November 2019

Julio Arriola named executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization

November 11 2019 by Amy Whitfield, Baptist Press

Julio Arriola has been named executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC).
 

Julio Arriola

“Julio Arriola is one of the most gifted, winsome and relational leaders I know,” said Ronnie Floyd, EC president and CEO. “He walks with Christ deeply, has a great heart for evangelism, loves people, and knows how to mobilize them to mission and ministry.
 
“Southern Baptists from all walks of life will benefit greatly from his life and his leadership. He and Carla are two remarkable people who love our Southern Baptist family,” Floyd said.
 
Arriola planted Iglesia Vida, currently the largest Baptist church in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2017. Prior to that, he served as Global Worship Pastor for Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., and he has served as worship leader and youth pastor at churches in Texas. Julio and his family will relocate to Nashville by the end of 2019, and he will begin his work with the Executive Committee in January.
 
“Almost a decade ago when I became a U.S. citizen, the doors of this great nation opened wide to me and my family to pursue dreams we never imagined,” Arriola told Baptist Press. “For many, the American dream may be a better financial situation, a house, a good education for their children, a few weeks of vacation a year or freedom to do whatever they want. But for me and my family, it has meant greater opportunities to spread the gospel of Jesus.”
 
Floyd announced Nov. 1 the addition of three full-time EC staff positions that would focus on increasing diverse engagement. This is the first of the roles to be filled.
 
Arriola will work with other EC offices to develop and implement strategies for the involvement and participation of Hispanic churches and church leaders across the SBC. This will include promoting active participation at every level of Convention life as well as increased Cooperative Program understanding and involvement.
 
Over the past two decades, the number of Hispanic congregations in the SBC has increased by 77.52 percent – from 1,975 in 1998 to 3,506 in 2017.
 
“Jesus prayed for us to be one in John 17, and I am very excited to help do just that in the SBC by serving and mobilizing more than 3,500 Hispanic congregations,” Arriola said. “With God’s help we will do mighty things.”
 
Arriola plans to graduate with a Master of Theological Studies degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2020. He holds an undergraduate degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
 
Julio is married to Carla, and they have three children – Daniel, David and Elizabeth.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amy Whitfield is associate vice president for convention communications for the SBC Executive Committee.)

11/11/2019 12:46:30 PM by Amy Whitfield, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christian clinics to offer contraceptives to singles

November 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A network of Christian women’s health centers in Texas offering the gospel to all clients will begin providing contraceptives in March 2020, to single women, according to the network’s CEO who is a Southern Baptist evangelical.
 
The Source, a merger of eight formerly independent Christian crisis pregnancy centers, sees the new service as the best way to fulfill the biblical mandate to love your neighbor as yourself, CEO Andy Schoonover told Baptist Press Nov. 8.
 
“For contraception specifically, I think it would be disobedient if we didn’t,” he said. The Source, with six physical locations and two mobile units, reached the decision after intentional Bible study and prayer, said Schoonover, a member of a Southern Baptist church in Austin, Texas.
 
“We have all come to the conclusion that the decision that is most in line with ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is to give women a tool, education, and counseling that will help reduce unplanned pregnancies, therefore reduce abortions,” Schoonover said. “If a woman comes in, is sexually active, typically a non-believer, highly likely to get an abortion if she becomes pregnant, we believe that the most loving thing to do is to provide her with a tool while guiding her back to a biblical view of sex.
 
“The alternative is, we could do nothing, in which case she will probably get pregnant, have an abortion,” he said, “and have to deal with the spiritual, emotional and mental health complications that often follow that.”
 
The centers will offer an array of contraceptive measures to married and single women, but will not offer abortifacients nor abortions. With locations in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, the clinics expect to see 100,000 women by 2025, Schoonover said. Staff offer the gospel to every woman served.
 
“We just see that as a tremendous opportunity to introduce the gospel to women … and families that may not have otherwise been introduced to the gospel,” he said. Women who refuse to hear the gospel are still served at the clinics.
 
“A key component of what we do is spiritual services, and we’ll include those services if the client is amenable,” he said. “Every client that walks in, we ask them if we can share with them the gospel, and if they are amenable to that, we do; if not, then we don’t.”
 
Contraception will be only one component of the clinics’ services, Schoonover stressed.
 
“We’re providing women who typically can’t find quality health care – so the new immigrant, the poor typically don’t have insurance or are on Medicaid – a loving place that will care for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” he said. “Contraception … is just one small piece of what we’re doing to try to help women that haven’t been loved very well historically, especially by the healthcare system.
 
