October 2015

Earliest draft of the King James Bible discovered

October 16 2015 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

For about a month after he returned from England last year, a Montclair State University professor did not realize what a treasure he had found in a rare books library at Cambridge University.
While abroad, Jeffrey A. Miller, an assistant professor of English at the New Jersey school, had acquainted himself with some of the 70 pages of a notebook that had belonged to Samuel Ward, a 17th-century biblical scholar. But it wasn’t until Miller returned home, and made a more thorough study of photographs he had taken of its pages, that he understood how stunning a discovery he had made.
The notebook held draft portions of the most enduring English translation of the Bible: the King James Version (KJV), which was published in 1611 and named for the newly ascended King James I.
“I am not even sure I believed it initially,” said Miller, describing the moment when he figured out he had seen draft pages from the most widely read work in all of English, including Shakespeare.


Photo courtesy of Mike Peters
Jeffrey Alan Miller, Assistant Professor of English at Montclair State University.

“It seems beyond belief to think you could be looking at a draft of the King James Bible, much less a draft unlike any other draft that we previously had, much less the earliest draft of the King James Bible,” he said.
Jonathan Greenberg, graduate director of the English department at Montclair State, said, “One of the most amazing things about the discovery is that in a certain sense this draft was hiding in plain sight.”
It is not likely that many scholars had been clamoring to look at Ward’s archives, continued Greenberg, who credited Miller’s expertise and persistence for bringing the now-prized pages to light. “The draft was there for hundreds of years, but no one had realized exactly what it was.”
In the months after the discovery, scholars of the KJV confirmed Miller’s find.
Miller, who specializes in early modern literature, history and theology, had set out for Cambridge in hopes of learning more about Ward. The professor had agreed to write an essay on him for a book about the several dozen men the Church of England had grouped into “companies” charged with producing the KJV.
So Miller went to Sidney Sussex College, within Cambridge University, whose archives contain many of Ward’s papers.
“I was maximally hoping to find some letter that he had written that seemed relevant,” said Miller. “Actually, I did find that.”
But he also found the notebook, cataloged in the 1980s as “a verse-by-verse biblical commentary” with “Greek word studies and some Hebrew notes.”
“Let’s have a look at this,” Miller thought of the paperback-size book, whose pages date from 1604 to 1608.
Eventually, Miller came to understand that some of the pages were Ward’s draft of a part of the KJV – one complete and one incomplete book from the Apocrypha, writings accepted by some Christian denominations as part of the Bible but considered noncanonical by others. Miller saw an entire draft of 1 Esdras and a partial draft of the book known as the Wisdom of Solomon.
The professor made his findings public Oct. 14 in an article in the Times Literary Supplement, in which he explains that the King James Bible, organized as a group endeavor, may have been more the product of individuals than previously thought.
“It’s really the first real solid evidence for that,” Miller said.
While very few drafts – and no complete drafts – of the KJV have been found, Miller’s discovery is the first that can be attributed to a particular translator. Further study, he said, will shed light on the KJV, but also the English language it helped shape.
“The King James Bible is a monument of English religion, literature and the language itself,” he said, and it’s important to understand how it got built.
“It didn’t just fall out of the sky.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.))

10/16/2015 12:57:10 PM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Students answer call to help relief efforts in S.C.

October 16 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

Leading a group of college disaster relief volunteers for three days would be enough for some 23-year-olds to call it a week.
Not Andrew Hendricks.


NAMB photo by John Swain
Clemson University students Megan Comen (left) and Corrie Ulmer removed debris from a home in suburban Columbia, S.C. The pair were part of scores of Clemson students who used part of their fall break to serve survivors of flooding from rains associated with Hurricane Joaquin.

After leading a group of Clemson University Baptist Campus Ministry student volunteers through cleanup assignments in suburban Columbia, S.C., Hendricks joined his association’s Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) team in the Arcadia Lakes area and continued to serve.
“We are working on a home today where an older woman lives alone,” said Hendricks, a recent Clemson graduate and Baptist Campus Ministry intern. “The water went all the way up into her attic. She kept going higher up in her house as the water rose. She was rescued through a vent in her attic by a boat. It is a miracle she is alive.”
Hendricks’ service, first with college students and then with his Pickens Twelve Mile Baptist Association, highlights the power and partnership of students working with veteran Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. The students are serving survivors of the overwhelming flooding spawned by Hurricane Joaquin.
“To see college students, who have the time on their breaks and who do not yet have the responsibilities of full-time jobs, working with retirees who also have the time to commit, it is really cool to see the generations working together,” Hendricks said. “I want to see that more.”
Deployed SBDR volunteers from South Carolina are serving with teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Cleanup work is happening across the state. More students are expected to volunteer, as well.


NAMB photo by John Swain
Andrew Hendricks, a recent Clemson University graduate, finishes cleanup on a Columbia, S.C., home following a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief project. Hendricks, an intern with the Clemson Baptist Campus Ministry, led a group of students to serve survivors of the massive flooding associated with Hurricane Joaquin.

