September 2008

Board to recommend single giving plan

September 30 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

After adopting the report of a special study committee Sept. 30, the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors will recommend that messengers adopt a single, simple giving plan with options when the Convention meets in November.

Giving Plans Study Committee chairman Ed Yount reported the long anticipated results of his task force to the Board.

If adopted, the single Cooperative Program Giving Plan will form the framework for the work of annual budget committees beginning in 2010. No budget allocations were a part of the giving plan presentation.

Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, chaired a widely diverse 15-person committee named last year by Board of Directors President Allan Blume, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone. Members were from churches who utilized one or more of every giving plan.

Most are not on the Board of Directors but 11 attended the question and answer session Tuesday morning and the board the presentation Tuesday evening.

Yount said the committee wanted its recommendations to protect the autonomy of the local church; be simple, but flexible; and protect ministries that currently depend on the multiple giving plan structure.

Consequently, its final recommendation for a single, Cooperative Program Giving Plan has five parts.

  • It intends to keep partnership missions and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute funded at levels comparable to their current income from all plans.

  • A church can make up to three negative designations and its remittance will still count as Cooperative Program giving.

  • A  simple check box on the remittance form will allow a church to designate 10 percent of its gift to the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). That 10 percent will not be counted as Cooperative Program gifts and it does not mean CBF is in the budget.

  • Two additional check boxes will allow churches to designate two percent of their remittance to support both the Adopt-an-Annuitant program and scholarship aid at Campbell University and Gardner-Webb University divinity schools.

  • The remittance form will continue to include special offerings approved by the Convention. The Convention will not act as a pass through for gifts to organizations not in the Convention’s budget.

The fate of funds going from one or more of the current giving plans to organizations such as Associated Baptist Press, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Baptist Center for Ethics, Baptist World Alliance and theological education in non-NC and non-SBC schools will be determined by annual budget committees.

A commitment to Fruitland and to partnership missions were the only stated financial commitments in the giving plan framework.  
 

Long history

North Carolina Baptists’ giving plans have been studied virtually bi-annually since the first alternate plan was adopted in 1990 in reaction to the direction of Southern Baptist Convention theological education. A third plan was adopted in 1994 to let churches support the nascent CBF national organization through the BSC budget. In 1998 a fourth plan was developed which decreased the percentage of money supporting the BSC general budget and increased allocations to specific BSC ministries.

These plans became known as Plans A, B, C and D. While they were created to accommodate the special interests of specific groups so they would stay affiliated with the Convention, their power to unify has been diluted in recent years.

In 2007 60 percent of churches, or 1,910, utilized Plan A exclusively; 301 used Plan B exclusively; 160 used Plan C exclusively and 590 used Plan D exclusively. Two hundred sixty-seven churches used multiple giving plans, a number down from its peak of 394 in 2000.

Plan C, the plan identified with churches wanting to support CBF, has been steadily declining in revenue and number of contributing churches as those churches direct their funds through the CBF mission support avenue. The number of “Plan C only” churches peaked at 169 in 2006. It dropped to 160 in 2007 and is at 119 through nine months of 2008.

Committee member Sandra Page from Charlotte said the single plan will encourage greater giving as it offers efficiency and transparency.

“All we tried to do was seek the mind of God and listen to North Carolina Baptists,” said Yount. “We tried to take the politics out of our work and do what was best for the Kingdom. That was our purpose for working and that was our heart.”

Yount and Convention officers and staff who participated in the meetings, repeatedly mentioned how hours in prayer united the diverse committee.

“The plan encourages unity but allows for diversity,” said Page. “More importantly it shows that North Carolina Baptists can serve God while they love each other.”

Committee member Jeff Roberts, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh, said his large, diverse church uses multiple giving plans “and they work very well for us.”

He admitted he was leery of the project at the beginning. He said with 60 percent of churches using Plan A exclusively, they “have the power by the majority to make Plan A the only plan.”

Instead, he said, the process was a picture of grace. “You’ve said to me and churches like ours there’s still a place for you if you want to cooperate and you’ve given us a vehicle to do that.”

