October 2018

McKissic’s 2006 sermon now online at SWBTS

October 29 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Pastor Dwight McKissic’s 2006 chapel sermon asserting glossolalia [speaking in tongues] is still a spiritual gift has been added to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) digital archive, 12 years after the school banned the message.

Photo by Van Payne
Pastor Dwight McKissic, shown in 2014, preached a 2006 sermon on baptism of the Holy Spirit that has been added to the digital archives of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The adjustment in no way reflects a new theological leaning at SWBTS and is not about “going around trying to undo” the decisions or legacy of the seminary’s former president Paige Patterson, a SWBTS vice president told Baptist Press Oct. 26.
The addition had more to do with historical preservation, Charles W. Patrick Jr., SWBTS vice president in the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Communications, told BP in an email. And the sermon was one of about 30 items added to the archive this month.
SWBTS libraries preserve history “by conforming to industry standard archival processes and using strictly governed metadata as part of a nation-wide archive system,” Patrick told BP. “Importantly, the Libraries (are) tasked with archiving history and not rewriting history.”
McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a former SWBTS trustee, appreciates the decision to add his sermon to the digital archives, he told BP today.
“The spirit on Southwestern’s campus this week has been one of repentance, reconciliation, and renewal. I do not know all the factors that went into the seminary’s decision to make my 2006 sermon available online after more than 12 years of censure,” McKissic emailed BP. “I am grateful for that decision, and it could not have come at a more perfect time.”
McKissic attended a Life Action Ministries prayer and revival event Oct. 23–25 at SWBTS, designed to strengthen the seminary as it seeks a president to succeed Patterson, fired in May.
“My family and my church have always been supportive of Southwestern Seminary,” McKissic told BP. “We will continue to be as the Lord gives us health and strength.”
In his 2006 sermon on baptism of the Holy Spirit, anchored in Acts 1:5, McKissic preached that the gift of speaking in tongues or glossolalia did not cease with the New Testament, that he himself began speaking in tongues while praying privately as a SWBTS student, and that organizations should not limit ministry positions to those not gifted with speaking in tongues, or glossolalia.
McKissic did not mention by name the International Mission Board, which has since reversed a policy that limited missionary posts to those who do not speak in tongues.
SWBTS decided in 2006 it would have not have been in the seminary’s best interest to include the sermon in its online library archives, but offered it by mail order. Ensuing discussions and events in Southern Baptist life led McKissic to resign in 2007 his seat on the SWBTS Board of Trustees, which he had held a year.
Today, Patrick said SWBTS “frequently never aligns theologically with all positions of a chapel speaker.
“However, the entire spectrum of SBC theological positions and the broader evangelical community are welcome to Southwestern,” Patrick said. “We have healthy and respectful debates and it is useful for students to see different theological viewpoints that they then discuss in classes.”
The archives are updated monthly, Patrick said.
“These updates include new items, items that were once removed when distortion is noted in recording quality and have been redigitized, and items that were not included historically for a host of reasons (missionary security reasons, request of speakers, etc.),” Patrick said.
McKissic’s 2006 sermon is one of six of his chapel messages available on the searchable database digitalarchive.swbts.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.  Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/29/2018 11:37:29 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC 2019 Pastors’ Conference names some speakers, theme

October 26 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The 2019 Pastors’ Conference has announced eight of the speakers for its Birmingham, Ala., meeting June 9-10 in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, with other names expected soon.

Blueprint Church photo
Atlanta pastor Dhati Lewis, vice president of the North American Mission Board's Send Network, is among speakers for the 2019 Pastors' Conference in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Kingdom Character” is the conference’s theme, to offer insight from the Beatitudes to help pastors and church members live faithfully in “today’s news cycle and current events,” according to sbcpc.net.
“The Beatitudes will be a needed reminder to all of us about the character of Christ-followers. Our conduct grows out of our character, and in order to be the people of God advancing the Kingdom of God, we need to have Kingdom character,” said the conference under the leadership of Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham.
“With the large number of character issues that we have faced these last couple of years both in the SBC and ministry in general,” the website proclaims, “it is appropriate to remind pastors of Jesus’ vision for the Christian life.”
Speakers announced to date are (alphabetically):
Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta and vice president of the North American Mission Board’s Send Network.
Ben Mandrell, lead pastor of Storyline Fellowship, a four-year-old church plant in northwest Denver.
Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
David Platt, pastor-teacher at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., and immediate past president of the International Mission Board.
Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church, an 11-campus ministry in West Palm Beach, Fla., and vicinity.
Robert Smith Jr., the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham.
Jay Wolf, who, with his wife Katherine, founded Hope Heals, an Atlanta-based ministry spawned by his wife’s near fatal brain stem stroke at age 26.
Martin Young, senior minister of Rising Brook Community Church in Stafford, Staffordshire, United Kingdom.
Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is the meeting’s venue, with sessions scheduled June 9 from 6-9 p.m., and June 10 from 9-11:30 a.m., 1:30-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Speakers for individual sessions were not indicated.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/26/2018 1:59:34 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Housing allowance defended in appeals court