“Contraception is the controversial one,” he said, “but I think what we’re doing generally is one that can be embraced by faithful and then the non-faithful, the right or the left.”
 
Free ultrasounds, counseling regarding pregnancy options and adoption, parenting education, STI testing, pregnancy testing and prenatal services are among the clinic’s offerings, according to Schoonover and TheSource.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/11/2019 12:36:20 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Veteran’s Day: Former Marine plants churches near military bases

November 11 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

As a 10-year, active duty service member in the Marine Corps, Brian O’Day regularly moved with his family. He traveled to 15 different countries, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

Photo submitted by Brian O’Day
Brian O’Day and his wife, Kelli, at a Marine Corps birthday ball. O’Day served in the Marine Corps on active duty for 10 years, traveling to 15 different countries. Now, he serves as the founding pastor and elder at Pillar Church Jacksonville, N.C., and is a catalyst for church planting in military communities through The Praetorian Project.

About eight years into his military service, O’Day discerned God’s calling him to ministry – to establish a church in a military community with a consistent gospel witness.
 
“I felt like God was calling me not to move around and jump from church to church,” O’Day said, “but instead serve in one of those churches, that sat still in a military community and ministered to and pastored and shepherded military service members and their families.”
 
That call came while O’Day was stationed at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., and attending Pillar Church in Dumfries, Va. Now he serves on the leadership team at Pillar Church Jacksonville, N.C., a church that O’Day started in his family’s home on Jan. 6, 2013. O’Day became executive director of the Praetorian Project in May of 2019, which exists to establish a network of gospel-centered churches near military installations around the world.
 
Planting new churches in military communities is one of the focus areas of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm. As the endorsing entity for Southern Baptist chaplains, NAMB encourages both established churches and new churches to involve chaplains in their ministry strategy.
 
“Southern Baptist military chaplains have the primary responsibility of providing religious services and activities for their service members, veterans and the surrounding military community,” said Doug Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy.
 
“Churches can work intentionally to prayerfully support SBC-endorsed military chaplains and military church plants,” Carver continued, “regularly including them in local church events and other denominational activities.”
 
Serving in a church that has a major focus on military service members involves a number of unique challenges. Military families move often, and the soldiers deploy for months at a time. Those hurdles should not discourage any church’s outreach to military members.
 
“Everyone, every believer, needs a healthy local church,” O’Day said. “Even if they move a lot, even if they deploy a lot, they need a healthy local church. We want to plant churches near these service members and their families.”
 
Aside from meeting the need for Christians to have a local church, O’Day also emphasized the need for churches to provide access to the gospel to everyone, “even highly transient service members.”
 
The transitory nature of military life, however, provides opportunities alongside those challenges. Moving every few years can make it difficult to connect with a local church, but the travel opens up doors for ministry as well.
 

Photo submitted by Brian O’Day

“We want these service members to take the gospelwith them to all of the different places they go,” O’Day said. “I was in 15 different countries in 10 years of active duty, and I took the gospel with me. We want others to do likewise.”
 
Reaching out to members of the military requires intentionality, O’Day said. There are opportunities for churches to connect by providing counseling before, during and after deployment.
 
“The relationship between the local church and the military community involves a continuous relationship building and education process between military chaplains, church plants near military communities (CPMC) and local Southern Baptist churches,” said Carver.
 
Military chaplains will have insight into the most pressing needs affecting a local military community, and they can share those opportunities with churches.
 
“Local churches can greatly support the military community by offering value-added ministry activities such as biblical counseling, parenting classes, marital counseling, financial planning seminars, and grief and trauma counseling,” Carver said.
 
Churches may be intimidated or concerned about asking military members about discipleship, but O’Day reminded churches that they are used to and understand training.
 
“They need to be discipled as they continue to grow, in their faith, in their maturity, as they grow in their influence, we want to see them grow in spiritual maturity as well,” O’Day said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

11/11/2019 12:26:34 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



New England Baptists focus on evangelism

November 11 2019 by Kimber Huff, Baptist Convention of New England

“There are different methods to reach people … but here’s the thing that brings us all together: the message,” Chris Goeppner, a New Hampshire pastor whose church baptized 92 last year, noted in the opening remarks of the Baptist Convention of New England’s (BCNE) 37th annual meeting.
 

The Nov. 1-2 sessions at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., drew 169 messengers and 58 guests for fellowship, worship, prayer, business and celebrating what God is doing as the New Englanders focused on the theme of evangelism.

BCNE photo
BCNE Executive Director Terry Dorsett, right, prays for newly elected convention officers: president, Gonzalo Graupera, third from right, and vice president, Don Rondina, left.


Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, preached the opening sermon, “Why Southern Baptists Must Evangelize.”
 
Evangelism must be the priority for Christians, Floyd reminded. It is the starting point for discipleship and is urgent because Jesus is coming again.
 
“People need Jesus, and people need Jesus now,” Floyd said. “We may be doing good things in our churches, but are we doing the best thing?
 
In the BCNE president’s address, Tim Owens, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland and Bennington, Vt., expounded on Romans 1, underscoring to the audience that they are obligated to be reading and willing to share the gospel.
 
“Here’s how we know evangelism works: We’re proof of it!” Owens said, issuing a call to saturate New England with the gospel in the next 20 years.
 
Terry Dorsett, in his executive director’s report, encouraged New England Baptists to prepare themselves for evangelism by truly revering Christ as Lord as well as by praying, receiving training and displaying the hope of Christ.
 
“There’s a reason why some of us aren’t very effective in evangelism: because our lives are saying something much stronger than our words,” Dorsett said.
 

Resolutions

 
Messengers unanimously passed a “Resolution Regarding Sexual Abuse in Churches” in response to revelations and subsequent press coverage earlier this year of instances of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
 
The resolution, citing such scripture verses as Luke 17:1-2 and Ephesians 5:27, states that the BCNE “strongly condemns the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable individuals.” The resolution encourages churches “not to tolerate or cover up sexual abuse” and to “comfort and assist” survivors of sexual abuse and their families. The BCNE pledges to encourage churches to offer training, implement safety practices and utilize the national sex offender website, among other best practices.
 
The resolution concludes with an affirmation of the BCNE’s “right to disfellowship churches that knowingly cover up, ignore, or fail to report in a timely way allegations of sexual abuse of minors or other vulnerable individuals.”
 
An additional resolution was passed to thank Island Baptist Church of Hampstead, N.H., for hosting the meeting.
 

Awards, budget, other business

 
The convention’s Robert Brindle Church Planting Award for 2019 was awarded to Grace Harbor Church in Providence, R.I., pastored by Kevin McKay. In the past five years this congregation has started three churches in New England while also sending out pastors to serve in churches from Boston to Newport, sponsoring other church plants and being on mission to assist plants across the country and around the world.
 

BCNE photo
The BCNE staff now includes regional coordinators serving in place of directors of missions in associations that have merged organizationally with the convention: from left, Russell Rathier, Vermont; Sam Taylor, greater Boston; and Randall Curtis, Rhode Island. Currently three of seven associations have merged, with the New Hampshire association planning to merge in 2020.

The Ray Allen Evangelism Award for 2019 was presented to Holy Bible Baptist Church in Somerville, Mass., pastored by Dieudonne Raymond, and Enough Ministries in Barre, Vt., pastored by Craig Ray and Dan Molind.
 
Holy Bible Baptist has been sharing the gospel with the Haitian community of greater Boston for more than 30 years. They have planted numerous churches, including two within the last two years, and have created a program that develops church leaders in New England, Haiti, Canada and France.
 
Enough Ministries celebrated 24 baptisms last year. In total, the church has led to faith and baptized nearly 1 percent of the population of their small town, and they are in the process of planting another church in a nearby town.
 
Messengers adopted proposed changes to the BCNE bylaws to update a committee name for the purposes of clarity and to better reflect the committee’s work.
 
Messengers approved a 2020 budget of $3,830,000, a decrease of 1.5 percent compared to the 2019 budget. Projected Cooperative Program (CP) giving remains unchanged at $1,318,600.
 
The budget includes $250,569 allotted to Cooperative Program missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, representing 19 percent of New England CP giving, an increase of 1 percentage point from last year. The dollar amount also represents an increase of more than 5 percent over the dollar amount given to SBC missions last year.
 
In addition, for the third year in a row, nearly 100 percent of funds given to the Cooperative Program will be used for missions and ministry to the 352 BCNE churches, their 28,534 members, and beyond. This is possible because overhead and administrative costs are funded through rental income and other sources.
 
In a unanimous vote, BCNE officers were elected for the coming year: president, Gonzalo Graupera, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Boston (The Pilgrim’s Church) in Saugus, Mass., and vice president, Dong Rondina, assistant pastor of Word of God Christian Fellowship, a Filipino-American church plant in Framingham, Mass.
 
