are in lower-income housing and apartments around there.”
 
And not all of them are jobless. Albers, for instance, works with a landscaping company.
 
But all have deep needs, Akins said.
 
He remembers one Sunday after an uncharacteristic snowstorm that they pulled in to find a very hungry crowd waiting for them.
 
“The people they normally went to for meals had been snowed in for a couple of days, so they hadn’t been able to eat,” he said. “It broke my heart. The needs are great.”
 
Even so, the people there are an example of the widow’s mite in action, Akins said. Oftentimes churchgoers will bring money or food they’ve found during the week so that they can give it away to people who need it more.
 
“It’s a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God,” Akins said. “This whole thing, God’s been great in it. There’s buy-in and it’s beautiful. We don’t have it all figured out but God is at work.”
 
For more information, visit churchatsouthside.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

2/15/2019 11:10:45 AM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



SBU committee named for ‘evaluations’ of ‘orthodoxy’

February 14 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid ongoing discussion of a former theology professor’s firing at Southwest Baptist University (SBU) and the board’s exclusion of a trustee elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention, SBU has announced the members of a Peer Assessment Committee to conduct “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” at the university.
 

Photo from SBU
Southwest Baptist University has announced the members of a Peer Assessment Committee to conduct “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” at the university.

Assessment committee chairman David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, announced the appointment of five additional committee members, according to a Feb. 13 SBU news release. They are:
 
– Ken Hemphill, director of North Greenville University’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization and a former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
– Barbara McMillin, president of Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss., and president of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.
 
– Joe Crider, professor of church music and worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former SBU faculty member.
 
– Tim Howe, an SBU alum and pastor of teaching and discipleship at Heritage Baptist Church in Lebanon, Mo.
 
– Camden Pulliam, an SBU alum and director of admissions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
The committee will visit SBU’s Bolivar, Mo., campus at least once before spring break and at least one additional time prior to spring graduation, SBU stated. Committee members will work with administration, faculty and student leaders “to help determine the scope of their assessment.”
 
Clint Bass, the terminated theology professor at issue, saw his Nov. 28 firing upheld by a trustee subcommittee that convened in December. SBU President Eric Turner has accused Bass of violating faculty policy by, among other infractions, “collecting evidence and ascribing views to [faculty colleagues] without personal interaction.” An online petition supporting Bass claims he ran afoul of SBU administrators after informing the administration “of his concerns about the doctrinal instability” of SBU’s Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.
 
During a Jan. 22 special called trustee meeting, SBU’s board voted to censure and exclude a trustee identified by Missouri Baptists’ Pathway news journal as Kyle Lee, who serves alongside Bass as an elder at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar.
 
Following Lee’s exclusion, MBC Executive Director John Yeats told the Pathway, “Censuring and exclusion of a duly elected trustee from any MBC entity board is very serious matter and warrants careful review by Missouri Baptist Convention leaders in discussion with SBU leaders. There are numerous issues that will be addressed in future conversations, including the exclusive legal right of the Convention to both elect and remove trustees.
 
“We need to understand SBU’s views as to whether there is a process to restore a censured trustee to full service. The trustee relationship to the Convention is a sacred trust in the Baptist world. Any unsettling of that relationship inhibits the mission we (MBC) have asked the trustees to do. MBC leaders are giving this matter the urgent attention it deserves,” Yeats said.
 
Dockery said he looks forward to working with Turner and other SBU personnel “on these very important matters.”
 
“We want to encourage the university community to take the next steps to enhance distinctive Christian higher education at SBU,” Dockery said.
 
Redford College dean Rodney Reeves said he anticipates “meaningful discussions with the Peer Assessment Committee.”
 
SBU announced the Peer Assessment Committee in December, named Dockery chairman and said the committee would “lead a University-wide dialogue regarding faith and learning” to include “deeper conversations and evaluations regarding orthodoxy.”

2/14/2019 10:28:13 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



James MacDonald fired after ‘inappropriate’ comments

February 14 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

James MacDonald, a former radio and television preacher who has spoken several times at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference, has been fired as pastor of Chicago-area Harvest Bible Chapel, the church announced Feb. 13.
 

BP file photo
James MacDonald, pictured here at the 2015 SBC Pastors’ Conference, has been fired from the Chicago megachurch he helped start more than 30 years ago.

Harvest’s elders said in a statement they already “had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor,” but their “timeline accelerated” Feb. 12 when “highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported.”
 
