October 2018

SBC hotel rush draws response from Exec. Committee

October 22 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Online hotel registration for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., opened Oct. 12 at 8 a.m. Four minutes later, all the rooms designated for the event at on-site hotels were full. The rooms disappeared so fast that it left some Southern Baptists scratching their heads.
 

Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex photo

Bill Townes, vice president for convention finance and convention manager for the SBC Executive Committee (EC), said in a guest blog post at SBCVoices.com that “catastrophic water damage” at the primary annual meeting hotel contributed to the shortage.
 
The Sheraton Birmingham’s damage eliminated more than 400 rooms in the SBC’s designated block. The original launch for open registration was Oct. 1, but the date was pushed back to allow the EC time to find additional rooms at alternate hotels.
 
In total, 37 hotels are under contract with the SBC to provide rooms at a negotiated rate through Experient, an event management company.
 
Townes explained how the EC reserves a block of rooms each year for the annual meeting at a primary hotel or hotels, which are usually connected to the venue where the event will take place. Of those reservations, up to 60 percent may be designated for entity executives, trustees, speakers and other SBC staff, according to a policy approved by the EC board of trustees in 2011. However, Townes said the EC limits earmarks to 50 percent of the convention hotel block, to make “as many rooms as possible available to general attendees.”
 
Online hotel registration operates on a “first come, first click” policy, he said. There is also a five-room limit on individual registrants.
 
“When we opened housing this year,” Townes said, “we had 238 reservations within the first three minutes, and filled the entire available main co-convention hotel block before 8:04 a.m.”
 
In addition, more than 300 people were mistakenly put on a wait list for the Westin Hotel, said Townes. The online system, managed by Experient, should have directed registrants to another hotel.
 
Townes said Experient is alleviating the inconvenience by making a $2,500 contribution to the Cooperative Program and “working behind the scenes” to secure rooms for those registrants who were waitlisted. He also said the Sheraton has been “extremely helpful” in helping to secure additional rooms at nearby hotels and will provide “shuttle assistance.”
 
He added that Birmingham is undergoing “significant” highway construction and hotels are spread across the city. Hotel shuttles will be available, he said, in addition to “park and ride” lots at local churches and ride share coupons for Uber and Lyft.
 
Visit sbcannualmeeting.net to register.

10/22/2018 2:55:29 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Sexual abuse, grief & hope focus of ERLC panel

October 22 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Women are grieving and male church leaders should join them in their grief over the sexual abuse and assault so many have suffered, panelists said Oct. 12 during the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) annual national conference.
 

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
Panelists (from right) Kimberlee Norris, Jen Wilkin, Gregory Love and Trillia Newbell listen to a question from moderator Lindsay Nicolet during a panel discussion on sexual abuse and assault at the ERLC national conference.

A panel of lawyers and female Christian leaders addressed sexual abuse and assault during a main session of the conference at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. About 950 people attended the three-day event – titled “The Cross-shaped Family” – that ended Oct. 13.
 
The panel discussion came after months of disclosures of sexual misconduct by male leaders in Southern Baptist churches, other evangelical congregations and the wider culture, as well as charges of mishandling by ministry leaders of allegations of sexual assault. Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear announced in July a new Sexual Abuse Study to address the issue in partnership with the ERLC.
 
Jen Wilkin, Bible teacher and classes/curriculum director of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said women “are moving through the stages of grief around this. There has been a great deal of anger, and understandably so.”
 
“I think women are looking to leadership, and they’re looking for not just an acknowledgment of what has happened,” she said. “They want to see grief among our leadership. They want to see a brokenness around what has not been previously seen and then legitimate changes taking place. And they’re going to be watching for it. I think they’re watching with hope.”
 
Women understand the revelations of mistreatment of women largely are a surprise to men, Wilkin told the audience. “And that’s OK. We’re willing to allow a time for you to sort of come to terms with what is a historically unspoken reality for women. But then we do expect there will be action, and there will be change that’s taken so that even if this is our past it won’t be our future.”
 
Gregory Love – a law partner and co-founder of MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems with his wife and fellow panelist Kimberlee Norris – said the last 16 to 18 months have sadly shown primarily male church leaders responding defensively.
 
“And it’s almost like there is an unwillingness – especially, I believe, for men in ministry leadership – to just stop, listen and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ just to own what you can own,” Love told attendees. “And even if it’s not your fault, just to listen and let someone just tell their story and then also to listen in such a way you can ask the questions, ‘What, then, needs to change?’”
 
His observation applies across the board, whether it is sexual assault, abuse or harassment, he said.
 
One of the most negative responses he has seen in the last year or more from male leaders is with female victims of abuse or assault “being received in such a way that just because it’s old it’s not real or just because it’s old you should be past it by now,” Love said. “And I would just tell you, ‘Careful there. Be ready to hear this with ears as if it happened yesterday.’”
 

