October 2015

Platt to discuss IMB’s future in live Web event

October 22 2015 by IMB staff

International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt invites pastors, church leaders and members to be part of an IMB-hosted live stream event Oct. 27, 3 p.m. EDT, to discuss the organization’s present challenges and future vision.
 
IMB leaders announced in an Aug. 27 press release an organizational restructuring plan that will reduce personnel expenses and balance their budget. IMB’s 2014 fiscal goals fell $21 million short. Deficits totaled more than $210 million in the last six years.

 
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IMB President David Platt invites pastors, church leaders and members to be part of an IMB-hosted live stream event Oct. 27, 3 p.m. EDT, to discuss the organization's present challenges and future vision.

The plan includes two personnel reduction phases that will be enacted through early 2016. The first phase includes a voluntary retirement incentive for qualifying employees through the end of 2015. The second phase will involve a voluntary resignation incentive for all employees along with a possible reduction of IMB personnel in 2016. IMB leaders said in a frequently-asked-questions document also released on Aug. 27, “It is expected that the 600-800 people who step aside from the IMB in the next six months will not be stepping ‘onto the sidelines of mission,’ but instead will be moving into a new phase of involvement in mission.”
 
Platt said in a conference call that previously enacted budget reduction plans – like reducing the number of new missionaries sent through IMB – are “no longer viable in light of present realities. IMB can’t continue to overspend as we have.”
 
Personnel expenses make up approximately 80 percent of IMB’s budget, according to Platt. The number of IMB missionaries on the field hit a high mark in 2009 at 5,600, he added. To remedy budget shortfalls, previous IMB leadership enacted a plan to slowly reduce the number of missionaries to 4,200. The number currently stands at 4,800.
 
Platt emphasized that recent decisions in no way question the decisions of previous IMB leaders. “There are no ideal steps at this point,” he added.
 
Sebastian Traeger, IMB executive vice president, estimates the new financial plans will balance the budget by 2017. Platt repeatedly emphasized in the conference call the importance of maximizing IMB’s resources so the greatest number of people across the globe can hear the gospel. IMB’s organizational health is an important aspect of that mission. The changes announced, Platt said, are “for the sake of short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability. We want to be in a position where we can operate within our budget, where we are not continuing to deplete reserves.”
 
The hour-long online video forum will provide a way to dialogue as participants ask Platt questions via Twitter and Facebook. Beginning Tuesday morning, Oct. 27, live stream viewers can submit questions on IMB’s Facebook page or through Twitter by using #IMBLiveStream.
 
“We must get to a healthy place in the present in order to be in a healthy position for the future,” Platt said. “We want to move forward with innovative vision, wise stewardship and high accountability to the churches we serve, the peoples we reach and the God we worship.”
 
Register for the Web event at imb.org/live. For questions or comments about the IMB live stream, email info@imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was submitted by IMB’s communications team. BR Content Editor Seth Brown added to the story.)
 

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10/22/2015 12:38:57 PM by IMB staff | with 0 comments



Prayer, advocacy urged in response to State Dept. report

October 22 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Prayer and advocacy are appropriate Christian responses to the U.S. State Department’s latest report on international religious liberty, says Southern Baptists’ point man on global justice and freedom of faith.
 
In its annual report, the State Department cited the upsurge in persecution of religious adherents by non-government groups as a major development in 2014. The International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, issued Oct. 14, again assessed the conditions for people of faith in nearly 200 countries and territories, something that has been required since the enactment of a 1998 federal law.
 
The State Department, however, did not designate “countries of particular concern (CPCs),” which also is mandated by the law, in its new report. The CPC designation is reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
 
Southern Baptists and other Christians can take two practical steps in response to the latest report, said Travis Wussow, director of international justice and religious freedom in the Middle East office of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). They are, he wrote in an Oct. 19 post at the ERLC’s website:

  • “Pray for the religious minorities of one new country every week. Read the country’s section in the report and use the information there to respond.

  • “Pay attention to whether the State Department designates new countries of particular concern and join with [the] ERLC in asking the State Department to act” if it fails to do so.

The State Department last designated CPCs when it released last year’s report in July 2014. At that time, it named the following nine governments as CPCs: Burma; China; Eritrea; Iran; North Korea; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan.
 
In his post, Wussow pointed to three “big-picture trends” found in the new State Department report:

  • “The rise of abuse by non-state actors. Governments themselves continue to oppress religious minorities across the world. But we have also seen an increase in the failure of governments to protect religious minorities from political parties, social organizations and terrorist organizations.

  • “The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. In 2014, anti-Semitism surged, as many protests against Israel ‘crossed the line into anti-Semitism.’ Chillingly, the IRF Report notes that these protests have ‘left many pondering the viability of Jewish communities’ in Europe, including France and Germany.

  • “Failure of governments to protect religious minorities from societal tensions and discrimination. In countries across the world, governments are failing at their first task: to protect the rights of their citizens. For instance in Nigeria, the government failed at all levels to investigate, prosecute and punish violence and discrimination against religious minorities.”

In its report, the State Department said of the rise of persecution from non-government forces:
 
“In the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout Asia, a range of non-state actors including terrorist organizations, have set their sights on destroying religious diversity. Members of religious groups were disproportionately affected, often suffering harsh and hateful treatment of non-state actors. In these regions, religious intolerance and hostility, often combined with political, economic and ethnic grievances, frequently led to violence. Governments stood by, either unwilling or unable to act in response to the resulting death, injuries and displacement.”
 
