October 2017

‘Remarkable’ Rutledge collection new to SBC archives

October 19 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The late award-winning photographer Don Rutledge tried his hand at pastoring, but realized his true calling in uniquely displaying God’s creation. Photographs and related items spanning more than 40 years of his ministry and missions comprise a new Southern Baptist archival collection.
“I love photojournalism and enjoy using it as a worldwide Christian ministry,” the renowned photographer has said. “It forces me to see, to look beyond what the average person observes, to search where few people care even to look, to glance over and beyond my backyard fence.

Photo by Don Rutledge
Soon after joining the Home (now North American) Mission Board, Don Rutledge spent weeks covering the daily lives of Alaskan Eskimos above the Arctic Circle. Here, a family waits for visitors to arrive at their home. 

“It helps me translate the national and international ministries into human terms by telling the story through people rather than through statistics,” he said during his ministry.
Housed at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA) in Nashville, the Don Rutledge Photograph Collection includes hundreds of original prints and corresponding oversized images; about 1,000 each of slides, negatives, and contact sheets; boxes of correspondence, several files of handwritten project notebooks, and other materials related to Rutledge’s career, according to SBHLA Director Taffey Hall.
Rutledge’s family donated the materials in 2016, and also included his cameras and other personal items on loan, Hall said. The collection is available for research at the SBHLA.
His widow “Lucy Rutledge expressed she would be glad for Don’s material to bring an awareness to missions,” Hall told Baptist Press. “This is a remarkable collection and will be a gem for researchers interested in photographs of the Southern Baptist Convention’s varied missions activities in the second half of the 20th Century.”
Ron Tonks, retired assistant director of the former Southern Baptist Convention Historical Commission, applauds the Rutledge collection. He remembers Rutledge as a very courteous, polite, and effective missionary with entities now known as the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.
“He always treated everyone with very careful respect,” Tonks told BP. “It is wonderful that his materials will be preserved and available for study.”

Don Rutledge

Rutledge left a legacy of photojournalism that told the story of Southern Baptist missions in the U.S. and abroad, captured insightful and educational images of everyday life, and is remembered as a mentor and teacher to friends and colleagues who have expanded his ministerial footprint.
One of many photographers who give homage to Rutledge is longtime friend and Southern Baptist photographer Jim Veneman, who alerted the SBHLA to the Rutledge materials and helped arrange the donation.
The archived collection will allow Rutledge’s gifts especially as a mentor to continue posthumously, said Veneman, who carries Rutledge’s teachings into the classroom as a professor of journalism and new media at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif.
“My students benefit each day from my relationship with Don,” Veneman told BP. “Of course, I tell stories about him, but more than that, a great portion of the important ideas I teach have grown out of the influence Don has had on my life.
“Each year students leave CBU with an ability to see beyond the surface and with the desire to make others more aware because of the impact of Don’s life and work,” Veneman said. “They leave here more prepared to introduce their world to Jesus Christ.”
Rutledge received more than 300 awards and inspired hundreds of photographers and writers, mentoring many personally. He also ministered by developing relationships with those featured in his work, Hall pointed out.
“Rutledge’s correspondence and handwritten project notebooks provide insight into his focus on building and maintaining relationships with his subjects,” Hall told BP.
Parts of the Rutledge collection are currently on display on the second floor of the SBC Building in Nashville. Hall also showcased Rutledge and his work Oct. 10 in a presentation to SBC staff.
Rutledge died Feb. 19, 2013, at age 82 at his home near Richmond, Va., where his widow still lives.
“Together Don and Lucy Rutledge created an amazing image of marriage with Christ as its foundation,” Veneman told BP. “As powerful as Don’s work has been, so too has been the strong example shown through their relationship. I am so thankful to have had both Don and Lucy in my life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
10/19/2017 1:20:35 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Calif. OKs third gender, protects religious liberty