For the third year, several training sessions were offered in conjunction with the annual meeting: “Why Evangelism is Critical in Church Planting” led by David Jackson, BCNE church planting director and strategist; “Why Evangelism Must Be Part of WMU/Missions Training,” Doris Opoku, WMU president in New England, and Mick Stockwell, IMB missionary; “Connecting with Your Community through Social Media,” Kimber Huff, BCNE communications coordinator; “Evangelizing Our Jewish Neighbors,” Mitch Forman, vice president of U.S. outreach for Chosen People Ministries and member of First Baptist Church in, Haverhill, Mass.; “Evangelizing Our Muslim Neighbors,” Fady Ghobrial, Christian Union Ministry Fellow at Harvard and member of Arabic Baptist Church in Newton, Mass.; and “Preventing Sexual Abuse in My Church,” Sandra Coelho, BCNE lay leadership development coordinator.
 
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 at The Church on Seven Hills in Worcester, Mass. Gary Moritz, lead pastor at City United Church in Lunenburg, Mass., and BCNE church revitalization director, will deliver the annual sermon
.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kimber Huff is the communications coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England.)

11/11/2019 12:12:24 PM by Kimber Huff, Baptist Convention of New England | with 0 comments



Pastor accused of abuse top candidate at Tenn. church

November 8 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist Church has chosen as its top candidate for pastor a church leader accused of abusing two teenagers, at least one sexually, when he was a youth pastor 17 years ago.
 

Word Press photo
Wes Feltner

Wes Feltner of Burnsville, Minn., is considered the top candidate for senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tenn., church leaders have announced. Two former students who attended Feltner’s youth ministry have accused him of pastoral abuse by enticing the students into secret intimate relationships during his term at First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville, Ind., in 2002.
 
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), which employed Feltner as an adjunct professor before the allegations came to light, suspended him Nov. 6, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a statement.
 
Feltner is senior pastor of Berean Baptist Church, a non-Southern Baptist congregation in Burnsville. Berean is investigating the accusations, it said in a statement Wednesday, using “outside, neutral and experienced professionals to perform this due diligence.”
 
Tabernacle Baptist Church, where Feltner served as senior pastor from 2008 – 2013, has established an internal hotline for members and attendees to connect with a female chaplain to discuss any allegations, although the church did not say the hotline was established because of Feltner’s tenure.
 
Alleged victims, identified as Megan and JoAnna, tell their stories at broughttothelight.org. Megan, identified on Twitter as Meg Frey, alleges a “sexual relationship” in 2002 when she sought counseling from Feltner, at the time her youth minister, at age 18.
 
“The counseling soon transformed into him having a bubble bath waiting for me in his upstairs bathroom ‘so I could relax’ after coming from work and school, thereafter offering a massage. [What I thought was] a relationship progressed, and many nights I would stay until 3, 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning,” Frey said at broughttothelight.org. “Wes quickly told me that he wanted to be with me, loved me and wanted to marry me, but had lists of reasons why we had to remain a ‘secret couple.’ … The sexual relationship began before I graduated high school.”
 
JoAnna, identified in the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle as JoAnna Hendrickson, said her story began in the fall of 2002 after she served as a summer youth intern at First Southern Baptist under Feltner. He told her he felt “God leading him to pursue” her, even as he was trying to end another relationship, she said at broughttothelight.org.
 
“It did not take long for Wes to initiate the physical side of our relationship. As things were progressing and lines were being crossed, I remember questioning him about the spiritual health of our relationship especially since our relationship was not public … and worrying about things going too far physically,” Hendrickson said. “His responses to me anytime I would question him was to dismiss my concern and make me feel childish about questioning things about our relationship.”
 
Feltner agrees with some of the allegations, but disagrees with others, he told BP Nov. 7, but did not specify which allegations he asserts are true.
 
“I agree with some of the facts alleged in the statements and deeply regret the hurt I may have caused them,” Feltner told Baptist Press (BP). “But some of the allegations are not accurate.”
 
The allegations are being used by “a small group” working “to prevent the [Clarksville] church from recruiting me,” Feltner told BP Thursday.
 
“They accuse me of ‘pastoral abuse’ based on events that occurred 17 years ago when I was a single young man working as youth leader in a church in Indiana. They have widely circulated statements of two women whom I dated with the permission of their parents when they were 18 years old,” Feltner said. “My family and I are facing a withering barrage of online attacks and personal threats.”
 
Feltner will respond to the specific allegations once his church completes its investigation, he told BP.
 
Both women have declined to meet with Feltner, he said.
 
“I, and others, have reached out to them several times seeking an opportunity to hear their grievances and answer to them. I proposed a meeting with a mediator to ensure that all concerns would be fully heard and understood,” he said. “They declined to talk saying, ‘the use of Matthew 18 [Matthew 18:15-17] as a means to try to silence your victims will not stand.’”
 