Among those non-state persecutors are the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram.
 
In Iraq, ISIS targeted Christians, Yezidis, Sabean-Mandaeans and Shia Muslims. Its terrorist actions in 2014 caused the displacement of 1.8 million people in the Middle East country, according to the State Department report.
 
In Nigeria, Boko Haram used murder and kidnapping against Christians, as well as Muslims who disagreed with their extreme Islamic beliefs. The terrorist organization killed more Nigerians in 2014 than in the previous five years combined, according to estimates by civil society groups. Violence has displaced about 1.5 million people within the country and caused about 200,000 people to flee to other countries, the State Department reported.
 
Regarding government repression of religion, the State Department report cited these findings:

  • The continued threat and enforcement of blasphemy laws against non-Muslims in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

  • Repression of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in China. The Chinese government even cracked down on state-sanctioned churches, removing crosses and demolishing church buildings.

The report also highlighted positive development in global religious freedom, including improvements in the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
 
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – a bipartisan panel that reports on religious liberty conditions to Congress, the White House and State Department – recommended earlier this year these eight governments be added to the CPC list: The Central African Republic; Egypt; Iraq; Nigeria; Pakistan; Syria; Tajikistan; and Vietnam.
 
Wussow arrived in the Middle East in late July to open the ERLC’s international religious freedom office. The office collaborates with other organizations to advocate for religious freedom and social justice internationally. It also provides training resources on justice and religious liberty for churches and organizations, creates material for raising awareness on the issues and works with Baptist Global Response to help meet human needs.
 
The State Department report may be accessed online at state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/#wrapper.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/22/2015 12:32:39 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Boko Haram suicide bombings widespread in Nigeria

October 22 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Weather and logistics have slowed military progress against Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries. And suicide bombings that are increasingly commonplace may well continue regardless of military progress, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told Al Jazeera English news.
 
“It is known that Nigeria is the main battleground, and we have agreed among ourselves to dedicate a number of troops in certain places by the end of last month [September] so that with the coming of the dry season … there will be a spontaneous move against Boko Haram,” Buhari said in an Oct. 17 interview on Al Jazeera’s “UpFront” broadcast, posted online.
 
“What we cannot guarantee really is a question of using IEDs, improvised explosive devices in public places,” he said. “That operation by Boko Haram may continue beyond the time limit that we gave [Dec. 31]. But the articulated attacks by Boko Haram on townships, on military installations, will certainly stop.”
 
Nigerian military officials said in September a special force of 8,700 soldiers from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin was making headway against the terrorists, but Buhari told Al Jazeera the military had been stymied by the rainy season. Buhari didn’t give a specific timeline of delays, but Nigeria’s rainy season typically begins in the southern coastal areas of the country in February or March, moves north and extends through September in the northeast region where Boko Haram has been most active.

 
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Photo courtesy UNICEF/Rich.
Hassan Adamo’s 18-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son were kidnapped when Boko Haram fighters burned Adamo’s home and shot his cattle. Adamo is shown in this March, 2015 photo with his surviving family members at a camp for internally displaced persons in Adamawa, Nigeria.

U.S. President Barack Obama is sending to Cameroon as many as 300 troops to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations to support the multinational forces, he announced Oct. 14, indicating that 90 of those troops had already deployed. The soldiers are armed only for self-defense, Obama said.
 
Boko Haram militants attacked Chadian soldiers in an Oct. 6 predawn attack, killing 11 and wounding 13, Chad’s army chief told French press agency AFP. Chad killed 17 Boko Haram fighters in the raid, the army chief said.
 
Multinational forces thwarted a potential Boko Haram suicide bombing Oct. 18 outside a main military based in Maiduguri, shooting the suspected female bomber dead and detonating explosives concealed in her handbag, AFP reported.
 
Boko Haram has killed more than a hundred citizens in the region in October alone, utilizing suicide bombers in most attacks, it has been widely reported. Among the latest attacks:

  • On Oct. 15 and 16, at least 34 people were killed in a wave of suicide bombings outside Maiduguri, AFP reported.

  • On Oct. 16, two female suicide bombers killed at least 11 people in Adamawa state in northeast Nigeria, AFP reported.

  • On Oct. 11, five suicide bombers killed 33 people in Chad and wounded 51 others, Reuters reported.

  • On Oct. 4, suicide bombings in Niger killed a soldier and five civilians near the Nigerian border, AFP reported.

  • On Oct. 2, at least 18 people were killed and 41 injured in twin bombings on the outskirts of Abuja, the nation’s capital, according to AFP.

Boko Haram has killed nearly 1,400 people since Buhari took office, most of them by suicide bombings. In the Al Jazeera interview, Buhari said the rise in suicide bombings is indicative of Boko Haram’s weakness. The jihadists are mostly confined to the Sambisa Forrest in Borno state and are no longer able to wipe out entire villages, he said.
 
“On the ground physically things are getting better,” Buhari told Al Jazeera. “Boko Haram is reduced now to using IEDs, improvised explosive devices.”
 
The international community focused on Boko Haram in April 2014, when the terrorists kidnapped more than 300 teenage schoolgirls in Chibok. As many as 75 of the girls escaped, but about 220 remain missing and are feared sold as Muslim sex slaves or used as suicide bombers.
 
Buhari told Al Jazeera news he knows where any survivors would likely be held, and would be willing to negotiate for the girls’ release if Boko Haram meets certain criteria, including proving the girls are still alive.
 
