September 2014

‘I’d rather die,’ Chibok schoolgirl says

September 26 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Saa* sat with other schoolgirls piled on the back of the large truck as it made its way past a Nigerian village in the dark of night.
“We are moving, we are moving, then some of our girls start jumping down from the trucks. Then I told my friend that I decided to jump down from the trucks, that I’d rather die, that my parents have my coffin buried, than to go with them, because we don’t know where we are going. Then she said okay, she would jump with me.”
Saa and her friend – two of the 300 girls Boko Haram militants awakened and violently kidnapped from a Chibok boarding school on the early morning of April 15 – courageously escaped as the caravan of trucks continued down the road. Saa recounted her ordeal during a Sept. 19 panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington and supported by the Jubilee Campaign for religious freedom. The 18-year-old Christian is a member of the Nigeria Church of the Brethren, where her father was a pastor.
Jumping from the truck, her friend injured her leg and was unable to walk. Saa helped her through the forest to a tree, where the two slept for the night.


BP photo
Saa (name changed) an 18-year-old Christian schoolgirl from Chibok, Nigeria, recounted her escape from Boko Haram jihadists after they kidnapped her and 300 of her classmates in April. She participated in a Sept. 19 panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington.

“She can’t move, we don’t know what to do. Then I decide to go and look for help. … I went and I met a (Muslim) shepherd.” Saa asked him for help, but he expressed fear, recommending they wait along the road and seek help from others who might pass by on their way to market.
“Then we said, ‘But sir, you know that the bad people follow this way. Not any person will come to the market today because they were afraid. … Then he decided to help us, and he carried my friend on his bicycle.” With the farmer’s help, Saa and her friend returned to Chibok.
“When we come home, I met my parents crying. [All my] relatives are crying because what happened. Then, after that, the time they saw me, they were happy, they were jumping, because of what’s happening.”
As many as 75 girls escaped during the days and weeks following the kidnapping, with perhaps 220 still missing. At least one of the girls has been killed as a suicide bomber, Nigerian American attorney and panelist Emmanuel Ogebe said.
Nigerian security officials are reportedly engaged in talks to free the girls, according to news reports. The International Committee of the Red Cross has assisted in talks with Nigerian security officials and Boko Haram militants to negotiate the freedom of the girls in exchange for the release of Boko Haram prisoners, the Telegraph reported Thursday, Sept. 18. But no deal has been reached. The talks were held in one of Nigeria’s maximum security prisons where some Boko Haram leaders are being held.
Since Saa escaped within 24 hours of being kidnapped, she was not able to learn where the girls were being taken. But she does recall that the jihadists questioned some of the girls about their faith, particularly three girls who would not fit on the trucks and were allowed to walk back home. Among them was one of Saa’s Christian friends who denied her faith.
“I was shocked and I was very sad that she said that she was a Muslim. … I’m thinking at that time that maybe if they killed her … what was she going to say to the Lord in Heaven? I was shocked and I was very sad at that time.”
Within a month of the kidnapping, Boko Haram released a video of girls dressed in Muslim hijabs who were reportedly the same girls kidnapped from Chibok. Saa confirmed that at least one of her classmates was on the video.
“Yes, they were Christian girls, because the one that stand at the front, she was a Christian, and she was … in our FCS (Fellowship of Christian Students),” Saa said, her eyes tearing. “And she’s the one standing in the front saying all rubbish things of Muslims.”
Boko Haram is adopting ISIS tactics, said Nina Shea, director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Boko Haram has established Islamic caliphates in much of northeastern Nigeria.
“As far as the killings go … they’re occurring on a constant basis as Boko Haram becomes more well-armed and grows,” Shea said. “The Catholic Bishop (Oliver) Doeme of Borno today (Sept. 19) is quoted in the Vatican Press as saying that there is clear confirmation that Islamization is occurring in northeastern Nigeria and probably with the intent of targeting all of Nigeria. He acknowledged that Muslims are attacked as well, those who do not abide by Boko Haram’s dictates are targeted, but that Christians are bearing the brunt of this.
“What is going on is very brutal religious cleansing and it’s occurring as we speak … in northeastern Nigeria.”
*name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

9/26/2014 11:32:44 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor salaries not keeping up with inflation

September 25 2014 by Marty King, Baptist Press

Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors has not kept pace with inflation over the past two years, while salaries for other full-time ministers and office staff increased at a rate higher than national inflation.
These findings are part of the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Compensation Study, an in-depth survey of 12,907 staff members in Southern Baptist churches. Baptist state conventions along with LifeWay Research and GuideStone Financial Resources conduct this survey every two years. All the data acquired by the study has been compiled into an online tool at



Adjusting for church size (see Methodology below), the average full-time Southern Baptist senior pastor’s compensation (salary and housing) rose 1 percent between 2012 and 2014. That rate of change was significantly lower than the 3.9 percent inflation rate for the same two-year period, according to figures supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index.