The elders’ statement apparently referenced recordings aired Feb. 12 by Chicago radio personality Eric “Mancow” Muller that allegedly depict MacDonald using crude language and insulting journalists who have written about him.
 
“This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors,” the elders stated.
 
MacDonald has spoken at the SBC Pastors’ Conference at least four times since 2012. During his 2015 appearance, MacDonald announced Harvest would begin cooperating with the SBC. According to the SBC Executive Committee, Harvest contributed to the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in 2015. The EC has no record of contributions by Harvest since that time.
 
Harvest does not cooperate with the Illinois Baptist State Association.
 
In December, MacDonald withdrew from his speaking slot at this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference in Birmingham, Ala., amid renewed allegations by WORLD Magazine that he and other Harvest leaders “have shown an ongoing pattern of relational and financial abuse, a lack of transparency, and outright deception.”
 
Harvest announced last month MacDonald would take an “indefinite sabbatical from preaching and leadership.”
 
At the time, MacDonald said in a statement, “I have carried great shame about [a] pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.”
 
Earlier in January, MacDonald pulled his Walk in the Word broadcast from radio and television while keeping it as a podcast. He cited costs and changing demographics as reasons for the move.
 
In the elders’ announcement of MacDonald’s firing, they requested prayer for “our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family.”
 
MacDonald started Harvest in 1988 and has seen it grow to a weekend worship attendance of thousands.

2/14/2019 10:23:22 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NFL veteran and wife make ultrasound gift to New Orleans

February 14 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists celebrated the power of partnership with a veteran National Football League player and his family in dedicating a new ultrasound machine in a New Orleans health center.
 

Photo by Verge Media
Hannah Pounds, chief medical officer at Baptist Community Health Services in New Orleans, provides a demonstration of the ultrasound machine given by Benjamin and Kirsten Watson through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project after a dedication service Feb. 10.


Benjamin and Kirsten Watson, along with their five children, joined in the dedication of the new addition to the ministry of Baptist Community Health Services (BCHS). The Watsons donated the ultrasound machine in the fall through the Psalm 139 Project, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) ministry to help place such technology in pregnancy resource centers across the country.
 
The machine serves women in crisis pregnancies as well as others with medical needs at BCHS’ Andrew P. Sanchez Center in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The nonprofit ministry provides health care through four centers in underserved areas of the city. The churches of the New Orleans Baptist Association, with the help of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, launched BCHS in 2014.
 
Speakers at the Feb. 10 ceremony at the Sanchez Center pointed to the cooperation demonstrated by the ultrasound machine’s placement.
 
“It’s been great to see how the Lord has used the passions of the Watson family being stirred by the Spirit of the Lord to find a partner who shares that same Spirit, linking resources, building networks all for the glory of God,” said Shawn Powers, BCHS’ chief executive officer.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore told the audience that included BCHS staff and board members that he is thankful “to partner with all of you and with the Watson family today.”
 
Watson, a tight end who retired at the close of this season after a 15-year career, told the BCHS community that his family is “very, very thankful to be a part of what you all are doing. We’re thankful that God placed us here for this time and made these connections, made these relationships.... We’re very humbled to play a role.”
 
Powers said BCHS’ partnership with the Psalm 139 Project “has been huge. It’s allowed us to feel somewhat like, ‘Yes, we’re a part of God’s Kingdom in a new way,’ being refreshed and encouraged.’”
 
Moore, in a written release before the dedication ceremony, said he is “excited to see how this machine will be used as a powerful instrument to help protect unborn children and mothers across the city of New Orleans. Ministries like BCHS play an indispensable role in advocating for human dignity, and I pray this placement would help them continue to flourish and serve” New Orleans.
 
The Watsons also collaborated with Psalm 139 earlier in 2018 when they largely funded an ultrasound machine for the Severna Park (Md.) Pregnancy Clinic outside Baltimore, where Benjamin played for the NFL’s Ravens the previous season. They made the donation – which resulted in the machine being installed in June – through the Evangelicals for Life (EFL) partnership of the ERLC and Focus on the Family.
 
Watson, who played the final season of his career with the New Orleans Saints, said the idea for donating ultrasound machines was birthed in his wife Kirsten a decade earlier when she was pregnant with their first child, Grace, now 10. Kirsten is now pregnant with twins.
 
The Watsons were visiting with the ERLC and Focus on the Family at the EFL conference in Washington, D.C., when they learned of the organizations’ collaboration in placing ultrasound machines. They realized, he said, “Why reinvent the wheel? This is our opportunity.
 

