October 2010

Background-check service finds felonies

October 12 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Discounted criminal-background checks offered by LifeWay Christian Resources found more than 600 felony offenses in checks for the 900-plus churches and organizations that have purchased the service in its first two years.

Since contracting with backgroundchecks.com in 2008, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm has sold 11,277 background checks that start at $10 for base-level check of a national criminal and sex-offender search. About 40 percent returned a “hit” for criminal activity, but most of those were for minor traffic and non-traffic infractions such as jaywalking. One in five, however, returned records of a misdemeanor or felony (2,320 searches) and one-fourth of those were felonies.

“Churches need to exercise due diligence by running background checks,” said Jennie Taylor, marketing coordinator in LifeWay’s direct-marketing department.

While necessary in today’s world, Taylor said, background checks have limits.

“Background checks do not predict the future or expose harmful behaviors from individuals who have never been caught,” Taylor said. “But checks can help organizations learn of volunteers or employees who have documented criminal pasts.”

A document on preventing child sexual abuse from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls criminal background checks “an important tool in screening and selection” of employees and volunteers, but says they are only one component in creating a safe environment for organizations working with youth.

The CDC suggests written applications, personal interviews and reference checks for adults seeking access to young people. They also recommend letting applicants know up-front that the organization is serious about protecting youth in order to deter individuals at risk of abusing youth from applying for staff or volunteer positions.

Other CDC safeguards include establishing guidelines to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate behaviors and maintaining proper ratios of employees and volunteers to youth to minimize one-on-one interaction, such as having at least two adults present at all times.

Policies should address not only interactions between adults and youth, but also situations where unsupervised youth can physically or sexually abuse one another. They should include supervision and monitoring of activity and account for safe environments by using spaces that are open and visible to people and controlling access to know who is present at all times.

Monitoring devices can include cameras, but there must be staff infrastructure to monitor them.

While the ultimate goal is to prevent abuse from occurring, the CDC said organizations should also communicate clearly what it and its employees/volunteers should do if policies are violated or if child sexual abuse occurs. The government also recommends training about sexual-abuse prevention to give people information and skills to help them prevent and respond to reports of abuse.

Taylor told the Associated Press LifeWay’s partnership with backgroundchecks.com grew partly out of a call three years ago for more protections against child sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., brought a motion at the convention’s annual meeting in 2007 asking the SBC Executive Committee to study the establishment of a national registry of “clergy and staff who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse.”

After studying the matter, the Executive Committee recommended against establishing a database, saying the convention lacked the authority to require churches to report incidents of abuse.

The Executive Committee delivered a report saying that “churches are strongly encouraged to recognize the threat of harm as real, to avail themselves of such information and to aggressively undertake adequate steps at the local level to prevent harm and protect victims.”

Officials also added links to the Executive Committee website directed to resources for prevention of sexual abuse, including a link to a national database of sex offenders maintained by the U.S. Justice Department.

LifeWay said in an editor’s note that the statistics reported in the press release are not derived from a representative sample, but reflect more than 900 clients who purchased background checks without regard to organizational type, denomination, region, demographic make-up or other determining factors.

That means all the customers are not SBC churches. But if they were, that number would account for about 2 percent of the most recent count of 45,010 Southern Baptist churches with a combined membership totaling 16.1 million.  
10/12/2010 10:49:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Tom Bland Sr. dies Oct. 9

October 11 2010 by staff, wire reports

Thomas Albert Bland Sr., 85, of Raleigh died Oct. 9 following a lengthy illness. He was ethics professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 1956-1993, was founding pastor of four North Carolina churches and interim pastor of 41 others.

Bland was founding pastor of Holly Hill (Burlington), Greystone (Raleigh), Woodhaven (Cary), and Triangle (Raleigh) Baptist churches. He was named Church Planter of the Year by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1985.

His son, Tom, is pastor at First Baptist Church, Morganton.

 Bland graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947, and earned  B.D. (1951) and Th.D. (1956) degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He did postdoctoral study at Yale, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Union Theological Seminary. He served three years as professor of sociology at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.