October 26 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone, and Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Lawyers for both the U.S. Justice Department and a religious freedom organization defended the constitutionality of the ministerial housing allowance Oct. 24 before a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard oral arguments regarding a 2017 opinion that invalidated the allowance as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment clause that prohibits government establishment of religion. Donald Trump's administration and Becket Fund for Religious Liberty urged the panel to reverse federal judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling, while the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contended her decision should be upheld. Crabb’s opinion marked the second time in four years she had nullified the allowance.
The Seventh Circuit panel, which overruled Crabb’s original opinion in 2014, will decide on a section of a 1954 law that permits churches to designate part of eligible ministers’ income as a housing allowance, enabling “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income. The IRS has interpreted “ministers of the gospel” to include leaders of other religious faiths.
The lawsuit does not affect the part of the law that enables tax-free use of a parsonage or other home owned by a church or other religious body.
Southern Baptist leaders explained the constitutionality and logic of the ministerial housing allowance in the wake of the oral arguments.
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said in a news release, “We believe that the housing allowance law as it currently stands removes government from being involved in decisions best left up to churches. How a church chooses to provide for its pastor’s needs, whether through a church-owned home or through a cash housing allowance, should be left up to the church with no government favor shown for one option over another.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the housing allowance “is an important part of American life.”
“While some complain that it represents an establishment of religion or partiality towards a select few, the reverse is actually true,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “This law is not a government endorsement of religion, but the fulfillment of the Constitutional guarantee that the state cannot treat a person differently because of their religious exercise. Without it, clergy in small congregations of all sorts would be penalized and harmed.”
GuideStone and the ERLC signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed in April that asked the Seventh Circuit to reverse Crabb’s opinion.
In the Oct. 24 oral arguments, Justice Department lawyer Jesse Panuccio defended the housing allowance as constitutional, arguing that it satisfies the requirements of Lemon v. Kurtzman, a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision that articulated a three-prong test for determining whether a legislative act violates the establishment clause. He also argued the provision is constitutional under Town of Greece v. Galloway, a 2013 Supreme Court decision regarding prayers before the opening of a legislative session that suggested establishment clause challenges must be viewed by reference to historical practices and understandings.
Becket lawyer Luke Goodrich, representing several churches and ministers that intervened in the case, told the panel that tax exemptions regarding ministers’ housing predate the founding of the United States.
Richard Bolton, a lawyer representing the FFRF, argued the cash housing allowance is unconstitutional because it essentially provides a tax benefit for ministers that is not available to other taxpayers. The co-presidents of the foundation had sought to avoid paying income taxes on housing allowances provided to them by the foundation, but were denied by the IRS.
Federal law also permits housing allowances for certain employees, including members of the U.S. military, workers living overseas and employees of educational institutions.
Harold R. Loftin Jr., GuideStone’s chief legal officer, said the lawyers for the government and Becket offered compelling evidence for maintaining the allowance.
“Both history and precedent point to the fact that the cash housing allowance for ministers is a reasonable benefit that does not violate the Establishment Clause, nor does it unfairly benefit churches,” said Loftin, who attended the oral arguments.
Larry Hansen, a lawyer with Locke Lord LLP, also witnessed the arguments and said, “Attorneys for the government and the intervenors made a convincing argument that the cash housing allowance for ministers is constitutional because it is part of a wider scheme that provides tax-free housing benefits to various classes of individuals.”
Locke Lord LLP was the principal co-author of the friend-of-the-court brief for the Church Alliance that GuideStone and the ERLC joined. GuideStone – the SBC’s health and financial benefits entity – is a member of the Church Alliance, a broad coalition of denominational pension programs that cover ministers who qualify for the housing allowance.
GuideStone and the ERLC also opposed Crabb’s 2013 decision striking down the housing allowance.
The Seventh Circuit Court overturned Crabb’s earlier ruling, finding the FFRF – a Wisconsin-based atheist organization that brought the lawsuit – lacked the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the allowance.
This time, changes in the facts of the case may give Crabb’s decision more hope of surviving the Seventh Circuit. The FFRF argued in its latest challenge the IRS violated the Constitution by rejecting its leaders’ efforts to claim the ministerial housing allowance. FFRF has met the Seventh Circuit’s prerequisites to gain legal standing, Crabb said in her 2017 opinion.
In December, Crabb issued a stay postponing enforcement of her opinion until after the appeals process is concluded.
The panel of judges who heard the Oct. 24 oral arguments consisted of William Bauer, Daniel Manion and Michael Brennan.
The case is Gaylor v. Mnuchin.
No date has been set for a decision from the Seventh Circuit panel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources. Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/26/2018 1:58:42 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone, and Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Opioids: Trump signs $6B bill to ‘end the scourge’

