October 2018

Christian, ethnic persecution ‘nightmare’ in China

October 11 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christians and ethnic minorities are living a “nightmare” in China under President Xi Jinping, a congressional commission report released Oct. 10 documents.

YouTube video screengrab
Ethnic Uyghur and former political prisoner Rebiya Kadeer (standing second from right), who fled China in 2005 after serving six years in prison, was formally recognized when the Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its 2018 Annual Report Oct. 10. At the podium (from left) are U.S. Representative Chris Smith and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, commission co-chair and chair, respectively.

Jinping’s unmerciful program to “Sinicize” religion into a government-controlled framework, marginalize ethnic minorities including Uyghur Muslims, and redefine human rights intensified in 2018, making life a nightmare for civilians, U.S. Representative and commission co-chair Chris Smith said in releasing the 2018 Annual Report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
“If you don’t comport with the Communist Party principle about everything you do to the ideology of Xi Jinping, you are going to be arrested, you are going to be tortured, and in many cases you are going to be killed,” Smith said.
“When Bibles are burned and Tibetan monks burned themselves in protests, when a simple prayer over a meal in public may be considered illegal religious gathering, when mosques and churches are demolished in Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims are forced to denounce their faith,” Smith said, “the China dream is a nightmare for millions upon millions of Chinese citizens.”
The 405-page report covering a one-year span ending in September documents “unprecedented repression of ethnic minorities” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, “dramatic increases” in Communist Party control of government, society and business, and the increased use of technology as a repression tool.
U.S. Senator and CECC Chair Marco Rubio said the crackdown on religion in particular, through the increased scope of the United Front Work Department in overseeing religious affairs, underscores “the party’s enduring fear that the growth of religious belief is a threat to its grip on power.”
A political prisoner database, political prisoners of particular concern and recommendations for the Trump administration and the United Nations are included in the report. Former political prisoner and ethnic Uyghur Rebiya Kadeer, who fled China in 2005 after securing a “compassionate release” from prison, was among audience members Rubio and Smith said had been personally and tragically affected by China’s oppression.
Under Jinping, China is more aggressive at home and abroad, the CECC said in summarizing its findings.
“We see an ascendant and increasingly aggressive China, seeking to take center stage in the world, and in so doing, determined to shape new global norms on development, trade, the internet, and even human rights,” the CECC said. “All the while, the fundamental authoritarian character of China’s political system remains the same.”
Rubio commended Chinese pastors and lay leaders who signed a “joint declaration for the sake of the Christian faith” in August and stated “their willingness to bear all losses” including freedom and life. More than 400 have signed the statement which remains active, Rubio said.
“We must also remember the brave Chinese citizens who are voicing dissent in the face of expanding domestic oppression,” Rubio said. “At the heart of the CECC’s annual report lays this enduring truth, pressing for China’s adherence to universal standards advances not only American national security, economic interests and moral values; it advances the aspirations of Chinese citizens eager for peace, protection of their most basic rights and genuine political reform to accompany their economic ascent and progress.”
Among the commission’s recommendations are:
– Advocating publicly and clearly for political prisoners, including the appointment of a special adviser for religious and political prisoners to coordinate interagency efforts on prisoners’ behalf.
– Demanding that China “guarantee to all citizens freedom of religion in accordance with its international human rights obligations, enforcing sanctions against individuals guilty of oppressive acts.”
– Encouraging China to end its population control policies including forced abortions, decades of which “have exacerbated China’s demographic challenges, which include a rapidly aging population, shrinking workforce, and sex ratio imbalance.”
– Pulling the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing.
The full report and is available at cecc.gov. See Biblical Reporter's previous story on religious persecution in China.
(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.)

10/11/2018 11:49:37 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

The Summit devotes staff ‘fun day’ to DR

October 10 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Nearly 200 staff members from The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., devoted their annual leadership “fun day” on Oct. 9 to participating in disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The group tackled 12 projects under the direction of Baptists on Mission (also called North Carolina Baptist Men; NCBM) based out of a recovery site at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton, according to on-site reports.