In efforts to abolish Christianity and establish Sharia law, Boko Haram had proclaimed Islamic caliphates or Sharia-based governments covering more than 20,000 square miles in northeast Nigeria before Buhari was elected. Nigeria’s military managed to recapture the land and establish sufficient peace to conduct nationwide elections, which had been delayed due to violence.
 
Boko Haram originally targeted Christians but has also killed moderate Muslims, government officials and civilians, killing as many as 20,000 people since 2009, and displacing 2.5 million from their homes, according to estimates. The group has pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 
In 2014 alone, 42 percent of all attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria were on Christian communities, while 35.4 percent targeted random civilians, according to the Jubilee Campaign for global religious freedom. Other attacks in 2014 targeted Muslim communities (6.8 percent), the government (10.9 percent), schools (4.1 percent), and media and medical personnel (0.5 percent), according to the Jubilee Campaign 2015 Report on Nigeria.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

 

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10/22/2015 12:26:54 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Kansas-Nebraska Baptists increase CP giving

October 22 2015 by Eva Wilson, Baptist Digest

Messengers to the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists (KNCSB) increased the percentage of Cooperative Program (CP) receipts they will forward to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries and affirmed both biblical marriage and the sanctity of life during the convention’s annual meeting Oct. 12-13 at Blue Valley Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kan.
 
“One Mission” was the theme of the Kansas City-area gathering, which drew 287 registered messengers and 80 visitors.
 
In his address to messengers, outgoing KNCSB President Andy Addis focused on Proverbs 14:4: “Without oxen, a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”
 
Addis, pastor of CrossPoint Church in Hutchinson, Kan., urged Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists to “prioritize the harvest” by doing the work of missions and evangelism because “clean stables aren’t doing a hell-bound world any good.”
 
During business sessions, messengers approved the 2016 KNCSB budget of $4,827,852, a decrease of 1.3 percent from 2015. Anticipated CP gifts for 2016 are $2.8 million, with an additional $860,016 anticipated from the North American Mission Board and $53,700 from LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
Messengers increased the percentage of CP receipts to be forwarded to SBC missions and ministries 0.5 percent to 24 percent. The convention will retain 76 percent of CP receipts for Kansas-Nebraska ministries. The budget includes no shared ministry expenses.
 
An additional 1 percent increase in CP receipts forwarded to SBC causes is anticipated for 2017.
 
KNCSB Executive Director Bob Mills cited financial challenges the two-state convention is facing. But he expressed faith, noting, “Our God is faithful. I’m not distressed. I’m just waiting for the new thing He’s going to do.”
 
Mills urged Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists to:

  • “Be a people that focus on the Lord Jesus Christ”;

  • Focus on evangelism, missions and discipleship; and

  • Recapture a cooperative spirit.

Joe Stiles, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kan., was elected president without opposition. He previously served two years as vice president.
 
Derrick Lynch, pastor of Blue Valley Baptist Church, the annual meeting host church, was elected vice president over Voyt Lynn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Douglass, Kan.
 
Re-elected officers include: recording secretary, Bryan Jones, pastor of Tyler Road Southern Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan.; assistant recording secretary, Susan Pederson, member of Prairie Hills Baptist Church in Augusta, Kan.; and historian, Tony Mattia, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Wamego, Kan.
 
A resolution on “the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States” decried the court’s decision this year to legalize same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges as well as its decision four decades ago to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade.
 
“We reject the ruling of SCOTUS to legalize ‘same-sex marriage’ as a civil rights issue,” the resolution stated, “since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender.”
 
The resolution added, “We further reject the ongoing practice of abortion as legalized by the same court.”
 
A second resolution expressed appreciation to the host church.
 
Next year’s KNCSB annual meeting will be held Oct. 10-11 at the Omaha-area LifeSpring Church in Bellevue, Neb.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eva Wilson is associate editor of Baptist Digest, newsjournal of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. With reporting by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/22/2015 12:22:22 PM by Eva Wilson, Baptist Digest | with 0 comments



At Sturgis, Alaskan grocer finds divine appointment

October 22 2015 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

When Mike Cooper learned about the 2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally from his pastor in Alaska he felt compelled to go.
 
The veteran grocer had never been to a motorcycle rally, nor does he have a souped-up Harley-Davidson, but his determination wasn’t about the debauchery at the seven-day Sturgis rally.
 
Cooper wanted to volunteer for evangelism at the Dakota Baptist Convention’s Sturgis Bike Giveaway hospitality tent at the rally’s 75th anniversary.

 
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Photo submitted
Alaskan grocer Mike Cooper took a 20-hour ferry ride and rode his motorcycle 2,040 miles to the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, witnessing a young man’s new birth at the Dakota Baptist Convention’s 10th annual outreach in the South Dakota Black Hills.

The odds were against Cooper, a member of First Baptist Church in the small town of Petersburg on Mitkof Island.
 
No one gets time off between May 1 and Oct. 16 during Alaska’s long days of sunlight, which is the store’s busiest season. Yet his supervisor – who didn’t like the mention of God – granted Cooper time off due to his tenure and good work.
 
The 58-year-old Cooper took a 20-hour ferry ride from Mitkof Island with his 2001 Suzuki Intruder Volusia motorcycle before riding 2,040 miles to Sturgis in 56 hours, weathering cold torrential rain for 200 miles at about 6,000 feet elevation in Alberta, Canada.
 
“I was shaking from the cold so much it hurt,” Cooper said.
 