“College students proved their value as volunteers by the tremendous service they performed in response to Hurricane Sandy,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell said. “Now they have the opportunity again and they are doing an outstanding job in South Carolina. The generosity of Southern Baptists to serve and give in response to tragedy continues to encourage me.”
A recent college graduate, Hendricks has walked the same steps many of the students he worked with have. As a Clemson sophomore, Hendricks volunteered to serve on a cleanup crew in New York City during his Christmas break responding to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. His current college volunteers received the same on-the-job training he did when he first served.
“The experience in New York was great, and they encouraged us to seek more training if we thought we wanted to serve in the future,” said Hendricks, a member of Cross Roads Baptist Church in Easley. “I attended a South Carolina Baptist Convention training and started serving with my association.”


NAMB photo by John Swain
Clemson University student Logan Catoe rips out tile from the bathroom of a suburban Columbia, S.C., home as part of a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief project.

Hendricks’ 10-member association team is being housed at North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia, just five miles from the homes where they are serving. But the trip to the job site takes 30-45 minutes dictated by the number of bridges and roads that remain out or closed from flood-water damage.
“You can drive through parts of Columbia and think nothing happened here,” Hendricks said. “Then you go into an affected area and it is total devastation. Everything in this woman’s house was destroyed. As a native of South Carolina, to see this level of destruction, it is totally shocking.”
The North American Mission Board 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. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief 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.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

10/16/2015 12:46:31 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments

Fantasy sports betting investigated

October 16 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As news breaks of a federal investigation into the fantasy sports industry, Baptist commentators warn that betting in fantasy leagues is not harmless fun.
The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 14 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is “investigating [the] daily fantasy sports business model” to see if it violates federal law. A front-page story in the Oct. 15 New York Times stated the fantasy website DraftKings appears to be the focus of the probe, with rival site FanDuel also potentially facing scrutiny and the entire industry confronting accusations of “predatory tactics” and improper handling of insider information.
In daily leagues, “filling slots on your fantasy team becomes more like a slot machine, feeding the obsessive compulsion to turn small amounts into large winnings in a day, and to bet more tomorrow to try to win back yesterday’s losses,” said Mike Whitehead, an attorney in Kansas City, Mo., who has served on the staffs of two Southern Baptist Convention entities. “Daily users are more susceptible to addiction and serious losses – a risk the industry itself has done its best to ignore.”


Fantasy sports began with season-long contests typically involving friends and coworkers. But now online fantasy leagues allow customers to pay entry fees then draft virtual sports teams that compete against each other in daylong contests for prize money based on the players’ performances in real athletic events. FanDuel and DraftKings are the two largest fantasy companies, controlling some 95 percent of the North American daily fantasy sports market. They are valued at $1.3 billion and $1.2 billion respectively, according to The Journal.
Despite bans on sports gambling by many professional sports leagues, investors in FanDuel and DraftKings include Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, The Times reported.
The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits much online gambling, Whitehead said, but includes an exception for fantasy sports games if “(1) the value of the prizes is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of fees paid; (2) all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants; and (3) the fantasy game’s result is not based on the final scores of any real-world games.”
Most “traditional versions” of fantasy sports, Whitehead said, “seem to comply with federal law.”
The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to determine whether daily fantasy contests – which seem to involve more chance than season-long competitions – are a form of illegal gambling, according to The Journal.
Daily fantasy sports drew increased criticism after a DraftKings employee prematurely released sensitive data about the site’s biggest contest and then won $350,000 on FanDuel, The Journal reported. DraftKings said the data release was unintentional, and both companies said the employee did not benefit from insider knowledge.
Both companies acknowledge their employees “have played and won significant money on each other’s sites,” The Times reported, though both now have banned their employees from competing in daily fantasy sports.
“It is entirely predictable that the government would follow up on the misleading reports about our industry,” a DraftKings spokeswoman said in a statement to The Journal. “We have no knowledge of the specifics of any federal investigation but strongly disagree with any notion that our company has engaged in any illegal activities.”
Fantasy sports websites face additional legal challenges on the state level. Whitehead explained that some states prohibit fantasy sports if they involve money, rewards and chance, with “chance” defined differently in various states.
“Most state laws say play-for-cash contests are only illegal if they involve more chance than skill (the ‘predominant purpose test’),” Whitehead said. “A few states prohibit betting games if they depend on chance even in the smallest degree (the ‘any chance test’).”
Whitehead noted, “In ‘any chance’ states, like Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa and Tennessee, most play-for-cash leagues appear to violate the state gambling statutes (unless, of course, they fall under ‘social gaming’ or ‘in-house gaming’ exceptions). Montana, Louisiana, Washington, Iowa and Arizona prohibit daily fantasy games where participants risk their own cash.
“The legality of fantasy football has been questioned in a couple of other states,” Whitehead said. “In Florida, a state attorney general opinion from back in 1991 called into doubt the legality of fantasy football contests. Similarly, in Kansas, a state website formerly included language that called into doubt the legality of fantasy sports. Yet no legal prosecutions have occurred.
“Theoretically, if any members of an Internet league reside in an ‘any chance state,’ other participants of the league residing in other states may still be in violation of law, which could become a federal violation due to inter-state commerce,” he said.
The Times reported DraftKings executive Jon Aguiar posted “on a public thread informing players how to deposit funds and play in contests in states and countries where the games are prohibited.” A class-action lawsuit in Louisiana, where operation of daily fantasy sports sites is prohibited, alleges the plaintiff was allowed to deposit money with both DraftKings and FanDuel.
The attorney general of New York has begun to gather information about both companies, and the Massachusetts attorney general is discussing potential consumer-protection regulations with the sites, The Journal and The Times reported. Various U.S. senators and congressmen have called for investigations of fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports & spiritual health

