September 2015

For refugees in Greek port city, ‘Gateway to Europe’ becomes nightmare

September 23 2015 by Keith Weston and Samantha Conners, IMB Connections

PATRAS, Greece – Insulation and paper clung to the rafters of the former factory like clothes drying on a line. On the concrete floor, shards of glass were mixed with piles of trash. Old desks held overused pots and gritty pans while filing cabinets stored clothes. Long-forgotten cisterns, a plastic bucket and a rope provided somewhat fresh water.
 
Names and dates scribbled in Arabic on off-white walls offered an abridged history of the location. In English, one refugee wrote encouragement: “We are here. We can build our land with our insist[ence]; we can rise up our land together.”

 
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IMB photo by Raymon Salinas
Light streams into an abandoned factory as Sudanese men describe their living conditions in Patras, Greece

For the men who call this place home, such hope now rings hollow.
 
Here, just feet from a lively port, more than one hundred Sudanese men live in abject poverty. Next door, another abandoned facility is home to Afghan migrants.
 
Patras is sometimes called the Gateway to Western Europe. But for hundreds of refugees already here, it’s a nightmare. They live in an intermediate state – a purgatory with no clear means of escape or end. They had hoped to travel to Italy by boat or ferry, but catching a ride underneath a semi is their current option, and next to impossible. They are usually caught by police and told to go back to where they live.
 
“We don’t have a place to live,” is their usual reply, they said.
 
They are ignored and neglected in Europe.
 
“We didn’t know Europe was like this,” Ibrahim* said. He motioned to a makeshift bed on the floor: “Look where we sleep!”
 
His friend Abed* agreed. “If I knew it was like this, I wouldn’t come,” he said.

 
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IMB photo by Raymon Salinas
A Sudanese man indicates English and Arabic writing that has been scribbled onto a wall inside the abandoned factory he and many other refugees call home in Patras, Greece.

“Sometimes we try to go inside the city to look for a job, but people run away from us because of fear,” Abed said. “We don’t know why. We don’t know how we stay here.”
 
All of them said they hope to find better opportunities elsewhere in Europe. If that’s not an option, many of them simply want to return home – to Khartoum or to the Darfur refugee camps.
 
For others seeking to enter the continent, they have a message: “We tell them that nobody should try to come to Europe,” Ibrahim said. “It’s bad. It’s too bad.”
 
But many aren’t getting Ibrahim’s message. Hundreds of thousands still see Europe as their refuge. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, in the first half of 2014, the number of refugees seeking asylum in southern Europe was up 73 percent from the previous year. And numbers continue to grow, especially from the Middle East and Africa.
 
With the surge of refugees entering Europe’s borders, employment, government assistance and aid programs are struggling to keep up with increased demands.
  “A sharp increase in refugees arriving on Greece’s Aegean islands is pushing an already faltering reception system to [the] breaking point,” reported Amnesty International.
 
Josh Rivers,* a Christian worker in West Africa, says aspiring refugees from his area “are willing to risk their lives on wandering boats hoping to reach Europe and find a job that will propel them forward. They often don’t hear the real stories about no work, living in a small room with 11 other guys and running from the cops every time they get near.”
 
To Rivers, the desire to get to Europe has become an idol for many African men. “The younger generation considers Europe their only hope,” he said. “These young men are looking for something to fill the void in their lives. They are looking for fulfillment in life; something more than what has been handed down from generation to generation. The appeal of success seems to be the obvious answer to them.”

 
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IMB photo by Raymon Salinas
Refugees create makeshift cooking areas like this one in their abandoned factory home in Patras, Greece.

But Rivers is working to free people from their search for material gain in Europe by replacing their misguided hopes with the truth of the gospel.
 
He said, “Matthew 6:24 is a passage of scripture we share a lot with the young men in West Africa. When our minds are set on money, it quickly becomes our god. In the end it is not a god of love or one that is concerned with you. It is a god that leads to conflict, strife and murder. But Christ came to give life abundant, and it is given through His love, which [led Him to] give His life for all.”
 
Along with speaking the gospel, Rivers says believers must live in the power and the hope of the gospel.
 
“Certainly the greatest asset we have in reaching them is Christ in us. The joy in life, the hope He provides is evident to these young men as we spend time with them. So the light in our lives is key,” he said.
 
Rivers says West Africa has a great need for more of Jesus’ disciples in their 20s.
 