In Baptist academic circles, he is remembered particularly for his expertise in developing and teaching frameworks for ethical decision-making in an ever-changing society and for his knowledge of, and substantial experience in urban and suburban church starts and related ministries.

 Bland is survived by his wife, Eunice Andrews Smith Bland of Raleigh; daughter, Cynthia Bland Biggar of Concord, Mass., son, Thomas A. Bland Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church of Morganton; stepdaughter, stepson and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Greystone Baptist Church, 7509 Lead Mine Road, in Raleigh, on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.

Participating will be Randall Lolley, Thomas Jackson, Cynthia Bland Biggar, Thomas A. Bland Jr., and Phyllis Mayo. The family will receive friends at 10:00 a.m. in the church’s Gathering Room and then again following the service.
10/11/2010 10:01:00 AM by staff, wire reports | with 3 comments

Volunteers helping dig out Windsor and New Bern

October 8 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

David Earley, Brent Bany and Billy Williams rip up sodden flooring.

Before the flood waters prompted by 20-24 inches of rain receded in Windsor North Carolina Baptists were on site assessing damage and beginning the arduous mercy work of tearing out wet wood, carpet, wallboard and insulation.

Water overflowing the banks of the Cashie River closed roads around the small northeastern town until Oct. 5. That day 46 volunteers – including 13 from Rocky Hock Baptist Church – were tackling tear out jobs around town, especially in a section north of town that sat low where the river curved around them like a horseshoe. Twelve had spent the previous night in the church.

David Earley, Brent Bany, Rivermont Baptist in Kinston; and Billy Williams, Hertford Baptist, rip up sodden flooring.

Billy Layton and his wife, Ann, coordinated volunteers onsite, from a table in the Cashie Baptist Church fellowship hall, where a breeze from big fans and open doors dried damp carpet. Volunteers worked their way through 32 job orders collected from assessment teams.

Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers worked on a similar number of flooded houses in an area a few blocks away.

Water rose as high as 4 feet in some houses, although the majority of those damaged saw water more like 18 inches high. That’s more than enough to force occupants to rip out all the flooring down to the subfloor, and cut off the wallboard several inches above the wet line. Once houses are cleared of ruined furniture and flooring, they are sprayed with disinfectant and allowed to dry before rebuild can begin.

N.C. Baptist Men, which is coordinating the disaster response, is unsure at this time whether or not they will be involved in the rebuild.

After N.C. Baptist Men were alerted to standby for Tropical Storm Nicole’s aftermath, they relaxed when Nicole blew past with little or no wind damage. “We forgot about the flooding,” Layton said. “The rain storm is what got us.”

The rain poured relentlessly, soaking the area with nearly two feet of rain and sending the Cashie River over its banks. The river’s source is just north of Windsor, which flooded heavily in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd.

Residents were told that Floyd was a 500-year storm, so bad that some said if it happens again, they’re leaving. But no one was talking about leaving just 11 years later when the water rose again in just two hours once it crested the banks.

Layton found a very cooperative group of city workers, willing to pitch in and do whatever is necessary to help both residents and N.C. Baptist Men.

Michael Labate, youth minister at Galatia Baptist Church in Seaboard, was doing chaplain work and said Windsor’s residents were in “surprisingly good spirits.” Their attitude seemed to be, “With help, we know we can survive this.”

Rachel Bazemore, 84, endured the Floyd flood in 1999, lost her husband in 2004, suffered a house fire in 2006 and now the flood. “She’s just looking up,” Labate said.

Those who were down found emotional relief through the interaction of volunteers who prodded and joked with each other as they tackled difficult tasks.

David Earley, who was supervising the crews in the neighborhood where Baptist men concentrated, said he is hooked on disaster relief and goes “every chance I get.”

“It’s my opportunity to show God’s love,” said Earley, from Merry Hill Baptist Church. He just returned from Kentucky, where he helped a family that had nothing. A girl and her baby lived in a trailer behind her parents and the sum total of her furnishings was a mattress.

