October 2009

Former Ala. pastor faces 152 abuse, porn charges

October 30 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

ANDALUSIA, Ala. — A former Alabama Baptist pastor is being held on $24.2 million bond after his arrest Oct. 21 on 152 counts of possessing child pornography and sexual abuse of young boys.

Ralph Lee Aaron, 54, was fired as pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational church in Andalusia, Ala. Before coming to the church a little more than three years ago, Aaron was pastor of Victory Baptist Church in the county-seat town of 9,000 in southern Alabama.

According to media reports, Aaron was investigated while at his former church in 2005 for allegedly making a verbal sexual advance to a youngster. No charges were filed, because it was a misdemeanor and the statute of limitations had run out by the time the complaint was filed.  

Most of the charges now filed against Aaron are for production or possession of obscene matter. Three counts are for sexual torture, three are for first-degree sodomy and eight are for sexual abuse of a child younger than 12. 

Prosecutors plan to seek multiple life sentences if they get a conviction, according to the Associated Press. 

Authorities say Aaron had multiple male victims ranging in age from 8 to 10. Police said the acts occurred on church camping trips. Police said there is also evidence of other abuse at Aaron’s residence, but it is not believed that any of the abuse occurred at the church building.

Aaron is being held in the Covington County Jail, where he is separated from the general population for his own safety. Officials described him as stoic and seemingly lacking remorse. 

In 2007 The Alabama Baptist reviewed a print-on-demand book written by Aaron titled Focusing the Eye of the Soul, reportedly adapted from his doctoral thesis at Covington Theological Seminary in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.  

The back cover identifies Aaron as being retired from the Navy with a “comprehensively diversified” work background including author, various management roles as well as music director, youth leader and pastor.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

10/30/2009 3:55:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 2 comments

GAs transform lives on Indian Reservation

October 30 2009 by Melissa Hall, WMU

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — God is at work changing young hearts as missions education begins its fourth year on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in Fort Totten, N.D.

In the relatively short time her Girls in Action® (GA®) group has been meeting, leader Sarah Young has seen eight girls begin to follow Jesus, five of whom have been baptized as members of the sponsoring church, Dakota Baptist. Each Tuesday night, she will spend about an hour picking up the 15 to 30 girls, an hour leading the GA session, and 45 minutes taking the girls home while her husband Paul, who serves as pastor of Dakota Baptist, takes care of their two-year-old daughter. Sarah leads GA on Tuesday nights so she can help with other activities at church on Wednesday nights.

WMU photo

Desiree Cameron, at left, bows in prayer with Dominique Brien and Talissa Ami at the beginning of the school year.

It may be a time-consuming venture for the Young family, but the fruit of their sacrifice is evident in the lives of the GAs. Many of the girls have become missionaries in their homes and neighborhoods. One girl’s mother received Jesus as her Savior and was baptized, following her daughter’s example. Another girl’s behavior was transformed when she received Jesus, and now she wants to become a vocational missionary. Several other girls want to learn more each week about the Bible, prayer, and God’s plan for their lives.

As teenagers Paul and Sarah Young traveled to Dakota Baptist Church in Fort Totten, from their hometown of Orlando, Fla., on summer missions trips. The Youngs had no idea they would later marry, accept a pastoral call to Dakota Baptist, and live in the parsonage they helped build for the church.

However, the couple knew they were called to missions from the start. So when the pastor of Dakota Baptist retired, and the church called to ask Paul to become their pastor, the Youngs were excited to begin serving. Soon after they were settled in their new home, Sarah began leading a small group of GAs.

The group began in 2006 with about six or seven girls each week. Using a combination of GA materials produced by Woman’s Missionary Union® (WMU®) and child evangelism materials, Young taught the girls about faithful Christian witnesses including Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Ann Judson, and Jim Elliot.

When the group outgrew their small classroom, they began meeting in the church’s sanctuary, and meetings took on a more definite format. The girls recited the GA pledge, prayed, played a game, participated in lessons and activities, and ate a snack. Now the group has grown, averaging about 17 girls from first through eighth grade.

In addition to last year’s format, this year Young plans to make crafts and cards to send to International Mission Board missionary, Sierra Ensley, a Native American from North Carolina, who works with native peoples in Argentina, South America. Young also plans to incorporate elements of the Fit 4 God’s Mission children’s curriculum, new from WMU this fall, into the group’s regimen. She will also share a Bible story during each session. If there’s time, the group will end each meeting with games or playtime on the church’s playground.

Young views GA as an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with children who have a variety of difficult circumstances.

“We have fun learning together what the Bible says about following Christ and obedience to His will,” Young says.

During GA sessions, Young says she emphasizes that God answers prayer and has a plan for our lives. She teaches the girls “how important it is to obey God, even when it’s difficult, and about giving our all to share the good news of Jesus.”

“I have hope that this generation of girls will be lights for Jesus in this dark place, just as Annie, Lottie, Amy, Mary, Ann, and Jim were in the places where they served the Lord.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hall is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.)

10/30/2009 3:48:00 AM by Melissa Hall, WMU | with 1 comments

Physicians give chaplains a clean bill of health

October 30 2009 by Omar Sacirbey, Religion News Service

Science and faith may often clash, but a new survey suggests that most American doctors believe religion and spirituality can help patients. 