Photo by Chandler McCall
Benjamin and Kirsten Watson, shown with ERLC President Russell Moore, right, gave an ultrasound machine through the Psalm 139 Project to Baptist Community Health Services in New Orleans.

“[I]t’s amazing how God will birth something in someone, and somebody else has the ability [to fulfill it],” Watson told the dedication ceremony audience. “And through teamwork, He will put people together for His purposes.”
 
Viewing an ultrasound of their first child in utero “sparked something for us as a couple,” Kirsten Watson said. “[W]e are just honored and blessed that we are able to provide that for other mommies and daddies.”
 
Hannah Pounds, BCHS’ chief medical officer, said the ultrasound machine is a gift at a “time of great need, and it also gives us amazing opportunities.”
 
“And those opportunities are to show visually and to show auditory evidence of the life within the womb, to give parents the most information and data possible as early as possible,” Pounds said at the ceremony. “Without this technology, we wouldn’t be able to do that. It also gives us the opportunity, which is our routine, to screen for emotional distress and spiritual distress.”
 
The machine enables the BCHS staff “to proclaim the truth that Jesus Christ loves them and it’s not just us and you and the baby in the room,” Pounds said. “There’s also Jesus, who loves each of us regardless of our past choices.”
 
Michael Flores, chairman of the BCHS board, said the ministry has experienced peaks and valleys, “but I don’t think we could find any previous peak that surpasses today.”
 
BCHS, which sees 50 to 70 patients daily, is the only known federally qualified health center connected to a Southern Baptist association.
 
“What I love about this health care mission is we can help treat the physical needs, the emotional needs of people and the spiritual needs of people, but it’s all being done with the desire to move them further into the mission of the redemptive love of Christ,” Powers said.
 
The Psalm 139 Project not only helps place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers, but it funds the training of staff members to operate the machines. In the case of the Watsons’ gift to BCHS, Psalm 139 identified the center, coordinated the placement and arranged training on the machine.
 
Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped provide ultrasound equipment for centers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. The ERLC has collaborated with Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program on some of the machine placements.
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at psalm139project.org.
 
The Psalm 139 Project is named after the psalm in which David testified to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. He wrote in verse 13, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
Watson received EFL’s Pro-life Public Service Award and spoke at the conference in 2018.

2/14/2019 10:14:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gardner-Webb announces new president

February 14 2019 by GWU Communications

The Gardner-Webb University (GWU) Board of Trustees announced Feb. 13 that William M. Downs has been named the institution’s 13th president. He currently serves at East Carolina University (ECU) as the dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences in Greenville, N.C.
 

Board members unanimously confirmed his appointment at a special meeting, capping a highly competitive one-year national search. His term as GWU president begins July 1.
 
According to David Royster III, GWU Board of Trustees member and chairman of the Presidential Search Committee, the new president has significant leadership experience and understands higher education on multiple levels. “He has served as a faculty member, department chair, program director and dean,” Royster noted. “The Board of Trustees has faith that Gardner-Webb will thrive and continue to provide transformative opportunities for students under his guidance.”
 
With more than two decades of service in higher education, Downs has been at ECU since 2014. He is the W. Keats Sparrow Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts and a professor of political science. He administers 16 academic departments and 17 interdisciplinary degree programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, which has more than 6,000 arts and sciences undergraduate majors and more than 730 graduate majors. Downs also ensures the quality of general education curriculum for more than 23,000 undergraduate students. Working with his colleagues, he has introduced several initiatives to improve undergraduate research and international study opportunities.
 
“I am truly honored by the privilege and opportunity of serving as Gardner-Webb University’s next president” Downs said. ”So many things have attracted me and brought me to this moment...GWU’s mission and underlying values, its people and programs, and its rich traditions of excellence.  Together, we will have the chance to write a new chapter in the history of one of North Carolina’s great universities.  I cannot wait to get started.” 
 
From 1997 to 2014, Downs served various roles at Georgia State University (Atlanta), including area dean, department chair, director and professor. He is an accomplished lecturer, research scholar and the author of Political Extremism in Democracies: Combating Intolerance. He has been a research fellow at Harvard University’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, a graduate research associate at the Carter Center’s African Governance Program and a Fulbright Research Fellow in Belgium.
 