October 26 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A bipartisan bill to fight the opioid crisis was signed Oct. 24 by President Donald Trump. Trump stated that the bill provides $6 billion in new funding “to end the scourge of drug addiction in America.”

NBCnews.com screen capture

“We are going to end it, or we are going to at least make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem,” Trump said in a signing ceremony attended by federal officials, members of Congress and law enforcement personnel in the White House East Wing.
The bill, titled SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, or SUPPORT Act, was introduced June 13 in the House and received final congressional approval Oct. 3, having received votes of 396-14 in the House and 99-1 in the Senate.
Nearly 48,000 people died last year from overdoses involving opioids, according to WORLD Magazine, which noted that U.S. drug overdose deaths may be leveling off, although Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said it’s too soon to declare victory.
The SUPPORT Act covers not only opioids but also any kind of substance abuse, WORLD reported. It will add treatment options and involve the U.S. Postal Service in screening overseas packages for fentanyl, a synthetic form of opioids largely being shipped from China.
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he hopes the SUPPORT Act is “a first step in a committed national effort to combat the opioid addiction plague. Churches and families and communities all across the country are being torn apart by this crushing problem.
“Every elected official should be concentrating on ways to break the pattern of addiction and to help those who are in its grip,” Moore said.
The bill included several provisions advanced by West Virginia legislators, The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington reported.
Among them:
– Jessie’s Law, a measure “to ensure doctors are provided with details of a patient’s previous substance abuse history if consent to share the information is provided by the patient,” as described in the HIPPA Journal, which focuses on “compliance with state and federal regulations governing the use, storage and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII).”
– CRIB Act, which will help open more centers like Huntington’s Lily’s Place, which specializes in care for infants suffering from neonatal abuse syndrome.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who attended the White House signing, noted in an Oct. 24 statement, “For West Virginia, this law will more than double the state’s opioid funding because of a provision I secured to prioritize states like ours.”
Capito said the bill “also addresses more than just addiction; it also focuses on families, prevention, education and life after recovery. I’m so proud of the work that went into this bipartisan legislation, and I’m eager to see how it changes lives for the better.”
After its final passage in the Senate on Oct. 3, Capito had stated, “Our state understands far too well how this crisis is tearing apart families and communities, but our experience has also helped inform efforts to fight back. We have discovered what is working, what is not, and, perhaps most importantly, that the ripple effects go far beyond those struggling with addiction.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a release, the bill is “a shining example of what we can achieve when we work together in regular order, and I will continue to fight to ensure West Virginia is getting our fair share of funding to fight this epidemic.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/26/2018 1:58:30 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Opioid crisis emerges as key W.Va. Baptist ministry

October 26 2018 by Ken Walker, Baptist Press

Soon after West Virginia Baptists passed a resolution last November urging churches to get involved in addressing the opioid crisis, the state’s Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association started preliminary planning for a Celebrate Recovery group.

Photo submitted
Alex, who is in recovery, is baptized by Brent Beckett, left, and Ryan Navy, two of the pastors of New Heights Church in Huntington, W.Va., as part of the church's ministry amid the state and city's opioid crisis.