Published Oct. 26 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the survey found that 90 percent of physicians are satisfied with spiritual services provided by hospital chaplains to their patients. 

While most doctors in the survey acknowledged that religion and spirituality help patients cope with illness, the study found that at least one-third of U.S. hospitals do not have chaplains, and many of those that do have chaplains don’t have enough to address all patient needs. 

Consequently, doctors play a crucial role in ensuring that patients have access to chaplains, the study said. But most doctors have little training in connecting chaplains to patients, and instead rely on their own spiritual values and experiences. 

About 5 percent of referrals connecting patients with chaplains come from physicians, while the rest come from nurses or patient family members, said Dr. George Fitchett, a chaplain at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and the study’s lead author. 

“Things are changing a little,” said Dr. Fitchett. “There’s a lot of education to help physicians become better at making referrals, but it’s still not systematized.” 

Fitchett said an ideal ratio of chaplains to patients is hard to pinpoint, and depends on what type of patients a hospital treats. For example, hospitals specializing in cancer patients or with emergency rooms have a greater need for chaplains than hospitals specializing in joint replacements or cosmetic surgery. 

The survey also found that physicians in the Northeast and those with negative views of religion’s effects on patients were less likely to be satisfied with chaplain services.   

Those who were satisfied tended to be physicians who worked in teaching hospitals, practiced medical subspecialties, such as cardiology, oncology, or emergency medicine. 

Half of the physicians surveyed said it was appropriate for them to pray with patients if circumstances warranted. 

Of the 1,102 physicians surveyed, 59 percent identified themselves as Christian, 16 percent Jewish, 14 percent other affiliations, and 10 percent reported having no religious affiliation.

10/30/2009 3:43:00 AM by Omar Sacirbey, Religion News Service | with 5 comments

State execs offer GCRTF their vision, views

October 29 2009 by Baptist Press

DALLAS — In what could be the most significant meeting of three for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, 22 executive directors of Southern Baptist state conventions met with them Oct. 27, to offer some competing, some complementing views and vision about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and what is needed for a Great Commission resurgence.

Speaking on behalf of the state executives, David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told the joint meeting — held in the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport — that pronouncements about the demise of the Southern Baptist Convention are not only premature but ignore research that indicates just the opposite.

North Carolina Baptist Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., had a previous commitment to the Blue Ridge Baptist Association and did not attend the Dallas meeting. He remains vitally concerned in the purposes of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and is in conversation with task force members individually.

According to a copy of his address provided to Baptist Press, Hankins told task force members, “While none of us are satisfied with the declines in membership, baptisms and missions support, we have had remarkable results and staying power."

“For example, our total membership in 1979 was 13,379,073,” Hankins noted. “In 2008, it was 16,266,920 or plus 20 percent.

“Compare that to the track record of mainline denominations,” he offered. “We may not be at the top of our game but we are very much in the game.”

He also underscored that resurgent cooperation could be the key to a Great Commission Resurgence.

“We ought to consider it a primary strategy to marshal all the sectors of Southern Baptist leadership (church, association, state, SBC) to work on the Great Commission Resurgence, Hankins said.

“We are grateful that Dr. Hunt’s appointments to this body made room for all stakeholders,” he said, adding, “All of us want success for the Kingdom and the favor of the Lord on Southern Baptist missions.”

Task force chairman Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., said the dialogue with state convention executives was crucial for the committee’s work.

“In a spirit of deep respect, we wanted to hear from the state executive directors and let them speak to us about their own vision for a resurgence of Great Commission passion among Southern Baptists,” Floyd said in a statement released after the meeting adjourned. “The meeting with the state executives was really important, both for them and for us. We were looking for an honest conversation and a meeting of hearts and minds. The state conventions are vital to our total Southern Baptist work, and this dialogue was vital to the work of the task force.”

While much of the public discussion of the task force’s work has focused on ways the SBC might be reorganized, renewed passion for and involvement in the Great Commission mandate to make disciples of all nations won’t come through restructuring, Hankins told Baptist Press in an interview after his presentation.

“Talking about structure isn’t the right pathway to a Great Commission resurgence, and the Great Commission Resurgence paper says it’s not,” Hankins said. “It starts with lordship. We just hope we won’t forget those declarations and spend 90 percent of our time on structure when there’s a lot more important issues to the Great Commission that need to be addressed, such as holiness, prayer, sacrifice, generosity, personal growth — those kinds of things.”

When the discussion turns to structure, however, Hankins said the state convention executives wanted to “lay out some parameters ... we think are important.”

Hankins said those parameters consisted of four affirmations:

  • The four-part structure of Southern Baptist life — churches, associations, state conventions and national convention — is still a useful structure for accomplishing the Great Commission.
  • State conventions are necessary partners if Southern Baptists are serious about a Great Commission resurgence — “instrumental to the process, not detrimental.”
  • While “a lot of study needs to be done” regarding the role of the North American Mission Board, state executives believe substantial changes should only be made after a thorough study in which stakeholders like the state conventions have an opportunity to weigh in.
  • The Cooperative Program is the vehicle of choice to undergird a Great Commission resurgence among Southern Baptists.
The state executives felt they were welcomed as genuine partners in the dialogue about Great Commission resurgence, Hankins said.