Extensive research was conducted, including online, printed and email surveys. Repeatedly, Yount said, the committee heard from North Carolina Baptists that multiple giving plans was just too confusing. "There was a desire for a simple plan that maintained options,” he said. “We sought to simply, unify and increase our giving.”

“Keep this phrase in mind,” Milton Hollifield told Board members. “A simple plan with options.”    

9/30/2008 2:24:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments



$1 million launches Campbell clinic challenge (Updated)

September 30 2008 by Dianna Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Campbell University’s law school received a $1 million challenge grant today to set up a legal clinic.

The Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, which announced a move to Raleigh about a year ago, received the grant from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping bring about social and civic change.

"Our graduates are part of the fabric of North Carolina," law school Dean Melissa Essary said a year ago at the press conference announcing the move from Harnett County. "We look forward to building upon our heritage with new opportunities in Raleigh."

The announcement came at an 11 a.m. press conference at the site of the new facilities on Hillsborough Street.

Barbara Goodmon, president and executive director of the foundation, said the legal clinic is an investment in North Carolina’s future.

“Human beings just don’t have the ability to always do the right thing,” she said. “We do the right things when we have to. These students, our young people … are the ones that will have to force change.”

Campbell’s law school move and the $1 million challenge grant is “the beginning of a new day in North Carolina,” Goodmon said.

The grant will be applied to Campbell law school’s $27.5 million “Campaign for Raleigh.” Funds raised toward the challenge grant will help underwrite the clinic’s operations, which will focus on critical community issues such as housing and needs of low-income seniors, among other important social justice concerns.
 
“The creation of the Legal Clinic will allow our students — the next generation of community leaders — to work directly with those who often have no voice, and certainly no legal representation,” Essary said. “It is our responsibility to help our students view the practice of law as a calling to serve others and we could not be more grateful for Barbara and Jim Goodmon’s support in accomplishing this objective.”
 
The clinic will be dedicated to providing low-income and other residents of the greater Raleigh region with pro bono legal services. Led by experienced clinical directors, the programs will be staffed by second and third year Campbell Law students. In addition to providing valuable service to individuals who might not otherwise be able to retain an attorney, the clinic will present future lawyers with practical, hands-on experience.

Jim Goodmon, the foundation’s chairman of the board and CEO and president of Capitol Broadcasting, said Raleigh’s business community needs to show support for the legal clinic and the law school.

“I can’t think of anything better to happen for our downtown, for our region,” he said. “When I look at this building, I think something important is going to happen.”

The move from Buies Creek is designed to give students more access to internships with law firms and clerkships with judges.

Essary said a majority (70 percent) of the school’s almost 3,000 graduates practice in North Carolina, including about 500 attorneys in Wake County.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the move would capitalize on Raleigh's strength as "a center of education and public service."

Since it was founded in 1976, the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law has been honored by the American Bar Association for having the nation’s best trial advocacy program and having the nation’s top professionalism program.

The school currently has about 50 staff and faculty members. They will move to 225 Hillsborough Street to a 107,000-square-foot downtown building called Hillsborough Place.

The building is owned by a company headed by Art Pope, a former state legislator and well-known conservative.

The move also means Raleigh can get rid of a long-standing label: the largest capital city without a law school. That label will be dropped when classes start in 2009.

9/30/2008 7:07:00 AM by Dianna Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



‘Fireproof’ blazes trail at box office

September 30 2008 by BR staff

“Fireproof” brought people to the theaters its opening weekend Sept. 26-28.

The latest offering from the makers of “Facing the Giants,” also a surprise at the box office in 2006, generated the second-highest average revenue in theaters over the weekend.

It opened in fourth place to No. 1 “Eagle Eye” ($29.1 million), No. 2 “Nights in Rodanthe” ($13.4 million), No. 3 “Lakeview Terrace” ($6.9 million). The film brought in $6.8 million. “Fireproof” was shown in 839 theaters across the country. “Eagle Eye,” a Big-Brother style thriller, was shown in four times as many theaters and cost 160 times as much to make.

Churches helped boost attendance by promoting the film to their members and the community.