John Babler, professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the problem with fantasy sports betting extends beyond its legality. For some, it “dominates [their] lives and to some degree holds [them] captive,” he said.
“For some this can be almost instantaneous,” Babler said in written comments, “from the first time they bet on fantasy sports.” For most, “it is more of a process that occurs over time. There is an exhilaration that comes from piecing together a winning team and if there is financial gain as well, that is even better. It is not hard for this fun activity to begin dominating one’s life.”
Betting poses a problem even when it is not an addiction, Babler said.
“God’s intent is that people work and as a result of that work, God would provide,” he said. “The problem and allure of betting is not related to the amount of money won or lost, but that it is a distraction from God’s purpose and intent for us in regard to work and reward. It is very tempting and exciting to think that instead of working for money, we can get it from either luck or our sports acumen. Betting serves as a distraction from our relationships with God as well as running contrary to His design for us.”
David Prince, pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., wrote in an online commentary for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that “fantasy football leagues are affecting families by relentlessly catechizing an entire generation watching these NFL games on the acceptability and excitement of sports gambling.”
Though “traditional fantasy football” that does not involve wagers is “harmless,” Prince wrote, “gambling entrepreneurs have turned a geekish fun hobby into a relentless, daily, predatory lure of fast cash and easy money.”
Prince added, “This should deeply trouble those of us who love Jesus and delight in sports as a good gift from God.” Gambling, he wrote, “is a societal evil that preys on those most in need.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/16/2015 12:31:09 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sunrise CEO: Appeals court ruling a ‘win’

October 16 2015 by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has sent a case involving a Kentucky Baptist children’s ministry back to federal district court for further review in a move the group’s chief executive officer describes as a win for the non-profit ministry that serves hundreds of abused and neglected kids.
“This case has been going on for 16 years and Sunrise is ready to turn the page,” Dale Suttles, chief executive officer of Sunrise Children’s Services, said. “We have 750 kids who have faced some of the most terrible things imaginable. We need to focus instead on making a difference in their lives.”


A three-judge Sixth Circuit panel, in a 2-1 decision, vacated a 2013 ruling singling out Sunrise for monitoring by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State Oct. 6. The panel questioned whether the 15-page settlement, agreed to by the plaintiffs and the state, but not Sunrise, was fair.
Sunrise attorney John Sheller argued in the appeal that the burden of extra scrutiny by the ACLU and Americans United imposes unique reputational harm.
The Sixth Circuit judges did not indicate whether the lower court’s ruling was fair to Sunrise.
“We feel good about the Sixth Circuit Court’s decision,” Suttles said. “Now we’ll wait to see how the district court handles its decision.”
Since 2000, Sunrise has been embroiled in a lawsuit surrounding its firing of a homosexual employee. In the case, the state was accused of violating the Constitution by paying Sunrise, a Kentucky Baptist foster care agency, to provide services for children. A 2013 agreement required the monitoring of Sunrise and its affiliates to ensure children were not coerced into participating in religious activity or converted to a new religion.
Sunrise objected to the settlement.
Sunrise has operated as a nonprofit, Christ-centered ministry for abused and neglected children in Kentucky since 1869 and is the state’s largest provider of foster care, residential, therapeutic treatment and community-based services statewide.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robin Cornetet writes for Kentucky Today, the news site of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

10/16/2015 12:23:47 PM by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Evangelist in Uganda killed after debate

October 16 2015 by East Africa correspondent, Morning Star News

Islamists upset by a Christian-Muslim debate are suspected in the killing of a longtime evangelist in eastern Uganda who led many Muslims to Christ, sources said.
The body of Samson Nfunyeku was found close to his home in Kalampete village, Kibuku District early Sept. 23, after the latest in a series of organized debates with Islamic scholars at Tirinyi Trading Center ended prematurely due to flaring tempers the previous night. He was 59.
At a previous debate, among those sponsored by Nfunyeku’s Church of Uganda and other churches, Muslim leaders had threatened him and warned him to hold no more debates, a source said.