“We are very grateful to Dr. Floyd for the invitation. We were well received and well treated, a good sense of partnership. We were able to have a frank talk and a good, helpful question-and-answer time,” Hankins said. “The state convention executives as a group want to be very enthusiastic about a Great Commission resurgence. We are very desirous of being part of that team, and we would hope we wouldn’t be devalued or dismissed from that team. The task force ... affirmed they want us to be part of the team. As I said to them, we have the best opportunity in 30 years to all work together, if we will. That’s what we want to do. Work together and move Southern Baptists forward.

“We want to value partnership — in reality, in planning, in joint strategies and in attitude. That has to be worked at,” Hankins added. “It doesn’t mean there can be no serious questions asked, no disagreements, no hours of negotiations. All that is certainly permissible, with the spirit that we are valued partners and all have a stake in this.”

Hankins said at least four other issues are as important as whether Southern Baptists are effectively structured for accomplishing the Great Commission: increasing hostility toward Christian values, the need for Southern Baptists to make greater inroads among non-Anglo ethnic groups, an inadequate level of discipleship among church members and whether congregations are willing to sacrifice comforts for the sake of the Great Commission.

While the Southern Baptist Convention’s structure may not be perfect, it is well-suited to the challenge of motivating and mobilizing churches for mission, Hankins said.

“The thing I see the denominational structure being able to do best on behalf of the churches is motivating and mobilizing,” Hankins said. “We really do have the power and opportunity to speak to our constituency, to catalyze them, to motivate them and then to mobilize them. That’s why I argued — and my colleagues agree — that our structure is apt.

“If we can use those functions to get the churches revved up about this, it would show itself in evangelism — like we’re doing with God’s Plan for Sharing across America,” Hankins said of SBC’s unfolding evangelism initiative. “It would show itself in church planting, where churches begin to plant churches, near them and far away from them in the U.S. And it would show itself in generous mission going and giving. That, to me, is what we’re looking for.

“For my part, I’m not ready to give up on the SBC,” Hankins concluded. “I think we have great promise. I’m not ready to give up on our structures. I think they have great promise and great value. I’m not ready to give up on the Cooperative Program. I think it is still the best vehicle. So we hope all these things can be improved, shined up, but employed to move our churches forward in their task.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.)

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10/29/2009 3:53:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Hankins: Cooperation ‘key’ to resurgence

October 29 2009 by Baptist Press

DALLAS — “This is the best climate in 30 years for all of us to work together,” Louisiana Baptist leader David Hankins said in representing state convention leaders in comments to the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force.

Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, listed four “affirmations” shared by state Baptist convention executives concerning the work of the task force created by a vote of messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., in June.

BP file photo by John Swain

David Hankins

Addressing the GCR Task Force Oct. 27 in Dallas, Hankins listed affirmations that center around cooperation between the SBC and state conventions:

  • “Affirmation One: The structure that has served Southern Baptists in the past is well suited for the future.”

“We disagree with those asserting that we are using outmoded structures that will not work in the 21st century,” Hankins said. “An unstudied assertion does not become true simply by being repeated and posted on the Internet.”

To individuals who may foresee a confederation of churches “that have a common heritage and a common theology but no common methodology,” Hankins said: “With all due respect, that is the independent Baptist model that Southern Baptists have specifically and decidedly rejected....

“While Southern Baptists prize local church autonomy, we are not hyper-local church practitioners who believe in no extra-congregational ecclesiastical structures. We find no contradiction in believing in both. We believe the current structure of Southern Baptists is appropriate for Southern Baptist ecclesiology, life and work.... It fits who we are and what we want to do. And I believe Southern Baptists, by and large, want it to continue.”

Hankins described Southern Baptists’ structure as “unifying,” providing “a stack pole around which we can motivate and mobilize our churches at every level”; “comprehensive,” with the capacity to handle “a variety of things the churches want it to do”; “consistent,” with “a staying power” beyond personnel changes or squabbles over various issues; and “cooperative,” reflecting Southern Baptists’ desire for “every voice to be heard. They do not desire a structure that is under factional control or guided by personal agendas. They want to set the agenda as a group.”

  • “Affirmation Two: State conventions are necessary, crucial partners for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists.”

“We do not have the time, if we took all day, to describe the many and varied Great Commission ministries performed through the state conventions,” Hankins said, citing such examples as disaster relief operations; the planting of 800 churches in Haiti by the Florida Baptist Convention, where there are no (International Mission Board) personnel at present; and Baptist Collegiate Ministries, which reach “around 100,000 collegians per year in their core groups,” including thousands of international students.

“We are already wading chest deep in gospel enterprises,” Hankins said. “We believe as strongly in the Kingdom value of our work as each of you do in yours, and we’ll defend it as readily as you would yours from unwarranted attacks, not out of self-interest, but out of Kingdom interest.... The boots on the ground-motivating-mobilizing function (of state conventions) makes us indispensable partners for a ‘Great Commission Resurgence.’ We are not detrimental to the process. We are instrumental to the process.”