Members of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Starke, Fla., invited friends and neighbors and took care of the bill for the 1,121 people, almost 20 percent of the city’s population.

Joe Fennell, executive pastor, said moviegoers covered “across the spectrum,” including several engaged couples.

"I think the movie will provide a good foundation for them and increase their communication. It is an encouragement for healthy marriages, too," Fennell said.

“Fireproof,” which follows the life of a firefighter (Kirk Cameron), deals with struggles of marriage. Cameron’s character is challenged to take a 40-day challenge, “The Love Dare,” in order to salvage his failing marriage.

For FBC, Starke, it was an opportunity to reach out to hurting people within their church and beyond the church walls. At each showing, a staff member or volunteer was on-site to distribute a packet of evangelistic material.

"As in many churches, we have marriages that are struggling, and this is what prompted our pastor to preach the series after the movie," Fennell said in a Baptist Press article. "We hope people will find in the movie enough truth of the Gospel and truth about typical marriage that they will think that their own marriage is worth saving."

One piece promoted an upcoming sermon series on marriage.

"This movie addresses the needs that many couples struggle with in marriage — the need to be respected, the need for communication, but ultimately, the need for Christ as the center of the marriage," said Ashley Nelson, who is engaged to be married. "Just as (lead Fireproof characters) Caleb and Catherine realize, married couples need to understand God's true and pure love before they can truly love their spouse."

Nelson of Arlington, Texas, saw the movie on opening weekend.

An assistant professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Kathy Steele said the movie can be an encouragement to those in difficult marriages.

"I believe this movie can have a huge impact on marriages. It is extremely realistic and deals with problems that are real in marriages today," Steele said. "I think one of the greatest ways this movie could strengthen marriages is that it can give hope to one partner who really wants to change the marriage, that if they change, the marriage can change.

"I think Fireproof could spark a new wave of Christians seeking to love their marital partners unconditionally, and to realize it has to be practical, everyday ways they treat each other," Steele said. "My hope is that the neutral story of another couple, seen from the 'inside,' will motivate Christian couples in our churches to start seeking to be more obedient to Christ in how they respond to each other."

Rounding out the top 10: No. 5, “Burn After Reading” ($6.2 million), No. 6, “Igor” ($5.4 million), No. 7, “My Best Friend’s Girl” ($3.9 million), No. 8, “Righteous Kill” ($3.7 million), No. 9, “Miracle at St Anna” ($3.5 million), and No. 10, “The Family that Preys” ($3.1 million).

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Several wire reports, including Baptist Press, were used in creating this report.)

9/30/2008 4:45:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



ABP hires veteran journalist Bob Allen

September 30 2008 by Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Veteran Baptist journalist Bob Allen will return to Associated Baptist Press (ABP) Oct. 1 to fill a newly created senior writer position.

It will be Allen's second stint with the independent news agency, which he had once served, for a decade, as news editor. Since 2003, Allen has been managing editor of EthicsDaily.com, the news-and-opinion outlet of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics.
 
"I am delighted that Bob will be rejoining the ABP team," said David Wilkinson, ABP's newly hired executive director, who in turn hired Allen. "He brings an impressive breadth of skills and knowledge that will help us broaden the services provided through ABP and our partnership with New Voice Media Group."
 
New Voice Media is a multimedia partnership among ABP and three historic state Baptist newspapers —the Baptist Standard of Texas, the Word & Way of Missouri, and the Religious Herald of Virginia.

Allen said he is excited to reunite with an agency and staff familiar to him, but at a new phase of its organizational life
 
The position was created by the agency's board of directors in a staff reorganization necessitated, in part, when longtime ABP Executive Editor Greg Warner announced he was stepping down. Warner took sick leave following back surgery Aug. 28, with the expectation that the leave would transition into permanent disability. Warner has experienced chronic, severe back pain since 1998.
 
"When the directors began to restructure the staff a few months ago, we immediately started talking to Bob about returning to ABP," Warner said. "He's one of the best writers that Baptists have ever produced."
 
