October 2015

EC members heed call to increase CP for IMB

October 30 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Since adopting a resolution in September pledging to “encourage and lead” their churches to “give more than ever before through the Cooperative Program (CP),” at least 17 of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s (EC) 79 members have already recommended increases in CP giving at the churches where they are members. The proposed increases are intended to help the International Mission Board (IMB) amid revenue shortages.
 
According to reports sent by EC members to chairman Mike Routt, proposed increases range from .2 percent to 2 percent of church budgets, though not all reporting members stated their recommendations as a percentage of undesignated receipts.
 
Routt said even at churches where a CP increase is not possible for the upcoming budget year, EC members “continue to use their influence to lead their congregations in exemplary missions giving.”

 
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Photo by Morris Abernathy
Since pledging Sept. 22 to encourage their churches to increase Cooperative Program giving, SBC Executive Committee members have begun making good on their promise.

The average CP gift from churches of EC members in 2013-14 was 7.58 percent of undesignated receipts, 2.11 percentage points higher than the SBC average of 5.47 percent for the same period.
 
Ashley Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, praised the CP giving of all EC members and expressed special thanks to those who have been able to propose increases.
 
“Since the September Executive Committee trustee meeting, EC members have undertaken the challenge of increased Cooperative Program giving by starting at home,” Clayton said. “Against the backdrop of a newly adopted EC resolution on increased CP support for missions, EC members are now challenging their own churches to prayerfully consider increasing their missions support through the Cooperative Program.
 
“These EC members understand the importance of their role in representing Southern Baptists, and they are rising up and giving leadership to current and future funding challenges for SBC missions and ministries,” he said. “If every Southern Baptist church were to increase their CP giving by 1 percent of undesignated receipts, it would result in $100 million dollars more for missions every year.”
 
If every Southern Baptist church had given through CP at the level of the average EC member’s church, the IMB alone would have received approximately $67 million in additional income for 2013-14.
 
The EC resolution, adopted in Nashville Sept. 22 without opposition, stated, “At this urgent hour of desperate need in our nation and around the world, we, the members of the SBC Executive Committee, pledge to encourage and lead our churches to give more than ever before through the Cooperative Program in 2015 and beyond. We also call upon all cooperating Southern Baptist churches prayerfully to join us in doing more than ever before.”
 
The IMB’s plan to reduce its field personnel and staff by 600-800, Clayton said, “definitely struck a chord among Executive Committee members.” In response, the EC recognized that increased CP giving is the most effective way “to bring long-term sustainability to the IMB.”
 
Background material to the EC resolution noted that “while one-time gifts may allay IMB’s present need to keep a larger number of its missionary force on the field, it does not address the full range of both IMB and our other SBC entities’ needs to maintain long-term sustainability for funding the vital ministries entrusted to them by the churches that support the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
EC member David Hamilton, pastor of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc, Miss., said the West Heights staff will recommend a 1 percentage point budget increase in CP giving for 2016-17, bringing the congregation’s gifts through Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries in North America and around the globe to 14.6 percent of undesignated receipts. West Heights also will likely give an additional gift through CP in 2015-16 equivalent to 1 percent of its undesignated receipts.
 
When Routt challenged EC members “to step up to the plate and take the lead” in CP giving, Hamilton said, “I know there were other members in there, but I personally felt he was talking directly to me and that I needed to step up and take the lead with our church.”
 
EC member Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., said he is asking the congregation to increase CP giving by 1 percent of the budget each year for the next five years “to get back to the level we were at two years ago before the downturn in the economy.”
 
“I do feel some responsibility as an EC member to lead Meridian to step up, but it is more than that,” Slade said. “As a former [North American Mission Board] missionary, I personally know what it means to be supported through CP.
 
“I have fond memories and am thankful for Southern Baptists across this nation that allowed me to serve full time without worrying about raising support,” he said. “I was able to concentrate on sharing the gospel and ministering to the people that God put in front of me. I believe that is the beauty of CP. Our IMB missionaries don’t have to raise support. They can focus on sharing the gospel in some of the darkest parts of the world.”
 
Among other reports from EC members:

  • Routt, pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., has recommended a CP increase of 1 percentage point of the congregation’s 2015-16 budget. If adopted, it would be Circle Drive’s fourth CP increase in the past seven years.

  • SBC President Ronnie Floyd said Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where he serves as pastor, plans to give $1 million through CP in 2016 following the congregation’s first-ever million dollar gift in 2015.

  • Adam Hollingsworth, a member of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., said the congregation will increase its budgeted CP giving “by a minimum of 1 percent in 2016.”

  • Jim Gregory, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho, recommended a 1-2 percentage point increase in the church’s CP giving and said he feels confident “the increased percentage will be agreed to.”

  • Kim Grueser, pastor of Pittsburg (Penn.) Baptist Church, said he told the congregation’s stewardship team about the IMB’s need. The team subsequently recommended a 1-percent-of-budget increase “to bring our CP giving to 14.1 percent.”

  • Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, has recommended a 1-percent-of-budget CP increase that would bring the congregation’s CP giving to 11 percent of undesignated receipts. Wellman also is urging the church to double its giving this year to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions to $50,000.

Routt, in encouraging continued sacrificial CP giving, reminded EC members in an Oct. 17 email of their “stewardship of influence.”
 
Those who serve on the EC “have been given this sacred trust of” acting on behalf of the SBC while it is not in session, Routt said. “By God’s sovereignty, He has raised us up ‘for such a time as this,’ a time to lead our denomination to a resurgence of Cooperative Program giving. In other words, we have the opportunity to exercise our stewardship of influence to set an example for our convention to follow.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/30/2015 3:16:33 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists to highlight SBDR volunteers Nov. 1

October 30 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB


When disasters strike, communities change in an instant. Pastor Gary Ray saw that firsthand a year and a half ago when a mudslide devastated the town of Oso, Wash., the small northwestern community he called home.
 