After five months of leader training, an interdenominational group of churches in the Moundsville area hosted their first Celebrate Recovery meeting in early September.
Ed Goodman, the association’s director of missions, helps lead a men’s discussion group on Tuesday evenings and a small men’s group on Monday nights. The latter involves participants working their way through Celebrate Recovery’s eight biblically-based steps.
“There’s a great need here,” Goodman said. “When we were doing a community forum, I told people I wasn’t involved in Celebrate Recovery for the purpose of seeing people set free from addiction. I was involved for the purpose of seeing people come to Christ. Addiction is just a symptom of a deeper sin problem.”
Bill Henard, executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, said such reports are becoming more common as the one-year mark approaches.
In the resolution, messengers dedicated themselves to an “active, gospel involvement in the effort to rid West Virginia of drug abuse” by “seeking partnerships with civil, religious, and government groups and agencies to discover effective ways to solve the drug abuse problem in our state, including, but not limited to, the provision of spiritual counseling, the elimination of poverty, the strengthening of families, the restoration of hope, and the sharing of the gospel.”
The resolution further stated, “West Virginia has become the epicenter of opioid abuse, suffering from a rate of 33.5 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 13.4 deaths.”

Photo submitted
Ed Goodman

Fairlawn Baptist Church, which will host the 2018 annual meeting Nov. 1-2, recently began working with a Parkersburg-based ministry called High on Hope.
Pastor Jason Spade said members are providing gasoline cards to enable clients to get to rehab appointments and preparing toiletry kits for men and women going into treatment.
There have been discussions about Fairlawn hosting a community Bible study for those in recovery, the pastor added.
“We had a High on Hope group come to the church in late September,” Spade said. “The testimonies of what God brought them through were amazing. We have a lot of members with family who are having problems, so a lot of people are participating.”
Among other efforts statewide Henard mentioned are Immanuel Baptist Church in Princeton working with women in the adult entertainment industry; members of Cross Lanes Baptist developing bonds with inmates at the Charleston Correctional Center; and First Baptist Church in Kenova hosting a Celebrate Recovery meeting.
While a progress report on the opioid response will be presented at the pastors’ conference that kicks off the annual meeting, Henard said the effort is in its early stages.

Photo submitted
Bill Henard

With two new appointees due to join the convention’s Christian Life Committee (CLC) at the annual meeting, Henard hopes to see additional progress soon.
“This past year has been a discovery time – how can our churches engage the community?” said Henard, who drafted the resolution with help from Ryan Navy, pastor of the Huntington campus of New Heights Church.
“Ryan has been figuring out ways to do this. We need to provide more strategies. One thing the CLC will be able to look at is how more established churches can address the crisis. The advantage Ryan’s church has is the fact his people are young.
“It’s been slow the first year, but as we get information, the ball will roll more. There’s hardly a church out there that doesn’t have a family member or friend who’s been affected by this.”
New Heights Church has been a leader in reaching out to people recovering from addiction. A North American Mission Board plant, New Heights launched in 2014 in the neighboring town of Milton.

A year later, Navy and a core group of 20 moved to Huntington to start a second campus. The church gathers at Huntington High School on Sunday mornings and in 15 life groups throughout the week.
Two years after they started, Navy raised a critical issue during a deacons’ meeting: Too many people in the congregation looked the same – young white adults from a middle-class background.
“We had a conversation about what we wanted our church to look like,” said 27-year-old Navy, who is in his first pastorate. “The week after, we reached out to the director of a recovery program and said we’d love to come serve them. That’s what got it going.” 

Photo submitted
Jason Spade

At a weekly gathering for participants in the program, New Heights’ worship band provided the music, with a meal afterward served by members.
That created relationships that snowballed to the point that participants in seven different recovery programs attend Sunday morning services, Navy said. Three of New Heights’ life groups meet in recovery homes.
All this activity helped swell New Heights’ average Sunday morning attendance from 110 to 250 over the past year, Navy said, with newcomers spanning a cross-section of the area.
“It isn’t just people in recovery, it’s people who want to get involved,” Navy said. “There are a lot of people in the community who see God moving and want to get involved as well. They’ve never been in recovery but they want to bring solutions.”
Among the newer members is Alicia Bowman, a care support specialist at Lily’s Place, a facility in Huntington offering medical care to infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome because of their mother’s drug use.

Photo submitted
Ryan Navy, pastor of New Heights Church in Huntington, W.Va., is leading the congregation in ministry amid the opioid crisis. "It isn't just people in recovery," he notes, "it's people who want to get involved."

