October 2015

IMB grateful for help from Southern Baptists

October 20 2015 by Tess Rivers, IMB

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and staff are expressing thanks for the way Southern Baptists have stepped up to provide offers of housing, vehicles and job opportunities to missionaries who have accepted IMB’s voluntary retirement incentive.
 
“Southern Baptists are not only catching the ball, they are running 99-yard touchdowns,” said one missionary serving in Asia. “ … I am praying that people will see what Southern Baptists are doing and will see His glory.”
 
Offers of practical support have come from a variety of individuals, churches, associations, state conventions and seminaries, said Clyde Meador, who leads IMB’s transition team. This practical support will help returning missionaries who are discerning their “next step.”
 
“The majority [of missionaries accepting the retirement incentive] are seeking God’s leadership for what, where and when,” said Meador, whose team is personally speaking with each missionary accepting the incentive. “They are living firmly in the confidence that God led them to take a step, but they don’t know what’s next.”

 
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To help returning missionaries determine their next steps, IMB’s transition team recently created a database to manage the list of housing, employment and other offers sent by state conventions, local churches, Southern Baptist Convention entities and other sources.
 
Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) – which maintains a database of missionary housing that covers 27 states – also is extending a push to make churches aware of the needs of returning missionaries. The entity is offering to counsel individuals, churches and associations who want to learn more about starting a missionary house ministry. WMU has also posted a number of job opportunities at its home office in Birmingham, Ala., for returning missionaries.
 
“This is a very kind and gracious gesture to our returning missionary personnel,” said Terri Willis, director of national relations for IMB and a member of the transition team.
 
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees also voted Oct. 7 to reduce NAMB’s budget by $4 million and transfer the money to IMB. While the SBC Executive Committee must approve the proposal before funds are transferred to IMB, NAMB trustee chairman Chuck Herring called the unanimous decision by NAMB trustees a “Kingdom vote.”
 
IMB President David Platt expressed appreciation for NAMB’s gesture of support.
 
“Needless to say, I was overwhelmed when I heard that the trustees of the North American Mission Board approved a $4 million budget reduction in order to send those funds to the International Mission Board,” he said. “This extremely generous gift will go a long way in helping IMB get to a healthy financial place in the present so that we can move forward into a future marked by more missionaries sent, more disciples made and more churches planted among unreached peoples than ever before.”
 
Platt announced the voluntary retirement incentive Aug. 27 as part of a plan to balance IMB’s budget. The incentive is the first of two phases to reduce IMB field missionaries and staff by 600 to 800 people in response to revenue shortfalls. The incentive has been offered to missionaries and home office staff who are at least 50 years old with five years of service.
 
A second phase focuses on concluding a reset of the organization and includes consolidating support services, recalibrating mobilization, assessing global engagement and re-envisioning training.
 
Although the outpouring of support for returning missionaries is significant, additional help is welcome and appreciated. If anyone would like to provide housing, vehicles, jobs or other means of support to help returning missionaries, please email transitionteam@imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an IMB writer and editor.)
 

Related Stories:

EC calls for increased CP to remedy IMB shortfall
An open letter about the IMB ‘reset’
NAMB trustees approve Send Relief, IMB aid
 

10/20/2015 12:02:53 PM by Tess Rivers, IMB | with 0 comments



2015 N.C. Legislature scores high for conservatives

October 20 2015 by Mark Creech, Christian Action League

North Carolina lawmakers ended the 2015 legislative session lasting more than eight months shortly after 4 a.m. Sept. 30. It was the longest session in at least a decade. A budget stalemate, extended negotiations on Medicaid reform and economic recruitment incentives were the primary reasons for the delay. The General Assembly normally completes its work by early summer.
 
It’s been a good year for conservative efforts. In fact, during my 16-year tenure as a registered lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly we have never had a year with so many advances.
 
Some of the bigger wins included new laws to protect the unborn, defend religious liberty and provide greater opportunities for a private education. The following bills were passed:
 
• House Bill (HB) 297 – End Marketing/Sale Unborn Children Body Parts prohibits the use of taxpayer money going to groups like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions, as well as outlawing the sale of baby body parts garnered from an abortion.

 
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• HB 465 – Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015 extends the wait time for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, ensuring women are provided ample time to consider all of the alternatives to ending the life of her unborn child.
 
• Senate Bill (SB) 2 – Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies allows magistrates and registers of deeds that hold a sincere religious objection to same-sex marriage to opt-out of the performance of civil ceremonies. Before the passage of this legislation, these public officials were facing termination and even criminal prosecution for refusing to violate their consciences.

Significant increased funding for State Opportunity Scholarships and Special Education Scholarships were included as a part of this year’s budget. HB 97 – 2015 Appropriations Act makes it easier for disabled children and those of lower income families to attend a non-public school. It provides public funds for parents to choose the right educational setting for their children. The State Opportunity Scholarships program originally passed in 2013, but had also been under the cloud of litigation. This year the State Supreme Court ruled the program was constitutional, ending the legal challenge to the scholarships.
 
• HB 229 – Church Tax Exemption/Driving Privileges closes loopholes in the tax laws allowing church property to be taxed when in construction and unoccupied. The measure specifically exempts church buildings under construction and the land on which they are being built from local property taxes if the structure is intended to be wholly and exclusively used by its owner for religious purposes upon completion. The legislation also added a provision for a limited driving privilege authorizing a person with a revoked driver’s license to drive to church for worship services.
 
• HB 774 – Restoring Proper Justice Act removes the obstacles that have produced a nine year de facto moratorium on the death penalty. The new law jump-starts the death penalty in an effort to restore proper justice.
 