According to Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, “While inflation has remained moderate by historical standards, average salaries for full-time pastors have not kept pace. This is a reversal of the pattern of [Southern Baptist] churches through the recession and post-recession years.”
Overall, the value of the entire pay package (salary, housing and other benefits such as insurance) for the average full-time senior pastor rose by 1.8 percent.
For other full-time staff ministers, however, basic salary and housing compensation increased 6.6 percent between 2012 and 2014, while total pay package including compensation and benefits rose 8.9 percent. Salary compensation for full-time office personnel increased 10 percent, and their total pay package jumped 11 percent.
When it came to determining pastors’ compensation rates, education level, tenure at their current church, and higher resident membership and weekly attendance resulted in more compensation.
Each additional education degree of any kind adds to a pastor’s compensation. Seminary graduates receive, on average, $1,981 more in total compensation than non-seminary graduates and receive more vacation days.
“We have seen firsthand that many churches have yet to see their pre-recession giving levels return,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins.
“Even so, it is imperative for churches to keep in mind the real financial needs of pastors and other staff members.
“No God-called pastor I know is looking to become wealthy off the ministry he has received from the Lord, but our churches should remember the Biblical admonition that ‘those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel’ (1 Cor. 9:14) and endeavor to ensure our pastors and their families are able to pay their expenses, have adequate insurance coverage and are able to save for the future, including vocational retirement.”



The survey also revealed fewer full-time senior pastors receive medical insurance from their churches today than in 2012. Sixty percent of churches partially or fully pay medical insurance for their full-time senior pastors, compared to 64 percent in 2012.
Eleven percent of Southern Baptist churches provide at least partial medical insurance funding for the full-time pastor alone, while 17 percent fund coverage for the pastor and his wife, and 32 percent supply coverage for the pastor and his family – all slightly down from 2012.
For full-time senior pastors, churches fully or partially pay for the following benefits:

  • Life and/or accident insurance – 34 percent

  • Disability insurance – 28 percent

  • Dental insurance – 27 percent

  • Vision insurance – 12 percent

“Many Southern Baptist pastors are facing the new medical insurance mandate without their church’s help,” McConnell said. “These pastors have no choice over where this portion of their compensation goes and this leaves them with less to live on each month.”
More than half of churches (53 percent) with weekly attendance above 250 people provide insurance for the pastor and his family. Nearly half (49 percent) of churches that average 50-99 people in weekly attendance do not provide any medical coverage.
“With the advent of health care reform legislation, it’s a new world for many churches,” Hawkins said. “GuideStone is privileged to come alongside tens of thousands of churches and serve as their trusted advocate, whether through the products we offer, or as a voice for our participants.”
The survey also obtained compensation data for bivocational pastors and part-time custodial and office personnel. This data is standardized by the median number of hours worked to allow churches to more easily compare their part-time employees with these averages.
GuideStone makes available many resources for churches seeking to establish, restructure or evaluate pay and benefit packages for their ministers and other staff. The free resources can be found at
Methodology: Southern Baptist state conventions invited each church’s staff to respond to the survey; 12,907 completed surveys were analyzed. For the purpose of this article, senior pastor responses were weighted to account for lower response rate among smaller churches and to match the distribution of the size of Southern Baptist churches. When using the online tool, national totals may be somewhat higher than these weighted totals. Viewing the results by church size categories within the online tool minimizes this impact. When running customized reports online, error can be minimized by selecting criteria that allow for larger numbers of participants.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

9/25/2014 12:32:15 PM by Marty King, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC seeks protection of pregnant workers

September 25 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity has joined nearly two dozen other pro-life organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed Sept. 11 that calls for the justices to uphold employment safeguards in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In the 1978 law, Congress’ purpose included the protection of women from economic constraint to have abortions, according to the brief.

The high court will hear oral arguments in the case Dec. 3.

ERLC President Russell D. Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press about the brief, “Being pro-life means standing both with unborn children and with their mothers. We must speak for pregnant women who should not have to decide between loving their babies, caring for their health and making a living.”


Among pro-life organizations joining the ERLC on the brief were the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bethany Christian Services, Christian Legal Society, Concerned Women for America, Democrats for Life of America, Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, Heartbeat International, March for Life Education and Defense Fund, National Association of Evangelicals, Students for Life of America and Susan B. Anthony List. Representing the organizations on the brief were lawyers from Americans United for Life, the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota and Judicial Education Project.

The Supreme Court agreed in July to review an opinion by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals against Peggy Young, who sued United Parcel Service (UPS) in response to a policy by the package delivery company that resulted in her taking unpaid leave and losing her medical coverage during her pregnancy.

After she became pregnant, Young, a delivery driver in Maryland, provided UPS with notes from a doctor and mid-wife saying she should not lift more than 20 pounds. A manager told Young this would prevent her from performing the basic actions of her job for UPS, which had a 70-pound lifting requirement. The manager also said Young was ineligible for light-duty work.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit, located in Richmond, Va., unanimously backed UPS, thereby upholding a federal judge’s decision and ruling UPS had devised “a pregnancy-blind policy.” The judges decided UPS did not violate the PDA by restricting light-duty work to some workers, such as those injured on the job, but not providing it to pregnant employees. A different reading of the PDA could result in preferential treatment for pregnant employees, the panel said.