“Four months ago Samson and others had a very hot debate at Tirinyi Trading Center with the Muslim scholars that ended on a bad note, and they gave warning that such debates were not good for the Muslims,” said one of the participants, a former sheikh (Islamic teacher) who became a Christian.
Nevertheless, another debate was held Sept. 22 with few in attendance, said the source, whose name is withheld for security purposes. The debate ended at about 5:30 p.m. Colleagues estimated Nfunyeku was killed between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
He had head injuries and a mark on his neck indicating he was strangled, they said.
“We are going to miss the courage and passion seen in the life of Samson, who was out to win Muslims for Christ,” Gauma Samuel of the Church of Uganda’s Budaka Archdeaconry said at his Sept. 25 funeral service.
Nfunyeku is survived by seven children and 16 grandchildren.
“They need prayers in this moment of mourning,” a source said.
Converts from Islam to Christianity in eastern Uganda have recently experienced regular instances of persecution. A Muslim in Namutumba District beat and left for dead his wife Jafalan Kadondi and 18-year-old son Ibrahim Kasoono on Aug. 11 after learning they had converted to Christianity, area sources said. Both survived.
The wife of a former sheikh was poisoned to death on June 17 after she and her husband put their faith in Christ in the Kibuku District. Namumbeiza Swabura was the mother of 11 children, including a 5-month-old baby.
In the Budaka District on March 28, five Muslims gang-raped the 17-year-old daughter of a pastor because the church leader ignored their warnings that he stop worship services, she said.
About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide. Used by permission.)

10/16/2015 12:16:14 PM by East Africa correspondent, Morning Star News | with 0 comments

PPFA change shows its guilt, pro-lifers say

October 15 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Planned Parenthood’s decision to forego federal reimbursements for fetal tissue donation serves as an admission of its guilt and should not halt the congressional effort to defund the organization, its critics say.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) announced Oct. 13 that none of its centers will accept federal reimbursement in the future for expenses accrued in tissue donations from aborted babies for research. In a letter, PPFA President Cecile Richards said the action was taken to “completely debunk the disingenuous argument” used by opponents in the wake of undercover videos providing evidence the country’s leading abortion provider trades in baby body parts.
Richards’ letter to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, followed the release of 10 secretly recorded videos that show various Planned Parenthood officials in different locations discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos recorded and released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) also display PPFA employees acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. In addition, the videos include evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs.
In the three months since CMP released the first video, Richards and other Planned Parenthood officials have denied any legal wrongdoing or profit from fetal tissue donation. They attacked CMP, alleging that the videos are fraudulent and deceptively edited.


Flickr photo by CarlB104
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards announced Oct. 13 that none of its centers will accept federal reimbursement in the future for expenses accrued in tissue donations from aborted babies for research.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said PPFA’s announcement “is an acknowledgment of what they have denied all along.”
“They traffic in human organs from non-consenting victims,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a written statement. “This is essentially Planned Parenthood’s way of saying, ‘We never did this, and we won’t do it again.’
“It is time for the United States government to hold this predatory corporation accountable.”
Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., sponsor of a bill approved by the House of Representatives to defund Planned Parenthood, found it curious that PPFA officials say they have done nothing wrong but “still find it necessary to change their policy following the recent undercover videos. Clearly, this was a decision motivated by optics rather than the organization’s conscience.”
The announcement “does not change my conviction that Planned Parenthood should not be subsidized by American taxpayers,” Black said in a written release.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said Richards’ letter does not address charges that PPFA affiliates have participated in what it says appear to be various crimes related to trafficking in baby organs for profit, modifying the abortion technique to procure intact body parts and performing partial-birth abortions.
Richards’ letter “amounts to an admission of guilt,” said Kellie Fiedorek, ADF litigation counsel. “The fire that Planned Parenthood’s misdeeds started has been too hot, and she mistakenly thinks this will put water on it.
“Ms. Richards never once explains how Planned Parenthood calculated the costs of procuring fetal remains in order to sell them because she can’t,” Fiedorek said in a written statement. “The price-per-specimen approach she admitted to in her August letter to Congress is a profit-driven system, pure and simple. The American people have a right to get to the bottom of Planned Parenthood’s disturbing activities and to demand that not one more penny of their tax dollars goes to fund them.”
CMP founder David Daleiden said in a written statement that Richards’ announcement “proves what CMP has been saying all along – Planned Parenthood incurs no actual costs, and the payments for harvested fetal parts have always been an extra profit margin.”
As she had in congressional testimony Sept. 29, Richards told Collins in her letter less than 1 percent of PPFA’s centers facilitate federally approved fetal tissue donation. In a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, she failed to directly address a question about manipulation of the abortion procedure to procure body parts and denied that dissection of a living child outside the womb has occurred in a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“As I have stated repeatedly, the accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood are categorically false,” Richards said in the Oct. 13 letter. “Planned Parenthood adheres to the highest legal, medical, and ethical standards.”
With its decision, PPFA is taking opponents’ “smokescreen away,” Richards wrote.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Planned Parenthood’s announcement “is helpful in taking away some questions surrounding their transactions involving fetal tissue.” His panel’s investigation will continue, however, because the letter does not explain why “a non-profit, tax-exempt organization reporting approximately $125 [million] in revenue over expenses annually needs a subsidy from the American taxpayer.”
PPFA and its affiliates received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements, according to its latest financial report (2013-14). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed more than 327,000 abortions during 2013.
While PPFA has hailed a study that says the CMP videos are edited in a misleading way, a digital, forensics analysis released Sept. 28 reported the videos “are authentic.” Coalfire Systems Inc., which has some Fortune 500 companies among its clients, said the videos “show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”
CMP has posted not only edited versions of its video recordings but what it describes as full footage of the conversations between PPFA officials and its undercover individuals acting as representatives of a biologics firm.
The ERLC’s Moore and 37 other pro-life leaders wrote congressional leaders Oct. 5 to encourage them to use the reconciliation process in an attempt to defund PPFA. Reconciliation enables a budget-related bill to reach the president’s desk without requiring 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. The House Budget Committee approved such a reconciliation measure Oct. 9.
Black’s legislation, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, gained passage from the House in a 241-187 vote Sept. 18. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for PPFA and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.
Black’s legislation to defund PPFA appears to have no future in the Senate, where it would require 60 votes, and definitely none at the White House. President Barack Obama has made it clear he would veto Black’s proposal if it were to reach his desk.
Richards’ letter to Collins also went to Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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10/15/2015 12:05:04 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