• HB 792 – Privacy/Protection from Revenge Postings makes the egregious practice of revenge porn illegal. Revenge porn is the nonconsensual disclosure of explicit images for no legitimate purpose that causes immediate, devastating and in many cases irreversible harm to a person’s life.
 
• HB 290 – Prohibit Powdered Alcohol passed the House. The measure, however, was later rolled into another bill and passed via HB 909 – ABC Omnibus Legislation. “Palchol,” also called “powdered alcohol,” is an alcohol product made available in a pouch that looks and works much like Kool-Aid. It becomes an alcoholic beverage with the addition of water.
 
• HB 540 – Billy Graham/National Statuary Hall will result in a statue of Billy Graham posthumously being placed inside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The statue will replace the current one of former Gov. Charles B. Aycock.
 
• A House Resolution, HR 944 – Rev. Billy Graham for Postage Stamp petitions the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service and the Postmaster General of the United States to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the evangelist.
 
Some of the bills that were beaten back this year were victories almost as significant as the year’s advances. The bad legislation beaten back included gambling initiatives, two alcohol measures, the legalization of medicinal marijuana and grandparents’ rights legislation that would have superseded parental rights.
 
Two measures were filed that would have legalized sweepstakes gambling. HB 922 – Video Sweepstakes Regulation and Taxing would have made sweepstakes gaming lawful by licensing, taxing and regulating it. The other, HB 938 – Comprehensive Gaming Reform would have taken a broader approach by establishing a nine member gaming commission to oversee the state lottery, charitable and for-profit bingo, as well as legalize, license and tax sweepstakes. Neither bill was taken up.
 
The Senate’s version of the state’s budget provided for an expansion of lottery advertising by 50 percent and initiated “E-Instant Games,” which are essentially online scratch-off tickets. The proposal was rejected in the final draft of the state budget, HB 97 – 2015 Appropriations Act.
 
• HB 78 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act would have permitted the sale and possession of marijuana for medical use to patients who qualified. It would have directed the Department of Agriculture to establish a marijuana supply system regulated by rules from the N.C. Medical Care Commission. And, it would have protected persons from criminal, civil, or professional licensure penalties for authorized use of the drug as a medicine.
 
Marijuana is not medicine and so-called medical marijuana is the first step to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
 
• HB 413 – Expand Grandparents Visitation Rights would have provided for an expansion of grandparents’ visitation rights under existing family law. The bill failed in a House Judiciary Committee. If the measure had succeeded and become law, it would have undermined parental rights.
 
• HB 909 – ABC Omnibus Legislation included a provision that would have allowed for spirituous liquor tasting events at ABC stores. The provision was ultimately removed from the bill. Lobbyist for spirituous liquor and the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards have been lobbying for liquor tasting events at local ABC stores since 2009. Spirituous liquor tastings at ABC stores would signal a paradigm shift from “control” of liquor sales to the “promotion” of liquor sales.
 
• HB 278 – Increase Small Brewery Limits would have increased small brewery limits from 25,000 barrels annually to 100,000 without having to use a wholesaler. This legislation was never taken up. It undermines the state’s three-tier system of alcohol control, which works for temperance and shields the public from many possible unsavory industry procedures.
 
Unfortunately, there were also defeats. The losses seemingly pale in comparison to the successes of this session, but each loss means there is a hole in the wall – people are more vulnerable to the hazards of sin and evil. Losses included a repeal of the state’s ban on Sunday hunting with a firearm, passage of legislation to allow for the sale of liquor outside of an ABC store and the failure to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
 
This year, HB 640 – Outdoor Heritage Act, repealed North Carolina’s 145 year old ban on Sunday hunting with a firearm. There were some modifications added, however, that respect churches by prohibiting Sunday hunting from the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – times when most rural churches are meeting. The defeat of the bill was the objective, but the modifications did minimize the loss. Companion bills to allow liquor distilleries to sell a commemorative bottle of their liquor products to customers that take a tour of their facilities were introduced in both the House and Senate. SB 24 – Liquor Sales Permitted Distilleries and HB 107 were never taken up. But the legislation was rolled as a provision into HB 909 – Omnibus ABC Legislation with some minor changes.
 
The passage of this measure precipitates the first time since the end of prohibition that liquor will be sold outside of an ABC store. It is also the first crack in the windshield of alcoholic beverage control that can ultimately spread to the privatization of liquor sales.
 
Two Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills, HB 348 – NC Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its companion SB 550 awaited action by the General Assembly. The bills, however, were not taken up, leaving North Carolinians vulnerable to infringements of their religious liberties. The firestorm surrounding a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana seemed to quell the interest of leadership in both the House and Senate from dealing with it at this time.
 
The North Carolina General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene April 25, 2016. As a Christian missions endeavor that brings the message of the gospel to the public arena and a righteous influence on public policy, the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. deeply appreciates your prayers and financial support.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.)

10/20/2015 11:57:44 AM by Mark Creech, Christian Action League | with 0 comments



SEBTS board elects Whitfield as VP for academic administration

October 20 2015 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) board of trustees named Keith Whitfield as the new vice president for academic administration at its biannual meeting on October 12, 2015.
 
Whitfield joined the Southeastern faculty in 2012 as an assistant professor of theology and was soon named the associate dean of the College at Southeastern. Since 2014, he has served as the associate vice president of institutional effectiveness and faculty communications.

 
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Keith Whitfield

The vice president for academic administration position is a new addition to the leadership of SEBTS. In his new role, Whitfield will assist the provost and deans in the management and implementation of academic matters. The position also oversees institutional effectiveness, the registrar’s office and library services.
 