The PDA stipulates: “[W]omen affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes ... as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

The brief endorsed by the ERLC and the other pro-life organizations contends the Fourth Circuit “erroneously held that the PDA allows employers to treat pregnant women as poorly as they treat their least-accommodated workers rather than requiring them to treat pregnant women as well as they treat their best-accommodated workers.”

That determination by the appeals court “blocks the PDA from addressing the very problem that Congress sought to solve, that is, to protect women from economic pressure to abort their children and to safeguard their fundamental right to procreate and bring up children,” according to the brief. Among congressional supporters for the PDA were members “who were concerned about the possibility that women would be forced to choose between their jobs and their unborn children,” the brief says.

Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest said of Young’s case, “It was absolutely unacceptable that while other employees’ physical needs were accommodated, a hard-working pregnant mother was not given the same options for lighter duty.

“Women should not suffer physical hardship at work or lose their jobs because they are having a baby,” she said in a written statement. “And pregnant mothers should not be refused the same accommodations offered others.”

An opinion in the case, Young v. UPS, is expected to be announced before the court adjourns early next summer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/25/2014 12:21:29 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hall of Faith moves to Nashville

September 25 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ Hall of Faith – honoring 36 evangelists who “fought the fight” and “kept the faith” – has relocated to Nashville.
The Hall of Faith, which had been located at the North American Mission Board near Atlanta, is now on the third floor of the Southern Baptist Convention building. The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) unveiled the Hall of Faith’s new location during its Sept. 22-23 meeting.
“We are delighted to have this passionate group of soul-winning men and women to be a part of a permanent facility here,” Frank Page, EC president, said during his report to EC members.


BP photo by Morris Abernathy
Leon Westerhouse (left) and Keith Fordham, both inductees to the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists' Hall of Faith, stand in front of the display. The Hall of Faith, which has been located at the North American Mission Board's facility near Atlanta, Ga., is now on the third floor of the Southern Baptist Convention's building in downtown Nashville.

Page said the Hall of Faith, established in 2007, recognizes evangelists who have impacted countless numbers of people for Christ during their years of service. The relocation is part of a partnership between the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), NAMB, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA) and the Executive Committee. The SBHLA will now be the official repository for COSBE’s non-current records and historical materials and host of the Evangelists’ Hall of Faith.
Brian Fossett, an evangelist and former president of COSBE who attended the unveiling, brought the 2007 recommendation to establish the Hall of Faith.
“God just laid it on my heart,” Fossett said. “I just felt the need [to recognize] men that had invested their life and … went through all the sacrifices … leaving their families on a regular basis and spent their entire lifetime living on faith … for the sole purpose of the harvest to see people saved.”
The first class of evangelists was inducted to the Hall of Faith in 2008 in Indianapolis during the SBC’s annual meeting. Among those inducted that year: Billy Graham and the late Freddie Gage, who died Sept. 12.
Leon Westerhouse, a music evangelist who also was part of the 2008 class, was on hand to see the Hall of Faith’s new home.
“I’m thankful to be a part of it; it’s a great thing,” said Westerhouse, the first known music evangelist in Alabama during a time when there were only a handful of them across the country.
According to Hall of Faith records, Westerhouse has garnered more than 50 years of full-time music evangelism experience and shared the gospel in more than 1,400 revivals, crusades and other evangelistic meetings. He also has had the opportunity to serve with fellow Hall of Faith inductees Junior Hill and Eddie Martin.
Westerhouse fondly recalled the days when he’d see 150 people saved in one week of a revival.
“Those were great days,” Westerhouse, a member of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, said. “We don’t see those days much anymore.... But God is still on the throne and we just keep bearing witness.”
Georgia evangelist Keith Fordham, a former president of COSBE, also attended the EC meeting in Nashville. Fordham was inducted to the Hall of Faith this summer along with Franklin Graham.
“I’m thankful our [convention] uses evangelists,” Fordham said, sharing how his own decision to follow Christ happened during a revival in 1960.
Fordham, a member of Harp’s Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., has served in more than 1,500 revivals in the United States and India.
Though some say revivals are a thing of the past, Fordham said they continue to make a difference in churches. This summer he preached at a church that had its first baptisms in 20 years, baptizing eight people. And since then, the church has seen a bump in attendance from 35 to 56.
“We may be worse preachers then others, we may be better than others. But when we go in, people respond,” Fordham said. “I’ve had people that disagreed with me theologically have me in repeatedly because we’re going to have people saved…. We’re going to follow through in believer’s baptism … because we had an evangelist in.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/25/2014 12:09:10 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N. Iraq: ‘They are waiting for us to help’

September 25 2014 by Baptist Global Response

KURDISTAN -- The newlyweds collapsed into bed, exhausted from a day filled with wedding celebrations. It was their first night as man and wife.
They were jolted awake in the wee hours of the morning, when artillery shells exploded near their home.  They scrambled from their bed and fled into the night, with no time to grab any of their belongings.
Now they huddle in a large room with more than 50 other refugees. Everyone shares one bathroom. Instead of a honeymoon retreat, the newlyweds are scraping to survive.
Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response (BGR), has visited dozens of families forcibly displaced from their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists. He has opened his heart to listen as, one after another, they talk about their fear, frustration, and desperation.