“In many parts of West Africa, 70 percent of the population is age 29 or less,” he said. “I would say that age-mates have been a key component in reaching these young men. Having college-age students out for months at a time through Face2Face, Hands On and Journeymen programs gives them significant time to connect with these young men and share the message of hope in Christ. … These programs are geared for those 20-somethings who are ready to give a season of their life to sharing the message of truth to those who live daily without hope.”
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Weston and Samantha Conners are writers for IMB based in Europe.)

9/23/2015 11:46:32 AM by Keith Weston and Samantha Conners, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



SBC committee candidates sought by Ronnie Floyd

September 23 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Candidates to serve on committees pivotal to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are being sought by SBC President Ronnie Floyd.
 
In addition to sending letters to SBC entity and state convention leaders, Floyd is broadening his call for candidates for several committees whose work is key to the SBC’s annual meeting each year.
 
In his letter, Floyd explained: “As SBC President, it is my privilege and responsibility to appoint two representatives from each qualified state or territory and the District of Columbia to serve on the SBC’s Committee on Committees. This Committee is responsible for nominating the Committee on Nominations, which in turn nominates trustees to the boards of the various SBC entities. I am also responsible for naming the Tellers and Credentials Committees. These two Committees serve at the SBC annual meeting, counting votes and qualifying messengers, respectively.
 
“Appointing these committees is a daunting challenge as you can imagine,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, wrote, “and we need your help in identifying solid candidates to serve.”
 
Floyd noted, “As the trustees go, so go the entities; therefore, it is imperative we appoint trustees who have a heart to serve the churches and a vision to reach North America and the world. This process all begins with the appointment of the Committee on Committees by the president” which “nominates the Committee on Nominations, which in turn nominates the trustees of our Southern Baptist entities.”
 
The Committee on Committees, appointed by the SBC president, and the Committee on Nominations, elected by messengers, are at the heart of the selection process of pastors and laypeople as trustees of the SBC entities, such as the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board.
 
Two other groups for which the SBC president is soliciting potential members – the Credentials Committee and Tellers – play important roles during the convention’s two-day sessions. The Credentials Committee is responsible for addressing any registration uncertainty involving a messenger. Tellers are involved in any votes by messengers on motions and other business matters.
 
Floyd also noted he is seeking candidates to serve on the Resolutions Committee, which frames proposed stances to messengers on missions and evangelism as well as important cultural issues.
 
“My prayer,” Floyd said, “is that God would give me the right people to appoint and they will take their role seriously. These are Kingdom moments; therefore, we need these men and women to rise to this occasion of providing strategic spiritual leadership.”
 
Floyd’s letter set forth qualifications for committee candidates:
 
“* Christ-like character, unquestionable integrity, and a commitment to the inerrancy of scripture as the written Word of God and to reaching our world with the gospel of Christ.
 
“* In accordance with SBC Bylaw 15(A), Committee on Committee appointees ‘shall have been resident members for at least (3) years of Southern Baptist churches either geographically within the states or affiliated with the convention of the states from which they are appointed.’
 
“* SBC Bylaw 15(C) precludes simultaneous service on more than one board or committee of the Convention by any person or that person’s spouse unless specifically permitted by bylaw. You may not nominate to the Committee on Committees, the Tellers or Credentials committees any person who is currently serving (or whose spouse is serving) on any other SBC entity board, institution, commission, or committee.
 
“* A faithful history of financial support of the Convention’s missions and ministries, primarily through the Cooperative Program.
 
“* A variety of age, gender, position, and ethnicity: men and women, church staff and laymen, and representatives from large and small churches.”
 
Floyd asked that names of candidates for these groups be forwarded to him by Nov. 1 in one of the following ways: email to the president’s office at ronniep@crosschurch.com; fax to (479) 756-7110; or mail: 1709 Johnson Road, Springdale, AR 72762.
 
Floyd’s appointment of the Committee on Committees entails two representatives from each of the 34 states or regions that qualify for representation according to SBC Bylaw 30. The Committee on Committees meets in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting to nominate an equal number of members to the Committee on Nominations, which meets the following March, with one church-related employee and one layperson serving from each state or defined territory.
 
Floyd also is encouraging churches and pastors to provide the Committee on Nominations with recommendations when it begins its work later this fall. This committee nominates members of the Executive Committee; trustees for the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources and the six Southern Baptist seminaries; and members of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Committee on Nominations’ recommendations are submitted to messengers at each SBC annual meeting for approval.
 
For both the Credentials Committee and Tellers, the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis will entail new changes for registration and voting.
 