The search committee worked in conjunction with the Charlotte-based executive search firm Coleman Lew + Associates, Inc. to help in the search process. Members of the Presidential Search Committee include trustees, GWU faculty and staff, and a student representative.
 
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Downs to Gardner-Webb” said Jennifer Marion Mills, chair of the Board of Trustees. “He brings academic depth, significant leadership experience and vision to the position. We expect great things ahead.”
 
A Raleigh native, Downs earned his bachelor of arts in political science, with a minor in journalism, from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, in 1988, and his master of arts (‘90) and doctoral (‘94) degrees in political science from Emory University, Atlanta. Downs is married to Kimberly Harwood Downs and has two children, Rachel and Bradley.

2/14/2019 10:06:32 AM by GWU Communications | with 0 comments



Facebook expands church plant’s community connections

February 14 2019 by Rebecca Manry, SBC LIFE

Everyone craves connections – a truth that Living Stone Community Church has embraced by using Facebook to minister to their community.
 

Photo by Whitney Clayton
Building on their Facebook contacts, Ali and Whitney Clayton organize a block party for their neighborhood, assisted by a mission team from First Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.

Facebook can be an important tool in getting to know neighbors and pointing them to Christ, said Ali Clayton, wife of church planter Whitney Clayton.
 
“We mainly use social media to get a pulse on our community,” she said. “People will put what they care about, what they’re going through, how they’re hurting on Facebook. So we’ve used it to connect personally to people.”
 
Sometimes, Facebook opens up opportunities for ministry.
 
Her husband met a man in their area of Mesa, Ariz., and made it a point to add him as a friend on Facebook. Later, he learned through Facebook that the man was going through some traumatic events – a death in the family and a car accident. The Claytons were able to take the family a meal, and as Whitney helped the man process his grief, he was able to share the gospel on three different occasions.
 
“I don’t know that [Whitney] would have known about all that was going on in that guy’s life had he not been friends with him on Facebook,” Ali said.
 
And Facebook can help start new relationships. Church members have used neighborhood pages and interest-based clubs on Facebook, such as fitness groups or book clubs, to meet people.
 
Ali joined a local mom’s group through Facebook when her family first moved to the area about three years ago. She built friendships during their weekly gatherings while their children played together and became especially close to one of the women in the group.
 
One day, the woman told Ali that her father had died, and her son was asking questions about heaven that she wasn’t prepared to answer. Knowing that Ali was a Christian, she asked if she could attend church with her. The woman subsequently became a follower of Christ and has remained active in their church.
 
Of course, using Facebook is not always a positive experience, with its potential to bring out some of the worst aspects of a person’s character, like narcissism, deception and jealousy.
 
Rather than using it as a platform for self-importance or broadcasting one’s feelings and opinions, Ali said, “I think that as believers on mission for God, Facebook can be used best when we have a posture of listening, and hearing from the lost people in our lives.”
 
Don’t just listen and be a “passive observer,” she counseled. If someone is struggling, reach out and offer Christ’s love to the person in need.
 
Ali said church members are always ready to deliver meals; whenever they hear about a family with a new baby, a death in the family or another life event, they are willing to step in and serve.
 
The Claytons make it a priority to open their home in order to build community with their neighbors and care for them. They host a weekly dinner that they regularly invite neighbors to attend. They also host a community Bible study open to anyone, which began after a suggestion on their neighborhood’s Facebook group.
 

Photo courtesy of Ali Clayton
Whitney and Ali Clayton, with their four children, reach out to their community through Facebook, a weekly dinner for neighbors and a community Bible study.

Maintaining a strong walk with the Lord is essential when ministering through hospitality, Ali said.
 
“I have four young kids – the oldest is 7 – so even keeping our house picked up and thinking about feeding our own family can be overwhelming at times,” she said.
 
“To think of inviting other people into that on a regular basis can be draining if I’m not connected to the Lord and really having Him fill me, so I can continue to pour out.”
 
Usually when a church is looking to establish a Facebook presence, or build up their existing presence, the advice centers around a few best practices: maintain a page with up-to-date information. Post content frequently that informs, inspires and encourages people in their walk with Christ. Promote major church events.
 
Yet Facebook has even more to offer to individuals interested in connecting more deeply with the people around them.
 
A good way to start making those connections, Ali said, is to see if your neighborhood has a Facebook group or page already established. If it does, join. If it doesn’t, start one. But don’t let your involvement stop there; keep in contact with the people in your community and if someone is in need, try to meet that need.
 