Both women said they and their mothers reported the allegations to First Southern Baptist Church in 2002, but were told to not discuss it with anyone. Feltner then resigned.
 
The current senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, David Cullison, began leading the church in 2008, years after Feltner left. As such, he told BP, he is not familiar with the allegations.
 
“I really don’t have any comment,” Cullison said. “You can’t speak to that which you don’t know, and I really don’t know anything about it.”
 

SBTS

 
SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. learned of the allegations Nov. 4, he said in the statement.
 
“Immediately, I sent the information received to our response team, and within an hour it was determined that credible accusations of misconduct had been presented,” Mohler said. “Accordingly, all teaching responsibilities for this individual were suspended and classes reassigned to other instructors.
 
“When the charges became known to us, I asked that the individual’s dissertation be withdrawn from public circulation and reviewed,” Mohler said. “The review found nothing within the dissertation that would prevent public access, which will now be restored as soon as possible.”
 
He invited the public to send SBTS any information “that should inform” the seminary’s handling of the matter.
 
“Our first institutional knowledge of this situation came by social media,” Mohler said. “In the case of any kind of misconduct or suspected misconduct, it would be very helpful if information would be sent directly to us and to any other institution or ministry that might be involved, and to law enforcement authorities as appropriate.”
 

Others

 
Berean takes the allegations “very seriously,” the church said in its statement.
 
“We are performing due diligence and this will take some time. This due diligence is an element of due process and it does include fact finding; it will be complete and it will be prompt, but it will not be hasty,” Berean Baptist said. “When this is complete, we will assess the implications and potential remedies and decide together as elders what is appropriate.”
 
Tabernacle Baptist expressed sadness upon hearing of the reports.
 
“The hiring process of Pastor Feltner in 2008 included third-party criminal background checks and due diligence was used in exploring his moral character through given references with no improprieties being found,” Tabernacle Baptist said. “Also, our personnel team has no knowledge of any allegations brought against him during his tenure as pastor.”
 
The church is concerned with abuse of any kind, it said.
 
“We want to help those who have been involved in situations that are damaging physically, emotionally or sexually,” Tabernacle Baptist said in its statement. “Because of this we have set up an internal hotline for members and attenders of TBC. This hotline will connect people with a female chaplain that can walk them through their situation and assist them to receive the help that they need.”
 
First Baptist Church of Clarksville did not respond to BP’s request for comment by press time Thursday.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/8/2019 11:36:45 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay rolls out new strategies to better serve customers

November 8 2019 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

The year LifeWay Christian Resources was formed, Thomas Edison filed a patent for a motion picture device, the game of basketball was invented and Arthur Conan Doyle penned his first Sherlock Holmes novel.
 

That year was 1891, when LifeWay – then called the Sunday School Board – launched with the mission of creating Sunday School resources for churches.
 
While much has changed in the world over the past 128 years, LifeWay’s mission of resourcing the church has stayed constant. What has changed over the years for the not-for-profit organization is the way it distributes and supports its resources.
 
As LifeWay engages a changing marketplace in 2019, here are some ways the ministry is newly positioning itself to serve churches and individuals scattered across the globe.
 

Leveraging online relationships

 
One of the more notable changes LifeWay is currently experiencing is the closing of its chain of brick-and-mortar stores – a move facilitated by many shoppers migrating from traditional storefronts to digital retail experiences.
 
Ben Mandrell, LifeWay’s president and CEO, says the organization is leveraging this digital shift by providing multiple avenues for churches and individuals to engage with LifeWay online.
 
“LifeWay’s reach and impact is not waning with the closure of brick-and-mortar stores,” Mandrell said. “In a typical month, traffic to LifeWay websites was more than four times larger than the normal monthly traffic to physical LifeWay Stores.”
 
This influx of online traffic has contributed in part to LifeWay’s year-over-year growth in its publishing and events ministry. Direct channels of sales, such as through the company’s flagship website, LifeWay.com, and Customer Service Center posted a 6.9 percent gain over the previous year.
 
“We’re excited about the trajectory of our resources and the ministry of LifeWay,” said Mandrell. “People continue to come to LifeWay for trustworthy content that deepens their walk with Jesus Christ and helps them disciple others.”
 

New brick-and-mortar options

 
Despite closing its chain of bookstores, LifeWay is continuing to find ways of selling Bibles, books and Bible studies to people who want to touch and feel them first.
 
To bridge the gap of physical storefronts where customers can shop for LifeWay products, the organization recently announced an Authorized Dealership program that allows independent Christians bookstores to sell LifeWay-branded Bible studies.
 