Warner noted that Allen's previous position with ABP was painful loss caused by a significant reduction in donations that afflicted many non-profit agencies in late 2001 and 2002. "We lost him once because of a severe drop in funding after 9/11. I'm delighted David had the wisdom to bring him back where he belongs."
 
The senior-writer position will tap Allen's expertise in reporting on a broad number of subjects—from Baptist denominational struggles to national politics and foreign affairs. It will also draw on his experience at the Baptist Center for Ethics in production and distribution of online news and opinion content.

9/30/2008 4:30:00 AM by Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Foresight limits BSC exposure in market drop

September 29 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

 
Actions by Baptist State Convention business services leadership minimized financial exposure to the fire sale of Wachovia Bank, Executive Committee members learned during a rare evening session Sept. 29.

Somber conversation about the tough financial news from Congress and Wall Street filtering through on laptops and cell phones prompted Executive Committee member Steve Hardy to ask John Butler, executive leader for business services, about the BSC exposure to the biggest bank news on a day that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average drop 770 points.

Wachovia, purchased by Citibank for just $2.2 billion, has been the BSC primary banking partner for “decades,” said Butler, who was in the mortgage business in the 1980s before entering the ministry. He said he’d had concerns about Wachovia’s long term portfolio and assets since it was purchased by First Union in 2001 for $13 billion.

Those concerns prompted Butler since the first of the year to move “several million dollars” from Wachovia to financial institutions he deemed more secure. The Wachovia account now is basically used as “an operating account” and the BSC has “very limited exposure,” Butler said.

He credited BSC Comptroller Robert Simons with helping him stay alert to potential dangers in a constantly fluctuating economic situation.

“It is important for us in our fiduciary responsibilities of the board to explain to people in the Convention that the money is being handled well and that we’re making appropriate moves in that regard,” Hardy said.

The BSC Board is holding a three-day meeting to conduct a large volume of business before the BSC annual session Nov. 10-12. Included on the agenda is final recommendations from task forces studying the giving plans; Baptist Aging Ministries; articles and bylaws and a women's ministry.  Several board members from western North Carolina did not come, over fear that gasoline would be unavailable.

Butler, who met recently with the business executives of other Baptist State Conventions, told Executive Committee members in the first night of a three-day meeting there are “struggles everywhere,” both in other Baptist conventions and in other denominations. Many are talking of downsizing and cutbacks.

Butler said BSC income, down a million dollars over the same period in 2007 at the end of August, has made up $400,000 in the first three weeks of September, so that income trails year to date by just $600,000, or about 4 percent.

Butler said the BSC still faces challenges to control spending, but is operating in the black.
 

Controlling expenses

One avenue of controlling expenses has been to carefully monitor medical insurance, bid the contract for lowest cost and pass on a larger portion of costs to employees.

The BSC pays $1.9 million for insurance for its employees and retirees, a cost that Butler struggles to contain. As medical costs rise annually, “we have to weigh how much we shift to the employees and how much to pay ourselves,” Butler said.

To contain costs for 2009 the policy co-insurance for major medical will change from a 20/80 payment ratio to 30/70, meaning the insured will pay 30 percent of the medical cost after deductibles are met, and before the maximum out of pocket expense is met.


2009 NCMO

The Executive Committee approved Budget Committee Chairman Steve Hardy’s recommendation for 2009 allocations of North Carolina Missions Offering receipts. The goal is $2.1 million, a $100,000 increase over 2008,with Baptist Men receiving $840,000, or 40 percent; church planting $546,000, or 26 percent; mission camps $315,000 or 15 percent; associational projects $210,000 or 10 percent and missions education and promotion $189,000 or 9 percent.

Dale Duncan, NC Baptist Men’s president, said 125 volunteers are required daily to operate the massive feeding detail in Baytown, Texas following Hurricane Ike. They work for 10 days at a time and one day reached a Baptist Men’s record 53,000 meals served in a single day.

“This convention is being praised around the world for what we’re doing in working and sharing Christ with those people right now,” Duncan said.
9/29/2008 6:15:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Former NOBTS president dies

September 29 2008 by Gary Myers

WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Landrum P. Leavell II, 81, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), died Sept. 26, in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The funeral is planned at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008, at First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.