Although at the time she lived in Charleston, Bowman made the 50-minute drive to Huntington after learning about New Heights through Facebook. After a bad experience previously at a church that she said emphasized rules and regulations instead of Christ’s grace, Bowman is glad she found New Heights.
“The first time I went there I got a text two days later from Ryan asking, ‘How can I pray for you today?’” Bowman said. “That’s never happened at any church I had gone to before. The love he has for his congregation can be felt by every person who walks through the door.”
It’s that kind of love that will make the difference in people’s lives, missions director Goodman said.
“I think West Virginia churches can have a great impact if they see the opioid crisis as a gospel opportunity and are willing to partner with like-minded, gospel-centered churches,” Goodman said. “The gospel is the answer. I think we have a unique opportunity. We possess the only answer to the opioid crisis.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer in Huntington, W.Va. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/26/2018 1:58:12 PM by Ken Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Greear joins call for genocide label in Myanmar

October 26 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has joined a diverse coalition in urging Donald Trump's administration to label as genocide the brutalities against religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar.
Greear and more than 75 other signers sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Oct. 17 requesting the official designation in response to what they described as the Myanmar military’s “planned, coordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities” against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia.
Immediate action by the Trump administration is needed because the military forces that brutalized the Rohingya have moved to Kachin state to “commit the same atrocities” against Christians there, according to the letter from The Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma.
In addition to Greear, other Southern Baptist signers of the letter included: Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); and Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
ERLC President Russell Moore said, “The atrocities in Myanmar cry out for justice to be done, especially for those of us who see the image of God in all persons. The U.S. government must face this evil and call it what it is – genocide.
“Now is the time for action to prevent further killings, bring perpetrators to justice and provide relief for the victims,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
Military-led violence against the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state in 2017 reportedly included the murder of possibly 10,000 people and the forced evacuation from the predominantly Buddhist country of more than 700,000 others. 
The coalition called for Pompeo “to take immediate action by articulating a moral, political, and policy designation [of genocide] respecting the dignity and safety of victimized Burmese individuals. We call on you as the chief diplomat for the United States, to take this bold humanitarian step and provide the leadership to the international community that is desperately needed with this declaration.”
Genocide – according to a 1948 United Nations treaty – includes the commission of prohibited acts with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
A U.N. report in August concluded conduct by the Myanmar military – in collaboration with some civilians – against the Rohingya constituted four of the acts banned under genocide, the coalition said in the letter. Those acts are, according to the letter: “(a) [K]illing, (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm, (c) inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part, and (d) imposing measures intending to prevent births.”
In another August report, a State Department survey of more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled to Bangladesh found widespread experiences of witnessing severe violence. The interviews showed these percentages of refugees witnessed different forms of violence:
– 82 percent witnessed the killing of human beings.
– 82 percent observed the destruction of a hut or village.
– 65 percent saw an abduction, arrest or detention.
– 51 percent witnessed sexual violence.
– 51 percent watched armed assault on the ground.
The State Department report said the violence against the Rohingya “was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents. The scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated.”
Kachin, which is Myanmar’s northernmost state, has an estimated four to six million Christians, according to the coalition letter.
In September, Morning Star News reported at least 12 churches – mostly Baptist – were closed or their buildings destroyed in the Eastern Myanmar state of Shan. The United Wa State Army, a large ethnic rebel group, carried out the attacks, Christian leaders said, according to the report.
Among other individuals signing the coalition letter to Pompeo were:  Michael Farris, president, Alliance Defending Freedom; Greg Mitchell, co-chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable; Bob Roberts, senior pastor, Northwood Church, Keller, Texas; Greg Surratt, founding pastor, Seacoast Church, Charleston, S.C.; Philippe Nassif, executive director, In Defense of Christians; and Matias Perttula, advocacy director, International Christian Concern.
The letter’s signers also included representatives of Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist organizations.
Myanmar has been included on State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for religious freedom since the designation was first implemented in 1999. The country is one of 10 CPCs, a designated reserved for countries that commit or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/26/2018 1:57:51 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former N.C. Baptist exec. Roy J. Smith dies

October 26 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Roy J. Smith, former executive director-treasurer (EDT) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), died Thurs., Oct. 18. He was in declining health for more than two months according to his widow, Charlotte Smith.