Already, more than 400 independent Christian retailers in 45 states have become authorized LifeWay dealers. This move provides customers more touch points for LifeWay products than were previously available through LifeWay Stores alone.
 
“Before, we heard stories of people driving more than 100 miles to visit the closest LifeWay Christian Store,” said David Humphrey, manager of trade sales. “With the new Authorized Dealer program, we are essentially bringing LifeWay closer to them. As the program expands, we hope there will eventually be LifeWay-branded shelves within driving distance for everyone in the United States.”
 
But LifeWay is partnering with more than just independent bookstores. LifeWay also sells select resources through established chains such as Walmart, Books-a-Million and Mardel Stores, owned by Hobby Lobby.
 
While customers can expect to see familiar LifeWay products on new shelves around the country, they can also now access LifeWay’s resources through popular digital retailers such as Amazon and Christian Book Distributors.
 
“These are important partnerships with LifeWay as we continue to expand our reach,” said Earl Roberson, acting senior vice president and chief business officer. “From physical storefronts to various websites, our aim is to make our trusted, biblical resources as accessible as possible for our customers – wherever they might be located.”
 
In addition to these distribution avenues, LifeWay will also continue to provide pop-up stores at conferences and events.
 

Improved service tools

 
To better assist customers, the organization is investing in additional personnel in its Customer Service Center.
 
“We’re hiring additional customer service reps and have launched a new and enhanced chat function on LifeWay.com,” said Janice Bell, director of customer service. “Many of our customers enjoy shopping online, and it’s reassuring for them to have a real person just a call or click away who’s ready and able to help.”
 
Currently, more than two dozen customer service representatives are trained as resource experts for the new chat function of LifeWay.com. This service allows customers to check the status of orders, get assistance navigating LifeWay.com and ask product information questions. Customers can also send files and screenshots directly to customer service representatives by way of virtual chat.
 
LifeWay also provides an online platform to assist churches in managing ongoing orders of curriculum, periodicals and church supplies such as Bibles, tithe and offering envelopes, bulletins and communion resources.
 
This platform makes it easy for churches to browse curriculum for the current cycle, store information for automatic, reoccurring orders and receive discounts up to 5 percent on early orders of physical, ongoing Bible study curriculum.
 
Churches interested in learning more about this program can call LifeWay’s Customer Service Center at (800) 458-2772 or visit LifeWay.com/ChurchOrdering.
 

Church partners

 
While digital technology continues to make online ordering easy and convenient, LifeWay recognizes the need for church leaders to be able to speak face-to-face with church resource experts.
 
“Our church partners represent 36 states and Washington D.C. and exist to both hear from churches and partner with them in ministry by being experts on the many trustworthy resources LifeWay provides,” said Fran Trascritti, director of church partnerships.
 
“Their primary job is to visit with churches across the country to develop an ear for what issues pastors and ministry leaders are facing on a daily basis.”
 
To learn if a LifeWay church partner serves your area, contact Tamara Vavra, marketing coordinator for church partnerships, at tamara.vavra@lifeway.com.
 

A new day at LifeWay

 
Since assuming the role of 10th president of LifeWay Christian Resources this past June, Mandrell has repeatedly labeled this a “new day” in the history of the organization.
 
“The world is changing and so is LifeWay,” Mandrell said. “We need to make bold and brave decisions about strategy in order to respond to the needs of our customers. There is no future for LifeWay unless we stay relevant to our customers.”
 
But while Mandrell expects the organization’s strategies to be fluid in an ever-changing marketplace, he insists the gospel message that anchors LifeWay’s mission is unchanging.
 
“We want to celebrate the gospel of Jesus that has transformed our lives,” Mandrell said.
 
“As long as we keep that the main thing and create resources where people in every part of the world can experience the life-changing power of the gospel, LifeWay will never be without work to do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

11/8/2019 11:29:15 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



John Crist admits to ‘sexual sin,’ cancels tour

November 8 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian stand-up comedian John Crist has confessed to “sexual sin and addiction struggles,” canceling the remainder of his 2019 tour after several women accused him of sexting, harassment and manipulation.
 

YouTube video screen grab
John Crist

“Over the past number of years, various women have accused me of behavior that has been hurtful to them. While I am not guilty of everything I’ve been accused of, I confess to being guilty of this – I have treated relationships with women far too casually, in some cases even recklessly,” Crist said Nov. 6 in a statement to Charisma News.
 
“My behavior has been destructive and sinful. I’ve sinned against God, against women and the people who I love the most. I have violated my own Christian beliefs, convictions and values, and have hurt many people in the process,” he said. Crist expressed sorrow and said he is seeking forgiveness from those he has harmed.