Provost Bruce Ashford is happy to welcome Whitfield into his new position. “Through his previous role as associate vice president for institutional effectiveness, Dr. Whitfield as come to be known as a thoughtful and exceptionally competent administrator,” Ashford said. “Through his continuing role as a faculty member, we have also come to know him as a caring teacher and proficient scholar. All of those qualities combine to make him the perfect person to fill this new and significant role.”
 
"Keith Whitfield is a godly man devoted to Christ and His Church,” said President Danny Akin. “He is without question the perfect person for this job and will be a welcomed addition to our leadership team.”
 
Whitfield received his bachelor of science from Clemson University and earned his master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and master of theology degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. He received his doctor of philosophy degree from SEBTS in 2013.
 
Whitfield previously served as a teaching fellow and a member of the dean’s cabinet at New College Franklin in Franklin, Tenn., and led Waverly Baptist Church in Waverly, Va., for five years as senior pastor. He is currently a lay elder at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and serves on the board of directors for the Biblical Recorder.
 
In addition, during their fall meeting SEBTS trustees:

  • Approved curriculum changes to the master of divinity degree.

  • Approved the creation of new student aid accounts, including the Jeannie Elliff Student Aid Fund, Robert W. Kester Student Aid Fund, Herring Student Aid Fund and McGill Memorial Student Aid Fund.

  • Approved the closeout of the 2011-2014 strategic plan.

  • Approved the 2016-2017 strategic goals as follows: enhance critical thinking through writing, reflect kingdom diversity and orient the institution to address the needs of non-traditional students.

  • Voted to begin the process of updating the campus facilities master plan.

After five years of enrollment increases, SEBTS reached another record high in 2015 at nearly 3,500 students. The school has also seen increases in diversity, with more than 15 percent of its student population identifying as Black or Hispanic.

10/20/2015 11:39:06 AM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments



Domestic violence: Why pastors can’t ignore it

October 20 2015 by David Roach, SBC Life

When Mark Bagwell started Golden Corner Church in Walhalla, S.C., 22 years ago, he was shocked by the prevalence of domestic violence among the people he sought to reach.
 
“A huge number of the people I was counseling, within just a short time of even the first meeting, I would start discovering that they had been abused,” said Bagwell, now Golden Corner’s care pastor. That reality “broke my heart and started bringing about a great passion” to confront the problem.
 
Consistent with Golden Corner’s vision of “loving God, loving people,” Bagwell educated himself about ministering to domestic violence victims. Today, along with other area ministers, he works in conjunction with a local women’s shelter to help abuse victims. He was quoted last year as an advocate for battered women in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles on domestic violence by Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier.
 
Bagwell is among a growing coalition of Southern Baptists encouraging pastors to place more emphasis on combatting domestic abuse.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one in three women (35.6 percent) and one in four men (28.5 percent) have “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” Yet 42 percent of U.S. Protestant pastors “rarely” or “never” address domestic violence in their churches, according to a 2014 LifeWay Research study. Another 22 percent speak to the issue only about once per year. Among pastors who address domestic violence, 75 percent believe it is not a problem in their churches.

 
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Does scripture condone abuse?

The Post and Courier’s series claimed part of the Palmetto state’s domestic violence problem “is rooted in the culture of South Carolina, where men have long dominated the halls of power, setting an agenda that clings to tradition and conservative Christian tenets about the subservient role of women.”
 
Commentators in an April 23 Baptist Press article took issue with the implication that traditional Christian beliefs contribute to domestic violence, and Bagwell identified a possible reason for the paper’s confusion.
 
While Bagwell has never heard a Christian leader suggest domestic violence is acceptable or that men should dominate women, he said abused women have told him their husbands misuse biblical commands regarding a wife’s submission to justify their abuse. Bagwell, 52, suspects such misuse of scripture is a residual effect of men in previous generations “inside and outside the church who felt like their role [in marriage] was a domineering role.” Though such men generally did not condone violence, many believed they had a right “to discipline their wife verbally tremendously.”
 
John R. Rice, an independent Baptist writer and evangelist, may have expressed something of the sentiment Bagwell referenced – though Rice also affirmed a husband’s responsibility to provide for and protect his wife. In his 1941 book Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers, Rice wrote, “God expects women to feel their duty to obey their husbands, good or bad, saved or unsaved. Nowhere in the Bible is a wife’s duty to her husband conditioned on the kind of character he has or the way he treats her.”
 
Despite errors of the past and misleading media accounts today, sociologists have noted a marked degree of happiness among families that strive to follow the biblical pattern of male servant leadership at home. A 1999 study by sociologists Bradford Wilcox and John Bartkowski identified what they labeled “the evangelical paradox”: Evangelical husbands and wives “act in ways that parallel or are in fact more progressive than other Americans” in their sharing of household duties and cooperative decision-making processes.
 
The only two differences between evangelical couples and other American married people, Wilcox and Bartkowski wrote, are “(1) that evangelicals are more likely to report that husbands take the ‘lead in spiritual matters,’ … and (2) that evangelical men and women are more likely to report higher levels of marital satisfaction.” There is “no evidence that evangelical men are more likely to abuse their wives physically.”
 

Dos and don’ts for pastors

Consistent with biblical teaching on marriage, Bagwell offered several dos and don’ts for pastors regarding domestic violence. When both partners in an abusive relationship come to a minister seeking help, it’s best to pray for the couple, affirm their desire to break the cycle of violence and send them to a trained professional, Bagwell said – unless the pastor has training himself in handling domestic abuse.
 