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
Jen Wilkins (center) speaks as husband-and-wife lawyer team of Gregory Love and Kimberlee Norris listen during a panel discussion on sexual abuse and assault at the ERLC national conference.

Trillia Newbell, a survivor of sexual assault, spoke about the fear a victim confronts in sharing what happened to her.
 
“I tell you this – that woman in particular will fear saying it 10 times more than you’re going to fear the reality of trying to care for her,” said Newbell, author and the ERLC’s director of community outreach. “It is a terrifying thing to say out loud. And there’s so much shame and guilt that comes along with it even though you are not the perpetrator.  ...  [B]e ready to have compassion and to love and to extend absolute grace upon grace upon grace. Listen to her, and take action where action needs to be taken.”
 
Norris issued a warning for churches.
 
Treating sexual abuse or assault as though it is only a sin “rather than a crime is inappropriate in every context,” she told the audience. “And addressing this from the standpoint of ‘We can somehow handle this within the church’ is against the law in most states and inappropriate at best.”
 
While she is encouraged that churches and ministries are “more willing to be proactive about this issue rather than simply reactive,” Norris said she is discouraged at the clergy “who do not understand they are mandatory reporters” of child sexual abuse in nearly every state.
 
Other speakers at the conference also addressed sexual abuse or assault:
 
– Bible teacher Beth Moore, who was sexually abused as a child, said in an Oct. 12 interview with ERLC President Russell Moore, “It was not the joy of the Lord for me to go through what I went through as a child, but in His sovereignty He allowed it.  ...  I would change my story in a heartbeat, but I get to say to [others], ‘You know what, I know Jesus heals. I know His Word renews minds. I know His way works. I know you can really know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” She also said of the current situation, “It’s very messy right now, but the fact that we are having to deal with it is a good, good thing, and we who are willing will all be better on the other side. The church will be stronger on the other side.”
 
Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC’s executive vice president, said in an Oct. 12 keynote address sex can be used as a weapon. “Those with authority use their power for unwanted sexual advances on others,” he said. “And as that happens, oftentimes in companion with that there are others who refuse to hold the powerful accountability because they’re focused on their own self-protection rather than justice and protection of the vulnerable.” He expressed gratitude for the SBC Sexual Abuse Study, saying, “We must pursue this issue with urgency. But here’s the danger for me, and I wonder if some of you feel it. My instinct is to want to move straight to solutions before starting with sorrow. [B]efore we can get it right, we need to weep with those who weep. Out of the sorrow I am praying that solutions will come.”
 
Lindsay Nicolet, the ERLC’s managing editor of content, moderated the panel. Four other panels during the conference’s main sessions addressed the education of children, the strengthening of ministry marriages, broken homes, and adoption, foster care, special needs and mental health.
 
(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.)

10/22/2018 10:41:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Candi Finch confirms termination by SWBTS

October 22 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Candi Finch, a former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), confirmed via Twitter she was terminated by the seminary’s trustees Oct. 17.
 

Candi Finch

“Yesterday the @swbts trustees voted to fire me,” Finch tweeted Oct. 18. “Tough day but I trust in God. It has been a great privilege to serve at swbts for over 15 years & receive my MDIV & PHD degrees there. Would you pray for swbts as they continue training students & for me as I seek God’s next step?”
 
In their public general session, trustees adopted a motion from their Academic Affairs Committee “to sustain the action of the administration” on a “faculty disciplinary matter.” The faculty member in question was not named, nor was the cause of the disciplinary matter. On a voice vote, there seemed to be three or four votes against sustaining the administration from among the 34 trustees present.
 
Finch also was present, and moments before the meeting she was still listed on the Southwestern website as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies. Her faculty page had been removed by the following morning.
 
A supporter of former Southwestern President Paige Patterson, who was terminated May 30, Finch held the Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies, named for Patterson’s wife. In a May 9 email to the seminary’s board of visitors, Finch claimed an open letter opposing Patterson’s continued leadership at Southwestern did “not reflect the majority of Southern Baptists.”
 
During their Oct. 17 general session, trustees voted – by approximately the same margin as they voted on the disciplinary matter – to uphold the trustee executive committee’s decision to fire Patterson.
 
Finch has written columns for Baptist Press and has been quoted in BP stories as a theology expert.
 
Within the Southern Baptist Convention, Finch served on the 2018 SBC Resolutions Committee and the SBC Executive Committee’s Women’s Ministry Advisory Council.
 
Neither Finch nor Southwestern responded to BP’s request for comment prior to its publication deadline.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/22/2018 10:40:59 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Erwins unveil next plans, envision ‘Christian Pixar’

October 22 2018 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

Filmmaker Jon Erwin says his father often told him to “dream big, dream bold, dream the impossible.”
 