Freddie Roberson from Memorial Baptist Church in Williamston was enjoying his first days as a retiree. The retired optometrist said he gets “more enjoyment doing something for someone else than doing something for pay.” Although he did admit he’ll have to “turn down my wanter a little bit.”

Greg Riggs from Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Durham is the volunteer leader of the project, coordinating both Windsor and New Bern efforts. He said it is “incredible” that so many people are willing to drop what they’re doing and serve others.

“It never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “Most of all they come to share Christ with people.”

Riggs was finishing assessments in New Bern on Thursday and said they had about 60 work orders and expected to “add to that daily.”

The effort is being coordinated out of First Baptist Church, New Bern, at 239 Middle Street. Riggs expected a good volunteer response over the weekend.

How long will Baptist Men be on the job?

“Until we finish,” said Layton.

10/8/2010 1:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Cal Baptists advised: define marriage in bylaws

October 7 2010 by Bob Allen

FRESNO, Calif. (ABP) -- The California Southern Baptist Convention is offering advice that churches revise their bylaws to anticipate possible changes in the legal definition of marriage.


An article on the convention website advises that "a simple bylaw amendment can avoid confusion and could protect the church from future legal battles should the definition of marriage change under California law."


A sample bylaw recognizes marriage as the "uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."


"Accordingly, this church, its pastors, staff and members will not participate in same-sex unions or same-sex marriages, nor shall its property or resources be used for such purposes," the sample language reads.


According to the website, a church is incorporated in California when its articles of incorporation are filed with the secretary of state. Those articles of incorporation contain basic information about the church such as its name and purpose, but it is the church's bylaws that contain the rules for how the church will operate.


Bylaws should have a section dealing with doctrinal matters, the statement says, including language about what the church believes about marriage.


"As the battle for biblical truth about marriage rages, every local congregation should take some simple steps to clarify its position on the marriage issue," the statement says.


In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In August, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in a lawsuit that the proposition violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


The ruling is under appeal.


Bob Allen This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
10/7/2010 9:45:00 AM by Bob Allen | with 1 comments

30 years of one-child policy plagues China

October 6 2010 by Hannah Cummings

WASHINGTON (BP)--China will have, by 2020, 40 million more men than women under the age of 20 -- a number equal to the current total of men under the age of 20 in the United States, Chinese population experts are projecting.


"Tens of millions of Chinese men will never be able to marry because potential wives don't exist," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said in a news conference commemorating the 30th anniversary of the one-child policy in China.


The controversial Chinese policy permits only one child in the majority of Chinese families. While some exceptions may be made for ethnic minorities, rural families and couples who are the only children of their parents, most Chinese families are forced to abide strictly by the law.


Prior to the one-child policy, the Chinese government encouraged large families because it believed a high population meant a greater work force. However, this caused a population boom, and China couldn't sustain itself -- famine and starvation killed an estimated 30 million people.


"The one-child policy was the only choice we had, given the conditions when we initiated the policy," Chinese legislative body spokesman Wu Jianmin said in a Sept. 25 press conference.


The Chinese government says the policy has prevented a reported 400 million births. The government may celebrate that number, but the law also has come at a cost, such as the numerous reports of forced abortions and sterilizations in many Chinese provinces. The government places enormous pressure on local officials, promising them promotions if they maintain population quotas. Such incentives compel the officials to use drastic measures to earn positive evaluations.


China also has the highest female suicide rate in the world. According to the World Health Organization, more than 500 women a day commit suicide in China. Many say this high rate is a direct effect of the trauma caused by the one-child policy.


While some of the policy's consequences have been evident for some time, other serious effects have only recently been coming to light.


Most traditional Chinese families prefer sons, and expectant parents are using ultrasound technology to identify the sex of the baby before it is born -- leading to a significant increase in abortions of girls. Incidents of female infanticide also are reported. Rather than merely limiting the increasing population, the population control policy has instead led to a radically uneven ratio of boys to girls: currently approximately 120 boys per every 100 girls.