October 19 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pro-family advocates are lamenting California Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval Oct. 15 of a bill expanding rights for individuals identifying as transgender but celebrating his veto the same day of a measure that threatened religious liberty.
Brown, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 179, which adds a third gender option on official state identification documents for those who reject the designation of male or female and opt instead to be considered “nonbinary.” Among his vetoes, meanwhile, was Assembly Bill 569, which would have made it illegal for religious organizations to prohibit their employees from having abortions or engaging in sex outside marriage.
SB 179 will make California the first U.S. state allowing residents to identify their gender as “nonbinary” on birth certificates and state identification documents. The bill also will ease requirements for California natives to change the gender indicated on their birth certificates.
The California Family Council – a partner organization of the California Southern Baptist Convention that engages public policy debates from a Christian worldview perspective – called SB 179 “incredibly tragic” on Twitter.
The CFC added in an Oct. 17 Facebook post, “The state of California no longer believes in the dictionary definition of a man or a woman, which says sex is determined by certain physical characteristics. Now in California any man can declare themselves a woman, and any woman can use the word ‘man’ for self-identification, no questions asked, no physical proof required.
“... This will not be the end of our journey into irrationality. It is just the beginning. Just watch what happens now that state leaders have established that feelings are more reliable than physical facts when determining what is real and what is true. God help us,” the CFC stated.
Previously, California natives wishing to change their gender designations were required to obtain a court order or proof of clinical treatment for gender dysphoria, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now they need only to submit an affidavit stating their request for a birth certificate change is not for fraudulent purposes.
SB 179 takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, with the third gender option on driver’s licenses available Jan. 1, 2019.
According to the bill, “The binary gender designations of female and male fail to adequately represent the diversity of human experience. Nonbinary is an umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male.”
In July, Oregon became the first state to let residents mark their gender as “not specified” on state identification documents.
Meanwhile, Brown’s veto of AB 569, which prohibited employers from any discipline of employees for so-called “reproductive decisions,” has drawn a sigh of relief from evangelicals.
A veto message released by Brown noted California “has long” exempted religious institutions from a state ban on employment discrimination based on “an employee’s reproductive decision.”
According to a CFC statement, “If AB 569 had been signed, every single organization in the state (with no religious exemption!) would have faced crushing lawsuits for simply asking their employees to live by biblical values related to abortion, contraception, and sex outside of marriage. Faith-based colleges, pregnancy care centers, and even churches would have been subject to these repressive new regulations.”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Oct. 18 in his podcast The Briefing, “Most Americans ... won’t understand just how close the nation’s most populous state came to an outright denial of religious liberty and came so close to making it illegal for a Christian organization, such as a Christian college or school or university, any kind of Christian ministry, to employ persons based upon very clear Christian convictions concerning sexual morality.”
Mohler called it “stunning” that both chambers of California’s state legislature passed AB 569.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
10/19/2017 1:09:47 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Preschooler raises $400 for disaster relief

October 19 2017 by Carrie Brown McWhorter, Alabama Baptist

When 4-year-old Holden Roberts saw a news report featuring a little girl whose family had taken shelter from Hurricane Irma, it made him sad to think that kids had to leave their favorite toys behind.
Holden’s favorite toy is a log truck, but he asked his parents, Brett and Julie Roberts, about sending some of his other toys to the children who had lost theirs.
“I explained that the families might have some more immediate needs, but I told him we could find a way to help,” Julie Roberts, whose family are members of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church #1 in Jemison, Ala., said.

Earning money to give

The family decided to create a pumpkin patch at their home in Jemison, with pumpkins purchased from a farmer’s market in Birmingham. On Sept. 16, the family was out early setting up the pumpkin patch. They spent the day selling pumpkins to family, church friends and neighbors who not only got a pumpkin for their fall decorations but contributed to hurricane relief as well. Holden, whose dad and grandfather work in sales, has the gift, his mom said.

Four-year-old Holden Roberts sold pumpkins to raise $400 for disaster relief after seeing news report featuring a little girl whose family had taken shelter from Hurricane Irma.

“As people were looking them over, he would ask, ‘Do you like that pumpkin? I’ll load it up for you.’ It worked out perfect,” she noted.
By the end of the day, Holden had sold 40 regular pumpkins and 22 stackable pumpkins – their entire inventory – and had raised $400 for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief. Holden and his family made the trip to the Chilton Baptist Association office to present the donation to Director of Missions Larry Felkins.
“It’s a testimony to his parents and their character that they encouraged him in his desire to help others who are suffering. It’s a compliment to his church as well. Someone has taught him about missions,” Felkins said.
The pumpkin patch definitely reinforced lessons about serving and giving that Holden learns at his church, his mom said.
“We could have just given him money to give but encouraging him to put forth the work even at a young age was my main goal,” she said. “He saw a need and he put in the effort to earn money to give.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carrie Brown McWhorter is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.)
10/19/2017 12:57:40 PM by Carrie Brown McWhorter, Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