No reconciliation without cross, NAAF guest says

October 15 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Gus Roman, pastor emeritus of Canaan Baptist Church in Philadelphia, looked at Southern Baptist executive David Waltz and said aloud, “You remind me of that fellow who kicked me in my stomach.”
Roman, 82 and black, grew up in Louisiana during the Jim Crow South; Waltz, white, grew up a pastor’s son in the Pittsburg suburb of Mount Lebanon.
“I know what it is to be in the [New Orleans] French Market shining shoes as a boy,” Roman said, “and a gentleman, a white gentleman, somewhat inebriated, when it came time for him to pay me the quarter or whatever it was, he gave me a kick in the stomach.”
Roman, a longtime pastor and member of the predominantly black National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and Waltz, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, addressed the issue of racial reconciliation at the Kingdom Symposium of the National African American Fellowship [NAAF] of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Photo by Diana Chandler
Gus Roman, a longtime Baptist pastor who grew up in the Jim Crow South, speaks on racial reconciliation at the SBC National African American Fellowship Kingdom Symposium.

“I don’t like you,” Roman said allegorically to Waltz. “But fortunately, I love Jesus. I don’t like you, but I have to find a way to live with you.
“Have I done anything to you to deserve that kick? Just a boy, trying to make a dime. Why did you do that? Can’t you see how wrong, how wrong that was?” Roman asked, continuing his allegory. “Can’t you see the [psychological] damage that you done to this boy? And that happened, oh my God, over 70 years ago. But I just can’t shake it.”
Waltz rose from his seat, strode up to Roman, thanked him and hugged him roundly.
“When I think about racism in America, like you I have been shaped by my own experiences,” Waltz said. “Each one of us has different experiences. I grew up a sheltered white boy in a suburb of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.”
Christians need to address racism, Waltz noted.
“As Christians we are living in a bubble and only kidding ourselves if we think that we can have a significant impact for Christ on a broken, hurting, dying world, when we continue to ignore brokenness and hurt, and yes racism, all around us,” Waltz told the 75 pastors and guests gathered Sept. 29–30 at Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “As [NAAF president and host pastor] K. Marshall Williams often says, we need a Great Commandment resurgence before we can have a Great Commission resurgence. We need to learn to love one another.”
Waltz and Roman, as well as panelist Marshal Ausberry, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., said reconciliation can only be realized in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
“Who is the One Who can deal with me, deal with me and that kick that left a wound in me, that’s got your handsome image all messed up in my head?” Roman queried Waltz. “Who can help my eyes get cleared so I can see you [as an individual]? Nobody but the Spirit. There can be no reconciliation without the cross. There can be no reconciliation without confessing. There can be no reconciliation without the Spirit of God moving in me and even if He doesn’t move in you, it does not relieve me about allowing Him to move in me.”