The uneven gender ratio is noted as a significant cause of the growing human trafficking issue in the country. The lack of women has incited men to resort to trafficking women from surrounding countries "for purposes of forced labor, marriage and sexual slavery," according to the U.S. State Department.


Beyond the large gender gap, the policy may have other extreme consequences in the near future -- China is developing an out-of-proportion elderly population.


This puts a major strain on the Chinese labor force, as more workers reach retirement age and fewer youth are available to replace them. Some companies have moved their operations to other countries as a result. This trend likely is a sign of what demographers and economists predict will be China's eventual loss of its comparative labor advantage to competing countries such as India and Bangladesh. Population projections show that by 2030, India will become the world's most populous country, with 1.53 billion citizens compared to China's 1.45 billion.


On top of that, China's shrinking working-age population will have to shoulder an increasing workload (financial and otherwise) of caring for a massively elderly population.


The devastating repercussions of the one-child policy have led some international human rights activists to take action. Rep. Smith and other human rights advocates spoke at an anniversary press conference on Capitol Hill to promote awareness of the situation in China and encourage the Chinese government to lift the policy.


"I appeal to ... the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, who is in New York City today: When you go back to China, re-examine the policy and its cruelty," Smith said.


The event was co-hosted by All Girls Allowed, an organization that "works to support Chinese families in villages with the greatest gender imbalance and spreads awareness of human rights violations and the issue of gendercide." Chai Ling, a China native, founded the group.


Ling, who has been nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes for her human rights efforts, has been concerned with the situation in China for many years. Aside from her recent work dealing with the one-child policy, Ling was also a student leader in the Tiananmen Square massacre, a large demonstration in China in 1989 that was crushed by the government, resulting in the death of several hundred people.


After Ling escaped China, she was apprehensive about getting directly involved in the country's affairs again. She changed her mind after a November 2009 congressional hearing in which a Chinese woman spoke about her government-enforced abortion and the trauma she endured.


"I realized this is the Tiananmen Square massacre happening every hour," Ling said.


She launched All Girls Allowed this year as a response to her growing convictions about the injustice of the policy. Her relatively new Christian faith helped her find the strength to fight her previous apprehensions and take action.


"I was a new Christian; I thought I wasn't ready," she said, "but I learned that when you are called, you're supposed to step out."


All Girls Allowed encourages Chinese families to keep their baby girls by sending them baby shower baskets. The organization also strives to help orphaned girls in China and restore dignity and self-respect to Chinese women.


Hannah Cummings is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.   

10/6/2010 10:32:00 AM by Hannah Cummings | with 0 comments

NAMB offers early retirement incentive

October 6 2010 by NAMB Staff

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Telling North American Mission Board staff “considerable change” is coming, president Kevin Ezell shared a retirement incentive with employees that will be the beginning of an overall reduction in force in the months ahead. Details of the incentive were shared at a meeting Sept. 30.

“There are a lot of changes and some things coming down the road. I don’t know what all of those are,” Ezell told the NAMB staff. “Knowing that there are changes coming and not knowing who exactly that would involve, we wanted to offer an incentive to those who might already be thinking about retirement.”

Ezell said it was important to announce the incentive at this time to coincide with a significant change GuideStone Financial Resources has announced in its annuity funding rate beginning Jan. 1, 2011. GuideStone is reducing the floor funding for its lifetime annuity payments from the current 6 percent to somewhere between 3 and 4 percent.

Ezell described the incentive as “the first phase” in what will be a series of staff changes coming to NAMB.

Under the plan, staff who are age 55 and older will be credited additional years of service so they can qualify for health insurance benefits. Additionally, a retirement incentive bonus will be paid, based on years of service.

“To be sure we are being very clear—this is the very best incentive we could come up with,” Ezell said. “It’s the best option that will be available.”

Ezell compared the changes coming to NAMB to a company that had been making washing machines and now will be making cars.

“There is going to be considerable change,” Ezell said. “A lot of the changes will not be directed to competency of people because we are going to be doing some things so drastically different. What does that look like specifically, I don’t know yet. But we are working on that as fast as we can.”