“I’ve heard of too many situations where a pastor is trying his best to give biblical, sound counseling to someone,” Bagwell said. “But if that abuser is sitting in the same room with the one he or she abuses ... they’re going to dominate, even if it’s subtly,” and possibly seek to intimidate the abused spouse later.
 
Pastors should always have another person present – preferably a woman – when counseling an abused wife, Bagwell said. He urged pastors to do all they can to assure abused women of God’s love. The staff of South Texas Children’s Home Ministries (STCHM), a ministry partner of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, compiled for SBC LIFE a list of actions pastors can take to help both abused spouses and abusers. STCHM is part of the Baptist Coalition for Children and Families, a national advocacy group founded by Baptist-affiliated children’s homes across the nation:

  • Provide literature on domestic abuse to church leaders and victims. Literature for victims should be placed in the women’s restrooms, where abused wives can take it without husbands seeing.

  • Educate church leaders about signs of domestic abuse such as obvious physical bruising, a spouse who stays quiet in social circles, name calling and humiliation by one spouse, and a sense of control by one spouse over who the other sees and talks to. In some states, child protective services will provide free training on recognizing signs of domestic violence.

  • Provide or refer abused persons to professional Christian counseling.

  • Offer Bible studies on dealing with anger, low self-esteem, marital difficulties and parenting challenges.

  • Make church members aware of community resources related to domestic violence.

  • Law enforcement authorities should be called regarding spousal abuse “when the problem is clearly outside the scope of the pastor to reasonably handle the interactions taking place,” said Darin Griffiths, an STCHM marriage and family therapist. Churches should, he added, develop support networks for people at risk of becoming abusers so their actions do not escalate to criminal offenses. All instances of suspected child abuse should be reported to law enforcement immediately.

‘A spiritual warfare’

Another important aspect of ministering amid domestic violence is addressing it from the pulpit, said Joanna Berry, STCHM vice president of family and international ministries. “When clergy and church leaders are silent on the topic of domestic abuse, this can be interpreted as an attitude of indifference to family violence,” Berry said. “Victims may be encouraged to adopt the same attitude toward their own suffering,” leading to thoughts that “being hit is no big deal, and it’s not really worth mentioning.”
 
One pastor who takes seriously the charge to address domestic violence is Fernando Hernandez of “It’s a Challenge,” a congregation in Brownwood, Texas, that cooperates with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. After growing up in a violent home, Hernandez fell into a life of drugs and violence as a teenager. He began living with his future wife at age 17 and did not break the cycle of violence until he committed his life to Christ several years later.
 
Hernandez started It’s a Challenge in 1991 as a ministry to troubled families and established it as a church last year. Ministering for 25 years among families plagued by domestic violence has helped him identify common factors that contribute to spousal abuse.
 
A desire for vengeance after feeling humiliated, pent-up anger regarding a mother’s infidelity, and observing a violent father all increase a man’s chances of abusing his wife, Hernandez told SBC Life. Many abusers “carry so much hate that they’re like walking time bombs,” Hernandez said. “... They’re blind to what they’re about to do because the Bible says hate puts darkness over them.”
 
Some abusers have medical or psychological problems and need pastors to connect them with healthcare professionals, Hernandez said. But many times the problem is spiritual. In such instances, a pastor should fast and pray about the root cause of a man’s violent behavior, he said. Whether help comes through medical care, counseling, church ministries or supernatural intervention, Hernandez said ultimate deliverance from violent behavior is a gift of God. “This is a spiritual warfare,” Hernandez said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press and is a member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. This story was originally published in the summer 2015 SBC Life.)

10/20/2015 11:33:50 AM by David Roach, SBC Life | with 0 comments



‘Woodlawn’ opens in top 10 at box office

October 20 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The faith-based drama “Woodlawn,” promoted as a potential catalyst for revival and spiritual awakening, opened in the top 10 at theaters Oct. 16-18, Box Office Mojo reported.
 
Woodlawn opened in the eighth spot Oct. 16, earning $1.485 million in 1,553 theaters, and finished the weekend at number nine, earning a total of $4.1 million, Box Office Mojo said.
 
Based on the true story of a high school football team in the midst of racial integration 40 years ago in Birmingham, Ala., the film follows the journey of African American Tony Nathan as a star running back for the Woodlawn High School Colonels in 1973 after court-ordered desegregation. Amid racial hatred, cross burnings and riots, spiritual revival transforms the team so profoundly that it affects the team’s coach, school and community.

 
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Jon and Andy Erwin, known for “October Baby” and “Mom’s Night Out,” wrote, directed and produced the film, along with producer Kevin Downes and executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.
 
“It’s a special film that’s really going to touch the lives of many people across the country and around the world,” Downes said. “I think it transcends different backgrounds in such a way that it can bring healing. People have separation and brokenness in their lives – and this film can really help people in ways that are unexpected.”
 
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd has promoted the film as a tool for revival.
 
“I want to encourage each pastor and Christian leader to rent theaters and fill them with people of all ages to watch this movie,” Floyd said before the film’s release. “Encourage them to bring friends who are regular church attenders and those who have never attended a church before. Once the movie concludes, offer an opportunity for people to follow Jesus Christ.”
 
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Ark., promoted the film in the Oct. 15 LifeWay Films simulcast Unify, broadcast from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
 
“Tonight is more than just simply about a movie,” Floyd said at Unify. “Tonight is about a movement. A movement toward us seeing the next spiritual awakening in the United States.
 
“That movement began years ago in what was called the Jesus Movement, which literally became the Jesus Revolution,” he said. “We pray that tonight will become the catalyst over the next several weeks to the next great Jesus Revolution in America.”
 