  • “Affirmation Three: The NAMB serves a vital role in a coordinated, comprehensive evangelism and church planting movement for Southern Baptists.”

“The performance of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) since its inception only 12 years ago is the subject of much debate and criticism.... The upheaval in executive leadership the last four years, by itself, is enough to raise many questions about the work of this most complex SBC entity,” Hankins acknowledged.

But, he noted, “Unlike any other SBC entity, every Southern Baptist state convention has documented relationships with NAMB that involve strategies, personnel, assignments and finances.”

Hankins said Southern Baptists should remember “before we pile on ... what NAMB gets right” in national disaster relief coordination, chaplaincy initiatives and a stragety that “allows us to be a national force” by undergirding outreach and ministry in regions such as New England, West Virginia, Utah and Idaho. Without Southern Baptist funding, channeled through NAMB, many smaller state conventions “would be decimated.”

State convention executives “are not interested in disruptions in our NAMB partnerships, certainly not without a thorough and thoughtful investigation that incorporates the appropriate information and the appropriate participants,” Hankins said.

  • “Affirmation Four: The Cooperative Program should be the vehicle of choice for funding Southern Baptist initiatives related to a Great Commission Resurgence.”

Hankins suggested a three-part strategy to reverse a decline in Cooperative Program (CP) giving by churches, falling from over 10 percent of their undesignated receipts about 25 years ago to about 6 percent currently.

A strategy to strengthen CP would entail: 1) stewardship, addressing the “allocation problem ... between the church members’ pocket book and the offering plate” in which Southern Baptists only give an average of 2 percent of their income for missions, including CP. 2) leadership, with Hankins noting, “Tepid endorsements of the CP are not the solution; they are the problem. We need what we had in 1925 [when the Cooperative Program was founded]: the best and brightest among us leading the way in word and deed for the Cooperative Program.” 3) partnership — “a relationship between the SBC and the state conventions that provides promotion, collection, allocation, accountability, and unity.”

The opportunity for cooperation “can be lost” if, for example, the GCR Task Force were to be “hijacked by those who merely want to vent frustrations, or engage in blame-storming, or pursue personal agendas, or sow dissension among brethren, or justify their unwillingness to cooperate....

“There is a better way,” Hankins said. “We would recommend elevating partnership and moderating non-cooperation. Let’s invite all who are willing to come to the table. Let’s honor and bless the calling and contribution of all who make up the vast network of Southern Baptists. Let’s respect one another and believe the best about each other, even those we don’t know or whose ministries don’t involve us directly. Let’s improve and stretch and applaud and encourage one another. Let’s value what we have and build on it for the glory of God. Think about it! A resurgence in cooperation could be the key to a resurgence for the Great Commission.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)

Full text of Hankin’s speech: 

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10/29/2009 3:43:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GCR chairman speaks to myths about work

October 29 2009 by Baptist Press

BP file photo

Ronnie Floyd

DALLAS — Following an Oct. 27 dialogue with 22 executive directors of Southern Baptist state conventions, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force chairman Ronnie Floyd addressed several issues on which he felt the record needed to be “set straight.”

Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., listed those issues in a statement released after the task force meeting adjourned:

  1. The Great Commission Task Force is not considering any abandonment of the Cooperative Program. “We are asking questions about how the Cooperative Program can remain our central system of missions funding, not whether it will remain so,” Floyd said in the statement. “We were charged to ask the hard and most strategic questions about how Southern Baptists can more faithfully fulfill the Great Commission together — and together means together. We want to encourage churches to give even more enthusiastically and to see and celebrate a great increase in stewardship at every level.”
  2. The task force is not considering any recommendation that Southern Baptists partner with any para-church or non-Southern Baptist ministry such as the Acts 29 church planting network. “We are thankful for what every Great Commission church, denomination, and ministry is doing for Christ,” Floyd said, “but we are assigned the task of looking at how Southern Baptists — very specifically — can work together more faithfully.”
  3. The task force is not trying to determine the work of search committees and trustees currently seeking new leadership for the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and the SBC Executive Committee. “Given our assignment, we can’t ignore the obvious,” Floyd said. “This is an historic moment for Southern Baptists. We have an assignment focused on the SBC in Orlando. These boards have their own ongoing assignment, leadership, and stewardship. We will do our own work, and pray for others as they do theirs. Will our work as a task force have any effect on these entities? Our determined goal is to do more, not less, for the Great Commission in every area. I am sure each of these boards shares that very same goal.”
  4. The task force is not seeking to diminish the work of either state conventions or local Baptist associations. “To the contrary, we want to forge a future that maximizes Southern Baptist work at every level — and change is happening at every level,” Floyd said. “Our concern is to see every Southern Baptist work encouraged and even more fully engaged for the Great Commission.”
  5. The task force is not devoting its time or energies to a discussion about specific theological issues discussed within the Southern Baptist Convention. “This is not about Calvinism, anti-Calvinism or any other ‘ism,’” Floyd said. “This is about faithfulness to the Great Commission — period. That is our theological agenda.”
  6. The task force is not planning to wait until Orlando to release its report and recommendations. “Our avowed intention is to bring as much as we can to the February meeting of the SBC Executive Committee,” Floyd said. “This is a huge challenge, but we are pushing ourselves hard. Orlando is our ultimate deadline, but only for the final form of our report.”