Contributed photo
Pictured are The Summit staff members, from left: Eric Stortz, director of cultural engagement; J.D. Greear, pastor; Amy Kavanaugh; Chris Pappalardo, editor; and Jason Douglas, executive pastor of weekend ministries.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he wanted the staff to experience the evangelistic opportunities created by disaster relief efforts and see what kind of impact Cooperative Program ministries can make on communities.
Greg Riggs, NCBM site coordinator, said the Lumberton operation has completed 180 house cleanup projects and is currently engaged in more than 380 others. He estimated several hundred more are on a waiting list.
Riggs expressed gratitude for the large group of volunteers from The Summit.
“We need money, but we need labor as much as anything else,” he said. “Money won’t clean those houses out. The manpower is what we need. If people will come with a servant’s heart, we’ll move mountains.”
Riggs, an avid fisherman, recounted his experience as a volunteer on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He worked with a team removing downed trees from damaged rooftops.
“One day while we were up on a house, a guy was saved,” Riggs said. “From that experience, I realized what I was really fishing for – I’m fishing for men. I’m fishing for men, now.”
Greear said encounters like Riggs’ are what he wants The Summit leaders to experience.
“Our staff is engaged in evangelism every single day,” Greear said. “We wanted to see this kind of evangelism, participate in it and support it so we can better inform our people, so they can catch this vision and realize God has a plan for them also.”
He continued, “If you have a servant’s heart and willing hands, you can prepare a meal, you can clean out a house, you can sit on a porch, pray with someone and give them hope. I want our staff to see that.”
Lori Francis, The Summit’s director of sending, met a family whose mobile home was damaged during the recent storm. The Arthurs, along with their son and grandson, have been living in the mobile home as a temporary shelter. It sits on the same property as their house, which still has damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, she said.
Amid debris, Francis recounted stories from the Bible about Jesus, Peter and a storm. Another staff member, Tony Diana, told the Arthurs how Jesus is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” from Hebrews 4:14-16 and prayed for them.
The grandmother, Clara, started crying, Francis said. “No one had been to see her yet, and she was so thankful.”
The Summit staff members shared the gospel with the Arthurs, and have plans to connect the family with N.C. Baptist churches in the area. Clara was open to discussing more about Jesus, staff members said.

Contributed photo
The Summit’s pastor, J.D. Greear, and Greg Riggs, site coordinator for North Carolina Baptists on Mission.

Francis also praised the work of NCBM volunteers and leaders, including Riggs, Tom Beam, NCBM mobilization consultant and Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director.
“It was beautiful to pray with their long-term blue hat and yellow hat volunteers,” she said. “I believe it was motivation for our staff to work with intentionality and joy. We love our partners at NCBM.”
As The Summit staff removed debris and cleaned houses in North Carolina, the National Weather Service predicted another storm would hit the Florida Panhandle and move northeast in the coming days. Greear said Southern Baptists should prepare to “pray, give and go” as they brace for Hurricane Michael, which is expected the make landfall today (Oct. 10).
“We’re praying this thing will pass with no incidents, but if it hits, it provides us an opportunity to do what Christians do best,” said Greear, “to put the love of Christ on display in a way that awakens in people an awareness for their need of the message of the gospel that we bring.”
Greear also said he is thankful for how the Cooperative Program supports disaster relief and other ministries.
“All of our cooperative giving goes toward mission, and it’s spent in wise and prudent ways. But there are a few things, when you see them in action, you’re like, ‘I'm really glad I give to this. I’m glad I play a small part in it,” said Greear. “Things like disaster relief remind me, not only why it’s important to give, but why our church is committed to the Cooperative Program.”

NCBM is funded by the North Carolina Missions Offering. Visit ncmissionsoffering.org for more information.

10/10/2018 10:23:41 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Michael looms: DR preps against ‘compassion fatigue’

October 10 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

“This year is beginning to look more like our 2017 hurricane response,” said Sam Porter, national director for disaster relief with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), as Hurricane Michael pressed toward the Florida Gulf Coast Oct. 9.

Photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 10. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief, the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry arm, are preparing a response to help people affected by the storm.