The Credentials Committee will be involved in the expansion of messenger representation from local churches. Two messengers, rather than one messenger, now can register for the annual meeting from each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year. Additionally, the convention will recognize 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:

  • One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.

  • One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The changes were adopted by messengers in June in Columbus, Ohio, completing a two-year approval process.
 
Tellers, meanwhile, will be involved in the convention’s first-ever use of electronic voting devices, which also was approved by messengers at June’s SBC meeting in Columbus, Ohio. The change to the SBC’s bylaws stipulates that electronic balloting protect “the integrity of the voting process” and provide for “messengers’ votes to remain confidential.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/23/2015 11:39:15 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



For one nurse, carnival ministry is personal

September 22 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Many people find it hard to believe Dori Deddo is a third-generation carnival worker.

Deddo literally grew up in the carnival. That’s how her parents and grandparents made their living. For a while, Dori did too, before becoming a registered nurse.
 
Now the western North Carolina native uses her nursing skills to minister and serve the carnival workers whose lifestyle she understands so well. When they learn she worked the carnival just like them, they’re usually at a loss for words.
 
“When I tell them, they’re just in shock,” Deddo says. “They think, ‘You’re just a nurse that’s been raised up in this wonderful family,’ but I wasn’t. I was one of them.”
 
Deddo is one of thousands of health care professionals who volunteer their time on board the mobile medical and dental buses that provide free and much-needed care to underprivileged patients across the state each year. The mobile medical and dental ministry is one of many ministries made possible through financial gifts contributed each year to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).

 
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BSC photo by K Brown
Dori Deddo, left, and Dr. Ray Dunkelberg work together during the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in Fletcher.

In 2014, more than 4,600 patients received free medical or dental care through the ministry. In addition to physical care, patients receive spiritual care, as well. Many other volunteers, including pastors, counselors, chaplains and lay leaders, serve alongside the medical professionals on board the buses, sharing the message of hope found in Jesus Christ with the patients.
 
“To be able to give back is the whole reason I’m here,” Deddo says. “To show Jesus’ love.”
 
Deddo has volunteered for several years on board the medical bus during the N.C. Mountain State Fair in Fletcher, located near her home in Pisgah Forest. Several of North Carolina’s Baptist associations organize outreach efforts during fairs and carnivals that come to their regions each summer and fall. Baptist associations also receive a portion of NCMO contributions each year, which go to support local missions activities like the fair ministries. Often associations will coordinate the use of the medical and dental buses while the fair is in town. Use of the medical and dental buses is coordinated through N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission.
 
For Deddo, this ministry is personal. She describes the carnival lifestyle as a big homeless population that is a gypsy-like caravan that goes from town to town. The hours are long and hard. Fair workers often can’t afford health insurance, and most carnival companies don’t provide it. She relates to the workers because she’s been in their shoes.
 
“This ministry is important for me because I was actually raised on the carnival,” Deddo said.
“I want to be able to give back and show some of the carnival workers that they could have a better life and maybe go and do more, and in turn serve others as well.
 
“I never dreamed that I would be standing here today on this medical bus providing care to some people that are in need.”
 
Deddo said she is thankful for the individuals and churches that give to the NCMO and make this type of ministry possible.
 
“When you support the NCMO, you have an impact in ways you never could have imagined,” Deddo said. “This ministry changes lives.
 
“Jesus tells us to go out and love people. That’s what we’re doing.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – To learn more about NCMO, visit ncmissionsoffering.org.)

 

9/22/2015 12:52:03 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



House OKs PPFA defunding, abortion survivors bills

September 22 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Sept. 18 to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of undercover videos providing evidence the organization trades in baby body parts.
 
On the same date, the House also approved legislation to protect babies who survive abortions.
 
House members passed the bills in the face of President Barack Obama’s promise to veto both measures.
 
Representatives voted 241-187 for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 3134. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.
 
The vote came after the release since mid-July of 10 secretly recorded videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children and acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. The videos also provided evidence of cutting into live babies to remove organs.
 
The House passed the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, H.R. 3504, by 248-177. The proposal – which builds on the 2002 Born-alive Infants Protection Act – would require appropriate care and hospital admission for a child who lives through an abortion or attempted abortion.

 
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Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), hailed the bills’ passage as the “absolutely right” action by lawmakers.
 