BGR Photo

“In another place, we were in what looked like a dungeon. Four families, 16 people in total, living on a bare concrete floor. As hot as it was, they had no air conditioning,” Shepherd said. “In another place, 60 people were cramped in one room, 50 feet by 15 feet. In another place, we met eight families who had been displaced for a month, and only one food basket had been delivered to them.”
Resources from Global Hunger Relief (GHR) are comforting these families and hundreds of others like them, as BGR and its partners deliver relief supplies in cities where Iraqi Christians and other minorities have taken refuge after being forcibly driven from their homes.
GHR funds are providing crucial supplies – water, food and infant formula – that help these families survive. Southern Baptists across North America will replenish those funds when they observe World Hunger Sunday on Oct. 12.
Global Hunger Relief is a unique channel for helping hungry people because 100 percent of each donation goes directly to meeting the hunger need. Nothing has to be withheld for overhead expenses because Southern Baptists already have covered those costs by their contributions through the Cooperative Program.
The forcibly displaced families are not accustomed to needing help, Shepherd noted. Most of them had good lives in the city. They were business owners and professionals, teachers and nurses. One was a microbiologist. Another had supported his family for 32 years in the textile industry.
“They cry, ‘We are not animals. We are humans who had our culture and civilized way of living,’” Shepherd said. “Now one of the men stands there in the undershirt he was wearing when he jumped out of bed and ran for his life. He has been wearing it for a month now. It’s the only shirt he has.”
Despite their desperate circumstances, these forcibly displaced families were eager to show hospitality to the visiting BGR relief workers – and to listen to a message about God’s great love for his hurting children.
“They were very welcoming,” Shepherd said. “Hospitality still didn’t die, even with their conditions that sentence them to slow death – if we don’t run to change that. We prayed with many. People talk to God more in times of trouble. They listen. They even asked if we can help them, not only here, but when they go back to their homes to rebuild their lives again.
“We were able to have access to places no one has reached – and to people’s lives – in an amazing way. We believe the prayers of many made this possible.”
When the evening news carries stories about the Middle East crisis, these displaced families want everyone to know there is more to the story than faceless statistics, Shepherd said.
“They want us to know they are just like us: father, mother, son, and daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle,” Shepherd said. “They are our fellow humans, created in God’s likeness and image.
“They are waiting for us to help them in their time of need.”

  • You can give $10 to help forcibly displaced Iraqis by texting GHR to 80888. For resources to help promote World Hunger Sunday, click here.

Related Story:

N. Iraq: Grave danger as winter approaches

9/25/2014 11:59:32 AM by Baptist Global Response | with 0 comments

Ethnic involvement gets added SBC attention

September 25 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has moved to update and expand its report on ethnic participation in Southern Baptist life, adopted at the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
The expanded report was initiated during the EC’s Sept. 22-23 meeting in response to a motion at the 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore asking the SBC president to form a task force to assess the convention’s progress on racial reconciliation.
The 2011 report, titled “A Review of Ethnic Church and Ethnic Church Leader Participation in SBC Life,” contained various recommendations for ethnic churches and leaders to be more actively involved in cooperative partnership at the national level.
Also during the Executive Committee’s September meeting, the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE), now with more than 25,000 church members, received additional representation in Southern Baptist life.


Ethnic involvement

The updated and expanded report on ethnic SBC involvement, to be prepared by the Executive Committee’s communications workgroup, is to include:

  • A detailed review of progress in ethnic church and leader participation in Southern Baptist life stemming from the recommendations adopted in 2011 and a general review of program since the racial reconciliation resolution adopted by the SBC in 1995.

  • An analysis of various meetings between EC President Frank S. Page and the ethnic advisory councils he has appointed since 2011, encompassing 77 individuals from 23 ethnic and language groups, and including the final reports from the Hispanic and African American advisory councils.

  • A review of the annual descriptive reports from the SBC’s entities of ethnic church and leader participation in their respective ministries submitted to the SBC Executive Committee during its February meetings from 2012-14.

The communications workgroup is to submit a preliminary report for the Executive Committee’s February 2015 meeting for inclusion in the 2015 SBC Book of Reports.

In addition, the Executive Committee encouraged:

  • the current SBC president, Committee on Order of Business, Committee on Nominations and Committee on Committees “to give special attention to appoint, select, or nominate individuals to serve in leadership roles in Convention life in the coming year who reflect the intercultural diversity that comprises the SBC.”

  • each SBC entity to provide “a robust, descriptive account” of ethnic involvement in their ministries for the 2015 SBC Ministry Report compiled by the Executive Committee.