“The storms are simply happening a month later than they did last year,” said Porter, who is coordinating with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) directors across the Southeast and NAMB’s Send Relief leadership ahead of Michael’s landfall.
“We’ve had Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now three weeks later, we’ve got Hurricane Michael taking aim at Florida and Georgia,” Porter said. The most devastating of last year’s hurricanes began with Harvey and Irma in August followed by Maria in September.
SBDR has been hard at work since Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14. That major response – along with responses to wildfires out West, major flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the Heartland – has Porter warning Southern Baptists against the potential for “compassion fatigue.”
The tendency is for people to lose their sensitivity to the news of damage, flooding and homelessness, he said.
“There’s an extreme urgency to call Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and churches to be faithful in the response,” Porter said. “There are still thousands of people needing help who have not received it yet.
“The Lord calls us to be compassionate every day of our lives. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing,’” he said, paraphrasing Galatians 6:9.
Since Hurricane Florence made landfall, SBDR has prepared more than 1.1 million meals, cleared more than a thousand yards and completed flood cleanup on more than 240 homes.
Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm, will be shipping resources from its ministry center in Appalachia as it did in preparation for Florence. SBDR volunteers and local churches will distribute those supplies, as well as feeding and ministering to people in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
Officials expect Hurricane Michael to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon Oct. 10 as a Category 3 storm, with storm surge and wind pummeling large portions of the state’s Gulf Coast. Damage and power outages are expected to extend through Georgia, potentially reaching into the Carolinas.
Current models indicate that the storm will make landfall just east of Panama City, Fla.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in more than 30 counties, warning that Michael could be “the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades. This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for 92 counties. “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” Deal stated. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.”
Unlike Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, Michael is not expected to carry the same flooding risk beyond the initial storm surge, with the hurricane predicted to move fairly quickly through Florida and into Georgia.
Florence remained over North and South Carolina after making landfall, dropping feet of rain in some regions, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates a moderate risk of flash flooding in Florida and South Georgia. Instead, a wider area likely will be affected by wind damage and power outages as Michael buzzes through the South.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger multi-state responses.
To donate funds or find ways to volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit namb.net/hurricane-relief.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/10/2018 10:23:25 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Christian mother’s life in hands of Pakistani court

October 10 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian mother Asia Bibi only offered a Muslim coworker a drink of water. Subsequently convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, Bibi awaits the result of her final court appeal heard Oct. 8.

The coworker said Bibi’s Christianity made the water ceremonially unclean, setting off a chain of false accusations related to Bibi’s beliefs and backed by Muslim clerics. The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard hours of testimony before deferring a ruling in the case, with no official timeline set for a decision, according to news reports.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said the delay might signal good news for Bibi in a country where Christians are increasingly treated with hostility by society and the justice system.
“Given the religiously-charged atmosphere of the country regarding blasphemy cases,” the ACLJ said at aclj.org Oct. 9, “it is understandable that the court would avoid announcing its decision yesterday, especially if it is in Asia Bibi’s favor.”
The hostile climate for Christians, who number less than 4 million in a country of 196 million, is evidenced by frequent reports of public, institutional and governmental violence against religious minorities. Mob violence, police torture, rape and murder are frequent, the ACLJ’s European counterpart told the United Nations General Assembly as recently as August.
– As of Oct. 8, police had arrested no one in the killing of a Christian father of four, Sumi Saleem, believed beaten to death by doctors and hospital staff at the Government Services Institute of Medical Sciences in Lahore, Morning Star News reported. Saleem had complained when a doctor refused to treat his pregnant sister who was laboring to give birth March 26.
– Muslims have repeatedly attempted to destroy with a crane St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Layyah, assaulting church members with clubs and other weapons. Days in advance of a Sept. 19 hearing in the case, about 60 Muslims assaulted Christians at the church that was built by parishioners, ACLJ reported Sept. 7. The mob continued to beat Christians as they fled to their homes. In such cases police typically refuse to intervene, but instead tell Christians to flee the violence, according to news reports.
– Christians are living in fear in Muslim Town, a community with a large following of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik radical Muslim party (TLP), after party member Rafique Ahmed reportedly framed a 24-year-old Christian, Farhan Aziz, for blasphemy. The Christian’s family told Morning Star that Ahmed, whose sister was a Christian whom Aziz had dated, had participated in a scheme to rob Aziz of money, making the false charges in August when Aziz uncovered the ruse.
– In a village near Faisalabad, police have refused to protect Full Gospel Assemblies Church, World Watch Monitor reported in June. Under pressure from village Muslims, World Watch said, police forbid Christians to worship at the church and in their homes, telling church leaders they must register with civil authorities for protection. No such provision is stipulated in Pakistani law, according to World Watch.
Bibi’s case is widely considered one of the most egregious cases of injustice stemming from blasphemy laws in force since the 1980s. One of more than 40 so-called blasphemers on death row in Pakistan, according to ACLJ numbers, Bibi would be the first Pakistani the government has ever executed under blasphemy laws.
More than 50 people accused of blasphemy have been killed by angry mobs and others, and hundreds are serving or have served prison terms ranging from three years to 10 years on such accusations, according to the ACLJ. International religious freedom watchdog Open Doors lists Pakistan as the fifth most dangerous country for Christians to live.
The Supreme Court could announce its decision at any time, according to news reports. See Biblical Recorder’s previous story.
(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.)