“I think we are all craving meaningful, deep relationships,” Ali said. “Taking [Facebook connections] a step further and meeting those people in person, and becoming friends with your neighbors, is the next step to bringing them into the family of God.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Manry is communications specialist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, sbclife.net, journal of the Executive Committee.)

2/14/2019 9:52:19 AM by Rebecca Manry, SBC LIFE | with 0 comments



Greear addresses SBC response to sexual abuse report

February 13 2019 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index

In a broad-ranging talk with members of the Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP), Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear urged Southern Baptists to be a people known for the gospel.
 

Christian Index photo by Scott Barkley
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear talks with members of the Association of State Baptist Publications Feb. 12.

The meeting, which lasted more than 40 minutes, took place at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston during the ASBP’s annual meeting.
 
“This conversation is very complex,” he admitted, referring to a recent investigative report published in the Houston Chronicle about sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches. “… But I also understand this is a time for us to lament and to grieve. I do not believe you can in any way push this aside as an agenda-driven thing put out by the secular media to try to destroy us.”
 
And even if that were the case, said Greear, it doesn’t allow Southern Baptists to ignore the damage.
 
“There’s a problem. And we want to respond to this with humility … [and] by owning a wrong. If there is a time and a place to defend ourselves maybe that will come later, but it is not now. We’ll trust God to defend us; we’ll trust God to bring truth to light.”
 
He acknowledged that it’s likely most churches inadvertently create environments for predators through situations such as lack of training or education. Those environments, he added, become “safer for abusers than they are for victims.” In the cases exhibiting malicious intent to protect an abuser, Greear said Southern Baptists need to be unified on how to handle those situations.
 

Female-majority council to bring recommendations

 
Steps to address sexual abuse were developed by a diverse council made up mostly of women, said Greear, and which he will present at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting. He also noted this will be a culmination of meetings begun last July to address sexual abuse in the SBC.
 
“Nobody timed this,” he said. “The Houston Chronicle article was totally outside of our control. I am grateful that in the providence of God it’s coming around at the same time that we had already originally planned to say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing’ [regarding sexual abuse].”
 
Right now, he stressed, is a time to hear others out.
 
“We’ve got a lot more to learn. So let’s learn and listen to victims and advocates … and survivors … so that we can be a gospel witness in this time and reflect the gospel so our churches can be the safest places on the planet for somebody that’s vulnerable.”
 

‘A gospel people’

 
Responding to a question from The Index, Greear urged Southern Baptists to refrain from finding ways to explain away the Chronicle report’s findings. “This is not a time for sermonizing, virtue-signaling, posturing, or trying to point out where else it happens,” he said.
 
“The safety of victims is more important than the reputation of Southern Baptists.”

Greear began his time with the group emphasizing his desire for Southern Baptists to be known as a “gospel people.”
 
“When people think and talk about us they ought to think and talk about the gospel. That means there has to be some discipline and restraint at what we do because there are a lot of good and important things that can eat up [attention] and we aren’t talking about the thing (the gospel) we’re supposed to be talking about.”
 

Celebrate, not cause, diversity

 
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., also reasserted his desire for the SBC to celebrate diversity “without causing it.”
 
“By God’s grace we’re one of the more diverse groups of churches in the nation. [Around] 20 percent of our membership is non-Anglo. The North American Mission Board … [President] Kevin Ezell told me that of all the churches they planted last year 62 percent were non-Anglo. I know in North Carolina that number is 65 percent. That’s amazing.”
 
Greear, however, expressed regret that SBC leadership hasn’t reflected that diversity. The Committee on Committees – to which the SBC president appoints members – is comprised of highly-qualified candidates regardless of ethnicity, he vowed.
 
“When you first look for someone to recommend for a job, you tend to go with people you know. I don’t think [anything] has been done with malicious intent. We decided to ask people who aren’t in the normal networks but fully-participating, cooperating Southern Baptists. Let’s get membership that reflects who Southern Baptists really are, where we want to go, and who we want to be.”
 
Leadership input from previously untapped areas, he stated, will make the SBC a stronger messenger for the gospel. His appointments for the Committee on Committees are made up of 45 men and 23 women. The average age is 43 with the youngest being 22 and oldest 73. Half are non-Anglo.
 
“We need the wisdom and leadership going forward of people who don’t look and think just like us,” Greear said. “We need different voices at the table.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was originally published at ChristianIndex.org. Used by permission.)

2/13/2019 10:26:14 AM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index | with 0 comments



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