Hosted by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, Unify also featured pastors Greg Laurie, Jack Graham and Tony Evans, the filmmakers and movie cast.
 
Three books accompanied the movie’s release, namely Woodlawn: Dare to Believe, and Touchdown Tony: Running With a Purpose, both available from Howard Books, and the devotional When God Shows Up, available from Broadstreet Publishing.
 
Woodlawn was released seven weeks after the Kendrick Brothers’ “War Room,” which grossed $65.4 million through Oct. 18 on a budget of only $3 million, Box Office Mojo said. Featuring Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore in a story illustrating the power of a disciplined and focused prayer life, War Room continues in hundreds of theaters across the country, according the movie’s website.
 
“Captive,” the faith-based story of Atlanta hostage Ashley Smith who read from Rick Warren’s bestseller “A Purpose Driven Life” and convinced her captor to surrender, grossed $2.6 million in a three-week run which ended Oct. 8, according to Box Office Mojo figures.
 
Woodlawn was a distant fourth among new releases, trailing the secular movies “Goosebumps,” which earned $7.4 million; “Bridge of Spies,” $5.4 million, and “Crimson Peak,” $5.3 million, Box Office Mojo reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

10/20/2015 11:27:49 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BCH brothers leave their worries behind

October 19 2015 by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

Kathy and Craig could never predict when the phone might ring. Inevitably, a call would come. On the other end of the line was their grandsons’ father, a single dad who not only stuggled to care for his boys, Jonathan and Thomas, but struggled to care for himself.  
 
“He would get on drugs and drink alcohol and not have a job. He couldn’t feed them,” Kathy said. “He would call us and get us to come get the boys.”
 
The boys’ mother, who had left years earlier and moved to a different state, was no longer in the family’s lives. Craig and Kathy were the only people their son-in-law could turn to in times of crisis. Each time the boys’ father reached out to them, they knew Jonathan and Thomas needed them right away. But the final time Kathy and Craig received a call the situation was dire.
 
“The last time it was worse,” said Kathy. “I had to go get both boys that night.”

 
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BCH photo
Thomas, left, and Jonathan hold signs of their salvation dates at the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina. Living at the BCH has offered a more stable home environment for the brothers.

The couple discovered that their grandsons, along with their father, were living on the street. “We were sleeping under bridges,” 13-year-old Jonathan reveals. “Sometimes we ate; sometimes we didn’t. It was like that.”
 
For their grandsons’ well-being, Kathy and Craig became Jonathan and Thomas’ legal custodians. While the decision to take the boys into their home immediately gave them the care they needed, the elderly couple found out quickly that providing for them long term would be impossible.
 
“I knew they deeply loved them and wanted to take care of them,” says Ken Gibson, the family’s pastor at Long Shoals Baptist Church in Lincolnton, “but I knew financially and health-wise they wouldn’t be able to.” 
 
Their pastor made a phone call of his own to Michael C. Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH). Within two days of Gibson’s phone call, Kathy and Craig’s grandsons arrived at BCH’s Mills Home campus in Thomasville where they now live.
 
“Their coming to BCH has been a blessing to me and my husband,” Kathy says.
 
“They’re my boys now, and I’m going to do what’s best for them even though I can’t have them with us all the time.”
 
At Mills Home, the boys stay in close contact with their grandparents and see them often.

At first it was not easy transitioning from their grandparents’ home to live in the residential cottages with BCH’s houseparents and other children in care.
 
“I felt kind of mad because I didn’t want to leave my maw-maw and paw-paw,” said nine-year-old Thomas.
 
“When I got here I knew it would be a good place where we could still call our maw-maw and paw-paw and family members.”
 
The move has eased the grandparents’ concerns, and the brothers no longer have to worry about whether they will have a safe place to sleep or food to eat. “We are fed really well,” Jonathan said.
 
“We also have authority figures. We call them houseparents, but I think of them as my mom and dad.”
 
“That relationship we have with the children is the most important thing,” said houseparent Samantha Snipes. “That and making them feel loved.”
 
Samantha and her husband, Shawn, work together to care for the children. They are one of several married couples serving as houseparents. “We get to minister to them and show them God’s love,” said Shawn. “They have a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their head – they don’t have to sleep under a bridge.
 
“Jonathan has told us several times how thankful he is to have food every day.”
 
The support of North Carolina Baptists plays a pivotal part in providing nutritious meals and all the necessities required to give BCH residents the care they need.
 
“It’s just amazing to see the churches and Baptist Children’s Homes coming together to further the gospel, to change lives and give hope to all these children,” houseparent Russ McLamb said. “Through the gospel and the Baptist churches working with us, we’re able to provide that.”
 
McLamb’s wife, Teresa, agrees. “We are coming together as one, as one whole, to support these two young men and lead them hopefully into an awesome adulthood.”
 
Jonathan and Thomas are thriving because of the support they have from BCH, their grandparents, North Carolina Baptists and a number of volunteers and friends. With the worries of the past behind them, the boys are able to focus on their goals.   
 
“I’m going to go through college, get me a car, get me a job and get me an apartment,” Jonathan shares. “And then I’m going to try to start working at Baptist Children’s Homes.”
 
Watch the annual offering video featuring Jonathan and Thomas at bchfamily.org/offering.
 
Resources are also available on the website. This year’s offering goal is $1.5 million. The week of prayer is Nov. 15-22. Use the guide at right to pray. This year’s theme verse is Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”
 

Week of Prayer

The Week of Prayer is scheduled Nov. 15-22.

  • Sunday. Pray for North Carolina children and families.

  • Monday. Pray for the hundreds of children and families BCH serves each year through its 19 statewide locations.