Like many of the volunteers at the Sturgis Bike Giveaway tent, he arrived with no previous training in evangelism. But he quickly learned how to give a “three-minute testimony,” which uses the outline of a person’s life before Christ, how they became followers of Christ and their life since salvation.
 
Then Cooper met Dorian, a young man from Philadelphia, Pa.
 
Dorian had problems back home and had taken off without any particular destination before arriving in Sturgis. Cooper had experienced many of the same issues when he was young.
 
“We found common ground in our mutual problems and our enjoyment of motorcycles,” Cooper said. But their long rides to Sturgis weren’t the important thing. “I told him I rode that distance so that I could talk to him.”
 
Cooper shared his three-minute testimony and invited Dorian to place his faith in Christ.

 
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Photo submitted
Mike Cooper is flanked by Buck Hill (left), Dakota Baptist Convention director of missions, and Bob Clardy, associate pastor at Whitefield Baptist Church in Belton, S.C. Cooper trekked from Alaska to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota to volunteer for the Baptist convention’s evangelistic outreach.

“A soul was added to the Kingdom of heaven,” Cooper said. “I have never knowingly traveled that far for a divine appointment.”
 
Dorian was one of 6,195 people who heard a personal testimony during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August and one of 607 who made a profession of faith in Christ. During the 87 hours the tent was open, volunteers averaged witnessing to 71 people per hour.
 
In the Dakota convention’s 10 years of outreach at Sturgis, volunteers have witnessed to more than 38,000 people, of whom more than 7,300 made a profession of faith, said Buck Hill, a North American Mission Board missionary serving as the Dakota Baptist Convention’s state missions director. During the 2015 rally, new believers came from 41 states, five provinces of Canada, and Australia, Cuba, Denmark and Germany.
 
The evangelism strategy entails volunteer “catchers” standing in front of the tent to invite Sturgis visitors to register for the Sturgis Bike Giveaway after they listen to a testimony from a “sharer.” On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., a drawing determines who gets a new Harley-Davidson, which ministry donors help purchase.
 
This year’s rally – the 75th anniversary of the event – was challenging given the enormous number of biker enthusiasts drawn to the milestone in this town of 6,000 in the South Dakota Black Hills.
 
And the ministry tent was in a new location this year.
 
“Within 500 yards there were five bars and a liquor store,” Hill said.
 
People who pray to receive Christ at the Sturgis Bike Giveaway typically receive a Bible. “We had more than 4,000 Bibles,” Hill said, “and we ran out of them.”
 
The sheer number of people contributed to heightened challenges and frustrations among the visitors.
 
“The spiritual warfare battle was as high as I’ve seen it in the 10 years I’ve been doing it,” Hill said.
 
Those challenges make Mike Cooper’s story even more satisfying for Hill, who has many more to tell:

  • A visitor said to a catcher, “I need you to tell my son what you told me last year.” After seeing the changes in his father, the son decided he wanted what his dad had – a personal relationship with Jesus. So the father had brought his son to Sturgis.

  • A couple listened with their children as a sharer presented Christ. With tears flowing, they each prayed to receive Christ. Then the wife looked at her husband and said, “We need to go. We just prayed to start a new life. We need to go home and start our brand-new life.”

Planning has begun for the Dakota Baptist Convention’s 2016 Sturgis Bike Giveaway ministry, which will be Aug. 8-14, with volunteers arriving Aug. 5. They will minister through Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. when the motorcycle is given away.
 
Each volunteer will have to count the cost of his or her participation. Cooper’s costs exceeded projections.
 
About 20 miles outside of Sturgis while starting the journey home, the engine blew on his motorcycle and needed a complete rebuild. He sent it to Omaha, Neb., where his daughter lives, then flew home. He estimates the trip ended up costing him about $4,000.
 
A friend asked Cooper, who now has relocated to Omaha, if he would do it again. The grocer’s answer was simple and straight from scripture: “Here am I. Send me.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer and photojournalist living in Atlanta. For more information about the Dakota Baptist Convention’s annual ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, visit facebook.com/SturgisBikeGiveaway.)
 

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10/22/2015 11:53:35 AM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Faith, religious liberty among presidential forum topics

October 21 2015 by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN

If most evangelical Christians are avoiding the polls and allowing leaders to be elected by non-believers, “is it any wonder we have a federal government that is assaulting life?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz during a presidential candidate forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
 
“There are 90 million evangelical Christians in America,” Cruz said during the Oct. 18 event that drew about 6,000 people to hear from Cruz and five other presidential candidates. “In the 2012 election, 54 million evangelicals didn’t vote; it’s a majority of evangelical Christians.”
 
Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham said the forum, co-hosted by his church and the Faith & Freedom Coalition, was designed to encourage evangelical Christians to vote and do so as informed citizens. Candidates attending the event included Cruz, former business CEO Carly Fiorina, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

 
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Photo courtesy of Prestonwood Baptist Church
If most evangelical Christians are avoiding the polls and allowing leaders to be elected by non-believers, “is it any wonder we have a federal government that is assaulting life?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz during a presidential candidate forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Oct. 18.

A range of topics was discussed during the four-hour forum. Among them were the candidates’ faith, sanctity of life and religious liberty issues. Each candidate had time to speak to the crowd before sitting down with Graham for one-on-one interviews.
 
The candidates were never on stage at the same time, but they did make reference to one another in their comments to the crowd as well as to those running for office from the Democratic Party (all of whom were also invited to the forum).
 