“The scale of the disaster was pretty significant,” Ray, who was pastor of Oso Community Chapel in nearby Arlington at the time, said. “It was one of the presidentially declared national disasters of the year. Part of what made this unique is that it happened in an area where there was a very low level of infrastructure. We were the only church in 100 square miles.”
 
In total, 43 people died during the March 22, 2014, mudslide. By the following month there were 176 people on the official “missing” list. The mudslide impacted nearly everyone in the small town.
 
As Oso Chapel stepped up to help its neighbors through one of its most significant times of crisis, they also reached out to welcome Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) to the efforts.
 
“We were very impressed with the DR teams,” Ray said. “They were fast on the scene. They were very sensitive to the need for the local church to take the lead.”
 
Last year SBDR volunteers spent more than 25,000 hours helping disaster survivors – including those in Oso. On Nov. 1, Southern Baptists throughout the United States will celebrate the ministry dedication of these volunteers through SBC Disaster Relief Appreciation Day.
 
Churches can use this time to show videos about SBDR, invite volunteers to speak and even potentially set up SBDR ministry units in the church parking lot to give the congregation a firsthand look at the ministry.
 
With the support of SBDR, Oso Chapel reached out to the community in a variety of ways, such as becoming a hub for the community in its time of need. The church served as a reception point for material and financial donations that were given to help area residents and first-responders in the community. SBDR volunteers also assisted with media management, provided chaplain support, helped with various service and facility needs and much more, Ray noted.
 
Ray had been in the process of planting a church in Camano Island, Wash., when the mudslide happened. With months of prayer, planning and preparation having been committed to the launch, Ray decided to press forward on holding the church’s first service just one month after the disaster. He says the new church is doing well now. It is supporting a church plant in Bellingham, Wash., and exploring ways to “further expand the Kingdom’s work in the Northwest region,” Ray said.
 
Gary Floyd, director of Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief, says one of the forgotten stories of the relief effort happened on the other side of the mudslide. The east side of the mudslide, in Darrington, had more SBDR volunteers participating because of the nature of the response.
 
Both mud-out volunteers and chaplains played key roles. Mountain View Baptist Church in Darrington hosted a one-year anniversary of the mudslide with the participation of SBDR chaplains.
 
“Chaplains were a big deal in that response, on the west side particularly with first-responders and on the east side because there were more survivors as far as extended family there,” said Floyd, who serves on the staff of the Northwest Baptist Convention.
 
Floyd says SBDR continues to play a key role in helping Southern Baptists demonstrate the love of Christ during times of great pain in communities.
 
“We’ve got to be willing to go, under the banner of Christ, and engage people where they are,” Floyd said. “I think that’s the great benefit for Southern Baptists. We have an incredible foothold, if you will, in the disaster response community. I believe God will continue to work through us and bless us as we engage people who are hurting and just need a hand up.”
 
As SBDR Appreciation Day approaches, maybe one of the best ways for churches to show appreciation to the ministry of SBDR is to better prepare themselves to minister in the wake of a disaster. Ray points to that as one of the factors that aided Oso Chapel’s work.
 
“It is very, very important for every single church to have some kind of tie or line of communication with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Ray said. “Because when a disaster strikes, it’s almost too late to begin to think about what do I do now. If you are going to lead your community in healing and being the point person for help, you have to be ready. You have to have things in place. You have to have people trained. You have to have a plan.”
 
For more information about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit namb.net/dr. For videos to highlight the work of SBDR during a worship service, visit namb.net/videos-disaster-relief.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

10/30/2015 3:04:27 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



Left intolerant of religion, panelists agree

October 30 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Liberal intolerance is suppressing freedom of belief and conscience in the United States, religious and secular panelists agreed in a discussion at Georgetown University.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), joined in the conversation Oct. 27 at the country’s oldest Roman Catholic university on how “illiberal liberalism” is affecting the free exercise of religion.
 
While both liberals and conservatives can be intolerant, the left controls influential institutions in a U.S. society polarized increasingly over such issues as same-sex marriage, abortion and the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, members of the panel said.
 
The problems with intolerance among conservatives “are ameliorated because you don’t have the right in control of the key culture-making sectors in American life,” Moore told the audience. “[T]he left is primarily in charge of culture making right now.”

 
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Photo by Doug Carlson
ERLC President Russell Moore speaks during an Oct. 27 panel discussion at Georgetown University on intolerance toward religiously based views. Also pictured, from left, are moderator Timothy Shah and fellow panelists Kirsten Powers and Phil Zuckerman.

Liberal intolerance can even reach the level of “a certain form of fundamentalism,” he said. “That is happening on most secular college campuses.”
 
Another panelist, USA Today columnist and Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers, chronicled the trend in her recent book, The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech. In doing research for the book, she found the problem was “so much worse” than she expected on campuses and in the wider culture, Powers said.
 
Religiously based views on such issues as gay marriage and abortion “are treated as if they are actual attacks” that create harm, she said, adding her book provides “example after example” of this.
 
Rather than disagreeing and debating, Powers said, the response of the intolerant left is: “We don’t want to hear about it. And if you do talk about it, we’re going to call you a bigot; we’re going to report you to the authorities; we’re going to make you a social outcast.”
 
Secularist and atheist Phil Zuckerman agreed liberal intolerance happens on university campuses.
 
“I am ashamed of it; I am angered by it,” said Zuckerman, sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. “[I]t is upsetting, and it is disturbing.”
 