Photo by Diana Chandler
After Gus Roman (right at podium) told pastors at the NAAF Kingdom Symposium about his experiences of racism as a child shining shoes in New Orleans, SBC executive David Waltz hugged him. NAAF President K. Marshall Williams stands behind them.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has passed several measures to speed racial reconciliation, including a 1995 resolution acknowledging the SBC’s racist past, seeking forgiveness, apologizing to African Americans for past racial injustices, and pledging to “eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry.”
“This racism thing is deep within the DNA,” Roman said at the symposium. “It’s what we are as minorities in this country and what whites are in this country. It’s not gone because you move a sign.”
Waltz never saw a “Colored Only” sign until he visited Ridgecrest, N.C., as a child, he said, and had to ask his mother what the term meant. But he sees clearly the results of racism and segregation today.
Not one black was among the 700 classmates who attended his 45th high school reunion in Pittsburg in September, he said, because in his 12 years of education prior to college, no blacks attended his school district.
“In fact until 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed, there was systematic exclusion of realtors not showing people houses, banks not being willing to fund a loan,” Waltz said. “As a small boy growing up in Pennsylvania, I thought racism was a Southern problem in my own naiveté.”
His racist surroundings became evident when he learned as a teenager that his sports hero, baseball great Roberto Clemente, had been blocked from buying a home in Waltz’s Mount Lebanon neighborhood.
“I couldn’t believe it and had to face the fact that racism wasn’t just something confined to the South,” Waltz said. “Racism permeated our American experience.”
Ausberry referenced the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, and Jesus’ request that the Lord’s will be done on earth as in heaven.
“We’ve got to pray His will, capture the picture of His will, and then … practice His will,” Ausberry said. “We need to be praying the will of God in the aspect of racial reconciliation. What’s His will for the church in this area of racial reconciliation? What does God want His church to look like and act like?”
Just as heaven is not segregated, neither must Christians model such divisions, Ausberry said.
“We are to be a picture of heaven on earth, a taste of heaven on earth. We are like his ambassadors on earth,” he said. “The church has got to get it right. And I submit to you if the church gets it right, then the world will get it right. … I believe the church is the rudder for turning the world.”
The church modeled the love of Christ in Charleston after Dylann Roof killed nine people at a Bible study at historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Ausberry said. Family members of the murder victims expressed their forgiveness to Roof in court proceedings, and churches gathered across denominational and racial distinctions in united expressions of sympathy.
“What a beautiful picture,” Ausberry said.
Ausberry offered practical steps of reconciliation, including interracial fellowship Sundays that involve swapping preachers as well as choirs, unity worship services focused on prayer, and sweating together in community service projects.
“Know the reason you do what you do,” Ausberry said, “is that you’re doing on earth as it is in heaven.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Story:

NAAF affirms ‘living holy & clean in 2015’

10/15/2015 11:53:05 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Democratic debate: race, climate change prominent

October 15 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Race relations, marijuana legalization, climate change and gun control were among the moral issues highlighted Oct. 13 at a Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas involving five candidates.
The issues of abortion and same-sex marriage came up only in passing and were mentioned only a few times during the two-hour debate.
Perhaps the most extended reference to sanctity of life issues came when frontrunner Hillary Clinton alleged Republicans suspend their typical opposition to “big government” to regulate Planned Parenthood and limit access to abortions.
“It’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, ‘You can’t have paid [maternity] leave. You can’t provide health care,’” Clinton said. “They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it.”


Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, responded on Twitter, “Secretary Clinton, it isn’t ‘big government’ to stop the government from funding Planned Parenthood.”
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee was the only other candidate to mention abortion, according to Baptist Press’s tally, referencing his consistent support of “a woman’s right to choose” despite switching from the Republican Party to being an Independent in 2007 and then to the Democratic Party in 2013.
Chaffee, Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley each referenced homosexual rights.
Chaffee noted his consistent support of same-sex marriage. Clinton referenced “continuing discrimination against the LGBT community” in her opening statement. Asked by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper about her former opposition to same-sex marriage among other position changes, Clinton said she has “always fought for the same values and principles” but sometimes “absorb[s] new information” that leads to a change of mind.
O’Malley said Americans under 30 “never ... want to deny rights to gay couples.”
The candidates discussed race relations on multiple occasions. Among the opinions expressed:

  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders echoed the slogan of a cultural movement, saying “black lives matter.” Innocent African Americans in the U.S. at times “end up dead” and “their kids ... get shot,” he said. “We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system.”

  • O’Malley said the Black Lives Matter Movement is making “a very, very legitimate and serious point, and that is that as a nation we have undervalued ... black lives, people of color.”

  • Clinton, echoing a concern voiced by Sanders, cited the need to reduce “mass incarceration” of African Americans. She also advocated the use of body cameras by police departments.

  • Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb said he supports “affirmative action for African Americans” because of “their unique history in this country, with slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed.” He expressed concern about “diversity programs that include everyone, quote, ‘of color’” but exclude “struggling whites like the families in the Appalachian mountains.”