10/10/2018 10:23:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kavanaugh confirmation: Prayer, civility urged

October 10 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leaders called for prayer and the restoration of civility in public discourse in the wake of the highly divisive battle that ended with Brett Kavanaugh’s narrow confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Photo by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife and daughters looking on, is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the Supreme Court’s 114th justice.

The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh, 53, in a 50-48 roll call Oct. 6 after an already bitter struggle over President Trump’s nominee escalated when sexual assault allegations were made against the federal appeals court judge. The vote followed party lines in the Republican-majority chamber with one exception: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined the GOP in supporting Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh – whom opponents fear will push the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction, especially on the abortion issue – is expected to sit in on the high court’s oral arguments for the first time Oct. 9.
The confirmation vote came two days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) delivered a report to the Senate on its latest scrutiny of Kavanaugh following assault accusations that dated to his high school years in the early 1980s. After reading the report, some senators said the investigation provided no corroboration of the allegations.
Southern Baptists outside and inside Congress said they would pray and appealed for prayer.
“Now that the confirmation process is over, we must pray for healing for our country after a time of such division,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), “and for the future of the Supreme Court, especially in the areas of religious freedom and human dignity.”
Moore also said in written comments for Baptist Press, “One of the reasons the Supreme Court is so important is because of the way the judiciary has taken more and more power unto itself over the past several decades. We pray that Justice Kavanaugh and the other justices on the Court will have wisdom and discernment as they decide cases that will affect the lives of millions of Americans, born and unborn, for generations to come.”
Evan Lenow, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted, “During these very contentious days, it is important for us to heed Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where he urges him to pray for all people, especially those in authority, ‘so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.’
“I hope that we do not forget the final part of this admonition – to live in godliness and dignity,” Lenow, director of the seminary’s Land Center for Cultural Engagement, said in written comments to BP. “While much of the political discourse of our day is rancorous, we need to remember that we should be dignified and gracious with all people, especially those with whom we disagree.
Many foes of Kavanaugh – considered an originalist who interprets the Constitution based on its initial meaning – fear his confirmation will upset the balance of the high court. Trump nominated him to replace Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote between factions on the bench.
Abortion-rights supporters are particularly concerned that Kavanaugh could be a fifth vote to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Kavanaugh’s record as an appellate judge has received favorable reviews from nearly all pro-life and religious freedom advocates.
No abortion cases are pending on the Supreme Court’s docket for this term so far, but there are 14 involving the controversial issue before federal appeals courts, according to a Sept. 7 article in The New York Times. Those include state restrictions on the procedure and requirements for abortion providers.
Religious freedom and gender identity cases also are absent at this time from the high court’s 2018 term docket, but the justices could review some lower court decisions on those issues before it adjourns in summer 2019. Among these:
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is an appeal by Joseph Kennedy, a Washington state high school football coach who was suspended for kneeling and praying on the field after games. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled in 2017 the school district did not violate Kennedy’s First Amendment rights. He has asked the justices to review and overturn the appeals court’s opinion. The ERLC joined in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Kennedy.
Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is an expected appeal to the high court of a 2017 ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of a bakery who declined to design and bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. In June, the state Supreme Court declined to review the opinion, upholding a decision by the Oregon Bureau that found the Kleins’ refusal was based on unlawful discrimination and fined them $135,000.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involves an appeal to the justices of a Sixth Circuit Court decision that a family business violated federal employment protections by refusing to permit a male worker who identifies as female to dress in women’s clothing, thereby defying its dress code, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In July, Harris Funeral Homes asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn the opinion they said redefined Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include gender identity in sex discrimination protections.
David McKinley, pastor-teacher at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and a periodic columnist in Baptist Press, noted, “For all of the division and controversy surrounding our president and his pejorative comments, he has consistently delivered judicial appointments that undergird and uphold the convictions and concerns of many citizens who have long felt coerced and suppressed by aggressive and invasive court rulings.
“The case against Judge Kavanaugh in which he remained resolute in his innocence did not withstand scrutiny as it moved from the hearing floor to the highest investigative agency in our land,” McKinley said in written comments to BP. “He has been confirmed, and it is time to move ahead. I pray he serves our nation well.
“As believers we know this battle is only a reminder of our need to pray for the repentance, reform and reconciliation only God can bring within a nation,” McKinley said. “And we need to do all we can to make peace within our communities, building up faith, hope and love through the witness and good works of our churches to the glory of God.”
With its Kavanaugh vote, the Senate has now confirmed 69 of Trump’s federal judicial nominees since he took office in January 2017, and he has about the same number awaiting confirmation. In 21 months, senators have approved two Supreme Court justices, 21 circuit court of appeals judges and 46 federal judges. At the appeals court level, Trump has had the most impact in the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, where five of his nominees now serve, and the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati and Seventh Circuit in Chicago, each of which have four of his nominees on the bench.
The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch – Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee – in 2017.
The 50-48 confirmation vote for Kavanaugh resulted when Sen. Lisa Murkowsi, R-Alaska, implemented the unusual Senate practice of pairing her vote with a colleague. Murkowski, the lone Republican to oppose confirmation, voted no but quickly withdrew her vote to be counted “present.” She did so because Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was attending his daughter’s wedding in his home state and unable to vote.
A judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for 12 years, Kavanaugh was approved 57-36 by the Senate in 2006 after a three-year delay following his nomination. Previously, his experience included time as a senior associate counsel and staff secretary for President George W. Bush, as well as a Supreme Court clerk for Kennedy.
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, told BP, “Not in my lifetime or my father’s lifetime has so much national capital been expended to confirm a Supreme Court judge. I am not sure it mattered too much who the candidate was. There was going to be an ideological war waged and many wounds.
“Perhaps the greatest wound is on the nation itself where the confirmation process from this day forward will be marred by political posturing instead of civil advise and consent (Psalm 9:15, 19-20).
“We are in desperate need of the Holy God to awaken the citizens of this republic to its principles of governing and responsibility of common courtesy toward one another,” Yeats stated. “Recent actions should not surprise us when the percentage of lostness is at an all-time high in proportion to our population. Historically, prior to the great spiritual movements in our nation, the depravity of mankind is in full public display and it leads the people of God to desperate prayer. The body of Christ has a unique opportunity to cry out to God for our nation – to cry out to God about the lostness of men and women. … This is no time for God’s people to grow weary but to demonstrate great faith in our mighty God who holds the course of nations in His hand.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/10/2018 10:22:55 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB, Alabama Baptists plan for Crossover in Birmingham