‘Like a warzone’ conditions for Ky. DR team

October 19 2017 by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder

Nineteen Kentucky Baptists arrived in St. Thomas on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 15) to face some “extremely challenging” working conditions on the tiny Caribbean island, devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The disaster relief team of 19 that will be serving through Oct. 29, is partnering with nine Baptist churches in the Virgin Islands. They will be feeding those affected by the storms and doing chainsaw and flood clean-up.
“This is an extremely challenging deployment as the team is staying at Bluewater Bible College with no electricity, running water and phone service,” said Coy Webb, director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.
“We are also battling difficulties getting resources on the island to support the team,” he added, “such as a mobile kitchen and food supply containers.”

Nineteen Kentucky Baptists arrived in St. Thomas on Sunday afternoon to face some “extremely challenging” working conditions on the tiny Caribbean island, devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Karen Smith, the “Blue Hat” leader of the Kentucky team, reported that the group was having difficulty communicating with the U.S. mainland.
“Phone service is almost non-existent on the island, and even texts are spotty,” she said.
Communications services and the power grid likely will be out for some time as the island’s infrastructure was destroyed.
Smith and two other Kentucky Baptists met with a Colonel for the National Guard, which is working to clear roads so food and supplies can reach people in need.
“Trees and poles down everywhere. Looks like a war zone,” Smith texted to Webb. The National Guard is open to allowing the team to borrow a generator, but there is no diesel on the island, she said. “Fuel is major issue on the island,” she added.
Team members hope to lead workshops in food safety and mass food preparation and chainsaw training for volunteers from local Baptist churches there, so disaster relief work can continue after the group returns to Kentucky.
Local churches have been asked to provide meals with disaster relief support to schools when they reopen, which is expected to be sometime this week. Food is desperately needed on the island as supplies are very limited and many people lack resources to purchase food at this time, Smith reported.
Team leaders are praying that food containers and a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief kitchen from Alabama Baptists will arrive soon, so they can begin feeding people.
“The team is ready to provide 2,000 meals per day, but needs food and cooking equipment,” Smith said. “We cannot stress enough that the need is urgent.”
This is not the first Kentucky DR team to serve outside the continental United States or on an international deployment. Volunteers have worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, Greece and Iraq, Webb noted. But this is proving to be one of the most challenging.
“It’s an extremely fluid response, but the team is offering help, healing and hope as they remind those on the island that God cares about them and they are not forgotten,” said Webb, who is unsure at this time if additional teams from Kentucky will be sent to St. Thomas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
10/19/2017 12:10:00 PM by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

MercyMe, Williams, Winans have big night at GMA Dove Awards

October 19 2017 by Baptist Press

Gospel music veterans MercyMe were named Artist of the Year at the 48th annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards Oct. 17 in Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena in Nashville.
The band’s frontman, Bart Millard, who wrote the monster hit “I Can Only Imagine” and the more recent chart-topper “Even If,” took home the award for Artist Songwriter of the Year. According to the Tennessean, Millard told the crowd, “We’ve been a band for 23 years ... yay for old people!”

Facebook photo
Gospel music veterans MercyMe accepted the award for Artist of the Year at the 48th annual GMA Dove Awards in Nashville Oct. 17.

Frequent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting guest artists Casting Crowns were named Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year, while relative newcomer Zach Williams received the award for New Artist of the Year. The Gaither Vocal Band and CeCe Winans took home honors for Southern Gospel Artist of the Year and Gospel Artist of the Year, respectively. Winans also won the Dove for Contemporary Gospel/Urban Album of the Year for “Let Them Fall in Love,” while the Gaither Vocal Band took Southern Gospel Song of the Year for “Better Together.”
Hillsong Worship’s “What a Beautiful Name” received the award for Song of the Year as well as Worship Song of the Year. Other Song of the Year honorees included “Hard Love” (Rock/Contemporary); “Eye of the Storm” and “Chain Breaker” (tie – Pop/Contemporary); “When Grandpa Sang Amazing Grace” (Bluegrass/Country/Roots); “My World Needs You” (Contemporary Gospel/Urban) and “Change Me” (Traditional Gospel).
Country music superstar Reba McEntire received her first ever Dove Award for her album “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope,” which took the award for Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year. Other album of the year winners included NEEDTOBREATHE (Rock/Contemporary), MercyMe (Pop/Contemporary), Joseph Habedank (Southern Gospel), CeCe Winans (Contemporary Gospel/Urban) and Donnie McClurkin (Traditional Gospel).
McEntire, who was visibly moved by the honor, complimented her friends and fellow nominees the Isaacs before saying, “It’s not mine ... it’s God’s. I give Him all the glory. And I’ll think of Him every time I look at it.... I’m just a conduit. I’m just a water hose. He lets me sing words that if it touches my heart, and I sing it and it touches your heart, I’ve done my job.”
The show will be broadcast exclusively by Trinity Broadcasting Network Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.
For a complete list of winners, go to doveawards.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Operations Coordinator Laura Erlanson.)
10/19/2017 11:39:53 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: Young Bible readers more likely to be faithful adults