Liberty University, a well-known evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., “shamed secular institutions,” Zuckerman said, when it warmly welcomed Bernie Sanders, a socialist and Democratic presidential candidate, at a speech on campus in September.
 
While Powers’ book cites anecdotal evidence of liberal intolerance, moderator Timothy Shah pointed to a study by the Pew Research Center that found increasing governmental and social restrictions on religion in the United States. The Pew research released in May showed such restrictions rose from low to moderate in the past six years, leaving the United States in the middle range of nearly 200 countries.
 
Americans increasingly live in a society where public argument is “for the most part a means of tribal identification” that often relates to fundraising, Moore said. In this culture, he said, a person makes an argument primarily to say, “I am affiliated with these people and not affiliated with these other people.”
 
As a result, civil debate suffers, and the result is “not being able to distinguish the dignity of the person from an argument I disagree with,” Moore told the audience.
 
This contrasts with the method of discourse used by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., he said.
 
King would “speak prophetically” against Jim Crow laws in the South, Moore said, but also to segregationists and people in the middle to say, “Here is a vision of America that can include you, that is a moral America that is quite different from what you experience right now.”
 
Powers said her ultimate theory for why the shutout of religiously based viewpoints by liberals is occurring is they do it “because they can.”
 
It is not based on being liberal or conservative but on human nature, she said. The left’s dominance in culture leaves “no checks and balances,” she told the audience.
 
“When you have very little ideological diversity, ... what do you get? You get authoritarianism,” Powers said.
 
The liberals he knows among academia and students, Zuckerman said, believe “they’re fighting the good fight by looking out for racism, looking out for sexism, looking out for homophobia, looking out for what they see” as religious oppression.
 
When it can’t be found in the people in power, “you have to find it where you can,” he said.
 
Powers noted she grew up in a “liberal bubble” as an atheist or agnostic. But she became an evangelical Christian about 10 years ago and recently converted to Catholicism. She said many people are like she was – unaware they are intolerant and without a framework for understanding religious faith.
 
Evangelical Christians should seek to help secularist progressives understand who they are and what they believe, Moore said.
 
As evangelicals, “we have to be faithful in all the ways that we’ve been called to be faithful, and we have to be the sort of people who know how to dialogue with and persuade with our convictions those who disagree with us,” even if that means they understand and never agree, he said.
 
The panel discussion was sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/30/2015 3:00:37 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Study spotlights divorce among churchgoers

October 30 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

Before a divorce, churchgoers in troubled marriages look a lot like their happily married counterparts at church – participating, serving and leading at similar rates, a new study shows.
 
After a divorce, the differences can be stark. Twenty percent have dropped out of church entirely. In many cases, their children have stopped attending too. A third give less to the church than they did before. Their churches report leadership voids and fractured relationships.

 
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Yet pastors may have difficulty helping couples save their marriages, because churchgoers on the brink of separation often keep quiet at church about their marital woes.
 
Those are among the findings of new research by LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by Focus on the Family, surveyed Protestant pastors, churchgoing Americans in healthy marriages, and churchgoing Americans who divorced in the past five years.
 
The research points to a problem with church culture, said Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research vice president. If couples are unwilling to discuss marital struggles at church, they don’t get the help they need.
 
Many couples also may not realize help is available. While most pastors say their churches offer counseling referrals and other marriage aids, fewer churchgoers agree.
 
“Either pastors are overstating what they’re doing or not everybody is noticing what their church is doing,” McConnell said. “There are clearly gaps in communication when people don’t even know help exists.”
 

Divorce in the church

Divorce is a widespread issue for Protestant churches. Forty percent of pastors say at least one couple in their church separated or divorced in the past year.
 
Yet among regular churchgoers – those who attend once a month or more – church involvement offers few clues to distinguish troubled marriages from healthy ones. Three months before their separation, 7 in 10 regular churchgoers who divorce are attending church once a week or more. For those in healthy marriages, the rate is 87 percent.
 
The two groups also report similar levels of involvement in small groups at church (46 percent for those who divorce vs. 41 percent for those in healthy marriages), serving in community ministries (34 percent vs. 31 percent), and positions of responsibility at church (39 percent vs. 45 percent).

 
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“Many of the people who end up divorcing are average churchgoers,” McConnell said. “You’re not always going to see it coming.”
 
He noted one exception – regular churchgoers whose spouses do not attend. Eighteen percent of those who divorced say their former spouses never attended church three months before their separation. In contrast, just 2 percent of those in healthy marriages say their spouse never attends.
 
“It is courageous and often uncomfortable for a married individual to attend church alone, but it is also an indicator they’re going two different directions in their lives,” McConnell said.
 

Effects of divorce

After divorce, 8 in 10 still look like average churchgoers. They may switch churches, but they’re as involved as ever.
 
Twenty percent, though, no longer attend church – and the loss among their children is even higher. Among those with children who attended church before the separation, 35 percent say at least one child no longer attends.
 
Nearly half of those who divorce (47 percent) leave the church they attended before their separation. Rarely will former spouses remain at the same church after a divorce (10 percent), McConnell said. He suggested helping spouses find new places to worship so they don’t step away from church entirely.
 
A third of those who divorce (32 percent) say they give less to their local church than they gave before their separation. More than a quarter of this group stops giving at all.
 
Pastors say the repercussions of divorce affect others as well. Thirty-one percent say divorce has fractured other relationships in the church, and 16 percent say it created leadership voids. About 1 in 10 say divorce has hurt the church’s reputation (11 percent), halted its momentum (10 percent), or disbanded an adult small group or Sunday school class (9 percent).

 
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“The vast majority of churches do not have an effective marriage ministry,” said Greg Smalley, vice president of Focus on the Family. “In fact, most pastors are so busy doing other things, they often don’t consider the negative impact failed and mediocre marriages have on the mission of their church.
 