BP photo by Morris Abernathy
Roger S. Oldham, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations, leads the closing prayer for the EC’s Sept. 22-23 meeting in Nashville.

New England representation

The Executive Committee approved the Baptist Convention of New England’s application to extend its representation to the boards of GuideStone Financial Resources, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and five of the SBC’s six seminaries.
In 1987, with 16,844 church members, the New England convention became eligible for representation on the SBC Executive Committee and the Committee on Committees and Committee on Nominations that are part of the process of nominating new board members to the various SBC entities.
In 1991, with 20,191 church members, the BCNE qualified for trustee representation on the International Mission Board (IMB), North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
In addition to GuideStone and ERLC, the BCNE now qualifies for representation on the trustee boards of Southeastern, Southwestern, New Orleans, Midwestern and Golden Gate Baptist theological seminaries. The charter of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, meanwhile, stipulates that a state or regional convention must have a minimum of 100,000 church members for representation.
The convention reports 120 church starts from 2007-13, with an 89 percent retention rate.
Southern Baptist work in New England began in 1958 when a group of Baptists who were Air Force families were transferred to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H., from New Mexico, according to background material provided to EC members. In 1960, Screven Memorial Baptist Church in Portsmouth was constituted as the first Southern Baptist church in the six New England states.
In 1962, the New England Baptist Association, with eight churches and 10 missions, was formed as part of the then-Maryland Baptist Convention. In 1983, the Baptist Convention of New England was constituted with 114 churches and missions.


LifeWay camps’ $600,000 for missions

Also during the meeting, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented checks totaling nearly $600,000 for the SBC’s two mission boards. The funds -- $300,000 for the International Mission Board and $300,000 for the North American Mission Board -- were mission offerings given this summer by participants in LifeWay’s Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries. For the first time this summer, LifeWay camps surpassed 150,000 participants, Rainer noted.
David Platt, the new president of the IMB, was not present at the Executive Committee meeting but was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a meeting of IMB personnel scheduled prior to his election as the mission board’s president on Aug. 27.
Substituting for Platt, Gordon Fort, IMB senior vice president for prayer mobilization and training, told EC members that the meeting in Thailand offered “a great opportunity for [Platt] to get acquainted with our field leadership and strategy, and we are incredibly excited about his leadership in the days ahead.”
The Executive Committee adopted resolutions of appreciation for three state convention executive directors who are retiring: James C. (Jim) Wideman of the Baptist Convention of New England; James W. (Jim) Austin of the South Carolina Baptist Convention; and T.G. (John) Sullivan of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Wideman, who will retire later this year after 13 years as the BCNE’s executive director-treasurer, has led the six-state convention with “a passion for building missional churches,” according to the resolution, focusing on the “changing regional demographics by nurturing numerous ethnic congregations” and by nurturing “a growing number of native New Englanders who have chosen to establish themselves in their home region to serve as pastors, church planters and lay leaders.”
During Wideman’s tenure, the number of BCNE cooperating churches has increased from 230 to 340, baptizing more than 17,000 people, an average of 1,300 per year, the resolution states. In Cooperative Program giving, the BCNE has increased the percentage of church gifts forwarded to SBC Cooperative Program missions and ministry from 21 percent in 2001 to 25 percent in 2013.
Austin, who will retire Oct. 14 after more than seven years as executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina convention, has led with “a passion for promoting and experiencing Kingdom life and growth, promoting intentional church planting and evangelism, and partnering in missions,” the resolution of appreciation notes.
As an advocate for racial diversity, Austin led the state convention to expand campus ministry to South Carolina State University, an historically African American university; to welcome the first African American campus minister to the state convention staff; and “to see an increase in the number of ethnic churches participating with the convention,” according to the resolution.
In collegiate outreach during Austin’s tenure, South Carolina also has ranked among the top states in baptisms by campus ministries, the resolution states.
During the economic recession of 2007–08, the resolution states that Austin “continued to lead South Carolina Baptists to enthusiastically embrace the Great Commission and model sacrificial living and giving, forwarding more than $97 million to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program during his tenure.”
Sullivan, who will retire at the end of February 2015 after 26 years as executive director-treasurer of the Florida convention, is among the longest-tenured of state executives. In leading Florida Baptists, he has “emphasized the principles of evangelism without apology, planting New Testament churches, and developing healthy churches and church leaders,” the resolution of appreciation states.
He has led Florida Baptists in planting 2,500 new churches and church-type missions; baptizing 779,391 people, or nearly 30,000 per year; sending 385,000 volunteers on convention-sponsored mission and ministry projects; and establishing nine theological education centers in partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Among 14 international and national mission partnerships during Sullivan’s tenure are 20-year commitments with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention; the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti, which grew from a nucleus of 60 churches to more than 2,300 churches and missions; and the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention.
As an advocate for the Cooperative Program, the resolution notes that Sullivan has led Florida Baptists in giving $670 million for outreach in Florida and across North America and the world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor; Art Toalston is BP’s editor.)