October 18 2017 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

Most churchgoing Protestant parents of young adults say their kids grew up to be Christians. But half of them don’t actually practice the Christian faith, their parents say, according to a LifeWay Research survey released Oct. 17. And the biggest factor predicting their spiritual health as young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly as kids.

Those are among the findings of the study, which was conducted Sept. 22-Oct. 5, 2016, among Protestant churchgoers about parenting and spirituality. The survey was sponsored by LifeWay Kids for use in the book Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith, which was released Oct. 2.

For the study, researchers surveyed 2,000 Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers. All attend services at least once a month and have adult children ages 18-30.


Researchers wanted to know what parenting practices pay off over the long haul when it comes to spiritual health, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids – and to see their children make that faith their own,” McConnell said. “But they don’t always know how best to make that happen.”

Spiritual disciplines

LifeWay Research took a twofold approach to the study.

First, researchers asked parents about 40 factors that could affect a child’s moral and spiritual development. Among them: whether the child’s parents had been divorced, whether the family prayed or ate meals together, what kind of school the child attended, how often the child went to church or youth group, and even what kind of music the child listened to growing up.

LifeWay Research then asked parents to describe their adult children’s spiritual health, using eight observable factors. Each child received one point if he or she:
  • Identifies as a Christian.
  • Shares his or her faith with unbelievers.
  • Is involved in church.
  • Reads the Bible regularly.
  • Serves in a church.
  • Teaches others at church.
  • Serves in the community.
  • Supports local or foreign missions.
Parents gave observations for a total of 3,472 adult children. Eighty-five percent identify as Christians, according to their parents, giving them at least 1 point on the 8-point spiritual health scale. But only 3 percent had a score of 8, the highest possible. Two-thirds had a score of 2 or less. Half had a score of 0 or 1, meaning they either don’t identify as Christians (11 percent) or they identify as Christians but have none of the other spiritual practices (39 percent).

LifeWay Research then compared the results of all these young adults to find out which factors predict the highest spiritual condition.

The top factor: Bible reading. Twenty-nine percent of the young adults regularly read the Bible while growing up, according to their parents. On average, that group has 12.5 percent higher spiritual health than otherwise comparable individuals who didn’t, LifeWay Research found.

In addition, spiritual health levels are 7.5 percent higher on average for young adults who regularly spent time praying while growing up (28 percent), regularly served in church (33 percent) or listened to primarily Christian music (22 percent) than for comparable individuals who didn’t.

And scores average 6.25 percent higher for young adults who participated in a church mission trip while growing up (27 percent) than for comparable individuals who didn’t.
Doing all five of these practices in childhood could boost a young adult’s spiritual health score 41 percent, putting the young adult above the 90th percentile, McConnell said.

“Practicing your faith – in specific ways – really pays off later in life,” he said.

Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids and author of Nothing Less, said it’s easy for parents to be caught up in the busyness of life – and not to ground their kids in the practice of reading the Bible.

“The key takeaway from the study is a simple yet profound finding that God’s Word truly is what changes lives,” she said.

Researchers identified a few factors that point to lower spiritual health for young adults.

Those whose parents say they did not want to go to church as teens (22 percent) score 5 percent lower on spiritual health as young adults. Those whose parents say they were rebellious (16 percent) had scores 3.75 percent lower than others, and those who listened primarily to secular music (58 percent) had scores 2.5 percent lower.

Attending popular church activities such as youth groups and Vacation Bible School predicts spiritual health for young adults – but only when linked to core practices such as reading the Bible and serving, McConnell noted. Other activities, such as family meals, did not show up as key predictors in this study.