“These are not difficult or complicated moral dilemmas but clear cases of acting in defense of our most vulnerable and most defenseless citizens,” Moore said. “As long as the human rights of babies are subjected to the autonomous ‘choices’ of others or the profiteering of corporations, our national conscience will continue to cry out.”
 
Moore said his prayer “is that the hearts of many in the Senate, and in the White House, will be turned toward the plight of born and unborn children and their mothers.”
 
The White House, however, made it clear two days before the votes the president would veto the bills if they reach his desk. The administration “strongly opposes” approval of the measures because they “would have the same consequence of limiting women’s health care choices,” according to a statement issued Sept. 16.
 
Obama’s veto promise and the House votes provided further evidence of the Democratic Party’s commitment to abortion rights, even when it comes to the killing of unborn children outside the womb. Only five Democrats voted for the legislation to protect babies who survive abortions, and only two voted to defund PPFA.
 
The House votes “are evidence of just how wedded to the idea of abortion on-demand, at any time, for any reason, that the Democratic Party has become,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement. “Where is the compassion and concern for ‘the little guy,’ the abortion survivor, whose heart is beating and alive?”
 
The sponsor of the abortion survivors measure expressed dismay at the president’s veto promise.
 
“President Obama will be remembered as the abortion president, and nothing will mark his administration with more shame and dishonor than his lack of compassion and protection toward millions of innocent and voiceless little babies,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., in written comments.
 
The battle for the proposals moves to the Senate, where Democrats appear to have enough votes to prevent their passage as stand-alone measures.
 
Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., sponsor of the PPFA defunding bill, urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to give her proposal a chance.
 
“At least give it a vote,” she told McConnell in a radio interview on The Catholic Channel. “Don’t throw up the white flag before you’ve fought the fight.”
 
She will call every senator she knows to seek passage in that chamber, said Black, whose legislation would divert funds to other federally qualified health centers.
 
The ERLC’s Moore sent letters to Speaker of the House John Boehner on the two days prior to the votes urging adoption of both bills. He also had endorsed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in a July letter.
 
House committees are conducting investigations of Planned Parenthood in light of the undercover videos. The House Judiciary Committee held the first of two hearings on the subject Sept. 9.
 
In early August, the Senate fell short in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Senators voted 53-46 to bring such a bill to the floor. While a majority of senators favored consideration of the proposal, the attempt to invoke cloture, as it is known, fell short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the legislation and establish a path to its passage.
 
While the federal government has failed so far to defund Planned Parenthood, five states have acted to do so. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Utah have eliminated funds for the organization since the video releases by the Center for Medical Progress began.
 
The ERLC and other opponents of government funding for Planned Parenthood have tried in previous congressional sessions to cut off money for the organization and other abortion providers but have always fallen short. In 2011, an effort to bring a PPFA defunding bill to the Senate floor received only 42 votes.
 
In its latest financial report (2013-14), PPFA said it received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements. It performed 327,653 abortions during 2013.
 
The only Democrats to vote for the Planned Parenthood defunding bill were Reps. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. They also voted for the abortion survivors proposal, along with Reps. Matthew Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island.
 
The only Republicans to oppose the Planned Parenthood defunding measure were Reps. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, Bob Dold of Illinois and Richard Hanna of New York. No GOP members voted against the abortion survivors bill.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
 

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9/22/2015 12:39:51 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists ‘not threatened’ by pope’s U.S. visit

September 22 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As Pope Francis visits the U.S., Southern Baptist leaders say they stand with his statements of biblical morality but urge Catholics to reject the Vatican’s official teaching on salvation in favor of a personal relationship with Christ by faith alone.
 
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, hopes Francis will speak to key moral concerns being debated in the public square during his Sept. 22-27 U.S. visit.
 
“I hope the pope speaks with clarity about the dignity of all human life, including that of the unborn; the stability of the family, including the necessity of mothers and fathers for children; and religious liberty for all,” Moore said. “I also hope he speaks directly as he has before to our responsibility for the most vulnerable among us, the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant and the orphan.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, agrees and wants Francis to clarify his “decidedly mixed signals” regarding multiple issues, including human sexuality.
 
“This pope’s method is to speak to the theological left and the theological right with two different sets of messages,” Mohler said “As he’ll be speaking to a largely disillusioned Catholic population and a very skeptical secular population, I don’t expect him to be any clearer on the issues” during the U.S. visit.