“The church should be the number one distribution center for healthy marriages because of its unique role. Eighty percent of marriages began in church, giving the church a unique opportunity to build a relationship with couples that can last throughout their marriage.”
 

Culture of silence

Nearly 8 in 10 churchgoers – and 94 percent of pastors – say their church is a safe place to talk about marital difficulties.
 
Experience, however, tells a different story. Among those who divorced, only 48 percent discussed their marriage problems with the lead pastor. Even fewer talked to anyone else, such as another staff member (13 percent) or a member of a small group or Sunday School class (11 percent).
 
Thirty-one percent told no one – a troubling sign of church culture, McConnell said.
 
“If churches are dogmatic and not realistic about relationships, then those who have trouble in their marriage are never going to tell anybody,” he said. “That’s a wake-up call to the church.”
 

Offering support

Pastors say their churches offer a wide range of marriage support services, including resources such as books and videos (77 percent) and referrals to professional counseling outside the church (75 percent).
 
Many churchgoers, however, seem unaware of the services. Just 38 percent of those in healthy marriages and 21 percent of those who divorced believe their church offers books and videos about marriage. Thirty percent of those in healthy marriages and 23 percent of those who divorced think their church refers people to outside counselors.
 
Churches can be more effective by being more proactive, McConnell said. He pointed out that two-thirds of pastors say their church has no lay leader responsible for marriage ministry, and 43 percent have no written plan.
 
“As much as churches already do things to help with marriage, there is still a huge opportunity to do more and to do it better,” he said. “I think the typical pastor would check the box and say, ‘We’re already doing this.’ And yet when we look deeper, there’s so much more that could be done.”
 
Deeper involvement by churches is critically important, Smalley said. “While the impact is not always immediate and obvious, nothing can negatively affect a church’s ministry and mission, and thwart future health, more than hurting marriages and divorce.”
 

Methodology

The online survey of individuals who are divorced was conducted July 23-Aug. 21, 2015. The survey was sponsored by Focus on the Family. A demographically balanced sample from a national online panel was used. Quotas and slight weights were used to ensure the sample being screened matched national totals for gender, age, ethnicity, region and education. This sample was screened to include only adults who have been divorced within the past five years and who attended worship services at a Christian church once a month or more three months prior to separating from the former spouse. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.8 percent. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
The online survey of individuals who are in healthy marriages was conducted July 23-28, 2015. A demographically balanced sample from a national online panel was used. Quotas and slight weights were used to ensure the sample being screened matched national totals for gender, age, ethnicity, region and education. This sample was screened to include only married adults who attend church once a month or more and whose responses to the Kansas Marital Satisfaction Scale were Very Satisfied or Extremely Satisfied for all three questions: (1) How satisfied are you with your marriage? (2) How satisfied are you with your husband/wife as a spouse? (3) How satisfied are you with your relationship with your husband/wife? The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 4 percent. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted July 15-29, 2015. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches with phones. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine. LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.)

10/30/2015 2:52:27 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Students, volunteers help save housing complex

October 30 2015 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers working in Summerton, S.C., last week helped save the area’s only affordable housing community from permanent closure. The apartment complex took on more than two feet of floodwater during historic flooding in the region Oct. 4.
 
Meadowfield Apartments sits on west side of Summerton, a small community north of Lake Marion. Most of the area was flooded from storm systems and torrential rains spawned by Hurricane Joaquin. The complex’s 150 residents were rescued by emergency workers who waded through water in the middle of the night and took residents to a temporary shelter.

 
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NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Collegiate volunteers Alex Hood, left, and Kaylee Newton pull up carpet in the Meadowfield Apartments in Summerton, S.C. Part of a group of first-time disaster relief volunteers, they came with a seven-member team from the Baptist Campus Ministry at Auburn University to aid survivors of historic flooding in the state spawned by Hurricane Joaquin in early October.

Due to the flood damage and demolition costs, Babbie Jaco, an officer of Boyd Management, Inc., which manages the complex, said the company was faced with shutting down the 48-unit complex.
 
“There is no other affordable housing for residents here,” Jaco said. “Everyone is homeless right now. A few were able to stay in some upstairs units.”
 
The tenants, which include some elderly and disabled, are mostly families with children. All tenants are on government subsidies and the average income for them is under $6,000 per year, she said.
 
Jaco says she was at her low point about the decision to close the complex when she happened to meet Summerton Baptist Church associate pastor Bob Ashba and Bobby Jackson while having lunch at the local diner.
 
The two men heard her dilemma and offered to help. Jackson, retired SBDR director from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, put her in touch with his longtime friend Mickey Caison, North American Mission Board (NAMB) interim executive director for disaster relief.
 
Normally Southern SBDR teams do not work on apartments. But since the company was a nonprofit, and so many residents were displaced in the community, Caison agreed to take on the project.
 
Help came Oct. 23 when collegians from Auburn University showed up to work with other Southern Baptists and some volunteers from Americorp.

 
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NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Summerton, S.C., resident Billy Harper, left, South Carolina Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team leader Avery Fox and Babbie Jaco, right, an officer of Boyd Management, Inc., talk over the cleanup and mud-out project at the Meadowfield Apartments in Summerton, S.C.

The team of seven Auburn students and their Baptist Campus Ministry leader Lee Dymond arrived at 1 a.m. at the SBDR command in Manning, S.C. None of the students had done any disaster relief work before, but they came ready to serve, Dymond said.
 
During the two days of service, the students tore out sheetrock, pulled up carpet and flooring and hauled out debris. They worked alongside SBDR teams from Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and North Rock Hill Baptist in Rock Hill, S.C.
 