Huckabee

Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, noted, “I haven’t come here to fight the other Republicans running for office. Most are friends and I like them.”
 
“Every single one of them on that stage I believe will be a better president than any of the people that were on the stage this week [referencing candidates at the first Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and Facebook],” he said. “It’s not my goal here to stay to fight them but rather to fight for you.”
 
In committing to fight for “you,” Huckabee went on to make it clear that “you” includes unborn Americans.
 
“How can we ask God to bless a nation that for 42 years has ended the lives of 60 million unborn children?” he said. “This is not just a social aberration – this is uncivilized savagery for which we must repent. We must do more than be sorry about it – we must change it.”
 

Cruz

Sen. Cruz, R.-Texas, garnered the most vocal and enthusiastic support with his home-state crowd. He spoke of the encouraging signs he sees of an American awakening.
 
He discussed his record on standing up to Washington and defending the values upon which the nation was founded. He painted a grim picture of the current state of affairs for America both domestically and internationally.

 
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Photo courtesy of Prestonwood Baptist Church
About 6,000 people gathered to hear from six presidential candidates at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, during a presidential candidate forum Oct. 18.

“As these threats grow darker and darker and darker, they are waking people up here and all across the country,” Cruz said. “I believe 2016 will be an election like 1980, and it took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan.”
 

Fiorina

Fiorina, the lone woman running for president in the Republican field, said, “I very much hope I can earn your support and your votes and continue to have your prayers.”
 
Aiming some of her comments at Hillary Clinton, Fiorina added, “but I will never ask for your votes or support because I’m a woman, although I am proud to be a woman. I will ask for your votes and your support because I believe I’m the most qualified candidate to win this job and the most qualified candidate to do the job.”
 
Fiorina also discussed the importance of her faith. “I have been tested,” she said.
 
“My faith has been tested. I have battled breast cancer. I have buried a child,” she said. “And through it all, the love of my family and personal relationship with Jesus Christ has seen me through. And on this journey, my family and my faith will see me through as well.”
 

Carson

Carson acknowledged he is often criticized for having a perceived “soft demeanor.” As a young man, he said, he realized he had a hot temper that was going to land him in jail, reform school or the grave. After his temper nearly led him to take the life of another person, Carson sat down in a bathroom and began searching the Scriptures. Verse after verse seemed to be written just about him and how his temper was an indication of foolishness and selfishness.
 
“I stayed in that bathroom for three hours and came to an understanding during that time that to lash out at somebody – to punch somebody in the face was not a sign of strength, but weakness ... That was the last day I had an angry outburst. Some say, ‘You just learned how to hide it.’ Not true – when God fixes a problem, He doesn’t just do a paint job – He fixes it from the inside,” he said.

 
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Photo courtesy of Prestonwood Baptist Church
Former business CEO Carly Fiorina, the lone woman running for president in the Republican field, said during the presidential candidate forum, “I will ask for your votes and your support because I believe I’m the most qualified candidate to win this job and the most qualified candidate to do the job.”

“That’s why I have this calm demeanor that people mistake as softness. It’s not softness; it’s just the ability to look at things from lots of perspectives and not get angry about it.”
 
As a neurosurgeon who has performed surgery on babies inside of a mother’s womb, Carson discussed abortion. He noted he could never be convinced that a baby was merely a clump of cells. Addressing a variety of other issues, Carson also focused on foreign affairs. He said he would seek not only to name America’s enemies but to destroy them before they destroy America.
 

Santorum

Former Sen. Santorum of Pennsylvania shared with the crowd something he thought might come as a surprise to many of them.
 
“Now some of you may know I’m a Catholic – but I’m an evangelical Catholic,” Santorum said, saying that he believed it was his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” who has upheld him and delivered to him political victories in standing for things like faith, life and traditional marriage.
 
Santorum spoke about reforming government programs so that strong families are encouraged instead of providing incentives for fathers to not marry the mother of their children. He also spoke about fighting America’s enemies.
 
“Seven months ago I was in ISIS Magazine,” Santorum said. “ISIS knows who I am, Iran knows who I am, and when I get sworn in … the enemies of the world will know who they have to deal with.”
 

Bush

Last to speak was Bush, former Florida governor, who said he stands for creating a culture of life. He pointed to his fight for life in the 2005 case of Terri Schiavo and to Florida’s defunding of Planned Parenthood during his service as the state’s governor.
 
“I’m proud of what I did,” Bush said. “Always err on side of life.”
 
Bush also discussed his religious beliefs.
 
“I read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time. I got halfway through Romans and realized Jesus was my Savior, and I accepted Him as my Savior and from that moment on had a partnership with Jesus that gives me counsel,” he said.
 
Bush said he later decided to convert to his wife’s religion – Catholicism – and now enjoys attending mass.
 
“The blessed sacraments give me great serenity as well,” Bush said.
 
While some in running for office would wish to “push [Christians] out of the public square,” he said, the involvement of people of faith is crucial in restoring America to the values-based nation she was built to be.
 
“The ministry of this church and others is so important,” Bush said. “Why not do this in partnership? Hillary Clinton said people of faith just have to get over it – you can pray in your home and church pews but can’t act on your faith or consciousness. That’s wrong on every level. Who feeds the homeless? Who takes care of elder shut-ins? Is it the department of elder affairs? No. It is the faith community of people acting on their hearts.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a staff writer for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. With additional reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, managing editor.)