 
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Pope Francis

Yet Francis’ trip could provide an opportunity for American archbishops and members of the press to request clarification regarding the tension between popular perceptions of Francis’ progressivism and his professed support of traditional Catholic doctrines, Mohler said. He cited unique tension between progressives’ hope that Francis will change Catholic teaching on homosexuality and the pope’s position that “all homosexual behavior and relationships” are “objectively disordered.”
 
Mohler called Francis’ Sept. 24 address to a joint session of Congress “problematic.”
 
“No Roman Catholic pope has ever been invited to address a joint session of Congress,” Mohler said. “And Baptists historically have been very opposed to the United States government recognizing any religion or religious leader in such a way.”
 

‘A light comes on’

Retention and recruitment of Catholic church members is expected to be another focus of the pope’s visit, with the Pew Forum reporting earlier this year that six U.S. Catholics leave the church for every one new Catholic convert.
 
But Baptist pastors who have seen numerous Catholics come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior say Francis poses no threat to Protestant evangelism. Chris Goeppner, pastor of Riverbank Church in White River Junction, Vt., has seen 150-200 Catholics profess faith in Christ since 2010.
 
Catholics “who haven’t been to church for a long time come to [our] church and hear a message that has some familiar verbiage,” Goeppner said. “... But now they’ve connected it to a relationship, and it’s been really cool to see when the light bulb goes on.”
 
Goeppner told about one Catholic woman who committed her life to Christ at Riverbank during the past month. The woman said, “I’ve been going to Catholic church my whole childhood and even during my early adult years, and I never heard this message that you shared today about Jesus.”
 
Because the gospel is so “powerful” and “irresistible” for many Catholics, Goeppner said he feels no need to “lean into” Catholic doctrines and refute them from the pulpit.
 
Dennis Diaz, pastor of Mesilla Park Community Church in Las Cruces, N.M., agrees.
 
“We are not really ‘targeting’ Catholics any more than any other group in our city,” said Diaz, a former Catholic. “That we have had many become part of our church family is largely due to the fact that we relate well to them and they can relate to us.”
 
Many basic Christian doctrines “can be found in the Roman Catholic Church,” Diaz said. But “the waters can get a bit muddy on how a person receives salvation.”
 
“I believe a simple way of understanding the difference is this: The Catholic Church believes that salvation is mediated to each of us by the Catholic Church,” he said. “As evangelicals, although we believe the church is vitally important, we believe Christ is the only mediator, and we received salvation by grace through faith in Him alone, not through the church.
 
“Because of this, many of those raised Catholic are confused about what it means to be saved, belong to Christ and have eternal life. Often when they hear the clear gospel message, a light comes on, and it requires little persuasion to lead them in prayer to entrust their lives to Christ,” he said.

 
‘Extra-biblical innovations’

Though pastors like Goeppner and Diaz have found little need to critique Roman Catholic doctrine in sermons, Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Catholic teaching and the Baptist Faith and Message “significantly diverge from one another at the very foundation of our respective theological statements.”
 
Among its errors, the Catholic Church teaches that tradition and scripture are “inseparable means of revelation,” communicating God’s will with equal authority, Yarnell said. The Catholic Church also teaches that faith and good works each play some role in sinners’ gaining right standing before God, he said.
 
“Following the early Reformers, Southern Baptists have correctly opposed both of these foundational moves,” Yarnell said. “...This is not to say the gospel is absent within Roman Catholicism – Martin Luther perceived that the Roman church had historically transmitted to us the Bible as well as the orthodox creeds. But this is to say that Roman Catholicism introduces extra-biblical innovations that confuse the presentation of the gospel.
 
“This is why leaders from all the major Reformation traditions – including Luther, [Huldrych] Zwingli, [Thomas] Cranmer and [Balthasar] Hubmaier – were critical of the Roman church. To get to the gospel in the Roman church, one must first strip away the accretions of human tradition and human works,” Yarnell said.
 
As Mohler explained, “the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church explicitly denies justification by faith alone, and thus I believe it teaches another gospel.” However, “there are undoubtedly Christians in the Roman Catholic Church who, inconsistently with official Catholic doctrine, nonetheless simply trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
 

‘I pray for Pope Francis’

Doug Dieterly, an Indiana pastor and former Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) director at the University of Notre Dame, said many Catholic students lack in-depth knowledge of the Bible and find the gospel refreshing. Catholics tend to rely on church authority as the source of their theology rather than scripture, he noted.
 
When nominally Catholic students “come to BCM Bible study and get introduced to in-depth Bible study, they tend to see very quickly how much gold there is to be mined from the Word of God, and as a result become very, very interested and very, very involved,” said Dieterly, associate pastor of Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind. “And if they have never made a personal decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord, they will typically do so.”
 