Smith, a Macon County, N.C., native, died at Brookridge Baptist Retirement Community in Winston-Salem. He was a graduate of Wake Forest College (now university), and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He completed additional graduate studies at North Carolina State University and Emory University. He holds two honorary doctorates of divinity from Wake Forest University and Campbell University.
Smith pastored Union Hope Baptist Church in Zebulon (1954-’57) and Jersey Baptist Church in Lexington (1957-’62) before being hired at the BSC, where he served from 1962 to 1997. He held positions as associate in missions, secretary, town and country missions and seminary extension, and associate general secretary-treasurer. When EDT Cecil Ray resigned his post in 1983, Smith was named interim EDT and elected EDT a year later. He led the North Carolina convention for 13 years.

In 1984 Smith was elected executive director-treasurer of the BSC, a role he filled until his retirement in 1997. He was recognized as North Carolina State and Southeastern regional rural pastor of the year in 1962 and as Tarheel of the Week in 1984.
Smith served on the Board of Trustees at Wake Forest University as well as played an integral role in the foundation of Wake Forest University Divinity School and Campbell Divinity School. He served as a member of the coordinating council for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and was the National Cooperative Baptist Fellowship representative to the Baptist World Alliance.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m., Sat., Oct. 27 at First Baptist Church (FBC) in Winston-Salem, with a reception to follow in FBC’s Kelly Auditorium.
He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Charlotte Cook Smith; three children, Ginger Graves, Roy Smith Jr., and Tracy Smith; Charlotte’s two children, Steve (Sheryl) Cook and Ann ­­­­­­Parker; eleven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; brother, Johnny Smith; and two sisters, Lib Pierce and Peggy Clevenger.
Memorials to: Wake Forest University Divinity School (P.O. Box 7227, Winston-Salem, NC 27109), the Capital Campaign at First Baptist Church (501 West Fifth St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101), or Brookridge Retirement Home (1199 Hayes Forest Dr., Winston-Salem, NC 27106).

10/26/2018 8:08:33 AM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

After storms, ‘Mama Mills’ leans on Bapt. relief

October 25 2018 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

Linda Mills, 70, has served others in her community for 42 years by hosting Sunday lunches from her cozy home in Havelock, N.C. Her humble service has earned her the affectionate moniker “Mama Mills.”

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Linda Mills, known as "Mama Mills," had a 42-year lunch ministry halted after she lost three freezers and two refrigerators full of food when floodwater from Hurricane Florence damaged a building in her backyard. Volunteer Bill Gore of Bethel Baptist in Boone, N.C., came to help her. On Sun., Oct. 28, Mills plans to serve almost 50 guests with her first meal since the storm.

It all started when her husband Harold, who passed away 15 years ago, said “Mama, I’m bringing a little, starvin’ Marine home,” Mills said.
From then on, her longtime ministry grew and became known as “The Lunch Bunch.” She faithfully provided a home-cooked meal and a “home away from home” welcoming many young soldiers and others “who needed some extra love,” she said. On Sundays, she cooked lunch for 20 to 40 guests usually. On one Easter, she fed 74. Most of her guests are young U.S. Marines from nearby U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C.
But the widow’s popular after-church meals came to a halt in September when her home took on floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence. Mills, a member of First Baptist Church Havelock, stood on higher ground on her neighbor’s porch and watched the water rise up her yard and feared for the worst. Her neighborhood was flooded when Joe’s Branch Creek overflowed from the Neuse River’s storm surge.
Dressed in high boots the next morning, Mills surveyed the damage done overnight. While only the crawl space of her home was flooded, she found her barn out back, which housed three freezers and two refrigerators full of food for her ministry, had taken on nearly four feet of floodwater.
“When I saw those freezers turned upside down and food everywhere, I thought that maybe God was closing a door [to the ministry],” she said.
“All my provisions were taken away from me and I wondered, ‘Lord, is it time for me to do something else?’”

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Volunteers Bill Gore, left, and Richard Browning, right, visited Linda Mills and encouraged her to continue her longtime ministry of feeding and providing fellowship for neighbors, including U.S. Marines from a nearby U.S. Marine Corps air station in Cherry Point, N.C. 

But through help from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers, who were mostly organized through Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men, NCBM), and other friends, she realized that maybe God was opening doors instead.

When SBDR volunteer Bill Gore of Bethel Baptist of Boone, N.C., showed up to treat mold underneath her home, he said he knew Mills was a special person. Gore and many other SBDR volunteers were meeting job requests out of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, one of several SBDR command sites.
“Her loving demeanor towards a stranger stuck out,” Gore said.
When Mama Mills started sharing her story of how the lunch bunch began and showed him all the photographs over the years of people who had come on Sundays, he encouraged Mills to continue her service.
Gore, a longtime SBDR volunteer, said he was impressed by her care for others.
“This just absolutely amazed me,” he said.