Erwin Brothers photo
Andy Erwin (far left), Kevin Downes, and Jon Erwin have formed a new faith-based filmmaking company, Kingdom, which will release multiple movies by different directors in what Jon Erwin calls a "leap forward" in faith moviemaking. Lionsgate will distribute them. Kingdom will announce its first slate of movies in March at the National Religious Broadcasters convention.

Erwin has followed that advice, and earlier this year many of those dreams came true with his hit faith-based movie “I Can Only Imagine,” which grossed $83 million to become the No. 1 movie all time from Roadside Attractions. It even surpassed that studio’s most famous release, the Oscar-winning “Manchester by the Sea” ($47 million).
 
Erwin now is ready to announce his next projects, which involve a new production company and a series of films that are possible only because of the staggering success of I Can Only Imagine. The company even has the support of a Hollywood studio. Erwin calls it “unprecedented.”
 
“Hollywood responds to success,” Erwin told Baptist Press. “That is the currency in Hollywood.”
 
Erwin, his brother Andy and their production partner Kevin Downes have formed a new filmmaking company, Kingdom, which will bring multiple filmmakers together to create a “pipeline of event movies” that proclaim a biblical message and “serve the church,” Erwin told Baptist Press.
 
He likens it to a “Christian Pixar or a Christian Marvel” studio that is able to work on multiple films at one time, but all with the quality that moviegoers expect from an Erwin-branded movie. Some movies will be directed by the Erwins, while others will employ other veteran or upcoming directors. Lionsgate will distribute them.
 
Erwin is scheduled to announce Kingdom’s first lineup of films at the National Religious Broadcasters meeting March 26 in Anaheim, Calif. At least one of those will be directed by the Erwins.
 
“We’re going to be unveiling what I feel is a great leap forward and a vision for what can be accomplished in Hollywood on behalf of Christianity,” Erwin said. “And we’re also going to be unveiling multiple films. It’s going to be real exciting.”
 
One of the movies is expected to focus on the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to a Tweet from author and pastor Greg Laurie, who is Erwin’s friend. Erwin told BP he could not confirm the report but did say he had “fallen in love with the story of America’s last great spiritual awakening.”
 
The vision for Kingdom, Erwin said, began with a desire to impact the culture and spread the gospel through movies, which he calls “America’s second largest export.” A group effort is needed for faith-movies, Erwin said, because he and his brother are limited in what they can do. A single film takes two to three years to complete.
 
“Andy and I could never make enough content to really move the needle,” he said. “Culturally, it has to be a group initiative.”
 
The goal, Erwin added, is to bring faith-based talent together under one umbrella.
 
“We’ve been able to dream big over the last few months and really dream about how to reach a generation,” he said. “If the goal is really to capture the imagination of a generation, then it’s bigger than one content creator and one film. It has to be an initiative that would unite multiple filmmakers under a banner brand. There’s so much competition in Christian films right now. It’s like one of us wins, three of us lose, and unfortunately there’s just not a path for emerging talent in the industry.
 

Erwin Brothers photo
Director Andy Erwin (far left) is joined on the set of the 2014 film "Mom's Night Out" with actor Sean Astin, actor Robert Amaya, producer/actor Kevin Downes and director Jon Erwin. The Erwins and Downes are forming a new filmmaking company, Kingdom, which will produce multiple faith-based movies and be distributed by Lionsgate.

“But what if there was a place where instead of competition, there could be cooperation? And what if there could be a place where many other filmmakers can make their films and have a trusted banner brand that to a Christian audience, if you see this at the front of the film, and you know the word ‘Kingdom,’ you know it’s going to represent your values?” 
 
Kingdom could not have launched if not for I Can Only Imagine’s box office success, Erwin said. The film opened at No. 3, ranked in the Top 10 for five straight weeks, and is the top-grossing independent film of 2018.
 
“If there’s anything that we should learn as Christians, it is that our movie ticket really is our vote,” Erwin said. “When we show up in mass numbers, culture takes notice. It’s sort of like Joshua in the battle of Jericho. He marched around the city seven times, but in the last step everyone had to yell at exactly the same time – and that’s when the walls fell down. Our industry is like that. When we join our voices together at the same moment, that creates cultural power.”
 
Lionsgate, Erwin said, understands the faith-based market.
 
“They really caught the vision. In my opinion, there’s never been a movie studio that’s this passionate and willing to dump these kind of resources behind faith movies,” he said. “It’s truly an exciting time.”
 
Because Kingdom is autonomous and not owned by Lionsgate, the Erwins and Downes will maintain content control.
 