The next meeting of the task force will be Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.)

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10/29/2009 3:41:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

SWBTS adopts statement asserting male headship

October 29 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has adopted a policy statement that declares men and women equal before God but created for specific roles of headship and submission in the church and home. 


Seminary trustees voted Oct. 21 to add the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to the seminary’s policy manual under “Guiding Documents and Statements.” 

The statement, composed in 1987 in Danvers, Mass., by the then-new Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, responds to “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” and “increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism” in church and culture. 


It affirms, among other things, that “Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood,” that “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order” and that “Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin.” 

BP file photo by Matt Miller

Paige Patterson

“Complementarianism,” a conservative theological view that men and women have different roles and responsibilities in marriage and religious leadership, has been gaining ground in the Southern Baptist Convention for 20 years. 


Detractors say it is nothing more than Bible-sanctioned male chauvinism. But proponents say that choosing to live by what they interpret as God’s design is in reality a form of women’s liberation. 


The opposing view, known as “egalitarianism,” takes a view that values giftedness over gender distinctions. Egalitarians say men and women should share equal authority and responsibility in marriage and have equal leadership opportunities in the church. 


The Southern Baptist Convention chose sides in the debate in 1998. That year, the group inserted a family article into its Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement that says the husband “has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family,” while a wife “is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.” 


Two years later the convention again amended the confession of faith to add, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” 


Mimi Haddad, president of the Minneapolis-based Christians for Biblical Equality, said it is illogical to say on the one hand that men and women are equal but different in their access to authority. 

“To claim that men and women have equal access to salvation and equal access to the spiritual gifts is to suggest that the Holy Spirit may provide individuals with gifts not according to human prejudice, but according to God’s pleasure, as we clearly note throughout Scripture especially in the New Testament,” she said. 

Haddad, who has a Ph.D. in historical theology, said a good example of that principle is Lottie Moon, a famous Southern Baptist missionary to China in the 19th century whose unconventional ministry was so influential that an offering named in her honor is collected yearly in SBC churches to this day. 

The Baptist Faith and Message remains Southwestern Seminary’s only confessional document, meaning professors are required to teach within its confines. 

The additional statement, seminary President Paige Patterson said in a news release, will be used to establish “the general posture of the school” regarding gender roles. 


Patterson, who had a hand in drafting the Danvers Statement, said it will serve as a guide in hiring and evaluation processes. In 2006 Patterson terminated Sheri Klouda, an Old Testament professor hired by his predecessor in 2002, saying he did not believe 1 Tim. 2:12-14 permitted a woman to teach the Bible to male students in a seminary classroom. 


Klouda sued the seminary for gender discrimination in 2007, but a judge dismissed the case the following year. He said the dispute was over a religious matter protected by the First Amendment. 


Klouda, now associate professor of Old Testament at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., said the Danvers Statement “makes a break with the realities of a fallen world” in its idealized view of family relationships. She said the statement assumes that all Christian husbands exemplify superior biblical leadership in a marriage, which may be desirable but is not always the case. She said it also reinforces the notion that spousal abuse by husbands is in some way the fault of the wife — and it fails to address a course of action for wives who must work outside the home to support their family for reasons of illness, disability or death of a husband. 

“There are no allowances for the stuff of real life,” Klouda said. “I have experienced several of these situations, and the church failed me consistently.” 


Also in 2007, Patterson announced the seminary would begin offering a new bachelor’s degree with a concentration in homemaking. Parodied by one popular Baptist blogger as the “Mrs. Degree,” Patterson said the program was a way of “moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God’s Word for the home and the family.” 


In April Southwestern Seminary dedicated the Sarah Horner Homemaking House, an educational building equipped with a teaching kitchen, clothing and textiles lab, formal dining room and parlor in addition to library and classrooms. It is home to Southwestern students working toward a B.A. in humanities with a concentration in homemaking. 


The concentration requires 22 hours of instruction in a wide range of homemaking skills like meal preparation and clothing construction out of a total 127 hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has offices on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. The group’s president, Randy Stinson, declined to comment for this story.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

10/29/2009 3:22:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 6 comments

Mo. Baptists give suit discretion to Exec. Bd.

October 29 2009 by Vicki Brown, Associated Baptist Press

RAYTOWN, Mo. — The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) broadened authority of its Executive Board to resolve ongoing lawsuits against five formerly related entities at the convention’s 175th annual meeting Oct. 27.

Messengers at First Baptist Church in Raytown, Mo., voted 764-226 to authorize the Executive Board “to make any and all decisions and to take any and all actions with respect to the legal proceedings which, in its sole discretion, are reasonable and prudent, and in the best interests of the convention and our stewardship duties to the past, present and future generations of donors to the Lord’s work” in between annual meetings.

The additional authority extends to ending the lawsuits, if the committee deems such action in the convention’s best interest.

Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University (MBU) and The Baptist Home changed their charters in 2000 and 2001 to allow each to elect their own trustees. The MBC filed suit against the five in Cole County in August 2002. The MBC filed additional legal action against Windermere in Camden County in 2006.