October 9 2018 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

With eight months until Crossover 2019, Birmingham-area Southern Baptists are looking to build upon a record number of faith commitments last year.

Wikimedia Commons photo
Crossover 2019 in Birmingham will encompass evangelistic efforts in a partnership between the North American Mission Board and seven Alabama Baptist associations.

Although specific plans have not been finalized, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is partnering with seven Alabama Baptist associations in the effort. Door-to-door evangelism in the suburbs and a Send Relief outreach downtown are expected to be part of the Crossover plans prior to the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting.
“We will be working closely with our state and local Baptist partners in Alabama to plan a Crossover that is a great fit for Birmingham and Alabama,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “We always want Crossover to be something that local Baptists feel they can own and fully participate in. I hope everyone planning to attend SBC 2019 will make plans to arrive early and participate in this opportunity to share Jesus with those in and around Birmingham.”
The Southern Baptist Convention started Crossover in 1989 as a way to engage the host city of the SBC’s annual meeting with the gospel. North American Mission Board partners with the local state convention and the local SBC associations in the area to coordinate the effort.
For the last two years, NAMB, local Southern Baptist associations and Harvest America have worked together to host evangelistic crusades the Sunday before the annual meeting. The crusades have followed door-to-evangelistic efforts the proceeding week and street evangelism the day before. Though these crusades have been fruitful, logistical challenges make it impossible to repeat in Birmingham next June.
“Originally, we planned to partner with Harvest again for a Birmingham crusade,” Joel Southerland of NAMB said. “However, the logistics didn’t allow that to happen. After much consideration with Harvest and local leaders, we decided to go a different direction. Harvest is a great partner, and we look forward to working with them again in the future.”
Last year tens of thousands of people attended the 2018 Crossover Harvest America Crusade in Dallas, and more than 100,000 watched online. A record 4,229 people came to faith in Christ through last year’s Crossover activities, which includes salvation decisions at the crusade, online and through door-to-door and street evangelism in the preceding week.
Alabama Baptists hope next year’s Crossover events will give them a similar opportunity to saturate  Birmingham with the gospel.
“The 2019 Crossover Birmingham will offer the SBC, and especially Alabama Baptists, the opportunity to make a significant impact on the greater Birmingham area as well as the inner city,” said Sammy Gilbreath, director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions office of evangelism. “It will be a joy to partner with Joel Southerland at NAMB in developing the strategy, and then implementing it to reach the city for Christ. Their expertise and passion for this ministry help motivate and train hundreds of volunteers for this incredible opportunity.”
NAMB will communicate more details about Crossover events and opportunities in early 2019.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/9/2018 10:19:44 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