10/21/2015 11:55:30 AM by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



NOBTS opens campus housing to returning IMB personnel

October 21 2015 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS Communications

In a show of support for International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries returning home as part of the IMB’s plans to address revenue shortfalls, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) has announced that 10 campus housing units will be available to returning missionaries rent-free.
 
The seminary also announced a campus-wide special IMB offering set for Nov. 3 during the annual Global Missions Week at NOBTS. David Platt, IMB president and an NOBTS alumnus, will speak in chapel that day.
 
“We have been saddened to hear of the financial crisis at the IMB and have been praying daily for the IMB and our missionaries who are faced with difficult decisions,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. “But we wanted also to do something tangible to be of help, and taking this offering and providing this housing are some things we can add to our prayers to help our missionaries in this time of transition.”
 
Platt announced on Aug. 27 that a reduction of 600-800 IMB staff and field personnel is necessary to reach a balanced budget. The mission board projects a $21 million shortfall this year, adding to several consecutive years of shortfalls totaling $210 million.
 
Details of a voluntary retirement incentive were announced in September for eligible IMB staff and active career missionaries age 50 and older with five or more years of service.
 
“The fiscal challenge facing the IMB is a challenge for every Southern Baptist,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “Each of us must examine our lifestyles and ask if our giving to our churches and SBC ministries truly reflects Great Commission priorities. The missionaries being affected are our students, our alumni, our colleagues and our friends, and therefore as a seminary family we must participate in responding to the needs of those who have sacrificed so much.”
 
Mike Edens, NOBTS dean of graduate studies and a 26-year IMB veteran, said the offer of temporary housing will benefit the missionary families.
 
“They’re asked to make a decision by the first of November taking effect the first of December that relocates their family in obedience to the Lord,” Edens said. “This gives them a place to land.”
 
The temporary NOBTS housing will be in addition to the Grey Missionary Housing complex, a residence long used for furloughing missionaries. Returning missionaries who accept the rent-free temporary housing offer will only be responsible for utility costs.
 
Returning IMB missionaries will be afforded the same status as traditional missionaries in residence at NOBTS. This includes eligibility for educational scholarships and opportunities to speak in NOBTS classes and meet with student mission volunteers as well as access to all campus facilities.
 
Edens said the missionaries will be welcomed into the NOBTS family.
 
“We benefit in that we have people joining us on campus who are obeying Christ’s command at significant cost, even if that command is a return to the States,” Edens said. “We get to be a part of their lives at this crucial time.”
 
Also, Edens said, walking alongside the missionary families as they discern God’s will for the future benefits the NOBTS community. “We get to be with them as they’re making decisions about how to be obedient in an ongoing way,” he said. “Some will go back to the field without IMB support; some will be going to churches and to other ministries in the United States.”
 
Platt emphasized Aug. 27 that the retirement incentive offer is strictly voluntary and for those who feel God’s leading to a new avenue of service, Baptist Press reported. “We must get to a healthy place in the present in order to be in a healthy position for the future,” Platt told personnel in a town hall-type meeting.
 
Returning missionaries interested in coming to NOBTS may contact the seminary’s financial aid office at 504-282-4455, ext. 3348, or financialaiddirector@nobts.edu.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Two Baptist seminaries – New Orleans and Mid-America – are among numerous organizations relaying housing offers to the International Mission Board for missionaries returning stateside as part of the IMB budget drawdown.)

10/21/2015 11:50:15 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Baptist association disfellowships church with female pastor

October 21 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Middle Tennessee Baptist association has voted to withdraw fellowship from a congregation that called a woman as pastor. At issue: the association’s requirement that cooperating churches adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).
 
The Lawrence County Association of Baptists, located some 85 miles southwest of Nashville, voted 73-4 during its annual meeting Oct. 12 that Greater Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg “be removed from the list of participating churches ... effective immediately,” according to a copy of the recommendation provided to Baptist Press by the association.
 
After Greater Tabernacle called Shonda Reynolds Christian as pastor in June, “we asked them to reconsider,” Lawrence Association director of missions Mike Kemper said. “They took two weeks, and they called us back and said, ‘We have decided to keep our woman pastor.’ So really, they made their own decision about that, knowing the consequences and knowing what would come.”
 
About 10 Greater Tabernacle members were present for the discussion and vote, according to both the association and the church. Kemper said the Greater Tabernacle members did not vote or speak because the congregation “had failed to elect” them as messengers to the annual meeting.
 
Greater Tabernacle’s most recent contribution through the Cooperative Program was $91 given in 2009, according to data compiled from the Annual Church Profile – data confirmed to BP by the Tennessee Baptist Convention. According to the TBC constitution, only churches that contribute through the Cooperative Program each year are considered “cooperating churches.” Due to the church’s lack of cooperative support, the TBC does not consider it in friendly cooperation, according to a TBC spokesperson. Church relationship questions with the Southern Baptist Convention are typically addressed leading up to or subsequent to its annual meeting in June of each year.
 
WTVF News in Nashville reported Oct. 15 that the association “kicked out” the church. Kemper told Tennessee Baptists’ Baptist & Reflector newsjournal the television station’s portrayal was inaccurate. The association “didn’t cause this. The actions of the church led to this decision,” he said.
 
Article I, Section III of the Lawrence Association’s constitution states, “The statements of faith of this association, which shall be the basis of cooperation and fellowship, shall be the Baptist Faith and Message, a statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention on June 14, 2000.”
 
Article VI of the BF&M states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by scripture.”
 