Born in Ripley, Tenn., Nov. 26, 1926, Leavell was raised in Newnan, Ga., where his father, Leonard O. Leavell, was pastor of the First Baptist Church. On July 28, 1953 he married JoAnn Paris of New Orleans, a graduate of Sophie Newcomb College. He went on to become the president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, his alma mater, and one of the most influential Southern Baptist leaders of his generation.

Leavell was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1948 and began pastoring a church in Mississippi during his time as a student at New Orleans Seminary.

Leavell earned a B.A. in English from Mercer University and a B.D. degree and a Th.D. in New Testament and Greek from NOBTS.

During his 27 years as a pastor, Leavell served at Union Baptist Church in Magnolia, Miss. (1948-51); Crosby Baptist Church in Crosby, Miss. (1951-53); First Baptist Church in Charleston, Miss. (1953-56); First Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. (1956-63); and First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, (1963-75).

Leavell served in many capacities in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. He was first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1968 and president of the SBC Pastor's Conference in 1971. Leavell served as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1971-73. Since his retirement Leavell served on the board of trustees at Mississippi College.

Leavell shared a lifelong love of for quail hunting. He was a dedicated father who traveled untold miles following his sons' football and basketball careers. His oldest son said, "There are a lot of tracks in the sand behind him. I would hope my rearview mirror was so crowded."

In addition to his denominational roles, Leavell was an active community leader serving with a number of civic groups including the Mayor's Bi-Racial Committee in Gulfport; the boards of the United Fund and of Child Welfare of Wichita Falls; and the Rotary Club of New Orleans. He also was longtime trustee of Baptist Hospital in New Orleans.

When he retired from the seminary, Baptist Community Ministries created an endowed faculty chair in psychology and counseling in Leavell's honor. Friends also created an endowed faculty chair in New Testament and Greek that bears his name. The city of New Orleans designated a portion of the campus as Leavell Lane in honor of the many contributions made by him and his uncle, Roland Q. Leavell, who served as NOBTS president from 1946-58. Seminary trustees named the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth in Landrum Leavell's honor as well.

Among Leavell's key honors include the George Washington Honor Medal Award from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, Pa.; the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation; and the J.D. Grey Preaching Award from the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation.

Leavell was elected as president of New Orleans Seminary in January 1975, serving in that role until his retirement Dec. 31, 1994. Leavell served as interim president until Dec. 31, 1995.

"By any standard of measurement, Dr. Leavell is one of the greatest presidents that this seminary ever had," current NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. On the seminary's www.nobts.edu website, Kelley noted: "Greatness is the ability to fulfill your calling effectively and efficiently, whatever the circumstances, while nurturing and building up the people around you in the process. This is the essence of the life and ministry of Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II. If I may adapt one of his favorite expressions, as a leader Dr. Leavell was better than many, equal to any, and second to none."

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said Leavell was one of his predecessors as pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, "and was greatly loved by so many of her members.

"There is no doubt that he left a lasting footprint upon the church's far-reaching ministries," Chapman said. "Dr. Leavell preached Jesus and always issued a heartfelt appeal for the unsaved to come to Jesus. He has left a wonderful legacy of life and ministry as an example for family, friends and fellow Southern Baptists."

During Leavell's NOBTS presidency, the seminary experienced record growth, outstanding success in fundraising and a significant expansion of its campus. The campus became known by all who visited as one of the most beautiful spots in New Orleans.

Leavell believed that the care and preparation of a minister's family was as important as the preparation of the minister. He enhanced the campus recreation facilities and, with his wife, gave great attention to the needs of student wives.

The Leavells launched many initiatives to assist student wives, including free educational programs, an endowment to buy clothes for student wives and the Leavell Lecture Series. The lecture series was established by the Leavell family to honor Mrs. Leonard O. Leavell, Leavell's mother. Leavell often arranged for free child care for campus events to enable wives to participate in seminary life.

Under Leavell's leadership, New Orleans Seminary established a network of extension centers throughout the Southeast. Leavell also invested in educational technology. He introduced compressed interactive video (CIV), which connects classrooms in different cities for real-time audio and video interaction. His innovations helped the seminary offer world-class theological education to even more God-called men and women.