“That means that I can say to the audience, ‘We’re not going to let you down,’” Erwin said. “There’s nobody that’s going to swoop in and take control of it. We control the content, you’re not going to be offended, and it’s going to represent your values.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is a writer in Albany, Ill. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/22/2018 10:40:38 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christian apologetics club wins free speech battle

October 22 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Christian apologetics group will be able to display pro-life and other messages freely at a state university, the result of a settlement reached through Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
 

Ratio Christi Facebook photo
An Aug. 27 Ratio Christi display at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., was designed to encourage discussion about the value of life.

Ratio Christi, a registered student organization at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., gained the right in a settlement ADF announced Oct. 18. The group had twice been required to post its displays in a small “speech zone” after the university deemed the messages “controversial,” ADF said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in February.
 
“Kennesaw State has done the right thing in ending the ability of officials to quarantine any student speech they deemed ‘controversial’ to a tiny, difficult-to-access part of campus,” ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said in announcing the settlement. “We hope that this settlement will prompt other public universities to eliminate similar unconstitutional policies.
 
“The First Amendment prohibits universities from restricting where students can speak, whether that restriction is based on what students intend to say or simply based on sparing the feelings of others who may disagree,” Barham said. The zone amounted to less than .08 percent of the school’s 450-acre campus, ADF said.
 
Kennesaw, a more than 35,000-enrollment school in the University System of Georgia, agreed to eliminate its speech zone and allow students to speak freely in all outdoor areas of campus, ADF said. The university will also cover about $20,000 in legal fees in the settlement, still pending.
 
The agreement ended a lawsuit ADF filed in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Plaintiffs included Ratio Christi and a student who attempted to reserve space for pro-life displays in heavily trafficked areas of campus in 2016 and 2017.
 
“In today’s academic environment, Christian students and educators must not only defend our faith,” Ratio Christi President and CEO Corey Miller said in February of the lawsuit, “but we must also defend our right to defend our faith.”
 
Ratio Christi states as its purpose “to encourage and strengthen the faith of Christian students … while sharing Christ’s message and love with those who have not yet accepted Him.”
 
The university had not responded to request Baptist Press for comment by publication deadline.
 
(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.)

10/22/2018 10:40:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Appalachian church boosted by Kentucky congregation

October 22 2018 by Kentucky Today staff

A small church outside the Appalachian town of Booneville has received a huge boost from a fellow Kentucky congregation five hours away in the far western part of the state.
 

Contributed photo
Zion's Cause Baptist Church in Benton, Ky., delivers a bus to Lerose Community Church near Booneville.

Lerose Community Church, which serves one of the most impoverished communities in the U.S., needed a church bus to get local residents to and from services. Pastor Adam Stall and his congregation had been praying, asking God to meet that need.
 
Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton, not far from Land Between the Lakes, ended up being the answer to prayer.
 
Pastor Charles Frazier, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), said he and his congregation are “so blessed” to be able to help the struggling church. He said he is thankful for the spirit of giving among the people at Zion’s Cause.
 
“We’re thankful for this partnership in the gospel,” Frazier said. “This has been a great experience for us.”
 
KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said Frazier and Zion’s Cause are serving as examples of what it means to work together for the cause of Christ.
 
“Like all of our KBC leaders, President Charles Frazier models cooperative missions and comes from a church that models cooperative missions,” Chitwood said.
 
“Zion’s Cause not only gives sacrificially through the Cooperative Program to support each and every one of the 52 new churches being planted across the state of Kentucky right now, the church is finding new and creative ways to bless church planters and church plants,” Chitwood noted.
 
“And though Zion’s Cause is literally on the other side of the state than our church plants in the mountains, Dr. Frazier has instilled within the hearts of his congregants a vision for sharing the gospel in Kentucky’s most unchurched region,” he said.
 
Frazier said his church didn’t want to deliver the shiny new bus empty. So, his congregation filled it with supplies, plus gave them $1,000 to help with other needs.
 
Todd Gray, who serves as KBC’s evangelism team leader, said the gospel is desperately needed in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, where surveys suggest that more than 350,000 people aren’t regular churchgoers.
 
“East Kentucky has a greater population than West Kentucky and a greater land mass, yet it has half as many churches,” Gray said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was first posted on the Kentucky Today website, kentuckytoday.com, an online news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/22/2018 10:39:48 AM by Kentucky Today staff | with 0 comments



Students join hurricane relief efforts in N.C.

October 19 2018 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

When an East Carolina University cross-country team found they had an off weekend from running, they decided to go and help survivors of Hurricane Florence. They joined a college-wide effort to help Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers serve in the hard-hit New Bern, N.C., area.
 