SBC goes ‘before God in fasting’ for entities

October 9 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Churches, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities and Baptist state conventions have heeded SBC President J.D. Greear’s call to pray and fast Oct. 8 for the five SBC entities seeking new presidents.

Photo from Twitter
Staff members at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions were among the Southern Baptists who gathered Oct. 8 to pray for the five SBC entities seeking presidents.

“Thanks to all of you going before God in fasting and prayer with Psalm 67 for what God has for us!” Greear tweeted, referencing Psalm 67’s call for God to “be gracious” to His people so His way of salvation would be known “among all nations.”
The five entities currently seeking presidents are the SBC Executive Committee, the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Steve Swofford, chairman of the Executive Committee’s presidential search committee told Baptist Press via email, “Those of us on the search committee for the Executive Committee are humbled and grateful that Dr. Greear has challenged Southern Baptists to pray for us. Our strong desire from the beginning has been very simple. We want to find God’s man for this job at this particular time. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for praying for that to happen.”
Among Baptists to register their participation in the day of prayer and fasting:
– The SBC Executive Committee tweeted, “This morning our staff focused our weekly prayer time on SBC entities that are seeking new leaders and their search committees. Join us today in @jdgreear’s call to pray and fast.”
– The Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists held a time of focused prayer Oct. 8 during its annual meeting in Pratt, Kan., for the five SBC entities seeking presidents.
– Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, tweeted, “Blessed by time this morning with [State Board of Missions] colleagues as we responded to a call by SBC president J.D. Greear to pray for denominational search committees.”
– Crossroads Community Church in Kenner, La., tweeted, “In response to @jdgreear’s request, our congregation prayed for @NOBTS, @swbts, @IMB_SBC, @LifeWay, and @EC_SBC as they search for their next leaders. May God grant wisdom for and guide their search processes.”
Several state conventions called churches and individuals to prayer for the SBC on social media.
Frank Cox, chairman of the board of trustees at New Orleans Seminary, told BP, “We covet the prayers of Southern Baptists. We believe when they pray, God is going to move.”
Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., said he anticipates announcing the members of New Orleans Seminary’s presidential search committee Oct. 9 or 10.
“We appreciate J.D. Greear calling for Southern Baptists to pray, as I’m sure all the entities that are looking for presidents right now do,” Cox said. “With this many vacancies, the lists are going to be short at each of the institutions. But yet God is going to make His will known.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., had requested Oct. 2 via Twitter and in letters to Baptist leaders that Southern Baptist pray specifically for:
– “Wisdom for the search committee” at each entity “in assessing what is needed most for effective ministry in the 21st century”;
– “Boldness ... in asking the difficult questions”;
– “Loving-kindness” as search committee members “interact with one another”; and
– “That God’s face would shine upon us as a people – not for our sake, but that Jesus’ name would be known to the ends of the earth.”
(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.)

10/9/2018 10:19:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay search committee now accepting nominations

October 9 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

The LifeWay Christian Resources presidential search committee is accepting nominations for a successor to Thom Rainer, chairman Kent Dacus has announced.
The search committee met Monday, Sept. 24, to develop a process for their search of the new LifeWay president and CEO, Dacus reported.
The committee, which is accepting nominations at LifeWayCEO@carterbaldwin.com, will work with the executive search firm CarterBaldwin to identify potential candidates.
Dacus asked Southern Baptists to continue to pray for the committee as they seek God’s guidance in choosing LifeWay’s next leader. “We do not take our task lightly,” Dacus said. “It is a tremendous responsibility God and the trustee board have placed on the search committee.
“We are seeking God’s wisdom and direction as we look for an individual who will lead LifeWay into the future,” Dacus continued. “We would ask Southern Baptists to pray for the committee as well as for the individual whom God has prepared to lead LifeWay.”
On Aug. 27, LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer announced his plans to retire in the coming year after 13 years in leading the SBC entity. A seven-person search committee was named to find LifeWay’s next leader during their Aug. 27-28 trustee meeting in Nashville.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/9/2018 10:19:05 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Human dignity addressed by ERLC in Capitol Hill event