NOBTS also established the first center for evangelism and church growth in the Southern Baptist Convention, connecting the resources and expertise of the seminary with needs of local churches throughout the SBC.

Leavell was the driving force behind the re-establishment of the seminary's undergraduate program. During the presidency of his uncle Roland Leavell, the School of Christian Training was begun in 1954. However, it closed a few years later.

Landrum Leavell envisioned an accredited college that would offer ministry training to adult students without college degrees. He restarted the school in 1976 with only 30 students. Now more than 1,000 men and women study at the undergraduate college. Four of the other five SBC seminaries now have similar programs. In 2003, the school was renamed Leavell College in honor of the seminary's two Leavell presidents.

Leavell authored or contributed to 14 books, including "Angels, Angels, Angels" and "Twelve Who Followed Jesus."

In addition to his wife of 55 years, survivors include his sister Margaret Leavell Mann of Newnan, Ga., son Landrum P. Leavell III and Susanne of Denton, Texas, daughter Ann Leavell Beauchamp of Greensboro, Ga., son Roland Q. Leavell II and Lisa of Jackson, Miss., son David E. Leavell and Vicki of Springfield, Tenn., and 10 grandchildren.

Memorial gifts may be made to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.

9/29/2008 10:20:00 AM by Gary Myers | with 0 comments



WMU-NC risk-takers dedicate new offices

September 29 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Risk takers. Courageous. Servants. Teachers. Encouragers.

These were just a few words used to describe the women who make up Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) during its dedication service Sept. 28 in Raleigh.

“God has worked mightily over the years” through the WMU, said Jesse Croom, a retired pastor from First Baptist Church of Ahoskie.

The WMU-NC, which moved into its new offices in April, drew more than 400 visitors to an open house weekend. They came by cars, vans and buses to tour the offices and get a sneak-peek into the inner workings of a long-standing, mission support organization.

Croom shared the story of Abram moving his family to an unknown place and the difficulties they encountered on their journey.

“Abram was a risk taker,” Croom said, calling the leaders of the WMU-NC risk takers. “He belonged to the company of the daring. God’s purpose caught him and sent him forth. He knew God and was willing to obey.”

Croom said WMU-NC’s first leader, Fannie Heck, was also a risk taker. She left the comfort of her church — First Baptist Church, Raleigh — to cross over the tracks “to minister to children and their families.”

Croom called that ministry “the first heartbeat” of WMU-NC.

Croom said the first part of WMU-NC’s history was much like the tent-dwellers of Abram’s day. They had offices in houses and Biblical Recorder offices before moving into the Baptist State Convention (BSC) offices, which they shared for 60 years. WMU staff resigned as BSC staff in 2007 to move into separate quarters.

Croom said risk takers sometimes face discouragement.

“Stodgy men think risk takers are foolish. Godly risk takers go on in spite of uncertainity,” he said. With God leading her and surrounding her, “she is satisfied that her direction is right.”

God’s warning to Abram’s naysayers should be taken to heart, he said.

“Those that wish to curse WMU need to heed the warning,” Croom said. “God said to Abram, ‘The one who curses you I will curse.’”

Other speakers included Milton A. Hollifield Jr., who brought greetings as executive director-treasurer of the BSC.

“I’ve always believed that WMU holds a formative place in training people for missions,” Hollifield said. “The current stability of our sending power would not have come to pass without Woman’s Missionary Union. May God bless you and preserve the witness of the gospel both here and to the ends of the earth. To God be all the glory for all He will continue to do in and through you.”

Roy Smith, former executive director-treasurer of the BSC, said the event “marks a new day” for WMU-NC.

WMU has long been a source of education, encouragement and fund-raising about and for missions, he said. The passion for missions is the reason for WMU’s success.

Larry Hovis, coordinator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, said one of his earliest memories was of being a Royal Ambassador, a boy’s mission education program begun by WMU 100 years ago.

Hovis said he grew up in a church where women organized the RAs, and he attributed the success of many churches to the women who served faithfully.