9/25/2014 11:42:22 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Page: CP rebounding despite challenges

September 24 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The average Cooperative Program (CP) gift from churches has rebounded from a low of 5.41 percent of undesignated receipts, and there are indications that Southern Baptists feel renewed interest in cooperative ministry endeavors, Frank S. Page said in his report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) Sept. 22.

“The good news is I think we’ve seen, I pray we’ve seen that low point and are on the way to seeing a robust appreciation of and understanding of cooperative ministry,” Page, the EC’s president, said.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding missions and ministries in North America and around the world.

In his report Page also updated the EC on the work of five advisory councils he has appointed to help SBC leaders understand and appreciate the perspectives of various subgroups within the convention such as Hispanics and African Americans.


Frank Page

Regarding CP, Page listed three challenges that Southern Baptists face:

  • Their belief in local church autonomy precludes the SBC from insisting that congregations give through CP.

  • SBC missions and ministries are competing for churches’ gifts against a broad array of non-denominational ministries.

  • There are misunderstandings of CP such as, “There’s got to be a better way” to fund missions and ministries.

Page said he is open to other models of funding ministry but noted that CP has been effective in several important ways. Any alternative funding plan must at least match CP in:

  • Long-term sustainability

  • “People say, ‘Well, we can do better through direct giving or self-funded modalities of mission giving,’” Page said. “Is that long-term effective? I don’t think so.”

  • Eliminating competition

  • “We don’t need to be in a place where our entities are competing one with another,” he said. “We need to be cooperating together.”

  • Alignment with Southern Baptists’ guiding principle, “We can do more together than we can do alone.”

  • Fostering and appreciating the involvement of smaller churches and ethnic churches.

Some 45,000 of the SBC’s 46,125 churches qualify as small congregations, Page said. A direct funding model, in which churches fund their own missionaries and global ministries rather than pooling their money with other congregations across the convention, prevents some smaller churches from engaging deeply in missions, he said.

“I am passionate about the fact that Southern Baptists are made up primarily of smaller churches,” Page said. “And I will not ever forget who we really are. And when we go toward direct funding models and self-funded models, it is a direct slap at the smaller church.”

Direct funding of missions also hinders involvement of ethnic churches, Page said. He explained that on average, Hispanics and African Americans have smaller incomes than Anglos in America. When missionaries are required to raise their own support, those from ethnic minority communities often are unable to generate sufficient funding, he said.

Direct funding means that “our mission force will be Anglo,” Page said. “There’s not a soul in this place that wants that.”

Speaking of the advisory councils, Page said their work is aimed at involving ethnic churches in convention life. Among the councils appointed by Page:

  • The African American Advisory Council, which represents nearly 4,000 SBC churches, has finished its work and submitted a report.

  • The Hispanic Advisory Council, which represents nearly 3,000 SBC churches, also has finished its work and submitted a report.

  • The Asian American Advisory Council, which represents 2,000-3,000 churches, is still working, as is the Multiethnic Advisory Council, which represents 28 additional groups recognized as official ministry partners of the SBC.

“I have been working hard and our staff has been working hard with various advisory councils of godly men and women from across our nation for the express purpose of deepening their involvement and understanding of convention work and deepening their commitment to the Lord through our convention,” Page said.

In addition to the ethnic advisory councils, he noted that the Bivocational and Small Membership Church Advisory Council has just begun its work.

(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/24/2014 12:24:29 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Prayer plea for Syrian, Iraqi Christians voiced by Floyd

September 24 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd added the crisis in Iraq and Syria alongside his continuing plea for prayer for spiritual awakening when he delivered his first address to the SBC Executive Committee Monday (Sept. 22) in Nashville.

“Perhaps you know or maybe you don’t, but currently in Iraq and Syria we are witnessing a once-in-a-thousand-year destruction of the Christian church. A modern book of martyrs is being written,” Floyd said. “We need to elevate before our churches the international crisis in Iraq and Syria.”

Floyd’s call for prayer came hours before news broke of airstrikes by combined United States and Arab forces against ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

“Pray every day for these brothers. Pray the prayer of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:2, that God might deliver them from wicked and evil men,” Floyd encouraged Executive Committee members. “Call upon your church to pray even this Sunday about it.

“Pastors and Christian leaders, educate yourself and speak up on behalf of these brothers and sisters in your churches and on social media. Don’t let the world ignore this. I call upon each of us tonight as Southern Baptists to be a voice that resounds loudly and clearly about this issue.”

In advance of the SBC annual World Hunger Sunday Oct. 12, Floyd urged financial support of Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response initiatives which aid persecuted and displaced Christians globally.


Ronnie Floyd

The crisis in Syria and Iraq is more extreme than many realize, Floyd said, describing ISIS as demonic evil aimed at a brutal genocide and Christian holocaust.

“Just three days ago, I was invited to a confidential briefing with 40 global Christian leaders. What I learned on that call was that the situation in Iraq and Syria is even worse than any of us have imagined,” Floyd said. “Christian children have been beheaded, Christians are being cut in half, Christian women are being raped and trafficked by the thousands, and more than 500,000 Christians in Iraq alone have been displaced.”