The greatest impediment to evangelism at Notre Dame, is “a mindset among some Catholics that the Catholic Church is the one true church and you don’t look outside of that,” said Dieterly, a former trustee chair for the North American Mission Board.
 
Diaz, of New Mexico, seemed to speak for all the ministers interviewed when he called Francis’ U.S. visit “a non-issue” in terms of its impact on Protestant evangelism.
 
“We are not threatened by the pope and his agenda,” Diaz said. “He is not our adversary or competition. I pray for Pope Francis. I hope he can lead a revival within the Roman Catholic Church. I hope and pray he will embrace the Word of God as the sole authority of the church and encourage his denomination to do the same. I hope and pray He will point people to Christ alone as the way of salvation.
 
“Until then, we will continue to seek to reach everyone in our city that does not know Christ, no matter what their background.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related Story:

Pope’s abortion absolution ‘disconnected’ from gospel

9/22/2015 12:29:13 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fruitland announces scholarship, dedicates new facilities

September 22 2015 by FBBC Communications

Fruitland Baptist Bible College (FBBC) in Hendersonville recently announced the establishment of the H.E. Wyatt Scholarship Fund, designed to provide financial assistance to students preparing for ministry. Weldon Wyatt gave a donation Sept. 1 of $100,000 in memory of his father H.E. Wyatt who was a 1955 graduate of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. The 1955 yearbook describes H.E. Wyatt in the following manner:
 
“Brother Wyatt has missed fewer classes than any man that has been here for a long time. He is a good thinker and has a logical mind. He has keen insight into the truth and preaches well. He was a traveling salesman a good while before entering the ministry and learned in this field how to approach and get along with folks.”

 
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Jimmy R. Jacumin, former North Carolina senator, addresses a group gathered at Fruitland Baptist Bible College to dedicate the family apartments named for Jacumin’s late wife, Nancy Nell Jacumin.

During his ministry, Wyatt was the pastor of several churches in South Carolina and made a lasting impact on all those he met. The younger Wyatt, owner of Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, S.C., stated that his father “pastored a small church when he came to Fruitland and received a scholarship that made his education possible. In memory of my father, I want to offer a scholarship that will allow other students to experience Fruitland.”

David Horton, FBBC president, and Jason Speier, director of institutional advancement, received the gift on behalf of the college and affirmed a “cycle of generosity that allows one who has been blessed to be a blessing to others.”
 
The first recipients of scholarship will be named in the fall quarter, which is anticipated to hold record enrollment for the school. With continued growth in enrollment at FBBC there was a need for more campus living accommodations for married students.
 
Former state Sen. Jimmy Ray Jacumin, his son Marty and daughter Mitzi gifted the college with funds to purchase building materials for a four-unit apartment complex in memory of their wife and mother, Nancy Nell Jacumin, who passed away unexpectedly June 9, 2014.
 
Since Nancy Nell Jacumin spent her life teaching in N.C. public schools, working as a literacy instructor with Red Cross and a Sunday School teacher, her family believed it was appropriate to honor her at a place of higher learning. Jacumin worked diligently in various Christian ministries such as the Women’s Auxiliary of Gideons International and the Waldensian Trail of Faith, both in Valdese. She loved sharing her faith in Jesus Christ everywhere she went.
 
Construction on the apartments began in December 2014 with the help of many volunteers that provided labor and expertise. Because of the vast array of volunteers, the apartments are available for incoming students at the start of the fall 2015 quarter. A dedication and ribbon cutting for the new family apartments was held Sept. 14. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the Jacumin family and thank them for choosing to honor Nancy in such a significant way,” Horton said. “Nancy loved her family and loved helping others. It is our prayer that the families that live in the new Nancy Nell Jacumin Apartments will grow in their love of Christ and family as they study to minister to others. We would also like to thank all the many volunteers that have worked tirelessly to make this vision a reality.”
 
FBBC is a ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Approximately one half of the school’s operating cost is provided through gifts from the Cooperative Program, which enables students to have a rate of tuition that is significantly less than a community college.
 
Approximately 20-25 percent of the Baptist pastors in N.C. and S.C. have attended FBBC and many graduates serve as missionaries around the world.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Story compiled from press releases by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor.)