Currently, 258 people serve on NAMB’s staff in Alpharetta. An additional 34 direct-paid missionaries, who serve throughout North America, are also eligible for the incentive. Those taking advantage of the plan will need to retire by Dec. 31, 2010.


10/6/2010 7:32:00 AM by NAMB Staff | with 7 comments

Kansas-Nebraska reduces CP allocation

October 6 2010 by BP Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — The Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists has reduced the percentage of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded to Southern Baptists’ national and international causes from 32 percent to 22 percent, the convention’s news publication has reported.


Two factors caused the decision, according to Ron Pracht, president of the Kansas-Nebraska convention: the impact of the economic recession on churches; and diversion of cooperative missions funds into direct missions causes.


The action is retroactive to the first of the year and is temporarily in place through the remainder of the year.


The CP reduction was approved by 40 members of the convention’s mission board while one board member registered opposition, Pratt reported in a front-page column in the September edition of the Baptist Digest, the KNCSB’s news publication.


“Because of the state of the economy across Kansas and Nebraska and because some churches in KNCSB have chosen to redirect some of their mission dollars in light of the adoption of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, we need to consider a redirection of funds received through KNCSB,” Pracht wrote.


“Great Commission Giving” was endorsed by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report. However, messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando this past June adopted the report and recommendations only after an amendment was made that emphasized “that designated giving to special causes is to be given as a supplement to the Cooperative Program and not as a substitute for Cooperative Program giving.”


“This was a difficult and painful decision for us to make,” Pracht wrote in the Digest. “As I told the members of the Mission Board [80] percent of our budget is invested in people ... Short of massive layoffs or significant pay cuts, this was the best short term alternative we could find.”


In an accompanying editorial Digest editor Tim Boyd wrote that without the action by the convention’s mission board, mission work in the two-state convention would have been crippled.


While the GCR recommendations challenged churches to give sacrificially so the gospel could be taken to people groups that have yet to hear it, Boyd expressed concern in his editorial that some congregations are redirecting money away from initiatives to reach their cities, states, and nation in order to boost giving to international projects.


10/6/2010 4:22:00 AM by BP Staff | with 5 comments

M.O. Owens started ‘conservative resurgence’

October 1 2010 by Norman Jameson, 
BR Editor

Any discussion of Baptists’ “Great Commission Resurgence” is a nod to the “conservative resurgence” that swept the Southern Baptist Convention a generation ago.

And any such nod must be in the direction of M.O. Owens Jr., a Gastonia pastor whose dissatisfaction with Wake Forest University prompted him to initiate a challenge later picked up and carried nationally by Texans Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.

“The ball was well down the field when Patterson and Pressler picked it up,” said Owens, the man who kicked it.

Owens, founding pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, and Home Mission Board employee Bill Powell first started rattling Convention cages about 1964 when they formed the Baptist Faith and Message Fellowship and later, the Baptist Literature Board that offered Bible study materials as an alternative to those sold by the Convention’s own publishing house.

Today the contributions of Milum Oswell Owens Jr. are barely remembered, a fate M.O. suffers by his own admission. Yet Owens, 97, is in touch with current Baptist events, preaches twice every Sunday, drives his own car and celebrates life daily with his third wife, Margaret, to whom he’s been married six years. He was widowed in 1979 and 2003.

Owens preaches a traditional model service at Parkwood, founded as a mission of East Baptist Church, where Owens was pastor at the time. As Parkwood embraced a contemporary style service, pastor Jeff Long recognized older members were dropping away, and he asked Owens to start the traditional service. He also leads weekly vespers at the retirement home where he and Margaret live.

Owens preaches strongly, standing behind the pulpit without using it for support. He climbs the steps without a hitch and shakes hands and shares hugs with parishioners after the service, which runs concurrently with the service in the main sanctuary.  

Early days
Born in Aiken County, S.C., in 1913, Owens is a 1933 graduate of Furman University. There was no money for law school, but his neighbor put him to work at the textile mill, where he lifted 400-lb. bales of cloth to a pattern imprint press.