Kemper said he believes Greater Tabernacle’s own constitution also precludes the calling of a woman as pastor by stating 1 Timothy 3:1-7 “shall guide the church in determining the qualifications of the pastor” and by using masculine pronouns to reference the pastor.
 
Christian, Greater Tabernacle’s pastor, said in written comments “nothing justifies” the association’s action.
 
“The Bible states in Luke 9:49-50, ‘And John answered said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followed not us: and we forbad him, because he followed not us. And Jesus said, forbid him not: for he who is not against us is for us,’“ Christian said. “Jesus forbids sectarianism. This is a distraction and no doctrine should supersede the doctrine of Jesus Christ and work at the Cross.
 
“From my research, the Baptist Faith and Message didn’t add the sentence about women being pastors until the year 2000, so I say that to say this: prior to the change there was no official stated opposition to female pastors,” Christian said.
 
After conservatives gained control of the SBC presidency in 1979 and its function of appointing the convention’s Resolutions Committee, SBC resolutions addressed the role of women in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. Four times during that period, the convention affirmed the equality of men and women before God. Three times, the convention affirmed the distinct roles of men and women in various spheres of life.
 
A 1984 resolution “on ordination and the role of women in ministry” stated, “We encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.”
 
When the BF&M’s statement on women in the pastorate was adopted in 2000, a study by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary found that fewer than one-tenth of one percent of the then-41,099 Southern Baptist churches had a woman serving as senior pastor.
 
Though the SBC has never withdrawn fellowship from a church because it had a female pastor, associations and state conventions have voted to exclude congregations with women pastors. For example, the Georgia Baptist Convention voted in 2009 to withdraw fellowship from First Baptist Church in Decatur because it had called Julie Pennington-Russell as pastor. Sixteen years earlier, the California Southern Baptist Convention refused to seat messengers from the San Francisco congregation Pennington-Russell pastored at the time.
 
Several Baptist associations have disfellowshipped congregations for calling women as pastors. Among them, Tennessee’s Shelby Baptist Association withdrew fellowship from Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in 1987 for calling a woman as pastor; Alabama’s Mobile Baptist Association disfelloweshipped Hillcrest Baptist Church in 2006 for calling a female associate pastor; and North Carolina’s Surry Baptist Association disfellowshipped Flat Rock Baptist Church in 2011 for calling a female pastor.
 
Prior to the Lawrence Association’s vote, leaders met with Greater Tabernacle representatives July 29 and Oct. 11 and had “numerous telephone conversations” with them, according to an Oct. 14 letter officially informing the congregation of the association’s action.
 
Messengers to the association’s annual meeting also voted to refer to the association’s executive committee the handling of a reversion clause in Greater Tabernacle’s deed, which states, “If [the] congregation ever ceases to be affiliated with either the Lawrence County Association of Baptists, the Tennessee Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention, the real estate conveyed herein will revert to the Lawrence County Association of Baptists.”
 
Greater Tabernacle purchased its current building and property in 1992 for $1 from the Lawrence Association, Kemper said. The reversion clause was put in place at the time of the sale. Greater Tabernacle was planted in 1989 by nearby Faith Baptist Church in Loretto, Tenn.
 
Christian said she did not believe the association handled the withdrawal of fellowship properly from a procedural standpoint.
 
“On October 11, 2015, Greater Tabernacle met with the moderator and director of missions of the Lawrence Baptist Association and they asked Greater Tabernacle to withdraw from the association and told us that having a female pastor was a non-negotiable. We declined the request [to leave the association] mainly because of the reversion clause in our deed,” Christian said.
 
“They then told us that the annual meeting was October 12, 2015, and we were welcome to attend but we had no voting rights so we couldn’t say anything. They also told us no decision had been made and there [would] be no voting on the matter at the meeting. Then, our fellow brethren humiliated my members and I at the meeting with the recommendation to remove Greater Tabernacle from the fellowship and voted on the matter while we were there. This is not Christ-like.”
 
Kemper said Greater Tabernacle, like all cooperating churches, could have elected messengers.
 
Greater Tabernacle is the only African American Baptist church in the area, Kemper said, but the vote “didn’t have anything to do with race.” One of the congregation’s previous pastors attempted to convince the church that calling a female pastor was unbiblical, Kemper noted. That former pastor, who is black, was present as a guest at the annual meeting, the DOM said.
 
Kemper added that he consulted with Willie McLaurin of the TBC’s black church development department during the weeks leading up to the annual meeting.
 
“Our motivation didn’t have anything to do with race,” Kemper said. “It didn’t have anything to do with being against women or their place in service and in ministry. We believe that women have contributed and continue to contribute great influence and efforts for all of our churches.
 
“But it had everything to do with the fact that the church had called a woman as their pastor. ... We didn’t seek this out. We tried our best to avoid this issue,” Kemper said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/21/2015 11:45:29 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Guidance offered for ministry in new marriage culture

October 21 2015 by Rebekah Wahlberg, GGBTS Communications

How should the church respond to a gay couple requesting premarital counseling? What about when the new girl with the Awana ministry brings her two mothers to meet her teacher? Or when a church member who owns a business doesn’t want to provide marriage benefits to same-sex couples? The new book Ministry in the New Marriage Culture focuses on helping churches and ministry leaders address these questions and more.
 
Edited by Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Ministry in the New Marriage Culture was written by veteran ministry leaders, including professors, pastors and theologians, who give guidance on same-sex marriage. The book aims to give Christians a framework with which to lead their churches effectively and minister to non-believers while the church encounters new and complex cultural situations.