Since taking office in June, Floyd has consistently urged Southern Baptists to pray for spiritual awakening and revival. He continued his plea in speaking to the Executive Committee.

“We need to believe God for the next Great Awakening. We cannot fix ourselves,” said Floyd, longtime senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Most of us know history relating to the awakenings of the past, but however you want to describe it, we need a mighty move of God in this nation like none of us have ever seen.”

Romans 13:11 and 1 Chronicles 12:32 both exhort Christians to know and respond appropriately to the times, Floyd said, in regard to the world’s current ills.

“We are so blessed that sovereign God has chosen us to live at this point in human history, in this decisive and critical season,” Floyd said, “and we must rise up and be more responsive than we have ever been.”
The SBC has experienced many transitions since its founding in 1845 and cannot conduct itself with “ancient systems in modern times,” Floyd said.

“These days call us to faith, to believing God for the impossible, and to change not once, not twice, but perpetually in order to be able to be positioned continually as a denomination to reach the world for Christ,” he said.

“We must be willing to die to ourselves, die to our preferences, die to our disagreements, die to our biases and prejudices, and be willing to die to our ways, practices and actions that may prohibit God’s power upon us from reaching the world for Christ.”

In order to believe God for the next Great Awakening, Christians must agree that revival is needed, become extraordinary in their prayer lives and enlist thousands more to pray for revival.

Unity, agreement and cooperation were prevailing themes of Floyd’s address. He urged Southern Baptists to take seven steps in response toward revival. In addition to praying for Iraq and Syria and praying for a Great Awakening, Floyd urged Southern Baptists to come together in unity, recapture what it means to cooperate together, elevate the needs and values of the SBC Cooperative Program, recommit to personal and church evangelism, and attend the annual meeting June 16-17 in Columbus, Ohio.

Floyd announced the new website as a tool to mobilize Southern Baptists in prayer.

“Extraordinary prayer is more than you are doing today personally, more than our churches are doing today, and more than our convention is doing today,” Floyd said. “We need to call out to God with great urgency, with a firm conviction, that revival and spiritual awakening is our great need. Therefore, we will not stop crying out to God until God brings it to us.”

During his presidency, Floyd said he already has heard from Southern Baptist leaders a sense of desperation and urgency for God to “fall down upon His people with fresh power and with fresh fire from heaven.”

He said he has conducted conference calls with Southern Baptist leaders including student, collegiate, young adult and education pastors to strategize for personal and church evangelism across the nation.
“Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, these are days of crisis, urgency and opportunity. We must increase our pace in all we do. We need our own holy version of a hurry up, no huddle offense in fulfilling the Great Commission,” he said, referencing the coaching strategy of Gus Malzahn, head football coach of the Auburn University Tigers.

“We will only do this when we work together in this urgent moment, to pray more than ever, to unify more than ever, to cooperate more than ever, to give more than ever, to be more courageous than ever, and to commit ourselves more than ever to finish the task of reaching the world for Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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9/24/2014 11:51:22 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N. Iraq: Grave danger as winter approaches

September 24 2014 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press/BGR

Seasons are changing and summer’s heat is passing, but forcibly displaced families in northern Iraq are worried because winter will soon bring bitter cold, and many of them may not survive.

When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists forced them to flee their homes, some Iraqis were able to find refuge in schools, empty buildings, or apartment complexes. Many others, however, are exposed to the elements and will be in grave danger when wintertime temperatures drop into the teens.


BGR photo by Joseph Rose
Forcibly displaced Yazidi Kurds camp under a bridge in a city in northern Iraq.

“Shelter is lacking or inadequate,” Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response, said. “People are living in their cars, under doorsteps, in the open fields -- with mainly tarps covering them. People know winter will come quickly on them, and they need to be ready -- if ever you can be ready in those conditions.”

Shepherd and local partners working with BGR delivered relief supplies to more than a dozen families who had taken shelter under one highway overpass.

“Each of those families had at least seven members. The kids were just being kids -- sliding on the concrete slope,” Shepherd said. “The families are living under the bridge. They made the ground their home. They are planning, when winter comes, maybe they’ll put a tarp on each side to try to keep warm.”

Farther down the road, the relief team found another group that had taken shelter in makeshift tents under a few trees. Even in some of the buildings they visited, people were sleeping on the concrete floor with thin blankets or mats underneath them.

“It’s already cold at night in Kurdistan,” Shepherd said. “And their biggest concern now is what will happen to us in the winter?”

In addition to food baskets provided by Global Hunger Relief, BGR is distributing supplies intended to help people survive the winter: coats and rubber boots, blankets, mattresses, and carpets to isolate the cold, as well as heating stoves and fuel.

The families being helped are Kurdish Yazidis and other minorities, as well as Iraqi Christians, some of whom are members of the response team and were themselves forcibly displaced from their own homes.
“When you are with them, you see they are confused, defeated,” Shepherd said.