Ruby Fulbright, executive director-treasurer of WMU-NC, praised God for His blessings.

“Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina is overwhelmed with praise for the Father,” Fulbright said, “humbled by the gift of friends.”

Asked why so many men were on the program, Fulbright said it was a reminder that “there are always a few good men who have backed” WMU.

Fulbright said she and the rest of the WMU-NC staff “renew our commitment to loving God.”

Tony Cartledge, associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University, said he was honored to be part of the service “because of the organization this service is about. Thank you for women of spiritual vision, of deep commitment, of great courage,” he said in the closing prayer.

After the dedication service, Allen Harker, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, said he hoped “one day the (Baptist) State Convention could reconcile with the WMU. If there be a prayer I have, it would be that.”

Harker, whose wife, Chris, serves on the WMU-NC executive board, respects the work of women throughout the years.

“Women have a vital role as equally as men in the church,” he said.

9/29/2008 8:49:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 1 comments



N.C. church helps renovate disputed property

September 29 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

An Illinois church involved in a dispute with its city government recently got a boost from Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville.

A mission team from Fruitland went in July to Carlinville, Ill., to help Carlinville Southern Baptist Church transform an old Wal-Mart building into a ministry center. The building was at the center of a lawsuit that the church and city reportedly settled Sept. 16.

The building was not zoned for worship. The church bought it, hoping to obtain a permit to hold services there. The city declined because it didn't want the building off the tax rolls.

The church filed a federal suit saying its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. The suit also said the city is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

RLUIPA prohibits zoning laws that treat churches or other religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice web site.

The church and the city's insurance carrier settled the suit, according to a report in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill. Under the terms of the settlement the church can hold services in the building in October and will get $165,000 to pay for its legal expenses.

The church was renovating the building while the issue was still up in the air. Fruitland's mission team of 64 people was one of four crews to work on the church over the summer.

Baptists from Alabama and Kentucky had set metal studs in the walls of the 60,000-square-foot building. They also hung some of the Sheetrock.

The Fruitland group hung about 400 sheets of 12-foot drywall. Much of it was in the sanctuary and foyer area where the walls are 20-30 feet high. The Fruitland team also used 48 buckets of mud and more than 40 gallons of paint.

In addition to working on the building, Fruitland team members held a soccer camp for elementary aged children. An average of 25 attended.

Fruitland pastor Michael Smith said this summer's trip was his church's second to Carlinville.

Three years ago, the church was planning to go help the Illinois church renovate a strip mall it was about to buy. That deal fell through but the team went anyway, working on the church's existing location and helping repair homes in the area.

"We just worked all over town," Smith said. "God used that."

Smith said the Wal-Mart building gives the church twice as much space as it would have had in the other location for about half of what it was going to pay.

"It's going to be quite a facility when they get finished," he said.

9/29/2008 6:21:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Vermont: N.C. Baptists accept northern challenge

September 26 2008 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Walk through the pleasant streets of this compact capital, a few blocks from the gold-domed state capitol, and you'll see a large church building with white columns out front.

If you're a visiting North Carolina Baptist, you'll likely assume that the imposing building must be the First Baptist Church, or perhaps a Methodist church. Instead it is a Unitarian church, not exactly a beacon of evangelism.

Vermont has one of the lowest church attendance figures in the country; more than a fifth of the state's more than 600,000 residents consider themselves "non-religious."  While two-thirds of the people still list themselves as Christian, the mainline Roman Catholic and Congregational churches are in long decline.

More people have converted to Buddhism here than anywhere else in the country.  

To Baptists Vermont is a mission field, desperately needing more churches and more people coming to know Jesus Christ.

"The need for church planting and evangelism is huge," sums up Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association.  

"There are 242 towns in Vermont and only 37 Southern Baptist churches (with more than 1,300 resident members). From an evangelical perspective, it's a wide-open field for evangelism and church planting" he said.

One of the biggest Vermont Baptist churches in Essex, Vt., averages between 250 and 300 in attendance.

Vermonters "really don't know what 'Christian' means," Dorsett said.