October 9 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Human dignity, as a biblical doctrine, should shape how Christians view the unborn, elderly and refugees as well as religious liberty, sexual assault and civil discourse, Southern Baptist ethics leaders told a gathering on Capitol Hill.

Photo by Anne Kim
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Travis Wussow (from left), Russell Moore and Daniel Darling discuss human dignity during the ERLC Academy event Oct. 2 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The expansiveness of human dignity was set forth Oct. 2 by staff members of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in the final of three sessions this year of its annual ERLC Academy. Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, and Daniel Darling, the commission’s vice president for communications, addressed questions for an audience consisting primarily of congressional staffers and non-governmental organization workers.
The biblical view that all human beings are made in God’s image demonstrates the purposefulness of their existence, Moore said.
“Humanity is not an accident,” Moore told the gathering in the Cannon House of Representatives Office Building. “Humanity is not just a sum of biological processes. Humanity is a picture that God has embedded in the world of Himself and points us ultimately to the true and perfect humanity in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
If the biblical view of human dignity is lost, “we start to think of people simply in terms of either their cognitive functioning or in terms of their sexual vitality or in terms of their power” in ways that are ultimately degrading, Moore told the mostly millennial generation audience.
In “dehumanizing other people, we end up dehumanizing ourselves,” Moore said, adding the result is “a kind of social Darwinism.”
Moore and Darling – authors of the new book The Dignity Revolution: Reclaiming God’s Rich Vision for Humanity – addressed the following topics as part of a format that consisted of questions from Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, and the audience:

The #MeToo movement

The “baseline issue” on sexual mistreatment of women, Moore said, is “whether or not power itself means right.” The pattern often has been “men using power in order to see women only in terms of their sexual availability or attractiveness, and often in ways that are abusive and violent and deadening to the soul.”
When it happens in the church, it can create “a crisis of credibility,” Moore said. “[S]ometimes what tends to happen in churches is when something awful happens, there’s a sense of: ‘Well, let’s treat this as a public relations matter because we don’t want people on the outside to think this is what Jesus is about.’ That is what actually takes away the credibility of the church. Jesus never deals with sin within the church by covering it up but by exposing it.”

The Kavanaugh confirmation controversy

Two biblical principles exist, Moore said, in the debate over Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who was accused of sexual assault en route to his confirmation Oct. 6. Proverbs [17:5] says, “The one who justifies the wicked and the one who condemns the righteous are alike an abomination to the Lord,” he told the audience.
The Kavanaugh situation is “fraught with ambiguity” because people don’t know everything that happened, Moore said. “I don’t worry about the people who would say, ‘I think she’s telling the truth. Let’s believe her.’ I don’t worry about the people who are saying, ‘I think he has been unjustly accused because of the sort of track record we’ve seen elsewhere in his life.’ Those are legitimate disagreements we can try to work on.
“What I’m worried about are the people who would say, ‘Well, boys will be boys. This doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago.’ Or the people who will say, ‘Well regardless of whether it’s true or not, somebody with that kind of track record shouldn’t be on the court.’”

Public discourse

Darling said, “[W]e’ve stopped seeing people as ideological opponents, and we now see them as mortal enemies.”
Some of this results from arguments being “mediated through digital forms,” Darling told the audience. “It’s easy to get what I call ‘keyboard courage’ where we just hammer away at people because we don’t see that person on the other side of Twitter as an actual human being. We see them as sort of an avatar to be crushed or the sum total of their arguments.
“And I think for Christians it doesn’t just matter that we speak out on an issue, but it matters how we speak,” Darling said. “[C]ivility and courage actually can go together.”