“There is panic and fear in their eyes. I can’t but offer: Our God will help us through, as he is faithful.”
For more information on how you can help, go to

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)

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N. Iraq: 'They are waiting for us to help'

9/24/2014 11:33:58 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press/BGR | with 0 comments

‘Third way’ church disfellowshipped from SBC

September 24 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Acting on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), its Executive Committee (EC) has withdrawn fellowship from a California church where some members, including the pastor, believe that “same-sex marriage can be blessed by God.”

Without opposition, the EC voted Tuesday (Sept. 23) to declare that New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., “does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church under Article III [of the SBC Constitution], and that messengers from the church should not be seated until such time as the Convention determines that the church has unambiguously demonstrated its friendly cooperation with the Convention as defined in the Convention’s constitution.”

Article III of the SBC Constitution states, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”

In a Sept. 20 letter to the EC, New Heart’s deacons wrote, “Some ‘members in our church’ believe that same-sex marriage can be blessed by God, while other members in our church believe that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.” The deacons added that “while ‘our church’ remains without an official stance on same-sex marriage, our preaching pastor has officiated a same-sex marriage.”

The pastor, Danny Cortez, has called New Heart a “third way” church in which its leaders can hold varying perspectives regarding same-sex marriage.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd told Baptist Press that the EC’s action was a matter of conviction and did not reflect a lack of compassion for New Heart or homosexuals.

New Heart has “walked away from us as Southern Baptists,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said. “We have not walked away from them. So it is with compassion that I would appeal to them to reconsider their decision, mostly their position related to the Word of God on homosexuality.”

The EC’s action marked the first time the committee has withdrawn fellowship from a church on behalf of the convention. In 1992 the SBC declared two North Carolina churches that endorsed homosexuality not in friendly cooperation and withdrew fellowship from them. In 2009, the convention ceased its relationship with a Texas church that had five openly homosexual members at the time, including some serving on church committees.

New Heart first made headlines when Cortez told the congregation in a February sermon he had “changed [his] stance on homosexuality.” The sermon, which Cortez posted on YouTube in March, has been viewed more than 47,000 times.

Cortez was present at the Sept. 22-23 EC meeting in Nashville and addressed both the bylaws workgroup and the administrative committee, but EC policy prohibits reporting direct statements from those meetings. Both groups prayed for Cortez and his church and approved unanimously the recommendation to withdraw fellowship from New Heart.

Cortez declined BP’s request for an interview.

In his February sermon Cortez acknowledged his endorsement of homosexuality “is a radical shift from the longstanding belief of our church. This is a radical shift from our statement of faith, aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Cortez argued that Romans 1 does not condemn all homosexual acts but only those committed in a spirit of violence or unbridled lust. He said modern homosexual relationships are different from the ancient forms of homosexuality Paul was referencing.

In a letter to a gay blogger last spring, Cortez wrote, “I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year.”

Shane Hall, chairman of the EC’s administrative committee, told BP that EC officers first considered addressing the New Heart situation when Cortez’s views became public through social media. The EC staff then researched the matter before the officers forwarded a recommendation to the bylaws workgroup.

“If we don’t address the issue now with regard to one church, then we open up a Pandora’s box as it relates to a whole host of issues with regard to maintaining a firm commitment to biblical authority,” Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church Del City in Oklahoma City, Okla., told BP. “Once we allow the undermining of scripture in one area, then we open up a door to the undermining of scripture in all areas. And once we undermine scripture ... it also undermines our purpose and our mission.”

Roger S. Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations, agreed the EC stood on biblical truth with its action.

“Following the lead of pastor Danny Cortez, New Heart Community Church has walked away from the Southern Baptist Convention’s clearly-expressed core biblical values,” Oldham told BP. “It is deeply distressing and causes great sorrow when a fellow pastor or sister church departs from the teachings we believe the Bible clearly states. Just as this local church has chosen to establish its own framework of belief, the convention has chosen to set the parameters of what constitutes being in friendly cooperation with the SBC. In making this determination today, the SBC Executive Committee acted on its core convictions of biblical truth.”

EC President Frank S. Page emphasized that Southern Baptists love homosexuals and want them to repent and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

“This action does not reflect a lack of love for homosexuals,” Page told BP. “We love all people, including homosexuals. But when you love someone, you tell them the truth about their actions. By its action on behalf of the convention, the Executive Committee is telling New Heart that its failure to condemn homosexuality breaks the heart of God. We’re praying that the church will repent.”

EC chairman Mike Routt said in a statement to Cortez that he also provided to BP that the stance of some New Heart members on homosexuality involves “reinterpreting scripture.”

“Mr. Cortez, the issue is not just about homosexuality,” Routt, pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., wrote. “It is about the collision of our orthodox faith and your radical theology. We advocate Jude 3: Contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints. You advocate reinterpreting the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.”

Earlier this month, the California Southern Baptist Convention’s executive board voted to withdraw fellowship from New Heart. The Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association’s executive board recommended in July that the body not seat messengers from New Heart at its fall meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/24/2014 11:19:16 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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