 
10-21-15book.jpg

The book does not focus on the reasons that same-sex marriage is wrong or the legality of a biblical or traditional marriage, but rather answering what is the next step of ministering within the new marriage culture.
 
Iorg – along with his assembled team of Christian leaders – addresses various issues that result from same-sex marriages. The book is divided into three major sections – Biblical Foundations for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture, Theological Foundations for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture and Models and Methods for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. Each chapter is written by a different leading voice, ranging from topics in children’s ministry to preaching to legal issues in the new marriage culture.
 
“Churches are facing the pressing ‘now what?’ question of responding to ministry challenges in the new marriage culture,” Iorg said. “Our book helps answer that difficult question.”
 
Inspired by the seminary’s Ministering in the New Marriage Culture conference in October 2013, the book discusses how churches and ministry partners should respond to situations that arise as a result of America’s changing marriage culture. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, the church faces cultural pressure to accept and even celebrate behavior the Bible clearly condemns as sinful.
 
“The darkness of our culture only makes the gospel stand out even more,” Iorg said in his presentation at the conference.
 
In the book, Iorg writes about three principles by which Christians should model their ministries in the new marriage culture: First, Christians must stand strong in their moral convictions; second, they must recognize their morals will be aggressively opposed; and third, this opposition requires a Christian response.
 
“Your most significant message to people in a culture marked by moral decay and immoral living is the gospel,” Iorg writes. “…Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness, and live the gospel. The greatest need of every person in the world – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator, or straight-laced puritan – is still the gospel.”
 
Ministry in New Marriage Culture, published by B&H Publishing Group, was released Oct. 1, and is available for purchase at Lifeway and other Christian bookstores, as well as online at amazon.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebekah Wahlberg is a visual media specialist for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/21/2015 11:39:28 AM by Rebekah Wahlberg, GGBTS Communications | with 0 comments



NOBTS approves 5-year strategic plan

October 21 2015 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) trustees approved a five-year strategic plan for the seminary and voted to establish a new extension center in Columbus, Ga., during their fall meeting. Seminary President Chuck Kelley also shared news of the record enrollment of 3,952 students.
 
In his report to trustees, Kelley recounted the ways in which God provided for the seminary following Hurricane Katrina. In the 10 years after the storm NOBTS has witnessed the restoration of the campus and the launch of numerous new programs and scholarship initiatives, he said. For Kelley, the most exciting post-Katrina news came at the end of this summer when he learned of the record-setting enrollment of students during the 2014-2015 school year.

 
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Kelley said the Katrina experience helped the seminary learn to be a more resilient institution. Defining resilience as “the ability to continue when normal dramatically changes,” Kelley listed four keys to NOBTS resiliency: a comprehensive curriculum (featuring both traditional and distinctive programs); multiple delivery systems (main campus, extension, online, mentoring, travel courses); enhanced fundraising efforts; and a faculty focused on innovation (developing new skills and new ways to teach).
 
“This is the new normal of our life at NOBTS and the key features of the way we do seminary today,” Kelley told trustees Oct. 14.
 
Moving into the business session, Kelley presented the seminary’s five-year strategic plan for trustee approval. The strategic plan, Kelley said, is designed to help leadership focus on important initiatives and provides a mechanism for assessment. The five-year plan covers five keys areas – accreditation, promotion, enrollment, mentoring and income.
 
The first goal involves completing the re-accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), Kelley said. The seminary is currently in the midst of the 10-year accreditation review with both agencies.
 
The other goals include increased marketing efforts designed to enhance the seminary’s profile; enrollment stabilization designed to increase the main campus headcount; and implementation of the school’s new church-based mentoring program. Kelley emphasized the importance of the final strategic plan goal – developing new income streams. The goal calls for increasing fundraising for student scholarships and the Providence Fund – the seminary’s annual giving fund. The fundraising efforts are designed to offset declining Cooperative Program funding, Kelley said.
 
The trustees voted to expand the seminary’s accessibility efforts by approving a new extension center in Columbus, Ga., offering both undergraduate and graduate study. The new center, which is scheduled to launch in August 2016 pending accreditation approval, will meet at Wynnbrook Baptist Church in Columbus.
 
In other business, trustees approved:

  • a $5 per course increase for Florida-based certificate programs and a $5 per credit hour increase for undergraduate courses at the South Florida Center. The increases will take effect in January 2016 to offset funding changes related to the Florida Baptist Convention’s recent reorganization.

  • the quality enhancement plan (QEP), a SACS requirement designed to improve master’s-level writing at NOBTS. Norris Grubbs, associate provost at NOBTS is leading the QEP planning and implementation team. A key feature of the QEP is a new writing center which will provide writing resources and writing help for NOBTS graduate students.

  • a new undergraduate certificate training site in Huntsville, Ala., and a new church leadership certificate training site in Yulee, Fla. The Huntsville site will meet at Legacy Christian University. The Yulee site will meet at the Northeast Florida Baptist Association office.

  • sabbatical proposals for Angie Bauman, associate professor of Christian education, and Darryl Ferrington, professor of music education.

  • initial plan to remodel and modernize the president’s home. The renovation work will better equip the home for its dual role as a residence and a venue for official seminary gatherings. The project will be funded entirely by private designated giving; no Cooperative Program funds will be used. Final approval for the project requires an additional vote of the full board during the April 2016 meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/21/2015 11:32:59 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications | with 0 comments



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