The elderly, immigrants and refugees

Fear often is a controlling factor, Moore noted, in issues involving the elderly, immigrants and refugees.
With regard to physician-assisted suicide, he said, “[T]here is a discounting of the elderly in our culture that I think is rooted fundamentally in fear of death.” The roots of a “sort of euthanasia mentality” can be heard when people say, “I don’t ever want to be a burden to my children,” he said.
“In reality, God has created us to be completely dependent at the front end of our lives and to be completely dependent at the back end of our lives. We need other people to care for us.”
Regarding immigrants and refugees, Moore said one of the matters “often at the heart” of the debates “is an appeal to fear.” Christians can debate what are the best policies, he said, but “what we can’t do, though, is to surrender to this idea that people are themselves a problem to be dealt with.”

Religious freedom

Among the things “that religious liberty recognizes,” Darling said, “is the humanity of people.” The ability to think, reason and believe is part of being human, he told the audience. “A government that takes that away is essentially denying you part of your humanity.”
The ERLC Academy, which completed its fourth consecutive year, seeks to equip the next generation of leaders to apply the Gospel of Jesus to the moral and ethical issues facing the church in society. It was held previously in Nashville in 2015 and 2017 and in Washington in 2016.
This year’s first two ERLC Academy events also were held on Capitol Hill. Moore spoke on how to think about ethics and moral problems in the May session and on the conscience and temptation in July.
The Good Book Co. – which published Darling’s book – sponsored the Oct. 2 session.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/9/2018 10:18:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

2017-18 Lottie Moon offering nears $159 million

October 8 2018 by Julie McGowan, IMB

IMB photo
Southern Baptists' gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support IMB missionaries such as Larry Pepper (center), who was a NASA flight surgeon before God put him on a different trajectory: working with the IMB at hospitals in Africa. He’s now spent more than two decades offering hope to the hurting there.

In the 100th anniversary since Southern Baptists named their global mission offering in honor of esteemed missionary Lottie Moon, churches gave $158.9 million to sustain their international missionaries worldwide – the second-highest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions ever received.

“We praise the Lord and thank Southern Baptist churches who have again generously demonstrated their faithfulness in undergirding the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth,” said Clyde Meador, interim president of the International Mission Board (IMB).
With the books on the offering closing Sept. 30, the 2017-18 Lottie Moon offering, at $158,890,638.47, neared the national goal of $160 million.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), which promotes the offering in partnership with IMB, also expressed gratitude.
“The breadth of missionary opportunity around the globe must be matched by a God-given vision to reach the lost,” she said. “The totals of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering demonstrate an obedience to the Great Commission. We rejoice knowing these simple dollars will turn into seeds planted for the gospel. We pray for a rich harvest among the peoples of the world.”

IMB photo
Since members of Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky., have traveled to Brazil and met its people, they now feel strongly the weight of their own responsibility – and the blessing of partnering with IMB missionaries to reach the people of Brazil with the gospel. 

The Lottie Moon offering is crucial in supporting nearly 3,700 full-time missionaries, who are key strategic workers in some of the toughest areas on earth. The offering – and regular giving by churches through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program (CP) – funds missionary salaries, housing, medical care, children’s education, field transportation and other expenses.
Since CP giving provides a substantive portion of IMB’s overall budget (a budget of $264.4 million in 2018-19, according to Rodney Freeman, IMB treasurer and vice president of Support Services), every dollar donated to the offering goes directly to the IMB overseas budget, which directly supports missionaries and their work.
Southern Baptists have given more than $4.5 billion since beginning an offering to support international missions in 1888, Freeman reported.

‘Why we come together’

Through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists directly support the work of their personnel such as:

  • Larry Pepper, who traded a space mission for a medical mission among the sick and hurting in Africa. See related story.

  • Scott and Joyce Pittman in São Paulo, Brazil, who partner with the members of a Kentucky church to reach the city of 22 million with the gospel. See related story.

  • Russell Woodbridge, who works alongside members of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., to train Ukrainian believers who are planting churches. See related story.

IMB photo
IMB missionary Russell Woodbridge (left) talks with a student at Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary. Through the seminary, Woodbridge trains Ukrainian believers – many of whom have been displaced by war in eastern Ukraine – to plant churches among the unreached. 

“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for giving so generously this year to the spread of the Great Commission to all the nations of the earth,” said J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church. “This is at the heart of why we come together. May God make us abound in love for the lost around the world and faith in God’s willingness to save them, and express that through extravagant generosity for the sake of making His name known in all the earth!”
The 2017-18 offering ran Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018, to align with IMB’s fiscal calendar. The 2018-19 offering runs Oct. 1, 2018-Sept. 30, 2019.
Learn more at imb.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations manager for IMB. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/8/2018 11:00:24 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

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