A discussion of marijuana policy featured a disagreement between Sanders and Clinton. While Sanders said he likely would support a Nevada ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use, Clinton said she was not ready to take a position on recreational marijuana.
Clinton added, “I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”
Sanders and Clinton agreed on the need to stop imprisoning large numbers of nonviolent marijuana users.
Climate change, the candidates agreed, is a problem, and they offered a variety of proposals to reduce carbon emissions. Sanders appeared to take the strongest stance on climate change, calling it America’s greatest national security threat ahead of the ISIS terrorist group and terrorists’ obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“The future of the planet is at stake,” Sanders said, noting Pope Francis also expressed concern about climate change.
On gun control, Webb struck a different tone than the other four candidates by arguing, “We have to respect the tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence.” He noted that “people at high levels in this government” have armed bodyguards and said all Americans should enjoy the right to protect themselves with guns.
All five candidates advocated gun control to some degree.
The second Democratic presidential debate is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/15/2015 11:45:51 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAAF affirms ‘living holy & clean in 2015’

October 15 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christians can lead holy lives by the same power the Apostle Paul called on in his struggle between the flesh and the Spirit recorded in Romans 7, former Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter told worshippers at a Philadelphia gathering of black Southern Baptist pastors and leaders.
“The reason Southern Baptists … I am convinced that we can win this battle is because of this fact. You’re not fighting this battle on your own. You’re not fighting this battle under your own strength,” Luter said in the Sept. 30 keynote sermon of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) Kingdom Symposium at Nazarene Baptist Church. “The reason we can win this battle … is because of the Jesus that’s in you, because of the power of Christ that is in you.”
Luter’s sermon, “The Super Bowl for Your Soul,” capped presentations by seven other pastors and denominational leaders at the event hosted by NAAF president and Nazarene Baptist Church Pastor K. Marshall Williams Sept. 29–30 at the church in the historic Germantown community. “Living Holy and Clean in 2015: What shall we say to these things?” was the symposium theme.
“The enemy is after your mind, your marriage, your children, your finances, your ministry 60 seconds of every minute, 60 minutes of every hour, 24 hours of every day, seven days of every week, four weeks of every month, 12 months of every year,” Luter said in his rhythmic rhetorical style. “Our adversary, our enemy is doing all that he can, using every tool at his disposal, using every weapon at his disposal, using every tactic at his disposal, using every temptation at his disposal, to get the sons and daughters of God to fall, to get the sons and daughters of God to mess up, to get the sons and daughters of God to not live holy and not lead a clean life.”


Photo by Diana Chandler
Fred Luter, standing center, preached the keynote sermon at the National African American Fellowship Kingdom Symposium Sept. 29–30 in Philadelphia. Other pastors in the pulpit are (left to right) NAAF treasurer Frank I. Williams, Jay Wells, K. Marshall Williams and NAAF vice president Byron Day.

Luter stood on Romans 7:15-25, likening Paul’s struggle and that of other believers to the Super Bowl, urging Christians to read their playbook the Bible and follow its rules.
“That’s how we’re going to win this … Super Bowl for our soul, because the same Jesus … that was with the Apostle Paul is the same Jesus … that’s with you,” Luter told some 200 worshippers. “That’s why we need to read our playbook, that’s why we need to rely on our playbook, because our playbook reminds us that Jesus is with us. He’s with us during this battle.”
Luter pointed out four spiritual truths to encourage worshippers. The true battle is between God and Satan; Christians must follow the Word of God while going through the battle; Christians must pray during the battle and finally, Christians must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in the battle.
The worship service was multi-ethnic, incorporating a solo by Valery Dimov of Ukrainian Baptist Church in Philadelphia; the Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church Choir which sang selections in French; and the Nazarene Baptist Church Mass Choir, which included Negro spirituals in its repertoire.
Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, encouraged pastors to call on him in his new concurrent role as national African American presidential ambassador of the North American Mission Board and the upcoming “Catch the Vision” tour scheduled in 2016. Luter, who made national headlines as the first African American elected Southern Baptist Convention president, is working to increase the number of African American Southern Baptist congregations, which currently number about 3,500 churches and church-type missions.
Symposium seminars focused on pastoral encouragement; personal holiness, revival and spiritual awakening; marriage and the family; racial reconciliation, and the “pipeline” from school to prison.

From pastor to pastor

Mark Croston, national director of black church partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources, challenged and encouraged pastors in the opening symposium session Sept. 29.
Croston pointed out the major struggles the majority of pastors face, including being overworked and underpaid, feeling underprepared, inordinate family and marital stress, loneliness, depression and a desire to leave the ministry.
He encouraged pastors to build support systems through a diversity of friendships including a loyal best friend, a fearless adventurer, a brutally honest confidant, a wise mentor, a friend from a different culture, a polar opposite – such as the Apostle Paul’s friendship with the runaway slave Onesimus, a friendly neighbor, and a pal at work or in the same profession.
Croston exhorted pastors to keep their spiritual lives fresh, reassess personal and ministry goals, reassess their lists of friends, to take regular time off, get proper exercise and sleep, join or start a small accountability group, and find ways to laugh and have fun.