“I have also hurt the name of Jesus and have sought His forgiveness.”
 
Crist is accused of exploiting his “Christian reputation and platform to harass, manipulate and exploit young women over the last seven years,” Charisma reported, basing the allegations on multiple sources and referencing several women by pseudonyms.
 
Sexting, sexual relationships with married women, and offering show tickets in exchange for sex are among many allegations Charisma referenced.
 
Crist is canceling the remainder of his “Human Being Tour” that garnered him a spot at #28 on Pollstar’s Top 100 Tours Globally list for 2019, with more than 197,000 tickets sold, according to johncristcomedy.com. His first hour-long comedy special, “I Ain’t Prayin’ For That,” is scheduled for a Netflix release on Thanksgiving.
 
For his sin and addiction, Crist has sought professional counseling and treatment, he said, and accepts full responsibility for his actions.
 
“I’m committed to getting healing and freedom from my sin and have decided to cancel my remaining tour dates this year and to postpone all future commitments in order to devote all my time and energy on getting healthy spiritually, mentally and physically,” he told Charisma. “My entire career has been lived out on stage, and even though I’ve shared many of my life struggles with my audiences, I’ve lived in constant fear of the darkest parts of my life being exposed publicly.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/8/2019 11:24:37 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chicago pastor resigns after 1960s sex abuse revealed

November 8 2019 by BP and Illinois Baptist Staff

A Chicago Southern Baptist pastor has resigned after disclosing his long-term sexual abuse of a minor in the 1960s, the Illinois Baptist reported Nov. 5.
 

YouTube video screen grab
Charles Lyons

Charles Lyons resigned as pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago following what church leaders called a “corrective leave of absence” that began in October 2018. As part of a process analyzing concerns over Lyons’s leadership, Lyons disclosed his long-term sexual abuse of a minor from the 1960s. No criminal charges were filed at that time.
 
Lyons, 68, who served as pastor of Armitage Baptist for 45 years beginning in 1974, announced his resignation May 19. It became effective July 31. Lyons did not return to the pulpit after the leave of absence.
 
The pastoral team told the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) they consulted with experts on mandatory reporting regulations, and conducted further interviews seeking to confirm that there were no accusations of sexual abuse against Lyons during his pastoral tenure.
 
In a Nov. 4 statement, Armitage Baptist Church leaders said, “We acknowledge the pain that many people have felt throughout this process. We grieve over the damaging effects produced by sin. We continue to pray for all those involved in trusting in the healing and restoring power of God.”
 
The pastoral team said that Lyons will not return to pastoral ministry at Armitage Baptist Church, and has been instructed not to engage in public ministry while under the discipline of the church.
 
The abuse was reported to the pastoral staff by Lyons in October 2017, and later by relatives of the victim in April 2018. Lyons submitted to a series of corrective measures, including paying for the victim to receive counseling for more than a year. The pastoral team also worked with Lyons “to share the story of his past sexual abuse with the congregation.” That action came after leaders confirmed with the victim that she was ready for the abuse account to be told to the church.
 
During Lyons’s more than four-decade tenure, Armitage Baptist Church on Chicago’s north side became a model for multicultural, multiethnic ministry, bringing together the Anglo, African-American, and Hispanic populations of the surrounding Logan Square neighborhood. At its peak, the church averaged 1,100 worship attenders. Today it averages between 300 and 400.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by staff of the Illinois Baptist, the news journal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.)

11/8/2019 11:19:20 AM by BP and Illinois Baptist Staff | with 0 comments



Court’s rejection of HHS conscience rule decried

November 8 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A federal court’s nullification Nov. 6 of a Trump administration rule protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers elicited disappointment from religious freedom and pro-life advocates.
 
The court in New York City vacated the entire regulation issued in May by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), saying the federal entity exceeded its congressionally granted authority. HHS acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in publishing the rule, federal judge Paul Engelmayer wrote.
 
The HHS regulation provided for the enforcement of 25 federal laws protecting conscience rights that were not enforced by the Obama administration. The rule is designed to protect the freedom of individuals and institutions in health care with objections to participating in procedures that violate their consciences or religious beliefs, such as abortion, assisted suicide, sterilization and gender-transition procedures.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called the decision “a destructive ruling” he prays will be reversed.
 
“Honoring conscience rights is in everyone’s best interest,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
 
While Engelmayer described the rule as arbitrary and capricious, “nothing is more haphazard than giving the state unaccountable power to steamroll dissent,” he said. “Health-care professionals should be free to care for and protect their patients without binding their own consciences.”
 
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called the ruling “absurd mush.”
 