"The older existing churches have long since lost their evangelical fervor," he said. "When Vermont residents think of other churches with the title 'Christian,' they think of small, struggling groups who have chicken pie suppers and do little else."

Dorsett says outreach is most difficult in northern Vermont, the most economically challenged area.  

One Baptist church in Lyndon Center had 150 members 10 years ago; now only 30 remain. When a team from Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner presented a musical drama there in August, it was the first time in years the church was full.

N.C. Baptist teams have worked to restore a historic stone church building in North Bennington over the past four years. Dorsett thinks it will be completed soon, and he's hoping this will help solidify and expand a small Baptist church meeting there.  

Though a few American Baptist churches have been in Vermont since the early days, the first Southern Baptist church was started only in 1964. But Southern Baptists are growing; seven years ago there were only 17 Southern Baptist churches.

So, while the number of churches to population remains small, the rate of growth has been strong, "making Vermont one of the fastest-growing conventions," said Dorsett.

Put another way, in much of the United States it takes 43 Southern Baptists to baptize one person; here it takes just 12.5.  

"North Carolina Baptists have been a huge piece of that growth," he said. "We could not have done it without help from North Carolina Baptists and other Baptists around the country."

Four years of partnership have brought scores of N.C. Baptist teams to Vermont to work on everything from church construction and renovation to personal witnessing and outreach.

This year alone, 52 teams of N.C. Baptists are scheduled to work in Vermont.

"It's been exciting to see how God is working among Baptists in Vermont," said Mark Abernathy, consultant for partnership missions with N.C. Baptists on Mission.

While most work of Baptist Men is funded through the North Carolina Missions Offering, the year-round planning and coordination Abernathy does to make partnership missions work is funded by N.C. Baptists as they give through the Cooperative Program.

"Vermonters joined us in our recovery efforts in Gulfport, and in the past four years have developed their own disaster relief ministry. I'm not sure that we've ever seen this kind of growth over the course of a partnership before. Without doubt, this is something God is doing," Abernathy said.

Vermont pastor Jim Herod likes the positive influence N.C. Baptist teams have had on his own church, Washington Baptist Church in Washington, Vt.  

"The partnership Vermont has had with North Carolina has just been an awesome thing. It has blessed us and inspired us, encouraged us and strengthened us," he said.

Herod is a Texas native who worked as church planter and pastor in Utah before coming to pastor in Washington four years ago. His church had become Southern Baptist during the 1970s.

One of the biggest influences has been missions, Herod said,

"One of our couples just returned from Iowa, where they helped clean up after the floods. Because (our members) were on the receiving end for so long, it has inspired them to do everything they can," Herod said.

Requests for partnership projects in 2009 are coming in. Contact Mark Abernathy at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5607 or mabernathy@ncbaptist.org.

9/26/2008 8:11:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



For the Carters, missions is it

September 26 2008 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

POWNAL, Vt. — Steve Carter says he left work with Duke Power six years ago to help share God's kind of power.

He and his wife, Nellene, have made missions their main calling of retirement years; their passion for Christ keeps them on the road and away from their home church, Macedonia Baptist Church in Lincolnton, for months at a time.  

This spring they spent three weeks serving in Wyoming. They went to work on hurricane damage in Gulfport, Miss., 21 times.

This summer they parked their camper trailer beside the church in Pownal, Vt., for a month to coordinate the work of several missions teams, especially those from North Carolina. They have served here many times over the past four years. Steve feels his construction skills can help any project, but his more extensive knowledge of the region also makes him a good coordinator.  

"The biggest need here in Vermont is for people to come to know Jesus. There are so many people here who are not Christians, who are generations away from being Christians," Steve said.

When they are not involved with the visiting teams and construction, the Carters visit people in the church and in the community to encourage them and share Christ as needed.

Two women in the church have lost babies in the past six months, Nellene said.  But a woman on a team from Second Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, had long experience in counseling people in crisis situations. "She was able to be a blessing to the women who had lost babies," Nellene said.

The Carters seem quite happy with their lives as Christian vagabonds. "We go where the Lord calls," Steve said.

9/26/2008 8:01:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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