After a year and a half, his father said he didn’t go to college to lift cotton bales for 40 cents an hour, although any dollar was a treasure then.

“It was hard work but one of the best things that ever happened to me because I developed strength in my arms and legs that has stood me in good stead all these years,” said Owens, bright, lively and engaged over lunch after church Sept. 19.

M.O.’s father was a pastor and his mother encouraged him toward ministry. She taught him to read by age four. When he first entered school at age eight, it was as a fourth grader.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

At age 97 M.O. Owens Jr. still preaches every week for a traditional service at Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, where he was the founding pastor in 1964.

Although law was his dream, he responded to a call to preach that is “as plain today as it was then.”

“I’ve never regretted it a day of my life,” he said. “Not a day.”

He served six churches as pastor, and about 15 as interim pastor after retiring in 1981. Churches stopped calling when he reached 90. “I guess they thought I was too old,” he said with a slight smile.

He became pastor of First Baptist Church, Marion, in 1944 and went to First Baptist Church, Lenoir, six years later. He stayed in Lenoir almost 10 years before going to East Baptist in Gastonia in 1960.

When the church learned their frontage road was going to be lowered to accommodate the railroad track they bought land a couple miles southeast, started a mission church and intended to move.

When the new road plan was dropped, most members wanted East to stay put, but some said they should keep the new mission going, which they did.

In the meantime, Owens resigned East to go to a Miami, Fla., church but when he visited Miami, he realized that he would be totally out of his element.

The Parkwood mission asked him to become their first pastor and he did, constituting in March 1964 with 180 members. East had about 1,000 members. He retired from Parkwood in 1981.

Owens “hesitated to retire,” but he was recently widowed, his father in a retirement home was his responsibility and he had no other staff at a church with 900 members.

“I just felt like there was more on me than I could really look after,” he said. Owens attributes his longevity to good genes, decent eating and exercise, although, “the main thing is staying busy.”

He nearly died from colon cancer in 1965 but his health today is good. He said he once ran a 4:05 mile about 20 years before the 4-minute barrier was broken by Roger Bannister in 1954. Owens has three daughters and a foster daughter, who live in Suffolk, Va., Greenville, S.C., Vass, N.C., and in Ohio.  

Early movement
Owens initiated the “conservative resurgence” almost unintentionally.

“We didn’t start out to do anything about the seminaries,” he said. “We were just trying to encourage the average pastor out there to stay close to the Bible and the orthodox concept that Baptists had.”

Others encouraged them to take their campaign nationwide. He and Powell formed the Baptist Faith and Message Fellowship. After they got the ball rolling, Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson “took over from there.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

M.O. Owens Jr. and Margaret have been married for six years.

Patterson, now president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which was an early target of “conservative resurgence” leaders, affirmed Owens’ perspective.

“M.O. Owens, Bob Tenery and others in North Carolina preceded by several years the beginnings of what has become known as the ‘conservative resurgence,’” Patterson said.

“These men have been nothing less than determined and faithful in the consistency of their lives and witnesses. Like all humans I’m sure they must have made mistakes but the consistent holiness of life and strength of conviction that was necessary to find credibility in the eyes of the masses was decidedly present in these men.”

Owens’ group challenged what was then the Baptist Sunday School Board, which was providing the vast majority of teaching materials used in SBC churches, by creating the Baptist Literature Board. They adopted Scripture Press materials and eventually served 1,000 churches.

Their effort “served its purpose,” he said, because the Sunday School Board eventually “went back to the more solid conservative viewpoint, and we were no longer needed.”  

In “what today sounds stupid” but was a real issue in 1958-59 Owens said lines started to be drawn when he led the Baptist State Convention (BSC) to deny a request from Wake Forest University, which was then a BSC school, that dancing be allowed on campus. For him, the issue wasn’t so much dancing on campus, he said, but that Wake Forest asked North Carolina Baptists to approve dancing.

The resulting furor maligned the state convention and those involved were “immediately designated as the worst possible villains,” he said.