Parents’ behavior is also related to their adult children’s spiritual health, LifeWay Research found. Young adults had higher spiritual health scores if they grew up with parents who spent time: 
  • Reading the Bible several times a week.
  • Taking part in a service project or church mission trip as a family.
  • Sharing their faith with unbelievers.
  • Encouraging teenagers to serve in church.
  • Asking forgiveness when they messed up as parents.
  • Encouraging their children’s unique talents and interests.
  • Taking annual family vacations.
  • Attending churches with teaching that emphasized what the Bible says.
  • Teaching their children to tithe.
All these little things can pay off, McConnell said, by showing kids what practicing your faith looks like.

“In the end, parents hope the light will go on and their children will want to follow God on their own,” he said. “At any age the Holy Spirit can flip the light switch, and these habits can help kids grow in their faith.”


The study was sponsored by LifeWay Kids. A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American adults. The survey was conducted Sept. 22-Oct. 5, 2016. The sample was screened to include only Protestant and nondenominational Christians who have a child between the ages of 18 and 30 and who attend religious services at least once a month. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 2,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.3 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends of LifeWay Christian Resources.)


10/18/2017 12:21:59 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CA fires: DR begins, former Gateway campus a shelter

October 18 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As firefighters gained ground against the Northern California blaze Gov. Jerry Brown called perhaps “the greatest tragedy” the state “has ever faced,” Southern Baptist disaster relief crews began feeding, cleanup and chaplaincy work Oct. 17.

Meanwhile, the former main campus of Gateway Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., was being used to shelter both evacuees and out-of-town fire crews, and a pastor in Calistoga, Calif., credited prayer with saving his town.

Fifteen major wildfires continue to burn in California, according to CNN, though the two largest are 60 percent contained. In all, the fires have left at least 41 people dead since Oct. 8 – with the death toll expected to rise – and destroyed nearly 6,000 buildings spanning 217,000 acres.

Gateway Seminary photo
The library at Gateway Seminary’s former main campus in Mill Valley, Calif., is being used to house fire evacuees.

“This is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest tragedy that California has ever faced,” Brown said according to CNN. “The devastation is just unbelievable, is a horror that no one could have imagined.”

As of Oct. 16, some 40,000 people remained evacuated from their homes and 11,000 firefighters were battling the flames, The Sacramento Bee reported.

California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) disaster relief (DR) crews began meeting with fire victims in Nevada County Oct. 17 to assess cleanup and recovery among 25 burned homes in the northeastern California community, said Mike Bivins, CSBC disaster relief coordinator.

Along the coast, local pastors joined at least two CSBC DR chaplains in Mendocino County at the state’s request to offer residents emotional and spiritual care. A 14-year-old boy there burned to death, and his parents and sister were badly burned, jarring the community, according to media reports.

In Petaluma, Calif., CSBC DR crews began preparing 10,000 meals daily Oct. 17 for distribution by the Red Cross.

Bivins told Baptist Press (BP) the volume of cleanup and recovery work to come may require Southern Baptist DR workers from other states as well.

In Marin County, local officials opened an evacuee shelter Oct. 14 at the former main campus of Gateway Seminary, which used to be called Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. According to the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services, 23 people were housed Oct. 17, with plans to keep the shelter open indefinitely. Gateway, which sold the campus in 2014 and vacated it two years later, told BP the facility also is being used to feed and house firefighters.

A photo on Gateway’s Facebook page shows the former library filled with cots.
The campus has been largely vacant since 2016, Gateway said, except for housing units being used as “workforce housing” for the community. Legal and political processes are underway to determine the property’s future use by North Coast Land Holdings, the company that purchased it from Gateway.

One bright spot amid the fire devastation is the Northern California town of Calistoga, where a fire two miles away stopped after a local pastor initiated a prayer chain, the pastor told BP.

Don Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church in Calistoga, began requesting prayer via text message and Facebook last week as the Tubbs Fire approached. Additionally, the local Redwood Empire Baptist Association asked all its churches to pray, Miller said.

“The wind was supposed to” blow from the fire toward Calistoga at “35 miles per hour,” Miller said. “Two miles is nothing with winds of that [magnitude]. But the wind went calm, praise God, and our city was saved.”

Miller added, “We believe prayer saved our town.”

In Santa Rosa, Calif., a historic African American congregation has been ministering in the wake of at least 21 local deaths from fire, and an interdenominational group of about 50 pastors has been developing a long-term strategy to rebuild the city.