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Wearing a Tyvek suit and protective goggles, East Carolina University freshman Anna Bristle, 18, looks out over the pile of debris that she and 22 other ECU students hauled to the street from a flood-damaged home in Bridgeton, N.C.

On Oct. 6, 23 team members carpooled using their own vehicles and made the 45-minute drive from their college campus in Greenville, N.C. They assisted with a tear-out of a home that had taken on more than two feet of floodwater after the Neuse River overflowed its banks. After receiving an SBDR orientation along with additional training from the college, the students followed an SBDR team that had begun the tear-out the day before.
 
As the students drove to the home in the Bridgeton neighborhood, just across the Neuse River from New Bern, they saw piles of debris from flood-damaged homes lining the streets. Most of the homeowners had lost the entire contents of their homes.
 
“Our team didn’t realize how much damage was done,” said senior Grace Sullivan.
 
Homeowner Brian Cahoon said he and his wife Amy appreciated the volunteers’ hard work.
 
“There’s no way I could have done this work,” Brian said.
 
Within about seven hours, the students nearly cleared the Cahoon’s home. They tore out sheetrock and insulation, pulled up flooring and hauled out water-soaked furniture, adding to the pile of debris along the street.
 
“Those college girls were scary with their crowbars,” Amy joked. “They did excellent work.”
 

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Josh Spare, 19, of East Carolina University hauls debris to the street with his fellow team members who worked Oct. 6 on a tear-out of a flood damaged home in Bridgeton, N.C. The homeowners and their neighbors lost nearly the entire contents of their homes.

Amy said it was hard for her to see the home where she grew up so devastated. Her father had built the home with his friends in 1957, and this is the first time it has taken on floodwater.
 
“I feel like I’ve lost my parents all over again,” she said.
 
First-time SBDR volunteer Anna Bristle – 18, of Charlotte – said she was glad to help the two homeowners.
 
“It’s really sad to see that this is people’s reality,” Bristle said. “For us, the hurricane ended three weeks ago, but for them, it’s not over.”
 
SBDR team leader Jimmy Lawrence of North Carolina Baptists On Mission (also known as N.C. Baptist Men, NCBM) said he and SBDR volunteers are grateful for the students’ commitment to serving.
 
“ECU has stepped up. I think it’s wonderful that the college teams are coming,” Lawrence said.
 
Lawrence, who serves as New Bern’s site commander, said the work is ongoing. While more than 400 job requests have been met in the past three weeks, more requests are coming in. Mud-out and chainsaw teams are needed.
 
ECU has committed to sending day volunteer teams every Saturday in October and have signed up more than 500 volunteers, he said.
 

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Members of East Carolina University's cross-country team tore up flooring in the kitchen and every other room of a flood damaged home along the banks of the Neuse River in Bridgeton, N.C.

Along with the cross-country team, other athletic teams, including the men’s baseball, basketball and soccer teams, have served along with university staff.
 
Grace Sullivan, one of the cross-country team’s captains, and ECU Human Resources leader Danielle Morrin helped spearhead the students coming.
 
“I am so proud of [the students],” Morrin said.
 
Sullivan noted, “This is our community and they support us. So, we wanted to support them and to give back.”
 
In response to Hurricane Florence, SBDR volunteers have served more than 1.1 million meals, provided flood cleanup for more than 300 homes and helped clear more than 1,100 yards of storm debris.
 
On Thursday, Oct. 11, ECU cancelled its classes due to Tropical Storm Michael, which ravaged the Florida Panhandle, Georgia and Alabama as one of the worst hurricanes to hit the U.S. Michael led to casualties as far north as Virginia.
 
So far, SBDR volunteers have served nearly 100,000 meals and helped clear more than 140 yards in response to Hurricane Michael.
 
To learn more, contact your state convention 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.)

10/19/2018 10:33:25 AM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments



Pressler sexual abuse claims dismissed

October 19 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Texas court has dismissed several defendants and multiple counts in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by retired Texas state district judge Paul Pressler.
 

BP file photo
A lawsuit’s claims of sexual abuse by Paul Pressler, pictured here in 2004, have been dismissed by a Texas judge.

The lawsuit filed by plaintiff Gerald Duane Rollins in October 2017 alleged sexual misconduct by Pressler and also sought to hold several other defendants responsible, including the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Harris County District Judge R.K. Sandill’s Oct. 15 order granting summary judgment dismissed, among other matters, all claims against the SBC because the statute of limitations has expired on those claims.
 
Pressler helped engineer a strategy to turn the SBC back to its theologically conservative roots in the late 20th century. He also served Southern Baptists in various other volunteer capacities.
 