Avery Fox, South Carolina SBDR volunteer who directed the teams, said the students worked well alongside other teams and showed dedication. By the end of the weekend teams had completed tear-out, pressure washing and mold remediation on 12 of the 40 units needing work.
 
“The collegians work hard and work eagerly,” Fox said. “They work happily and sincerely. They’re doing some dirty and hard work, and many of them are not used to that and they do it joyfully. It’s a wonderful witness to the residents and the community.”
 
Caison noted, “We’re seeing college students really step up, and I’m excited about that.”
 
NAMB, in partnership with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, is asking Baptist Campus Ministry leaders and collegiate volunteers to help with the massive needs in the suburbs of Detroit for flood recovery and rebuild. More than 100,000 homes in the metro Detroit area were flooded in August 2014 in one of Michigan’s worst natural disasters. More homes were flooded in Detroit in the event than were flooded in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Information is available at namb.net/dr under the heading “Collegiate Christmas Break in Detroit! Join us!”

 
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NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Philip Stewart, left. and a fellow student volunteer from Auburn University hauled wheelbarrows full of debris at Meadowfield Apartments in Summerton, S.C. Stewart was part of a seven-member team from the Auburn Baptist Campus Ministry taking part in their first disaster relief response.

Auburn freshman Kaylee Newton, a member of Morning View Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., acknowledges she was a little apprehensive about the trip to South Carolina.
 
“I knew I needed to come but it was outside my comfort zone because I had never served, and I didn’t want to spend the weekend with people that I didn’t know well,” Newton said. She noted the work was more difficult than she thought it would be but by the second day, it got easier. “I was happy to be doing the work and even if I didn’t know someone who lived there, I knew we were affecting their lives.”
 
Volunteer Philip Stewart, 19, also came with the Auburn students. He tore up flooring and hauled about 15 wheelbarrows full of debris on the first day.
 
“I would do the work again, but just not tomorrow, because I’m tired,” Stewart joked. He said he realizes how fortunate he is by seeing the loss of others. “It humbles me to not be so selfish in my life and to think about those who don’t have the basic needs.”
 
Julie Fuller, a member of Good Hope Baptist Church, Eclectic, Ala., said the work was a blessing to her. She said she and the team repeatedly heard everyone telling the students how appreciated and needed they were.

 
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NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Avery Fox, right, South Carolina Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team leader, prepares a solution used to kill mold after a mud-out job. Disaster relief volunteers from Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., joined with Auburn University students and another team from North Rock Hill Church in Rock Hill, S.C., to work on 40 flood-damaged units of the Meadowfield Apartments in Summerton, S.C.

“I think a lot of times when you do service projects around your community, you wonder are we doing any good.” Fuller said. “Is this actually making a difference? It was a highlight for me to know how needed we were and that God had provided for this community by using us.”
  “This has been an awesome experience to see this work,” said Jaco, who said the complex’s management hopes to have the families back into their homes by Christmas. She said the company is thankful for the volunteers’ help.
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board. Those who would like to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”)

10/30/2015 2:33:25 PM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments



Platt live stream addresses IMB reset

October 29 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Restoring the International Mission Board (IMB) to full financial health will be a long process that requires patience among Southern Baptists and the cooperation of local churches through a variety of avenues, IMB President David Platt said Oct. 27 during a live stream question and answer session.
 
Addressing a live audience that tuned in using more than 1,500 separate electronic devices, Platt reiterated the IMB’s need to reduce by 600-800 its total number of field personnel and staff in light of spending $210 million more than Southern Baptists have given since 2010. Reserve funds and proceeds from property sales made up the difference, he said, and no debt was incurred.
 
Despite the sobering financial report, Platt said the future of Southern Baptist missions is not “a dismal picture.”
 
“I want to reframe” negative prognostications “based on reality,” Platt said. “When I think about [the] SBC [Southern Baptist Convention], I don’t think decline. Yes, we’ve got challenges in the culture we’re in and when it comes to reaching people in the culture and seeing them baptized. … At the same time, know this: the global witness that God is providing the nations through the SBC right now is nothing short of awesome.”

 
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IMB photo by Chris Carter
International Mission Board President David Platt speaks to Southern Baptists during an IMB-hosted live stream to discuss present challenges and future vision for IMB.

He expressed appreciation that “churches’ giving to the IMB through [the] Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering for International Missions] and [the] Cooperative Program actually increased over the last couple of years.” Platt’s goal, he said, “is in no way to shame the churches and say, ‘If you just gave more, we wouldn’t have to do this.’”
 
Still, as the IMB downsizes its missionary force through a voluntary retirement program and other voluntary resignation options, Platt answered questions submitted via Twitter and Facebook about how local churches can help improve the organization’s financial situation. Among the questions submitted:

  • “How would you advise our church to consider its missions budget allocation in light of the IMB needs?”

Platt replied, “I would encourage your church...to give sacrificially for the spread of the gospel to the nations and specifically for the spread of the gospel to people who have never heard it. And I hope that your church sees IMB as a valuable partner in seeing that happen.”

  • “I struggle because I feel like our local church should send teams, not just give money. How do we balance?”

Platt noted that giving and sending teams should be a “both/and” proposition rather than an “either/or” scenario.
 
“Send money and send people,” he said. “As more people are going out from churches to get the gospel to the nations, then more people are going to want to give to see more people going out to get the gospel to the nations. If people aren’t going out and people are just sending money, there’s a disconnect.”

  • “Has any thought been given to changing the funding model of IMB missionaries?”

Platt said he hopes some IMB missionaries will be “totally self-funded,” travelling overseas as students in international universities, business professionals employed by corporations and retirees funded by their own savings and U.S. government programs. He also raised the possibility of fully-funded IMB church planters expanding to a mobilization model where business professionals on their church planting teams “begin to pull together” and “actually begin to support the fulltime church planter much like we support a pastor here.”
 