“The point of the First Amendment – especially the free exercise of religion – is to protect the conscience rights of Americans,” Sasse said in a written statement. “In this country, government doesn’t get to tell you that your faith is fine on Sunday at church but not Monday at work.”
 
The Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) pledged to continue fighting for the conscience rights of medical professionals.
 
“Religious healthcare professionals of all religions must be free to continue providing compassionate care without being forced to perform procedures, such as abortions, that would require them to violate their most deeply held beliefs,” according to a CMDA statement.
 
Abortion rights and gay/transgender rights organizations applauded the decision.
 
“No one should have to worry they will be denied the medical care they need simply because of their health care provider’s religious, moral, or personal beliefs,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a written release. “At Planned Parenthood, we will always fight for your access to the health care you need, including safe, legal abortion – no matter what you look like, where you are from, or who you love.”
 
A 2011 rule implemented under President Obama covered only three conscience protection laws, while the 2019 rule implemented 25 such provisions and “provides significant tools and mechanisms” to enforce those congressionally approved protections, according to a factsheet from HHS.
 
The regulation applied to all government entities, as well as private doctors, health-care providers, schools that provide medical training and health insurance plans that accept federal funding.
 
In his 147-page opinion, Engelmayer ruled HHS lacked the authority to issue a rule “to terminate all of a recipient’s HHS funding in response to a violation of one of these [conscience] provisions.”
 
The HHS rule’s violations of the Administrative Procedure Act – which governs the manner in which federal agencies establish rules – are “numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching,” Engelmayer wrote.
 
The violations of conscience in recent years included reports by nurses in at least Illinois, New Jersey and New York that they were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they refused to participate in abortions.
 
A 2009 survey of more than 2,800 members of faith-based medical associations found 39 percent reported they had faced discrimination from administrators or faculty because of their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs,” HHS reported. Also, 32 percent of those surveyed by The Polling Co. said they had been pressured to refer a patient for a procedure to which they objected.
 

The ERLC, which offered public comment on the Trump administration rule last year had made HHS enforcement of protections for the conscience rights of health-care providers a priority in its 2019 legislative agenda.

 
The case is New York v. HHS.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
11/8/2019 11:15:22 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Murray to receive nomination for N.C. Pastors' Conference VP

November 7 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Micheal Pardue, pastor of First Baptist Church Icard in Connelly Springs and vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), announced Nov. 6 that he plans to nominate J. Allen Murray as 2021 N.C. Pastors’ Conference (NCPC) vice president. Murray is pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly, N.C.
 

Centerville Baptist Church photo
J. Allen Murray, right, serves as pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly, N.C. He and his wife, Hope, have two daughters.


“Allen is passionate about our pastors here in North Carolina and will be a great asset to our Pastors’ Conference president in crafting a conference that will encourage and challenge pastors from across North Carolina in 2021,” Pardue said on his blog.
 
Murray has studied at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and The College at Southeastern. He became pastor at Centerville in October 2018. He and his wife, Hope, have two daughters, Sawyer and Emery. Murray also co-hosts “The Potluck Podcast: SBC,” which covers events and topics in the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern culture.
 
NCPC officers are elected two years in advance.
 
In April, Cameron McGill, pastor of The Lake Church in White Lake, announced plans to nominate Roger Barnes as president of the 2021 NCPC.
 
Barnes is a bivocational pastor serving Moores Creek Baptist Church in Currie and as a licensed heating and air conditioning contractor who works in management at CTC Supply Company of Jacksonville, N.C.
 
Barnes also serves as the moderator of the Cape Fear Network of Baptist Churches, formerly called Wilmington Baptist Association. He and his wife of 31 years, Wendy, are natives of Wilmington, N.C. They have two adult children and a grandson.
 
Ronnie Parrott, who will serve as NCPC president in 2020, announced in March that he appointed Clint Darst, pastor of King’s Cross Church in Greensboro, as vice president. No nominations for the position were made during the 2018 meeting so participants voted to enable Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, to appoint a vice president.
 
Darst and his wife, Rachel, have three children.
 
Zach Williams, pastor of Bat Cave Baptist Church, currently serves as secretary-treasurer and will continue in the role through 2020. He and his wife, Summer, have two sons and a daughter.
 
Chip Hannah, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville, is president of the 2019 N.C. Pastors’ Conference and Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton, is vice president.
 
This year’s event will be held Nov. 10-11 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
The theme is “One,” focusing on becoming one in Christ, sharing lives, pulpits and service together among all peoples. Visit ncannualmeeting.org/event-pastors-conference.
11/7/2019 12:41:57 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



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