Mills shared with him how God had always provided for her needs in the past. One time when she was planning to serve meatless spaghetti, two friends showed up with 30 pounds of chicken.
“Of course, we had fried chicken the next day,” she noted.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Linda "Mama" Mills shows volunteer Bill Gore how the floodwater rose nearly four feet in the building in the back of her home. Her freezers and refrigerators full of food for her ministry were lost, but her home was spared, sustaining only one foot of water in the crawl space. Gore fogged underneath her home to eliminate mold.

Gore and SBDR volunteer Richard Browning of Rock Spring Baptist Church in Louisburg, N.C., visited and prayed with Mills and gave her a signed Bible before they left. They encouraged her to go on with the ministry.
“I’m praying the Lord just builds this better and bigger than it was before,” Gore said.
One of the Marines who comes to the lunch bunch has already donated a used refrigerator to Mama Mills.
Mills says she is looking forward to preparing her first lunch since the storm on Sunday, Oct. 28. She plans on serving lasagna, salad, homemade yeast rolls – her specialty – and homemade cheesecake and other desserts for close to 50 guests.
Many friends have also encouraged her to keep the ministry going, she said.
“Oh no, these guys need you to be a Mom away from home,” they would tell her.
Mills says she is confident that God wants her to continue. “I know that prayer is going out for me and that this is what I’m supposed to do. He knows where my heart is. He knows what I love to do. It’s all in His hands.”
Mills hopes others will see her ministry and will realize that they can do the same thing in their community.
“Take in someone or a family and open their home to make it a home away from home,” she said. “Look for someone that needs that extra love.”

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Linda "Mama" Mills shows Richard Browning, left, and Bill Gore the photos of many of the guests who have been impacted by her lunch ministry through the years. Mills had packed up all of her photos and papers and other items preparing for the worst before the storm. 

SBDR volunteers have continued serving survivors of Hurricanes Florence and Michael. In North and South Carolina, the response has moved to a focus on recovery work while Florida and Georgia continue to provide both meals and recovery work for survivors.
In response to Hurricane Florence, SBDR has provided more than 1.1 million meals, distributed nearly 1,400 crisis buckets, completed more than 600 flood clean-up jobs and provided chainsaw work for 1,182 homeowners.
In Florida, thousands of people are still without power, and SBDR teams have set up seven feeding sites and eight clean-up and recovery sites in Florida. In Georgia, SBDR teams have set up three sites that include both feeding and recovery and two sites that are focused on recovery.
Southern Baptists have provided more than 300,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Michael. They have provided more than 400 chainsaw and yard cleanup jobs as well as more than 100 temporary roofing jobs.
So far, Southern Baptists have witnessed 174 professions of faith as they have ministered to people in the aftermath of these tragic storms.
For updates on North Carolina volunteer efforts, visit baptistsonmission.org. Or, visit namb.net/hurricane-relief
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes is a freelance writer with the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/25/2018 12:38:05 PM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments

GuideStone: 2019 health plans to see added benefits

October 25 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Consultations with doctors through telemedicine will be available at no out-of-pocket charge for the majority of participants in the health plans of GuideStone Financial Services in 2019.
The popular Teladoc service provides a consultation with board-certified physicians via phone or computer. Participants can have a prescription sent to a local pharmacy for pickup, though co-pays still apply.