  • Tuesday. Pray for the dedicated houseparents, residential care givers, chiefs and social workers who give of themselves around the clock to care for our boys and girls.

  • Wednesday. Pray for the Good Shepherd Children’s Home, BCH’s new orphanage in Xela, Guatemala.

  • Thursday. Pray for those who live at BCH’s nine statewide homes for developmentally disabled adults.

  • Friday. Pray that you will be sensitive to hurting children in your community.

  • Saturday. Pray for BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell as he leads the ministry.

  • Sunday. Pray that BCH’s residents will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

10/19/2015 12:57:19 PM by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists respond to flood

October 19 2015 by NCBM/Baptists on Mission

When flood waters started coming in their garage, Debbie and Larry Gonzalez grabbed a sump pump off the shelf and tried to keep the murky mess out of the interior of their Carolina Shores house.
 
The couple is among the thousands facing difficult days following historic flooding that damaged businesses, houses and automobiles in southeastern North Carolina and South Carolina.
 
North Carolina Baptist Men (also known as Baptists on Mission) are in the process of tearing out wet drywall, soggy insulation and kitchen cabinets with severe mildew damage in the Gonzalez’s house.
 
“I just don’t know what we would do without all these amazing men and women helping us,” Debbie said as she watched through tears the water-damaged material being removed from her house. “These guys and gals are great.

 
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NCBM photo
A group of North Carolina Baptists prepare a meal in Johnsonville, S.C., one of the sites where N.C. Baptists Men (or Baptists on Mission) are helping with flood recovery efforts.

“We had never heard about NCBM until now. A neighbor told me to go the town, and they had a list of resources for help. I called Bill Martin and he came by the same day. He told us what they were going to do and that work would begin this week. And here they are,” 
 
The couple, former residents of Long Island, N.Y., moved to North Carolina three years ago. They do not have flood insurance. “We were told this is not a flood area, and we wouldn’t need the insurance,” she said.
 
Debbie is unable to help with the tear-out because of five herniated discs in her back. Larry’s right arm is immobilized in a sling following rotator cuff surgery just two weeks before the flooding.
 
“What we didn’t realize while we were in the garage was that water was pouring in the back of the house. A fireman knocked on the front door and when we opened the door more water rushed in. He told us to quickly evacuate. We ran around the house looking for ways to save some things, and then we left.
 
“We couldn’t take my car because the water was already too high so we drove Larry’s pickup truck. When we left we couldn’t tell where the road was because it was flooded. We managed to get out of our subdivision and go to a friend’s house,” Debbie said. “We didn’t realize how bad the damage is until we saw all this mold. Larry and I have a friend who is going to let us stay at her house.
 
Members of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount were among the volunteers helping the couple.
 
Other N.C. Baptists are currently working in three South Carolina towns: Longs, Socastee and Johnsonville.
 
A Brunswick County, N.C., site closed Oct. 12 but Baptists on Mision has pledged to help whereever needed.
 
The Johnsonville site is a feeding unit. Other units on site are safety, chaplaincy and medical reserve corps.
Visit baptistsonmission.org to donate or to volunteer.
 
Other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers are from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma. College students are joining in during fall break.
 
Volunteers can sign up through NCBM or through the North American Mission Board which 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.
 
Updates on the latest SBDR response are available at namb.net/dr/atlantic-coast-floods.

Related Story:
Students answer call to help relief efforts in S.C.

10/19/2015 12:27:36 PM by NCBM/Baptists on Mission | with 0 comments



Moore: Church must be confessional, ‘conversionist’

October 19 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Conservative Christians must be both faithfully distinctive and boldly persuasive in a future America, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told an audience in the nation’s capital.
 
To fulfill that responsibility, he stated that the church must rebuke prosperity gospel teachers.
 
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), made the comments during an Oct. 14 lecture sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). IRD is a Christian alliance that seeks to reform the church’s role in the public square and has been especially involved in promoting renewal in mainline Protestant denominations.
 
The church must flee the temptation many churches in mainline denominations succumbed to when they began discarding the miracles essential to Christianity and died as a result, Moore told the audience.

 
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Photo by Wenjia Fan.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, speaks on the church’s witness in society at a Washington, D.C., lecture sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

“Christianity always thrives the best when we have a distinctive word and a distinctive word that is rooted in a specific view of authority,” he said, citing the church’s witness as “one that brings respect simply because it is willing to bear witness to the truth.”
 
Religious conservatism should “be shaped by the gospel” and “not attempt to hide the strangeness or distinctiveness of the gospel,” Moore said. “We should lean into that and be strange but not crazy.”
 
There exists a “temptation and pull to assume evangelical witness will be better equipped to reach 21st-century people if we do not have a distinctive message on sexuality or sexual ethics,” he explained. “Nothing could be further from the truth.
 
“We must have a distinctive word in terms of a claim to authority, and we must be willing to bear witness,” Moore said. We must not only be a confessional people; “we must be a conversionist people, which means that if we truly believe that the Spirit of God is able to transform someone from sinner to saint, we will be the people who will not hesitate to speak the truth and to speak what often will be unpopular truths.”
 
To collaborate with others while remaining distinctive as the people of God requires the church to follow the New Testament model of addressing the world gently while speaking firmly to those destroying the church from within, he said.
 
“[H]eretics and lunatics who are speaking for the church of Jesus Christ must be rebuked by those who are orthodox Christians and not claimed as though they were part of the people of God,” Moore said during the question-and-answer session that followed his 32-minute lecture. “We have eternal matters that are resting on this.”
 
Followers of Christ should see Christianity not as primarily a political coalition but as “a redemptive mission with political implications,” he said.
 