The MBC’s Agency Recovery Group (formerly the legal task force) suggested that because they and the Executive Board were privy to confidential information protected by attorney-client privilege, the two groups were in a better position to make critical decisions about the lawsuits than messengers. In its motion, the Agency Recovery Group (ARG) indicated such information was necessary to make “informed” decisions.

MBC lead lawyer Michael Whitehead said because the convention had chosen to stream the annual meeting live, he could not protect the attorney-client privilege during the business session.

In his presentation, ARG chair Randy Comer said the motion would simply provide the Executive Board the authority to accomplish the “mandate” convention messengers have given board members since 2001 — to take all steps necessary to “recover” the five institutions.

Messenger Jesse Barnhart of First Baptist Church of Mayview, Mo., said he didn’t wish to tie the Executive Board’s hands but added, “I hesitate to place this much authority in the Executive Board, especially to drop it.”

Scott Gordon of Claycomo Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., called the action “a step away from accountability to the messengers.”

Messengers voted down an amendment by Frank Whitney of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo., to grant the Executive Board the power to act but only to end the litigation.

In a video presentation, Whitehead indicated that the MBC would pursue recovery of Windermere land at the appellate level. He acknowledged that judges in both the Cole County and Camden County cases have ruled that Windermere did have the legal right to change its charter.

However, Whitehead said, the MBC will argue that Windermere’s land should be returned because former executive director Jim Hill “tricked” the MBC into excluding a provision in Windermere’s charter that would have retained the convention’s right to reject any future charter changes by agency trustees. The convention is pursuing fraud claims against Hill in Camden County.

Whitehead noted that earlier governing documents for the Baptist Home, MBU and the Foundation contained the clause that required MBC approval before their charters could be changed. The MBC will file motions in the Cole County case to move forward against the three.

Word&Way became a separate entity in January 2001 when Windermere did. Its charter does not contain the restricted clause. The ARG did not indicate what the MBC plans to do regarding the case against the news journal.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Brown is associated editor of Word & Way.)

10/29/2009 2:22:00 AM by Vicki Brown, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fellowship blankets Montana annual meeting

October 28 2009 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

BELGRADE, Mont. — A North Carolina native became president of Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC).

William Johnson, pastor of Gallatin Valley Baptist Church in Manhattan, Mont., also received the Montana 2009 Church Planter of the Year — Fisher of Men Award.

“William and Teresa began as our first church planter interns in 2003 and then God broke their hearts over the Manhattan that is in Montana, in the heart of the Gallatin Valley,” said Dave Howeth, the convention’s church planting team leader. “Today the church has grown to over 100 and they have reproduced by helping to sponsor a new church plant in Townsend.

“You have demonstrated a commitment to the call of Christ and paid a price to live and plant your lives in this place,” Howeth told the Johnsons. “You have demonstrated a passion by fulfilling the call of Christ to be fishers of men.”

The MTSBC annual meeting was as much a time to rekindle friendships — and make new ones — as it was to be inspired, encouraged and challenged by the preaching of Mel Blackaby, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga.; to worship God under the leadership of Pam Crittenden, a former Nashville studio musician who leads worship at Meadow View Community Church (Southern Baptist) in Missoula, Mont.; and to conduct the business of the state convention.

Fellowship coated the proceedings, accenting the theme of the Oct. 7-8 meeting: “A Fresh Touch from God.” Before each morning’s session, a light breakfast was offered in Belgrade Baptist’s fellowship hall, and more food was offered during morning and afternoon breaks. 

Fellowship took place around tables, in hallways and in front of several display areas that showcased the work God is doing through Southern Baptists in Montana, across the nation and around the world.

Photo by Karen L. Willoughby

Previous presidents of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention stand with newly-elected William Johnson (in orange shirt), church planter/pastor of Gallatin Valley Baptist Church in Manhattan, Mont. Outgoing President Greg Peterson, pastor of Little Rockies Community Church in Zortman, Mont., stands to Johnson’s right; Darwin Scofield, pastor of Libby (Mont.) Baptist Church, to Johnson’s left. Daniel Lambert, pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Kalispell, stands to Scofield’s left. Behind Johnson is B.J. Hallmark, area missionary in the Triangle Baptist Association. MTSBC Executive Director Fred Hewett stands behind the group.  

A total of 108 messengers from 53 churches registered for the annual meeting; another 57 registered as non-voting guests.

New this year: a first-ever luncheon provided by Yellowstone Baptist College (YBC), the only Southern Baptist-related college in the Northwest which was established in Billings in 1994. As part of the luncheon, an alum on stateside assignment from the Southern Baptist International Mission Board presented a slide show of her work in a security-sensitive part of the world. She is one of four Yellowstone graduates serving in international missions. A trio of current YBC students provided special musical.

Down one hall of Belgrade Baptist was a room filled with a variety of new western jackets, free for pastors and vocational staff, the gift of the owner of a Western store and member of Oak Street Baptist Church in Graham, Texas, which recently sent a construction mission team to help renovate the building of a disbanded Southern Baptist church in the Bozeman area where plans are in the offing to start a new work.