Among damage in Santa Rosa was a 7,000-resident subdivision leveled by wildfire.
Community Baptist Church in Santa Rosa – which, in the early 1950s, became the first black church to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention following about half a century with no black churches – is collecting supplies and money to assist local residents. Four families in the church lost their homes, pastor Lee Turner said, and 30-50 of the congregation’s 500 active members were “directly impacted” by the fire.

Turner is part of the local pastors group, which has developed a master list of relief ministries available at each church. He also has held prayer meetings and begun to plan for five to seven years of rebuilding.

“After all the news is over,” Turner told BP, “after all the cameras are gone, and the Red Cross, FEMA and everybody else has left, then there’s going to be some rebuilding process going on.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
10/18/2017 12:08:15 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Islamic terrorist group blamed for Somalia bombing

October 18 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A security official blames Al-Shabaab Islamic terrorists for a truck bomb that killed at least 320 and injured more than 400 in Mogadishu, Somalia Oct. 14.

While the al-Qaida affiliated group had not officially claimed responsibility, security officials said a man identifying with al-Shabaab was arrested hours after the blast as he tried to drive a second truck bomb into the city. He gave details of the attack that officials described as the deadliest worldwide in many years.

“This is the Somali 9/11,” a security official told the Guardian. “The man we arrested has confessed. He is proud of what he has done. He says it was for jihad.”

Reuters video screengrab
Relatives searched for survivors in downtown Mogadishu after a truck bomb killed at least 320 and injured more than 400. Security officials blamed Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate.

An Oct. 17 Guardian article indicated the man arrested was a former Somalian army soldier seeking revenge for a joint Somali and United States operation in his hometown that led to 10 civilians being killed. Officials said the soldier defected his military post to join Al-Shabaab.

The Associated Press (AP) indicated Oct. 17 that two other men had been arrested in connection with the investigation.

In the bombing in Somalia’s most populous city, a truck packed with military-grade and homemade explosives was detonated on a crowded downtown street, in turn igniting a fuel tanker parked nearby, the Guardian reported. Witnesses described the area of devastation, hundreds of yards wide, as the size of “two or three football fields.”

The death toll is expected to rise as the scale of the devastation becomes more apparent. Officials continued to unearth victims Oct. 16 after the death toll was put at 320.

Many of the injured survivors were badly burned, some beyond recognition, AP reported Oct. 16. Many corpses were burned to ashes, further complicating the body count, and nearly 70 were still missing as relatives searched for loved ones.

“One hundred and sixty of the bodies could not be recognized and so they were buried by the government [on Sunday],” the Guardian quoted Aden Nur, a doctor at a hospital treating survivors. “The others were buried by their relatives.”

Somalian president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning in the nation where the vast majority of the 11.4 million residents are Muslim, most of them Sunni. Civil war has raged in Somalia since 1991.

Al-Shabaab is known for killing civilians and even targeting Christians, Open Doors USA said in its 2017 World Watch List, ranking Somalia second worldwide where it is most dangerous for a Christian to live. Only a few hundred Christians live in the nation, Open Doors estimated.

Al-Shabaab has strengthened in Somalia over the past six years by capturing small towns and establishing caliphates there, the Guardian reported, referencing Somalia expert Rasheed Abdi of the International Crisis Group in Nairobi. Al-Shabaab has also attacked Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda, according to Open Doors.

Al-Shabaab translates to “the youth,” signaling a younger and more violent branch of Islamic terrorism, Open Doors said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
10/18/2017 12:02:08 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pipeline conf. urges character growth for church leaders

October 18 2017 by Joy Allmond and Aaron Wilson, Baptist Press

Before building leadership in others, church leaders should invest in strengthening their own character, speakers told attendees at the 2017 Pipeline conference.

Around 600 leaders gathered Oct. 11-13 in Nashville for the conference, “Succession at Every Level,” hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources. The event emphasized developing leaders throughout the church and preparing for smooth transitions.

Thom Rainer

LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer presented several keys to leadership succession, starting with humility.

LifeWay photo by Eric Brown
LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer outlines seven keys to successful leadership succession at the Pipeline 2017 conference.

“When successful succession takes place, there is a posture of humility, particularly from the one passing the baton, but from the one receiving the baton as well,” he said.

Humble leaders will affirm one another privately as well as publicly, Rainer said.

True humility, he explained, comes from leaders’ understanding of who they are in Christ. 