“[T]hat means there are going to be those who agree with us on social and political issues who are nonetheless distorting the gospel, and they need to be spoken to harshly to protect the flock,” Moore told listeners.
 
Currently, that is most often true with prosperity gospel teachers, he said.
 
“The prosperity gospel is not just another form of Christianity,” Moore said. “The prosperity gospel is the ancient Canaanite fertility cult that is being brought forward in religious guise.”
 
Sizable donations by some prosperity gospel teachers to Christian ministries and causes “often leads Christian ministers to forget our responsibilities to our flock and to the witness of the outside world,” he said. “[W]e have exported this sort of heretical prosperity gospel all around the world and compromised our own witness as we have done so.”
 
Basing his remarks on the encounter between Jesus and Pilate in John 18, Moore said every generation of Christians should realize “our first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, and this Kingdom is being seen right now in the little communities of churches where the Kingdom is showcased.”
 
Conservative Christians – especially younger ones – must beware of the temptation to withdraw from the public square, he said.
 
“We can assume that somehow we can retreat back into our institutions, not be engaged in the public arena and avoid then a kind of hyper politicization that we have often seen and thereby become even more politicized than generations before,” Moore said.
 
“We do not have the luxury of withdrawal. And it is easy to spiritualize such withdrawal.”
 
Moore’s address was the fifth annual Diane Knippers Lecture, which seeks to provide a model for Christian social witness. The late president of IRD, Knippers passed away 10 years ago.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/19/2015 12:05:03 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Playboy’s nudity purge addressed

October 19 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Playboy’s decision to remove nude photos from the U.S. print edition of its magazine, pornography opponents say, in no way suggests the company is moving away from the objectification and exploitation of women.
 
“This decision was not a moral one, it was purely business,” said Charles Beeghley, a Missouri pastor whose proposal to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Resolutions Committee this summer eventuated in the convention’s statement “on pornography and sexual purity.” “It is their attempt to redesign a failing magazine and little more, and if selling nudity becomes profitable again, it will find its way again into the publications.”
 
Beeghley, pastor of Blue Summit Baptist Church in Kansas City, said, “The content may not have nude women, but it will still see women as objects of sex as well as sexual desire.”
 
In announcing the move away from full nudity, Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders told The New York Times naked pictures in a magazine are “just passé at this juncture” because on the Internet “you’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.”

 
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Beginning in March, the magazine “will look more like” popular periodicals “that carry PG-13-type pictures,” the Associated Press reported. International editions of the magazine will continue to carry nude photos though Playboy’s website has been nude-free since August 2014, AP noted.
 
The move away from full nudity online was followed by a 400 percent increase in monthly unique visitors to Playboy’s website, according to AP. The company hopes similar results will follow for its print edition, which has decreased in circulation from 5.6 million in 1975 to some 800,000 today, according to The Times.
 
The SBC resolution on pornography and sexual purity, adopted at the convention’s June annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, expressed “deep grief over the widespread devastation inflicted by the pornography industry” as well as commitment to “purity in thought, word, and deed.” The resolution “commend[ed] the good news that Christ is fully able to deliver and restore those who have fallen in sexual sin who look to Him in faith and repentance.”
 
In contrast to the resolution’s offer of hope, Beeghley said, Playboy is “not reducing the sexual content [of its publications] or desire to feed the sexual drive of young men.”
 
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), cited Playboy’s move as further evidence that sexual sin ultimately is unfulfilling.
 
“It shouldn’t surprise us that a culture awash in graphic porn would find Playboy dull,” Moore wrote in a blog post. “Those with experience counseling in this area have told us for years that pornography is fueled by novelty and the ‘high’ of the forbidden. What initially seems thrilling ultimately is mundane.”
 
Behind the futile search for satisfaction through sexual immorality, Moore said, is a deep-seated and often unrecognized longing for Christ.
 
Individuals pursuing sexual immorality “can’t articulate it, and they would be horrified to know it, but, behind all their sexual frenzy, they are looking for a glorious Messiah, Jesus, and His glorious bride, the church. And that’s why you will never find an image naked enough to satisfy what you’re looking for.”
 
Jay Dennis, the leader of Southern Baptists’ anti-pornography campaign, said Americans generally lack fulfillment despite the culture’s profession to have achieved Playboy’s mission of “personal freedom and sexual liberty.”
 
“Where is the promise of bliss, happiness and nothing but pleasure for those who buy into the Playboy philosophy?” Dennis, co-sponsor of the Join One Million Men campaign, said in written comments. “... So this is what sexual liberty looks like? Not according to God. That Seventh Commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (which covers any kind of sexual sin), was placed there by a loving God who wanted to protect us and provide a way for real, even supernatural sexual freedom.
 
“God is all for sexual freedom,” Dennis said. “That’s why He placed the boundaries of marriage around it. Whatever Playboy does or doesn’t do won’t change God’s plan and promise.”
 
Launched at the 2013 SBC annual meeting in Houston, Join One Million Men is seeking commitments from 1 million men to live pornography-free lives. The ERLC and the Woman’s Missionary Union sponsored the initiative along with Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.
 
Join One Million Men is expanding its ministry to the Spanish-speaking world, Dennis said, and will soon publish a Christian leader’s manual on pornography-related issues in Spanish.
 
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. noted the “pervasive” nature of pornography “in the Internet age” and called Playboy “a victim of its own success.”
 
“The headlines announcing Playboy would no longer feature nude photographs of women looked like good news,” Mohler wrote in an Internet commentary, “but the underlying story is horrifying in moral terms. Playboy did open the floodgates and pornography now pervades the entire culture.”
 