Down another hall, the Salt Lake bookstore affiliated with LifeWay Christian Resources offered a variety of Christian books and gifts for sale. In yet another room, free curriculum was laid out, to be taken and used.

One event that had been eagerly anticipated was a prayerwalk across Bozeman, one of the seven largest cities in Montana, home to the 12,000-student Montana State University, and yet sorely under-evangelized by any group.

Southern Baptists have one campus church, led by longtime Baptist Collegiate Ministries director Joe Todd, and Kirkwood Baptist led by area missionary Steve Fowler to minister to the 70,000 or more people (not counting students) in the greater Bozeman area.

Plan A was to section off the city into areas that could be prayerwalked in an hour. But with an unexpectedly early snow storm, the prayerwalk turned into a prayer drive, and that was a good thing, leaders said.

“‘Walk with Me One Hour’ turned into ‘Watch with Me One Hour’ as dozens of people drove to Bozeman in the snow to saturate Bozeman with prayer Wednesday afternoon,” Howeth said. “The snow falling symbolized to several of us that the same outpouring of God’s Spirit needed to be dispensed on the city as large wet snow flakes fell across the city.

“The trees seem to bend closer to the ground from the weight of the snow, signifying how we must enter this city and neighborhoods bent and broken for God over the lostness of this place,” Howeth continued. “The grass was being covered with white snow accumulating that afternoon as many cried out to God to cleanse us and the people from their sins and wash us as white as snow.”

Most people collaborated and rode together, and most stopped in front of schools, businesses and on street corners to pray for people, places, schools and businesses across Bozeman before moving by vehicle to another spot and place.

“A few of us did get out of the car and walked our areas assigned to us and experienced a fresh touch and fall of God’s Spirit as the snow fell,” Howeth said. “What a God thing to hear a message from Mel Blackaby on prayer and then in a time of response move to the streets to be practitioners. Several people indicated they could do this in their neighborhoods and in their community back in their mission field.”

The business of the state convention included unanimous passage of the 2010 budget. At $1,519,212, it is $22,899 less than the 2008-09 budget. It includes an anticipated $477,960 in Cooperative Program giving from Montana churches, $903,252 from the SBC’s North American Mission Board and $65,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources. The budget also anticipates $68,000 from the state convention’s six associations to help pay the salaries of the area missionaries.

The convention will continue to forward 22 percent of its receipts through the Cooperative Program for national and international missions and ministry. The 2010 budget expenditures also include $12,000 to Yellowstone Baptist College.

Carl Wood, a layman from First Baptist Church in Hamilton, Mont., as vice president. Neither Johnson nor Wood had opposition.

Six people were elected as a slate to join the convention’s executive board: Rex Hunter, layman from First Baptist, Hamilton; Bill Sikes, pastor of First Baptist, Forsyth; Bobby King, pastor of Crossroads Baptist, Great Falls; David Strand, pastor of Mt. Hagin Baptist, Anaconda; Richard Clark, pastor of Three Forks Baptist; and Roger Hill, interim pastor of Columbus Baptist.

New members of the 15-person trustee board at Yellowstone Baptist College also were elected: Faye Good from First Baptist, Circle; Jeff Thomas, Emmanuel Baptist, Billings; Mona Rutter, South Hills Baptist, Montana City; and Gerald Ackerman, Columbus Baptist.

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention has been realigned into one team — including area missionaries — with three facets: strengthening churches, starting churches and sending churches — since the arrival of Fred Hewett as executive director in 2008. Each of the group leaders reported to the messengers, as did Hewett. Those reports — and others related to the work of Montana Southern Baptists — are available online or in printed form from the MTSBC office.

“This is His work we’re talking about today, and we want to keep it that way,” said Greg Peterson, pastor of Little Rockies Community Baptist Church in Zortman and outgoing MTSBC president, as he welcomed messengers and guests to the annual meeting. “If you don’t have the touch, you’re out of touch,” he added, referring to the meeting’s Fresh Touch from God theme.

“I’m very proud of the churches, pastor and laypeople of Montana,” Hewett said in his report. “We’re above budget. You’ve been faithful to doing what God called you to do. … We tightened belts early in the year and have stayed in the black ever since.”

The relationship-building, fellowship and encouragement of the annual meeting helped sustain pastors who minister in isolation — oftentimes 100 miles or more from the next-nearest Southern Baptist church — but as iron sharpens iron, a challenging word also was heard, and Mel Blackaby, former pastor at Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane, Alberta, provided it during three messages.

“I have the sense God is desperately trying to get our attention,” Blackaby preached from Matthew 7:21. “How many churches are doing a great job, but the wrong job? Activity doesn’t impress God. … If you love God and people, He will grow the church.”

The evangelical community and the nation have lost the fear of God, Blackaby preached in his second sermon from Nehemiah 1:8-11.

“We’re in trouble,” he said. “Not because of the world, but because of the sin in the church.... Do you have a reverent, holy fear of God? Repent, that times of refreshing may come from God.”

Blackaby’s third message echoed the lifetime call of his father, Henry Blackaby: “Adjust to what He is doing,” the younger Blackaby preached from 2 Kings 6. “The Holy Spirit is given to you on assignment from God. He is not your servant. … Learn to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 6-7 in Great Falls.