“There are many cases, quite frankly, where our identity is wrapped up in our position instead of Christ,” he said, pointing out that no leader is irreplaceable. “No church, no organization, has to have that leader indefinitely or for the longer term.”

Another key to succession, Rainer said, is a willingness to start over – to re-evaluate a decision. 

“There are times when you have to say, ‘I got it wrong.’”

Eric Geiger

Citing King David’s moral failure in 2 Samuel 11, Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s senior vice president, explained, “It won’t matter at all how intentional we’ve been in investing in others if we fail in our own character.” 

Geiger shared three ways leaders often fail.

They isolate themselves. When King David remained in Jerusalem instead of going to war, “he removed people from his life who would have spoken truth to him,” Geiger said.

“It’s easy to surround yourself with people who will tell you just what you want to hear – people who are impressed with you. And if you are only surrounded with people who are impressed with you, you are living in isolation.”

They ignore their boredom. As King David walked around aimlessly on the roof, “his heart was not in awe of who God is and what God has done for him; he was bored and looking for something else,” Geiger said. “Any time we are looking for something else … it means we aren’t looking at Jesus, and it means we are headed toward destruction.”

They believe in themselves. “Attempting to stand in your own strength is a sure way to fail,” said Geiger of the prideful tendencies of leaders. “We must be cautious that because of our accomplishments – because of our positions – we don’t live with a sense of entitlement.” 

H.B. Charles


LifeWay photo by Eric Brown
H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Florida, relates his experiences stepping into new leadership roles at the Pipeline 2017 conference. 

H.B. Charles spoke on lessons he learned from the receiving end of a leadership transition. As a senior in high school, he became pastor of a Los Angeles church upon his father’s death. Charles now leads Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

He encouraged attendees to study their church’s past but not to dwell there. “Do what you can to honor the past – with an eye toward moving the church forward.”

Charles urged new pastors to pace themselves when enacting change.

“Make haste slowly,” he said. “We make mistakes when we aim too low and try to get there too fast.”

Tami Heim

Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, encouraged churches to use the unique gifts of members who are local business and community leaders.

She likened the congregation to a jigsaw puzzle with business leaders resembling pieces that don’t always have an easy fit in the church. “You have pieces you set aside because you can’t figure out where they go,” she said.

Instead, Heim said, churches should identify local business leaders as resources.

“Make a commitment to know who they are,” Heim said. She suggested hosting events to allow leaders to network with one another and to give church leadership a chance to listen and learn.

Other speakers included Daniel Im, director of church multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay; William Vanderbloemen, church leadership consultant; Bob Russell, former pastor of Southeast Christian Church; Léonce Crump, founding pastor of Atlanta’s Renovation Church; Mark Jobe, lead and founding pastor of Chicago’s New Life Community Church; and John Piper, founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and former pastor in Minneapolis. 

The conference also included coaching sessions for leadership teams.

The next Pipeline conference is scheduled for Feb. 22-23, 2018, in Orange County, Calif. Featured speakers include Jenni Catron, Josh Patterson, Carey Nieuwhof, Albert Tate and Will Mancini. For details, visit MyLeadershipPipeline.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond and Aaron Wilson are writers for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
10/18/2017 11:52:20 AM by Joy Allmond and Aaron Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Air Force punishes colonel over marriage views

October 18 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service


First Liberty photo
Col. Leland B.H. Bohannon and his family.

U.S. Air Force officials have suspended a decorated officer and revoked his recommendation for promotion to brigadier general because he would not sign an unofficial document affirming a retiring subordinate’s same-sex marriage. 

Col. Leland B.H. Bohannon, Air Force Inspection Agency commander at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., signed all the requisite documents for a senior noncommissioned service member’s May retirement ceremony except for one: a letter of “spousal appreciation” for the gay serviceman’s partner. 

Bohannon’s Christian convictions about marriage put him at odds with the request to sign the unofficial, optional letter, and he sought counsel from his chaplain and judge advocate general. While awaiting guidance, and with the retirement ceremony days away, Bohannon asked a two-star general who did not object to sign the document instead.

But the retiring serviceman filed a complaint, alleging Bohannon discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation. An investigation substantiated the claim and found Bohannon guilty of unlawful discrimination, according to attorneys with First Liberty.

In an Oct. 5 letter to the director of the Air Force Review Boards Agency, First Liberty attorneys requested a reversal of the findings and penalties against Bohannon in order to forestall a lawsuit.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
10/18/2017 11:44:11 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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