SBC attorney James Guenther told Baptist Press, “The convention had multiple defenses in this case. The most basic defense was the fact that the convention committed no wrong and was not involved or connected in any way with the harms that Mr. Rollins alleged. Additionally, the convention did not have control over or any duty to control Mr. Pressler or any of the other defendants. So, none of the facts necessary to assert any valid claim against the convention was present. It was simply not responsible if another defendant in this case engaged in any wrongdoing.
 
“While vigorously asserting all of its defenses, the convention took the route deemed most practical, economic and indisputable: the plaintiff’s suit against the convention was filed too late, not by weeks or months, but by years – the statute of limitations had long run on the charges,” Guenther said in written comments. “Because the statute of limitations defense was apparent from the plaintiff’s own pleadings, the court did not need to consider the SBC’s other defenses to Rollins’ claims.”
 
Sandill’s order applies to Rollins’ allegations that Pressler abused him and also to related claims, including conspiracy and negligence, against Pressler, the SBC, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, former Southwestern President Paige Patterson, Houston’s First Baptist Church, Second Baptist Church in Houston, Pressler’s wife Nancy and Pressler’s former law partner Jared Woodfill.
 
The ruling did not dismiss Rollins’ slander and libel claim against the Presslers, Patterson, Southwestern, Houston’s First and Woodfill related to a statement Woodfill made in 2017. Neither did Sandill dismiss breach of contract claims related to the settlement of a separate lawsuit Rollins filed against Pressler in 2004 alleging assault by Pressler.
 
All defendants have denied all of the claims against them.
 
Sandill announced his intention to grant summary judgment on the sexual abuse claims Aug. 17 at a court hearing. But Sandill’s campaign for the Texas Supreme Court and a series of motions by Rollins – including multiple attempts to have Sandill removed from the case – delayed the issuing of a signed order. The Oct. 15 order also denied Rollins’ request for reconsideration.
 
Rollins has the right to appeal the order.
 
Rollins’ 2017 lawsuit alleges he first met Pressler when he was enrolled in a young adult Bible study that Pressler, now 88, led at Houston’s First. Rollins later worked at Pressler’s law firm. He claimed the abuse started in the late 1970s, when Rollins was 14, and continued through 2004.
 
The SBC, along with other defendants, Rollins claimed, had a “duty to exercise reasonable care so as to control” Pressler, who served as a member of the SBC Executive Committee from 1984-91.
 
In a Feb. 1 motion, the SBC asked Sandill to grant a judgment in the convention’s favor on statute of limitations grounds. The SBC stated Rollins claimed “he was abused from 1978 to 2004, fourteen years ago. [His] petitions were filed in 2017 and 2018 ... The longest statute of limitations is five years, making [Rollins’] petition at least eight years too late for the last of the claimed molestations (2004), let alone those allegedly occurring in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.”
 
Rollins claimed in an Aug. 10 court filing the statute of limitations has not expired in this case because Pressler’s alleged misconduct “became apparent” to Rollins “no sooner than November 2015 in a prison exchange between him and a prison psychologist” while Rollins served time for a DUI conviction.
 
Ultimately, Sandill agreed the statute of limitations had expired.
 
Pressler was a justice on the Court of Appeals of Texas, 14th District, and a member of the Texas state legislature.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/19/2018 10:32:49 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SWBTS ‘pressing on’ with ‘refreshed orientation’

October 19 2018 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) board of trustees affirmed the institution’s presidential search committee, approved actions of the trustee executive committee and conducted other business during their fall meeting Oct. 15-17.
 

Photo by Adam Covington
Southwestern Seminary trustees prayed for the seminary’s presidential search committee during an Oct. 17 general session.

In addition to their meeting, the trustees enjoyed multiple opportunities for personal interaction with Southwestern students and faculty. Interim president D. Jeffrey Bingham characterized the various gatherings as “three days of renewal, three days of refreshment, three days of amazing, God-given unity.”
 
The general session of the trustee meeting began with a report from Bingham, who cited Philippians 3:13-14 as inspiration for this period in Southwestern’s history. Focusing especially on Paul’s notion of “pressing on,” Bingham said that, with the past behind, Southwestern now presses on with a fresh commitment to the institution’s core mission: “to train God-called men and women for service to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and to the unreached world, all to the glory and praise of the one true God.”
 
“This is our mission. This is our purpose. This is our core understanding for why Southwestern Seminary exists,” Bingham said. “Everything we do now focuses around this core.”
 
Bingham said Southwestern remains “the best place to come” to learn to preach, do personal evangelism, do personal discipleship, do theological scholarship, plant churches, assist a church with its educational program and lead a church in musical worship. “Southwestern Seminary is the best place to come to be trained as a gospel servant to fulfill the needs of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and to meet the needs of the lost throughout the world,” he said.
 