Owens’ confidence took another blow when a promising Parkwood student went to Wake Forest “and the next thing I knew he had been moved over in his theology to be as liberal as the rest of them.”

When he protested to a faculty member, the teacher wrote back and said, according to Owens, “one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever done was to change the attitude of this student from conservative to liberal.”

Owens said when he realized “the same thing was happening to some extent in all the other colleges” something had to be done to keep Southern Baptists from “going the way” of other denominations that were losing thousands of members every year.

“Anybody with any sense could see if we kept going along the same line we’d be in the same boat,” he said. “Fortunately we were able to sort of turn things around.”

Owens is generally pleased with the current direction of the Southern Baptist Convention and feels “once we settle down” from “Great Commission resurgence” adjustments, “we’ll begin to see the result and we’ll begin to move on.”

It is hard to make progress as a group in an “I, me, my society,” in which individual actions declare “If I don’t get anything out of it, I don’t care whether anyone else gets anything out of it,” he said.

Owens grew animated when discussion ranged to theology and the rising Calvinist influence in Southern Baptist seminaries, particularly Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“There is no question that God is in charge of things,” Owens said, leaning forward. “He holds the final hand. But we are made in the image of God and if that doesn’t mean we have minds of our own, then it doesn’t mean anything. And if we have minds of our own then that means we have some responsibility.”

Owens was in his prime when he fired the shot that shook Southern Baptists for a generation, a time when those in his circle of influence saw Baptist schools and seminaries drifting from orthodoxy.

Asked if he were in his prime again, would he challenge Calvinist theology in Baptist seminaries today, Owens said, “Yes I would.”
10/1/2010 6:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, 
BR Editor | with 4 comments

Baptist professor, civil-rights advocate dies

October 1 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

A long-time Wake Forest University religion professor active in the Civil Rights Movement died Sept. 29. McLeod Bryan, 90, is being remembered not only for his own work for peace and justice, but also for influencing countless others through the years.

“I’m always running into people who told me, ‘Your dad changed my life in class,’“ Bryan’s son, George, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

The North Carolina native received a B.A. (1941) and M.A. (1944) from the school — then known as Wake Forest College — and a B.D. (1947) and Ph.D. (1951) from Yale University. He was pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in New Haven, Conn., from 1945 until 1948. He taught at Mars Hill College and Mercer University before joining the religion department at Wake Forest in 1956.

Bryan stayed at Wake Forest 37 years, championing racial justice and human rights while teaching his students about religion and ethics. Often controversial and an agent of change, Bryan and others mounted a campaign to integrate Wake Forest in 1963. 

He also taught in South Africa — where he was an early opponent of the country’s segregationist apartheid regime — and at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Ruschlikon, Switzerland.

Like other outspoken whites active in the Civil Rights Movement, Bryan was often vilified. His son said job opportunities were withheld, and crosses were burned on his father’s lawn.

In a preface to Bryan’s 1999 book, Voices in the Wilderness, author and fellow white Baptist civil-rights advocate Will Campbell said Bryan “fits unquestionably within the line of prophets.”

Despite his academic achievements, Campbell said, Bryan always preferred to be called “Mac.” Published by Mercer University Press, Voices in the Wilderness — subtitled Twentieth Century Prophets Speak to the New Millennium — included Bryan’s autobiographical reflections of his experiences with five influential people he knew, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Clarence Jordan.

He wrote a total of 13 books, including These Few Also Paid a Price, a compilation of testimonies of 30 Southern whites who participated in the Civil Rights Movement juxtaposed with the white majority’s intense opposition to any change in the racial status quo.

Bryan is survived by his wife of 65 years, Edna, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A graveside service will be held at Bryan’s boyhood church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Garner, at 2:30 p.m. today (Oct. 1).

A memorial service is scheduled at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, where he was a member, in Wait Chapel on the Wake Forest campus.

Memorials may be made to the G. McLeod Bryan Caring Award at Mars Hill College or Wake Forest University Public Engagement for Religion.
10/1/2010 6:10:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 2 comments

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