Additional enhancements include a new diabetic management program, elimination of some inpatient co-pays in comprehensive plans and reduced individual maximum out-of-pocket charges.
All of these enhancements were implemented while keeping average rate increases below three percent for group plans. Personal plan participants will see rate increases related only to participant ages. These are the lowest rate adjustments GuideStone has been able to provide in many years, with many groups experiencing no rate change, even with the added benefits.
“Our insurance team worked diligently to add significant value to our health plans while mitigating the impacts of medical inflation,” said O.S. Hawkins, president of the Southern Baptist entity. “While the impacts of medical inflation due to high utilization and unhealthy lifestyles along with the lingering impacts of federal health care reform are real, our team worked hard to enhance the products at minimal additional costs.”
GuideStone’s health plans are divided into three categories for 2019:
– comprehensive health plans, which provide the highest level of service designed to help with routine doctor visits and more in-depth plans.
– consumer-driven plans, which are Health Savings Account (HSA)-qualified high deductible health plans designed to be paired with a health savings account.
– protection plans, which provide scaled-down benefits that cover occasional doctor visits. Protection plans include the new Secure Health 3000, introduced in 2018, that provides true medical coverage at the lowest monthly cost among GuideStone’s health plans, on par with medical sharing ministries.
The Teladoc service has proven beneficial for participants who utilize it instead of expensive urgent care or emergency room service for common ailments, especially overnight or on weekends when their primary care physician’s office is closed. Participants should still go to an emergency room in life-threatening situations.
“Creative solutions like Teladoc help reduce costs while maintaining excellent service with non-routine needs,” Scott Charbonneau, managing director of insurance plans at GuideStone, said. “We seek to make our plans as robust as possible while removing the administrative burden from church and ministry leaders, allowing them to offer life and health coverage from a source they know they can trust.”
Dental, Medicare-coordinating and term life plan rates remain unchanged for 2019.
For more information on GuideStone’s plans, visit GuideStoneInsurance.org and click “Get A Quote.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations at GuideStone Financial Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/25/2018 12:36:48 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

Museum of Bible outs fake Dead Sea Scrolls pieces

October 25 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Five pieces of papyri passed off as fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered as fake and removed from display at the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in Washington.
The museum founded by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green and family announced the discovery Oct. 22. The findings are based on a battery of tests MOTB commissioned months before the items were first displayed in 2017, MOTB said.

File photo
The Museum of the Bible in Washington opened to the public in November 2017.

Many scholars viewed the papyri with suspicion well before the discovery, biblical archaeology professor Daniel Warner told Baptist Press Oct. 24.
The fragments “were suspect for some time,” said Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and director of the seminary’s Center for Archaeological Research. “If you’re going to be the buyer, you should have it authenticated. I’m not sure of the process (MOTB) went through to have it authenticated.
“Apparently they got duped.”
Warner praised MOTB’s honesty in revealing the fakes. He noted that these types of phony artifacts can be sold for millions. Money is often the lone motivator in selling such fakes that are rarely a threat to the accuracy of scriptural texts, Warner said.
Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds, are believed to have been buried in caves in Qumran along the Dead Sea for 2000 years, predating the earliest scriptural manuscripts previously available. Only a few scrolls were found in tact; other specimens were only fragments.
Authentic fragments, while rare, can help scholars and Christians understand the process of preservation, Warner said.
Perhaps 70 forged fragments have been marketed since 2002, many scholars believe, CNN reported Oct. 22.
In announcing the error, the museum defended its commitment to accuracy, authenticity and transparency.
“Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” MOTB chief curatorial officer Jeffrey Kloha said in an MOTB press release. “As an educational institution entrusted with cultural heritage, the museum upholds and adheres to all museum and ethical guidelines on collection care, research and display.”
The museum sent the fragments in April 2017 to the German-based Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (Federal Institute for Material Research and Testing) for examination, and was awaiting results when the fragments were added to MOTB displays upon the museum’s 2017 opening.

Screen capture from the Museum of the Bible
The Museum of the Bible in Washington has removed five fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls from its collection after discovering the papyri scraps are fake.

The fake fragments “show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin,” researchers found. The revelation also discredits at least three other fragments the museum purchased in the same batch, museum spokesperson Heather Cirmo told The New York Times.
MOTB has funded two other studies of its collection of fragments. In a research paper published in 2016, editors and contributors questioned the fragments’ authenticity, MOTB said. Kipp Davis, an editor from Trinity Western University, conducted additional research.
“My research has focused primarily on two aspects of Museum of the Bible’s fragments: scribal quality and technique in the penning of the texts as well as the physical composition and current state of the manuscript media,” MOTB quoted Davis in the press release.
“My studies to date have managed to confirm upon a preponderance of different streams of evidence the high probability that at least seven fragments in the museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls collection are modern forgeries,” Davis said, “but conclusions on the status of the remaining fragments are still forthcoming.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has investigated the Green family for its purchasing practices. In 2017, the DOJ fined the Greens $3 million and forced it to forfeit thousands of improperly acquired ancient biblical artifacts, including Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets, bricks and clay bullae used in ancient writings and seals. None of those items were included in the museum’s collections, the Greens have said.
The $500 million museum bills itself as “an innovative, global, educational institution whose purpose is to invite all people to engage with the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/25/2018 12:36:22 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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