Bingham concluded, “With a refreshed orientation toward the goal that is at the core of everything we do at Southwestern Seminary, once again I say, with the Lord Jesus Christ ascended above us, with the Holy Spirit of God within us, and with the Kingdom of God before us, Southwestern Seminary moves forward to a new day, a bright day, in regular, eager anticipation of that day in which the Lord Jesus Christ returns.”
 
Following Bingham’s report, the board of trustees voted to ratify the actions of the trustee executive committee – including the firing of former SWBTS president Paige Patterson – since the board’s last full meeting.
 

Photo by Adam Covington
"With the Kingdom of God before us, Southwestern Seminary moves forward to a new day," interim president D. Jeffrey Bingham told trustees Oct. 17.

The board then voted to affirm the presidential search committee appointed by chairman Kevin Ueckert in August. Prior to hearing an update from search committee chairman Danny Roberts, all the trustees gathered around the committee for a time of focused prayer.
 
Roberts then shared about the progress of the committee, which has formally met twice; received “dozens of recommendations” for presidential candidates; and appointed a faculty/student advisory committee that has organized four town hall meetings, three prayer sessions and conducted a survey of students, faculty and staff. All of these elements will aid the search committee in building a “presidential profile,” Roberts said, which will be “an important part of what we use to discern God’s man for this position.”
 
Roberts concluded, “We have made great progress. We feel very encouraged, and we are firmly convinced that the Lord is going to lead us directly to the man whom He has already called.”
 
In other business, the trustees accepted the recommendation of the Academic Administration Committee for that committee to meet with the administration between now and the spring board meeting to “review urgent proposed changes to the seminary’s curricula and present a recommendation to the executive committee for final adoption of those changes.”
 
Craig Blaising was promoted to distinguished research professor of theology and Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology, effective immediately.
 
Beyond the general session and committee meetings, trustees also engaged the campus community through such activities as a “Tacos with Trustees” dinner featuring an “Open Mic Night” student talent show, and a faculty-trustee dinner. Trustees also participated in several working lunches, where they received training and heard from the administration on changes implemented since the summer. Trustee Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, preached in chapel Oct. 16.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/19/2018 10:32:29 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



MBTS dedicates Mathena Student Center

October 19 2018 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) celebrated a landmark in its history with the dedication of the new Mathena Student Center in conjunction with the fall trustee meeting Oct. 15-16 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

The meeting’s highlights came on Tuesday in opening the 40,000-square-foot student center named for Harold and Patricia Mathena who provided a $7 million lead gift for the facility.
 
Trustees also elected T. Dale Johnson as associate professor of biblical counseling, and MBTS President Jason Allen reported another record enrollment at the seminary.
 

Mathena Student Center dedication

 
The dedication of the Mathena Student Center included a chapel service, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours for students, faculty and guests. Immediately after its opening, the Midwestern community began using its services.
 

Contributed photo
Midwestern Seminary's new 40,000-square-foot Mathena Student Center opened during the fall trustee meeting Oct. 15-16 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

During the chapel service, Allen referred to the day as one when it would be easy for man to take all the glory, but after sharing the story of all the steps leading up to this day, it was only God’s providence that could be given as a reason.
 
“This special day in the life of Midwestern Seminary, Oct. 16, 2018, is about the Lord,” Allen said. “It is about His work, His faithfulness, His growth. In all of this we say, ‘This is the day that the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24).
 
“We receive in scripture the challenge that is etched prominently inside the new building,” Allen continued, “and that is the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. We fail here if this building isn’t about training servants for the Great Commission.”
 
Allen then recognized a number of key contributors to the project, including some who had given financially and some who had given sacrificially in terms of their contribution to the seminary community.
 
The Tomlinson Café, Allen noted, is named after recently-retired professor of New Testament and Greek Alan Tomlinson, and the Knapp children’s area is named after former student Micah Knapp, who provided childcare services on campus before being killed in an automobile accident in 2017.
 
Of the Mathenas, Allen said, “To know these people is not simply to know people with great resources and with great generosity. It is to know the sweetest Christian family you could meet. I mean this before the Lord, if they had not given a penny to this seminary, I would be privileged to call them friends.
 
“They pray for us; they encourage us; their heart for the gospel is evident. It outshines literally their generosity for this institution. I could be president here 30 years and never find such a family who could … make the type of contribution to enable us to have a student center. We are truly blessed that the Lord providentially connected our paths.”
 
During the service, Harold Mathena preached from Joshua 4, referencing the memorial stones the Israelites placed in Gilgal to mark their crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. Of this significant occasion, Mathena said he sees similarities between then and a new era that has dawned at Midwestern Seminary. He added that the new student center is one of those markers for the entire world to see God’s glory and all He has done on the Kansas City campus over the past six years.
 
“These stones here [at the student center], we are going to commemorate them in recognition of the miracle that has come about in this place,” Mathena said.
 