Lifetime achievement

In 1963, Roger and Patty Hill moved to Montana to grow a church after graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

They didn’t stop with one congregation: Hill received a “Fisher of Men” lifetime achievement award and an extended standing ovation during the Montana Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at Belgrade Baptist Church.

“You were at First Baptist Three Forks for 26 years, started six churches in Treasure State Baptist Association during that time, and then God sent you to western Montana to lead a church planting movement that grew Glacier Baptist Association from nine to 33 churches,” said Dave Howeth, the convention’s church planting team leader, as he presented Hill with a table-top bronze of a fly fisherman releasing a trout back to a stream.

“You have been a model of integrity and of what a pastor and missionary is to be, in being a fisher of men,” Howeth told Hill.

Now in their 46th year in Montana, the Hills continue to serve from their new home in Billings. He is interim pastor of Columbus (Mont.) Baptist Church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of The Montana Baptist and the Louisiana Baptist Message, official newsjournals for those state conventions.)

10/28/2009 9:55:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Sunday School in black culture examined

October 28 2009 by Polly House, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sunday School is about Bible study. But cultural differences need to be considered for class members to get the most out of the experience.

Photo by Kent Harville

Mark Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., brings the message during the first day’s welcome and worship session of the National Black Sunday School Conference.

At a National Black Sunday School Conference in Nashville, Tenn., more than 250 Christian educators from black churches across the country focused on building strong Sunday Schools and on issues within the context of traditions and culture of predominantly black congregations.

Participants chose from more than 40 breakout sessions relating to education by age groups, learning styles, fellowship ideas and leadership development.

The conference, geared toward pastors, ministers of education, Sunday School directors and age-group Sunday School leaders, was sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

A theme throughout the conference was helping Sunday School leaders and teachers become more effective.

Chandra Bennett, editor of LifeWay’s “YOU” curriculum, a quarterly Bible study resource for urban/multicultural believers, said enthusiasm for teaching is crucial to success.

“If you aren’t having fun teaching, see if you really have the joy of the Lord,” Bennett said. “Don’t be boring.”

Bennett proposed three questions for teachers to determine whether their teaching is effective: Are believers changing into the likeness of Jesus? Are believers growing in their love and trust of God? Are believers becoming more obedient to God?

Art Groomes, LifeWay’s discipleship and evangelism specialist, said a passion for one’s church is one of the first things people notice when invited to worship or Bible study.

“If you don’t exhibit an excitement when you talk about your church, no one will want to come,” Groomes said. “Nobody wants to go to a dull church.”

Gizelle Kirkwood from New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, Ill., agreed. “Our church is a place of community,” she said. “We love our church and are excited about it. We want to share it with others. Enthusiasm shows and is contagious.”

Developing and motivating leaders has to be an ongoing process for successful Sunday Schools, said Charles Grant, a LifeWay church consultant.

Photo by Kent Harville

“Anything else?” Rhonda Ward asks her activity partners Linda Cole, left, and Margaret White as they discuss “What fellowship is, and what it is not” during a National Black Sunday School Conference breakout session.  

“It’s difficult to develop leaders,” Grant said. “The people you want as leaders are often overcommitted in other areas. They are typically strong-willed and have personal agendas. Sometimes they are drawn away by opportunities that look more exciting or meaningful.”

Grant acknowledged that keeping Sunday School leaders motivated takes work. He said it is important to encourage leaders, letting them know they are appreciated and respected. He added that even seasoned leaders benefit from a mentor who will provide one-on-one motivation and encouragement.

Communication is crucial. “People like to have information,” Grant said. “Build a system that allows everyone to know what others are doing. This helps them learn from each other and develop the team mentality.”

Wayne Poling, LifeWay’s senior lead Sunday School specialist, said he hoped participants at the Oct. 2-3 conference gained a strong, ministry-changing understanding of the work of Sunday School. He summed up this understanding with the acronym GOSS, or Growth Oriented Sunday School.

“A Growth Oriented Sunday School is committed to teaching those who show up on Sunday, but it is also a Sunday School in which the leadership and class members are committed to reaching people and seeing lives transformed,” Poling said, noting that participants at the conference “examined the purpose, ministry and growth of their Sunday Schools; the teaching for life-change; and the developing of plans for their Sunday Schools in the context of the history of traditions within the black church.”

Participants learned ways to implement three primary principles involved in building their Sunday Schools: invite, discover and connect:

  • Invite. GOSS groups invite people to be a part of their group because the class is compassionately committed to tending to the lives of people.
  • Discover. GOSS classes are focused on seeing people’s lives transformed through discovering the truths of God’s Word and hearing the faith stories of others in their group.
  • Connect. GOSS group members work together to provide people the opportunity to connect through fellowship and ministry.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. The next NBSSC will be in Nashville Oct. 22-23, 2010. LifeWay also is joining with the Georgia Baptist Convention to offer the Southeast Black Sunday School Conference April 30-May 1, 2010, in Decatur, Ga. More information will be available soon at LifeWay.com/blackchurchlife.)

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10/28/2009 9:48:00 AM by Polly House, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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