Another possibility is for churches to utilize the IMB’s existing GC2 (Great Commission Global Connect) and SBC Direct programs to fund specific missionaries outside traditional cooperative funding channels.
 
“I know as soon as I mention that,” Platt said, “there are a lot of questions that come up just along the lines of: What does that do when it comes to Cooperative Program or Lottie Moon or your giving? We have closely monitored that. The churches that are sending people through those pathways have actually increased their giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon as they’ve sent more missionaries.
 
“So we want more churches to be sending more people,” he said.
 
Every method of funding IMB missionaries should be consistent with a model that “bolsters and fuels the cooperative giving that goes on among Southern Baptist churches,” Platt said. “And I’m convinced there’s a way to do that. We’ve just got to think wisely through it.”
 
Platt closed by requesting prayer for the IMB family and the churches it serves. He asked Southern Baptists to help returning missionaries by providing extra houses, vehicles and jobs.
 
Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, he said, is one important step Southern Baptists can take to help the IMB in the days ahead.
 
“I want to see less missionaries coming off the field, more missionaries getting the gospel to the nations in the days ahead,” Platt said.
 
To view a recording of the live stream event, visit imb.org and click on “David Platt live stream replay.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

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An open letter about the IMB ‘reset’
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10/29/2015 12:07:16 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greens investigated for museum acquisitions

October 29 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Hobby Lobby craft chain owners the Greens are under federal investigation to determine whether the family illegally imported Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets from Israel for display in the family’s Bible museum, the Daily Beast reported.
 
The U.S. government has confiscated a shipment of as many as 300 small clay tablets that were in route to Oklahoma, the Hobby Lobby headquarters, the Daily Beast reported, citing confirmation from Cary Summers, president of the Museum of the Bible set to open in 2017 in Washington, D.C.
 
“There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork – incomplete paperwork that was attached to it,” The Daily Beast quoted Summers, saying he hinted the items might have simply been held up in customs for the past four years because of the paperwork.

 
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Museum of the Bible photo
This Gilgamesh cuneiform is among The Green Collection of biblical antiquities.

Hobby Lobby’s corporate office affirmed the company’s cooperation with the investigation.
 
“Hobby Lobby is cooperating with the investigation related to certain biblical artifacts,” Zack Higbee, corporate communications coordinator, told Baptist Press in written comments. “The Museum of the Bible is a separate not-for-profit entity made possible, in part, by the generous charitable contributions of the Green family.”
 
The Association for Research of Crimes Against Art, ARCA, said in an Oct. 27 blogpost that the investigation is partly centered on Article 2.3 of the International Council of Museums Code of Ethics, which states, “Every effort must be made before acquisition to ensure that any object or specimen offered for purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange has not been illegally obtained in, or exported from its country of origin or any intermediate country in which it might have been owned legally (including the museum’s own country). Due diligence in this regard should establish the full history of the item since discovery or production.”
 
The tablets, believed to have originated in Iraq, are described on their FedEx shipping label as “hand-crafted clay tiles” valued at under $300, The Daily Beast reported. Archaeological and ethnological imports defined as the “cultural property of Iraq” have been restricted within the U.S. since 1990, according to The Daily Beast.
 
The Greens, a Christian family that closes its national chain of Hobby Lobby stores on Sundays, have amassed the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts, which would be the centerpiece of the eight-story, $800 million museum. The Greens have previously displayed portions of their collection in a traveling exhibit.
 
Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green said he is unaware of any pieces in the collection having been obtained illegally, but couldn’t rule out such a possibility, The Daily Beast reported.
 
“Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]? That’s possible,” the Daily Beast reported. If charges are filed, the Greens could be forced to forfeit the artifacts and pay a fine, according to reports.
 
The museum will allow visitors to explore the Bible’s impact on world culture and modern civilization, including literature, fine arts, architecture, education, science, film, music, family, government, law, human rights and social justice. Archaeological and historic treasures, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Torah scrolls, early New Testament texts, rare biblical manuscripts and first-edition Bibles will be included, Summers has said of the museum.
 
“We’ve assembled,” Summers said in a press release, “the best in architectural, interior and environmental design to provide Museum of the Bible guests with an experience that is unique, innovative, customizable to each visitor’s level of interest and, most of all, memorable.”
 
The Greens made national headlines in 2014 when they won a U.S. Supreme Court appeal against a key mandate of the Affordable Care Act which would have required the Christian business owners to provide abortion-inducing contraceptives to employees through their health insurance plans.
 
The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” companies could exercise their religious opinions and conscientiously object to the mandate.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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10/29/2015 11:58:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Evangelicals for Life: ‘Call to arms,’ Moore says

October 29 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The first Evangelicals for Life conference will serve as a “call to arms” for evangelical Christians to address human dignity with the gospel of Jesus, says a Southern Baptist Convention ethicist.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family are partnering to present Evangelicals for Life Jan. 21-22 in conjunction with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. The conference, which has several other evangelical and pro-life organizations as sponsors, will conclude in time for attendees to participate in the Jan. 22 march.
 
Evangelicals for Life “is really a call to arms to evangelical Christians to speak to these issues of human dignity and the sanctity of all human life from conception to death with a gospel voice, a gospel tone,” ERLC President Russell Moore told reporters in a telephone conference call Oct. 27.
 
The inaugural conference will cover the gamut of sanctity of human life issues from abortion to end-of-life care. It will follow in the wake of recent developments illustrating the scope of the issue – the series of undercover videos demonstrating Planned Parenthood trades in body parts from aborted babies and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in California.