9/22/2015 12:23:24 PM by FBBC Communications | with 0 comments



Phyllis Bennett dies at 90

September 22 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Phyllis Jean Metz Bennett, 90, died Sept. 6 in Winter Garden, Fla. She was the wife of the late Harold Bennett, president-treasurer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee from 1979-92.
 
“Phyllis strongly supported her husband’s work, both in churches and in the denomination,” according to information posted by a Nashville-area funeral home. “For 13 years Phyllis hosted and planned programs for the wives of the 78-member Executive Committee.”

 
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Phyllis Jean Metz Bennett

Daughter Cynthia Bennett Howard lauded her mother during a 1992 retirement dinner for her parents. “I have seen you love and support Dad in all of his endeavors,” Howard, then a missionary in Swaziland in southern Africa, said via video. “You have always made our house a special home.”
 
“Phyllis was a lovely and refined woman who was devoted to serving Christ faithfully, often at the side of her husband Harold,” said Morris H. Chapman, Harold Bennett’s successor as Executive Committee president.
 
Phyllis Bennett “especially enjoyed hosting the wives of Executive Committee members when they came to their meetings. She made them feel right at home while, among other things, acquainting them with the work of the Executive Committee,” Chapman said.
 
“She and Harold loved the Southern Baptist Convention and gave many years of their lives to serving Southern Baptists.”
 
Before moving to Nashville, the Bennetts had lived in Jacksonville, Fla., where he had served as executive secretary-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention since 1967. They also had lived in Dallas when he worked for Baptist General Convention of Texas’ missions division and in Atlanta when he worked in metropolitan missions for the then-Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board).
 
The Bennetts also helped start two churches – the former Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville and Deermeadows Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
 
Phyllis Bennett, a native of Chicago, was a graduate of MacMurray College for Women in Jacksonville, Ill., and had been a schoolteacher in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas and Florida until 1979 when the family moved to the Nashville area.
 
For the past several years, Phyllis Bennett had lived at The Heritage in Brentwood, Tenn., and earlier this year moved to Winter Garden, Fla., to live near her daughter.
 
Memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church, 108 7th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37203.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)

9/22/2015 12:13:30 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Fla. Baptist Conv. to reduce staff by 47%

September 21 2015 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

A reorganization of the Florida Baptist Convention staff that reduces the number of employees statewide by 47 percent – from the 115 currently employed to 61 employees – was approved Sept. 18 by the State Board of Missions at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center.
 
The reorganization and downsizing was the fulfillment of a promise made May 29 by Executive Director-Treasurer Tommy Green after being elected to the post. He stressed the need to have a responsive, lean missions organization that is decentralized, regionalized and personalized.
 
The downsizing will make it possible to send 51 percent of the proposed 2016 Cooperative Program Budget to the Southern Baptist Convention – a nearly 10 percent increase – and ultimately “put more missionary families on the field,” he said.
 
The new structure is comprised of five major program groups – Executive Director-Treasurer Office, Next Generation, Regional Catalysts, Mission and Ministries and Support Services – reflecting an effort to streamline and decentralize the convention staff to more effectively provide ministry support to local churches and associations.

 
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Facebook photo
Tommy Green

The reorganization includes 28 board-elected (ministry) staff; and 33 administrative approved persons who serve as ministry assistants and support personnel. The 33-member support team includes 13 employees at Lake Yale Conference Center in Leesburg and a caretaker for the Blue Springs Conference Center in Marianna.
 
Four new staff persons were elected to fill vacancies within the restructured organization. Jeffrey Singletary of Tampa and Wayne Briant of Sarasota were elected to serve as regional coordinators. Micah Ferguson of Brandon was elected as director of strategic initiatives and Billy Young of Brandon was elected as lead catalyst, Next Generation Ministries Group.
 
Additionally, long-term employee Steve Baumgardner was promoted in a dual role as assistant executive director/Support Services director.
 
The remaining staff members were reassigned to newly defined roles.
 
The board approved an executive management group to be called the Leadership Team – formerly known as the administrative staff – to provide counsel and decision-making advice and perspective to the executive director.
 
The Leadership Team will be composed of the executive director-treasurer, director of strategic initiatives, director of communications, lead catalyst of the Next Generation Ministries Group, the five regional catalysts, lead catalyst of the Missions and Ministries Group and the assistant executive director/director of Support Services.
 
Personnel assigned to the Executive Director-Treasurer’s Office are Green, executive director-treasurer; Ferguson, director of Strategic Initiatives; and Barbara Denman, director of communications.
 