Gary Frost

Gary Frost, president of North American Mission Board’s Midwest region, spoke on “Personal preparation for a sovereign visitation,” based on 2 Chronicles 16:9.
Pastors must avoid adjusting their perspective to coincide with the worlds’ sinful behavior, Frost said, and should make sure they’re praying for lost souls when seeking revival and spiritual awakening.
“I believe that in many ways,” Frost said, “we’re adapting to darkness all around us.” He referenced Acts 1:2-3 in drawing a picture of “true” revival. In Acts 1, “there was Christianity in the midst of hostility,” Frost said. “Maybe God is answering our prayers, because it was in the midst of that kind of context that the church began to spread, the church began to grow. It was when society around it was opposed to the church, that the church was most bold.”
Early Christians didn’t pray for support found in such organizations as the Alliance Defending Freedom, but they prayed for boldness to stand in the face of adversity.
“So be careful what you pray for when you pray for awakening and revival, because it frequently comes in the context of difficulty,” Frost said.
Other speakers included NAAF Executive Director Jay Wells, who focused on biblical teachings on marriage and family; and Harold Dean Trulear, associate professor of applied theology at the Howard University School of Divinity. Trulear, who serves as national director of Healing Communities USA and Prison Reentry Ministry, detailed ministry initiatives that churches can take to minister to citizens returning to communities after imprisonment.
When pastors visit inmates, the rate of recidivism decreases, Trulear said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Story:

No reconciliation without cross, NAAF guest says

10/15/2015 11:36:18 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lecrae’s latest accolade: Artist of the Year

October 15 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Lecrae, called “one of the leading lights in the gospel-rap movement” by Billboard, was named Artist of the Year at the 46th annual Dove Awards, Oct. 12 in Nashville.
It marks the first time the top award has gone to “a rapper,” according to The Tennessean, though the newspaper added a qualification: “rap-pop artist” TobyMac was named Artist of the Year in 2008.
Lecrae also won Dove Awards for Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year for his 2014 release “Anomaly” and song of the year, “All I Need is You,” in the same genre among 40-plus categories.


Other winners included:

  • For King & Country, Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year.

  • Michael W. Smith, Christmas Album of the Year for last year’s “The Spirit of Christmas.”

  • Gaither Vocal Band, Southern Gospel Artist of the Year.

  • Oak Ridge Boys, Country Song of the Year, “Sweet Jesus” with Merle Haggard.

Lauren Daigle, from Lafayette, La., was named New Artist of the Year while her song “How Can It Be” was named Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year.
A list of this year’s Dove winners can be accessed at doveawards.com/awards/2015-winners.
Co-hosts for the awards ceremony were Sadie Robertson of the “Duck Dynasty” TV series and author of “Live Original: How the Duck Commander Teen Keeps It Real and Stays True to Her Values,” and Erica Campbell, five-time Grammy winner and WEtv star of “Mary Mary.” Campbell garnered a Dove Award for Contemporary/Gospel/Urban Song of the Year for “I Luh God.”
The Dove Awards telecast will be aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) at 10 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Oct. 18. The ceremony was held in Nashville at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena.
Daniel Woodman, a journalism student at the University of Missouri who served as Baptist Press’ 2015 summer intern, noted, “Lecrae is important as an artist because he is the bridge between Christianity and the culture of our youth.”
“Through his music he addresses issues that are hard to talk about, from racism to sexual abuse, in a relevant manner that relates to us, the youth in America especially,” Woodman said in written comments. “Lecrae’s Artist of the Year award not only signifies his musical talent, but his ability to bring Christ to our culture in a way that touches believers and non-believers alike. He is the transcendent artist of our generation.”
Lecrae, who had a tour date in California, accepted the Artist of the Year honor by video.
The 36-year-old’s music has garnered multiple awards, including a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song in February and earlier Dove Awards for rap/hip hop album and song of the year. Anomaly, his seventh album, premiered last year atop the Billboard 200 Album Chart and Gospel Album Chart – the first-ever to do so in both genres, in addition to topping several other Billboard categories.
A book by Lecrae, titled Unashamed, is slated for a May 2016 release by the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to a LifeWay news report, Lecrae will write of how his Christian faith lifted him from a difficult past that included childhood abuse and struggles with drugs and alcoholism.
“As an artist, my ambition is to make honest music, and I feel the same way about writing this book,” Lecrae said. “I want to be honest about where I’ve come from and what I’ve learned along the way. I want to influence culture, to help catalyze and inspire, and help other people find understanding. If they find some inspiration and some clarity for their own lives, as they follow my journey, then I will have succeeded.”
He was a May 2013 guest on The Exchange (https://vimeo.com/67132216), interviewed by guest host Eric Geiger, Resource Division vice president of Lifeway Christian Resources. The Exchange is a weekly program hosted by Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, now aired on the NRB channel on Direct TV.
Lecrae’s testimony at the I am Second website can be viewed at iamsecond.com/seconds/lecrae. A video in his own words and nine music videos can be viewed at lecrae.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/15/2015 11:29:11 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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