 
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Since mid-July, the Center for Medical Progress – a pro-life, investigative organization – has released 11 secretly recorded videos that show various Planned Parenthood officials in different locations discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos include acknowledgements by Planned Parenthood employees of their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. The videos also display evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs
 
The latest video, released Oct. 27, shows an abortion doctor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, describing her use of a procedure that is similar to, if not identical to, the partial-birth abortion method, which is prohibited by federal law.
 
The Planned Parenthood videos have provided “a moment of reclarification for many pro-life citizens that we still have much work to do,” Moore told reporters.
 
Viewing the videos has helped evangelicals and other pro-lifers “to see how the abortion culture damages the conscience,” Moore said. Videos showing people discussing baby body parts “with this calloused sense of distance ought to remind us of what a culture of death can do to the conscience,” he said.
 
When pro-lifers advocate for unborn children, they are “also working in the best interests of those who have bought into an abortion culture that we believe is deeply harmful to their own consciences,” Moore said.
 
Kelly Rosati, Focus on the Family’s vice president of community outreach, told reporters on the call that the videos have served “to actually change some minds, something which doesn’t actually happen particularly often.”
 
California enacted assisted suicide Oct. 5, raising concerns for the terminally ill, elderly and disabled in what is by far the country’s most populous state.
 
The conference will address assisted suicide, and evangelicals will continue to stand against the so-called “death with dignity” movement, reporters on the conference call were told.
 
“[T]he political realities right now are dire when it comes to issues such as assisted suicide, which buys into a notion of individual autonomy that separates the person from the rest of the community in ways that do much harm,” Moore said.
 
Evangelicals and other pro-lifers “increasingly face the understanding in American culture that a person’s worth is related to that person’s perceived usefulness,” he said. “And that is, as a Christian, something that I reject.”
 
On assisted suicide, pro-lifers need “to figure out how to cut through the euphemisms,” such as “death with dignity,” Rosati said.
 
“We need to continue to lead with our voices about the importance of palliative care, about the importance of access to hospice services,” she said. “We need to let people know as pro-life people that we care when somebody is suffering in unmitigated pain and that that is not okay, that is not good health-care delivery and that we can and must do better by people.”
 
Looking ahead to the conference, Moore said, “Now is the moment [for evangelicals] to speak with a unified voice.”
 
Moore said he hopes those attending Evangelicals for Life will return home “with a renewed sense of what it means to bear a pro-life witness.”
 
“For some people, that’s going to be preaching more coherently about issues related to human dignity,” he said. “For others, it’s going to be working and caring for women in crisis situations in their communities. For others, it’s going to be to foster or to adopt. And for others, it’s going to be to remember the elderly.”
 
The conference will address abortion and assisted suicide, but it also will deal with such issues as human trafficking and adoption.
 
While evangelicals will never stop speaking on behalf of the unborn, they care “about that orphaned child, about the modern-day orphan in foster care in our own country who needs a family, about that trafficking victim, about the lonely elderly neighbors that we are called to love,” Rosati said. “These are all part and parcel of a worldview that says every person is made in the image of God and is loved and has dignity.”
 
Roman Catholics have dominated attendance at the March for Life since it began in 1974, a year after the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.
 
Moore noted evangelicals “owe an incalculable debt to Roman Catholics in the pro-life movement because they were there before we were there.”
 
“They understood the stakes in Roe versus Wade before most evangelicals did,” he said.
 
While he desires no fewer Catholics at the march, Moore urged evangelicals to take more ownership of the event. “This is our issue too,” he said.
 
The march brings together many tens of thousands of pro-lifers – or a few hundred thousand, depending on estimates – to rally on the National Mall in Washington, then march up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. Leaders from the diverse organizations that make up the pro-life movement typically gather for the march and related events.
 
The five keynote speakers at Evangelicals for Life will be Moore; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board; Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
 
The conference also will include TED talks, panels and breakout sessions.
 
Sponsors of the conference are Care Net, 40 Days for Life, Alliance Defending Freedom, Embrace Grace, Christianity Today, the Heritage Foundation, the National Religious Broadcasters and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
 
Registration for and information on Evangelicals for Life is available online at evangelicals.life.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/29/2015 11:49:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Dakotas increase CP percentage SBC causes

October 29 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

The Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) increased its giving again to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program (CP) missions and ministries – by one-half percent for 2016 – during its annual meeting.
 
This brings to 23 percent the amount forwarded from CP giving by the two-state convention’s 26 churches in North Dakota and 62 churches in South Dakota to Southern Baptist national and international causes.
 
This continues CP percentage increases from 16 to 20 percent in 2014 and from 20 to 22.5 percent in 2015. The data also reflects the addition of four churches since last year.
 
“While our [eventual] aim is to reach 50 percent… our [more immediate] goal is to raise our CP percentage for the next five years to 27 percent by 2020,” DBC Executive Director Garvon Golden said. “This decision was made by our Executive Board last July and is reflected in our proposed budget.

 
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Photo submitted
Elected as 2016 officers of the Dakota Baptist Convention were (left to right) Steve Ford, vice president; Doug Hixson, president; Karen Holmes, recording secretary; and Jonathan Land, assistant recording secretary.

“This is important for us because it is a move toward taking greater responsibility for the work in the Dakotas and worldwide,” Golden said. “Our churches and pastors desire to send more resources to reach people for Christ in the nation and beyond.”
 
The budget and election of officers were the only business conducted during the two-day annual meeting of the convention. No resolutions were proposed. DCB staff and SBC entity representatives made reports.
 
The 31st annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention, with a theme of “Preach the Word,” drew 65 messengers and 12 guests, and a total attendance of 120, for the Sept. 24-25 sessions in Aberdeen, S.D., at the Best Western Ramkota Inn.
 