Just a few years back, he added, many people wondered if this institution could experience revitalization, and his answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
 
“Here at Midwestern, I am thinking, my soul, has this place not been revitalized? Is there not evidence here of a new birth, if you will? There is a new energy here, there is a new excitement here.
 
“What we are doing here today is celebrating another polished stone. It is another era that we are entering into. It is a new day; it is a new dawning; it is a new time under a new leader, under the great men and women that God has assembled here. I am thinking, glory be to God! And it is not just for you and for me. It is not just for this seminary. It is so that all the people of the world might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty.”
 
The two-story student center houses a cafeteria, the Sword & Trowel Bookstore and Tomlinson Café, recreation areas for family use, a collegiate-sized gymnasium, walking track, racquetball court, fitness rooms, as well as formal event facilities, seminar rooms and staff offices.
 

Johnson to join the faculty

 
Based upon a recommendation from their academic committee, trustees elected Dale Johnson to Midwestern’s faculty as associate professor of biblical counseling.
 

Contributed photo
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary, and his wife Karen, along with Harold and Patricia Mathena and their children, cut the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of the Mathena Student Center on the Kansas City, Mo., campus Oct. 16.

Johnson comes to Midwestern after more than four years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as assistant professor of biblical counseling. He also is executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
 
“As we have been evaluating the direction of our counseling program,” Allen said, “we could think of no one more qualified in the area of biblical counseling than Dr. Johnson. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field, and we know he will develop the skills of our counseling students in a way that glorifies God and best serves the local church. We look forward to his leadership in the years ahead.”
 
“These are exciting days at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Johnson said. “Our Lord has granted Dr. Jason Allen a wonderful vision, and the wisdom to execute that vision for seminary education that serves the church. I am honored to join the growing team the Lord is assembling at MBTS to train church leaders who find their wisdom in Christ, who shepherd as Christ, who are zealous for God’s glory like Christ, and who love the bride of Christ.”
 
Provost Jason Duesing said he has known Johnson for nearly 20 years, “and it has been a joy to see him prepared uniquely now to lead Midwestern Seminary in developing counseling programs for the church given his ministry and academic experience. I am grateful, too, for his wife Summer and their family’s willingness to join us, as they will surely serve as a complement to our seminary family.”
 
Prior to Southwestern, Johnson served for seven years as associate pastor of family life at Raiford Road Church in Macclenny, Fla., and was a chaplain for local high school baseball and football teams.
 
Johnson holds a Ph.D. in biblical counseling from Southwestern; a master of divinity in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and an undergraduate degree from Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla.
 
He and his wife Summer have six children.
 

Trustees in session

 
During his president’s report, Allen reported record enrollment gains, reviewed Midwestern’s five-year strategic plan and provided an update on the seminary’s accreditation.
 
For the fall semester, Allen noted that both headcount and hours sold had reached record levels.
 
“We are grateful to the Lord that He continues to allow us to be in a season of incredible enrollment growth,” Allen said. “Over the past academic year, we enrolled 3,525 students. This continues our recent trend of double-digit enrollment growth. Our continued focus is the residential M.Div., but Spurgeon College as well as our online, master’s and doctoral degree programs continue to flourish as well.”
 

Contributed photo
Students at Midwestern Seminary play a pick-up basketball game in the Mabee Foundation Gymnasium of the Mathena Student Center on seminary’s Kansas City, Mo., campus just minutes after the facility opened Oct. 16.

Allen also reviewed with the trustees the seminary’s five-year strategic plan, and the trustee executive committee acted by presenting a motion to the full board that they have reviewed and reaffirmed the plan. The motion passed unanimously.
 
In an update on the seminary’s accreditation status, Allen reported that a recent visit by a liaison of a regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, went well. He explained that items noted from the most recent site visit were well on their way to being resolved and a future site visit date is set for Feb. 4-5, 2019. Midwestern is fully accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission and Association of Theological Schools.
 
During their plenary session, trustees elected, re-elected and promoted several faculty members.
 
In recommendations from the trustee academic committee, trustees elected Matthew Barrett as associate professor of Christian theology, in addition to Johnson in biblical counseling; reelected Owen Strachan as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Public Theology to a three-year term; and promoted Allen to professor of preaching and pastoral ministry.
 
Additionally, five new trustees were welcomed to the board by chairman John Mathena: Gene Dempsey of Kent, Wash., Lane Harrison of Ozark, Mo., Michael Jefferies of Leawood, Kan., Larry Lewis of Columbia, Mo., and Ed Mattox of Farmington, Mich.
 
Midwestern’s board of trustees consists of 35 members and meets biannually in October and April.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/19/2018 10:32:03 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



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