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s “moral philosophy and its underlying theology are now mainstream in America,” Mohler wrote.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/19/2015 11:58:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Relationships drive prison ministry, NAAF told

October 19 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The number 10002648 is ingrained in the memory of Harold Dean Trulear. Whenever he preaches, he recites the number before stating his biblical text.
 
“Because that was my number when I was incarcerated in George W. Hill Correctional Facility,” Trulear often says in his outreach as national director of the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project of Philadelphia.
 
Trulear, a Morehouse School of Divinity associate professor and Baptist minister, equips Christian churches to build effective prison ministries.
 
“The problem is … most of our prison ministries do outreach to prisons, and not to persons. And half the persons that we reach out to are somebody else’s child, while we have mothers and fathers and grandparents that come to church every Sunday with incarcerated children that we’ve never dealt with,” Trulear said at the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) Kingdom Symposium Sept. 29-30 at Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
 
“What if we treated sick people and prisoners the same? They’re in the same list in Matthew 25,” he said. “If you get sick your whole church gets involved, right? Folks visit, folks send cards, they send flowers; the whole church is committed. [But] if you get locked up, you get three volunteers from somebody else’s church.”

 
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Facebook photo
Harold Dean Trulear

He encouraged the 75 pastors and guests at the symposium to build prison ministries based on relationships in addition to physical help. Not only do relationships that are built while citizens are incarcerated help them successfully re-enter society, but prisoners who are visited by pastors in particular have a lower recidivism rate, Trulear said, based on a study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
 
Most churches have members with incarcerated relatives, he said, pointing to the number of people imprisoned. In the U.S., 2.2 million adults are imprisoned. Among black males, one in nine between the ages of 20 and 34, or more than 10 percent, are in state and federal prisons. Factor in county jails, halfway houses and persons on parole or probation, the number of black males in that age group in the correctional system jumps to 33 percent, he said.
 
“One out of three black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is currently under the supervision of some criminal justice system,” he said. Churches can help reduce those numbers by changing the church culture to remove the stigma and shame of incarceration, and by discontinuing the use of terms that identify citizens by their past, such as “ex-con.” “Juvenile” is also a term to be avoided, Trulear said, noting that we never use the term in reference to our own children or those we love.
 
He described prisoners as human beings made in the image of God who must be respected as such.
 
“We’re trying to say to the church, ‘The prisoner is as valuable as the sick person.’ If we want to distance ourselves from the prison population, we have to distance ourselves from the Bible,” he said, noting Jacob’s son Joseph, the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, John the Baptist, the apostles Peter and Paul, as well as those who escaped prosecution for criminal acts, including King David. Jesus was a prisoner when He died for the sins of humanity, Trulear said.
 
In partnership with several Christian-based groups, the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project provides training to churches and has been implemented at more than 20 sites nationally. The program was designed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 
Scripture mandates prison ministry, Trulear said, suggesting churches begin with outreach to incarcerated family and relatives of their own congregants.
 
“We know the prison population. When I got locked up, I didn’t want anybody to know that I was locked up. … Not only did I not want anyone to know I was locked up, I didn’t want any brother in prison, in the jail, to know that I was a Christian, let alone that I used to be a pastor,” said Trulear, who did not disclose the crime for which he was imprisoned. “And I was pretty good at keeping a secret, until a young man walked down … one day and he said, ‘Pastor.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’
 
“He said, ‘I used to play the drums in your church.’ I said I don’t know you. And he [told] me his mother’s name. His mother had been on my staff. I knew [her],” Trulear said. “Before I got off that [prison] block I met seven other guys whose mothers I had pastored. And your church is the same. We all have them, but the shame and the guilt keep us from doing anything.”
 
The likelihood of incarceration as a teenager or adult is directly related to the quality of education provided for children, Trulear said.
 
“One of the things that I try to let people know is you can’t just reduce the prison population without changing the whole of your society,” he said. “You can’t just let folk out of prison and there’s no work; there’s no space, there’s nowhere to live, there’s no one to love them. And you can’t reduce the prison population without proper education for them.”
 
Churches must enable the reconciliation, restoration and healing of people who’ve been victimized by crime, he said.
 
“We don’t use the term ‘crime victims’ anymore; now it is ‘crime survivors,’” he said. “If you continue to use the word ‘victim,’ a person will have a victim mentality, but they need to heal.”
 
Churches must become involved in advocacy programs that address the disparities in the delivery of justice in the U.S. based on demographics. For instance, he described the “three strikes and you’re out” rule as an intentional bipartisan effort aimed at incarcerating black males. Suburbanites convicted of having two ounces of powder cocaine might receive a two-year prison sentence, while urbanites convicted of having the cheaper rock cocaine might get 15 years to life, he said.
 
“It is a matter of social justice that more black and brown people are incarcerated, that more black and brown people are policed differently and get longer sentences. It’s a matter of public policy,” he said. “But guess what, you won’t do anything about public policy unless you first start by … loving the people who are impacted by the policy.”
 
For instance, the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. was fueled by the mistreatment of Rosa Parks, a person, rather than the misapplication of law, Trulear said. Ministries must be driven by a love for people and a desire to build relationships, he noted, rather than simply feeding or clothing people.
 
“It’s attitudes, it’s relationships, things we already do,” he said. “You can serve somebody and not love them. You can serve somebody and not care about them.”
 
Trulear is ordained as an American Baptist minister, serves on the pastoral staff of Praise and Glory Tabernacle in Southwest Philadelphia, and is a fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Annapolis, Md.
 
Healing Communities training resources are available for free download at healingcommunitiesusa.com under the “About” tab.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

10/19/2015 11:44:21 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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