A Pastor’s Conference with Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, and three others – Jeff Crawford, TC Melton and George Ross – preceded the annual meeting.
 
“Our meeting this year was marked with good attendance, a good spirit and great unity,” Golden said. “We continue to grow and accomplish the 2020 goals we set in 2013. God continues to work in the Dakotas as we add new churches and see our existing churches strengthened.”
 
Messengers approved a $457,000 budget for 2016, including $325,000 in Cooperative Program giving from churches in the Dakotas; $50,000 from the North American Mission Board (NAMB); $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources; $12,000 from church health/development funds; and $10,000 in interest income. In addition to the total, NAMB is to provide $527,000 in grants, $440,000 for church planting and $87,000 for evangelism.
 
Doug Hixson, outgoing Pastor’s Conference president and DBC vice president and pastor of Connection Church in Spearfish, S.D., was elected president of the Dakota convention.
 
Elected as vice president and recording secretary, respectively, were Steve Ford, associational missionary in Siouxland Baptist Association and pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Vermillion, S.D., and Karen Holmes, church clerk and pastor’s wife at First Baptist Church in Wolsey, S.D., recording secretary. Last year Holmes was assistant recording secretary. Jonathan Land, church planter at Connection Sioux Falls, S.D., was elected assistant recording secretary.
 
“Evangelism and discipleship are inseparable,” Golden said in his annual report to messengers. “The Dakota Baptist Convention desires to help churches develop strategies to accomplish both.”
 
Golden outlined basic guidelines to accomplish the strategies:

  1. Focus on prayer and spiritual awakening “in the Dakotas, across our nation and the world,” Golden said.

  2. Help churches know how to build bridges of hope and relationship to their communities to help share the gospel boldly and freely.

  3. Help churches develop an evangelism plan and a disciple-making process to move them toward health and growth.

  4. Train and offer expertise to assist churches in sharing the gospel everywhere with everyone using all possible methods.

  5. Celebrate with churches and the two-state convention as a whole “God’s work among us in reaching people for Christ and making disciples,” Golden said.

Hixson challenged every Southern Baptist church in the Dakotas to participate in a mission trip to another Southern Baptist church in the Dakotas in 2016.
 
“Our people are the best untapped resource of the Dakotas,” Hixson recounted after the meeting. “I challenged our Dakota Baptist churches to plan a mission trip before the next annual meeting, to partner our churches.
 
“That was very well-received,” Hixson said. “Before we left the meeting, several churches had connected.”
 
Mike Brennan, pastor of Sharps Corner Baptist Church on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, led part of the worship time during the Friday morning session of the annual meeting. He sang a Native American Christian song, led in a prayer dance and played “Amazing Grace” on a native flute.
 
Brennan asked for prayers and for reconciliation for the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation who live in one of nation’s poorest counties, with an annual income of about $6,286, according to Census Bureau statistics. The reservation has “massive amounts of suicides and alcoholism,” Brennan said.
 
The DBC’s Book of Reports also noted the annual ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In this, its 10th year of evangelistic outreach, 6,195 gospel presentations were made and 607 people prayed to receive Christ during the evangelism tent’s 87 hours of operation.
 
During the ministry’s 10-year history, more than 38,000 people have received a gospel witness and more than 7,200 have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ as their “boss,” to state a term frequently used at Sturgis.
 
The 2016 annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention is set for Sept. 22-23 in Bismarck, N.D.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a Baptist Press national correspondent based in Utah.)

10/29/2015 11:40:35 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Texas student: Teacher taught ‘God is not real’

October 29 2015 by Josh Chapin, USA TODAY Network

A seventh-grade assignment in a Texas school district asked students to deny the existence of God, a student said.
 
The Katy Independent School District has since apologized and the principal of West Memorial Junior High School determined the assignment wasn’t necessary for students.
 
But the assignment still didn’t sit well with one student.
 
Jordan Wooley said she answered the question “there is a God” in two ways.

 
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Photo courtesy of KHOU-TV, Houston, via USA Today
Jordan Wooley, a sevent-grade student in Katy, Texas, said an assignment questioned her faith when her teacher told her God wasn’t real.

“I said it was fact or opinion,” she said.
 
Jordan said her reading teacher said both her answers were wrong and that she had to admit God wasn’t real.
 
“It was really confusing to me at first because I didn’t really know what to do, so the first thing I did was tell my mom,” Jordan said.
 
Her mom, Chantel Wooley, couldn’t believe it.
 
“That a kid was literally graded against her faith in God in a classroom,” said Wooley.
 
Jordan testified at the Katy school district’s Board of Education meeting Oct. 26.
 
“Today I was given an assignment in school that questioned my faith,” Jordan said at the meeting.
 
On Tuesday, the school district released a statement saying, in part, that the assignment was intended to encourage critical thinking and dialogue and not question any student’s religious beliefs.
 
“Still this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued,” the district said in its statement.
 
Wooley could understand the assignment if it were given in college.
 
“Are we talking about impressionable 12- or 13-year-olds or are we talking about 24-year-olds in college who already have a firm grasp of the world around them?” she asked.
 
“I love reading so for me personally to have to fail reading because of what my beliefs are just shocked me,” Jordan said.
 
Jordan said the assignment was in fact graded, so she would have had to contradict her faith in order to pass.
 
The school district said the teacher who came up with the assignment is distraught and that it’s crucial not to vilify the teacher without knowing her and her Christian faith.
 
The teacher did not respond to requests for comment outside her home.
 
Katy is about 30 miles west of Houston. According to the school district’s website, there are more than 70,000 students attending schools in the district.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josh Chapin writes for KHOU-TV, Houston.)

10/29/2015 11:21:50 AM by Josh Chapin, USA TODAY Network | with 0 comments



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