The Next Generation Ministries Group will be led by Young, lead catalyst; and include seven collegiate ministries campus ministers: Lance Beauchamp, Tallahassee area; Barry Sproles, Jacksonville area; Brad Crawford, Orlando area, Eddie Gilley, Gainesville area; Matt Wofford, Miami area; Rahul Agarwal, Tampa area; and Tony Olesky, Pensacola area.
 
Regional catalysts will be assigned to minister to churches and reside within the five designated areas across the state. These are: Lewis Miller, West Florida; Glen Owens, Northeast Florida; Jeffery Singletary, Central Florida; Wayne Briant, Southwest Florida; and Al Fernandez, Southeast Florida.
 
Five staff persons will serve in statewide catalyst and consultant roles: Emanuel Roque, multicultural Church/Leadership catalyst; Deris Coto, Hispanic Church catalyst; Patrick Coats, Black/Multicultural Church consultant; John Voltaire, Haitian Church consultant; and Terry Williams, Music/Worship consultant. All but Williams will reside in South Florida, the state’s most ethnically diverse region.
 
Craig Culbreth will lead the downsized Missions and Ministries Group, which now will be comprised of four ministry catalysts and their assignments: Marc Johnston, catalyst, Church and Community Ministries; Misael Castillo, catalyst, Migrant Ministries; Delton Beall, catalyst, Disaster Relief and Recovery; and Cindy Bradley, catalyst, Women’s Missions and Ministries/Missions Education.
 
The Support Services Group, which will be led by Baumgardner, includes Charles Staton, director, Accounting; Gary Townsend, director, Church-Staff Benefits/Stewardship; Don Sawyer, director, Convention Facilities/Lake Yale Conference Center; and Lonnie Wright, director, Information Support Services.
 
Statewide, 22 Board-elected employees were identified to be released from Convention employment, including five who will retire and three who will remain in consultant roles. Additionally 29 administrative approved (support staff) persons were released from Convention employment.
 
The Board eliminated 36 Board-elected staff positions, some of which were vacant, effective immediately. Green assured the board that the displaced persons were treated fairly and generously with their compensation package.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
 

Related Story:

Florida’s CP giving called ‘great sacrifice’

9/21/2015 2:16:46 PM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Annual Church Profile: ‘Numbers matter’

September 21 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Americans detest filling out forms. Many groan at the thought of scribbling names, addresses and zip codes across tiny blank lines on boring black-and-white pages. The grumbling swells each year between Jan. 1 and April 15; that’s when U.S. income tax forms – the most despised of all – must be submitted. What’s worse, those tedious stacks of paperwork require math as well. It’s all too much for the average person. So many people dislike the process of filling out tax forms that for-profit filing services like H&R Block and TurboTax have become household names.
 
Part of the distaste Americans feel for rote documentation comes from the idea that their hard work is then mailed off to faceless government agencies that mindlessly process the documents. All personhood is extracted and the information is distilled into systematic categories for the sake of government revenue. It feels meaningless to many people.
 
There is evidence that some Southern Baptists consider a yearly statistical report submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) called the Annual Church Profile (ACP) to be as unappealing as their yearly federal income tax form. Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said in a 2012 Baptist Press report that the previous year’s ACP participation rate was the “lowest ever recorded.”
 
Numbers have risen since 2011, and Southern Baptists retain a high response rate compared to other denominations, according to Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. However, McConnell told SBC Life “the greatest challenge the ACP faces is keeping the response rate as high as possible each year.” Nearly 10,000 SBC congregations (approximately 20 percent) opted not to participate in the 2014 ACP.

 
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“The percentage of North Carolina Baptist churches completing the ACP has been in steady decline for several years,” said Brian Davis, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) associate executive director-treasurer, in a 2014 Biblical Recorder column. “There is not a single explanation for ‘why’ this may be the case, but the overarching reason appears to be churches simply do not understand why completing the reports and sharing the data is important.”

 
Overcoming ACP objections

One obstacle for church participation in the yearly profile could be – like federal paperwork – the perception that it is meaningless.
 
“Numbers don’t matter,” many Baptists say. Yet, according to a blog post by J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, “numbers represent lives, and each life matters.” Tracking attendance, giving and baptisms is biblical, and it allows churches to care for their members, according to Greear.
 
That type of mutual care is not only possible for individuals inside a church, but also possible for cooperating churches with the help of the ACP at the local, state and national levels. “The most basic product of the ACP is an annual list of who we are as a group of churches who voluntarily cooperate with each other,” said Stetzer.
 
“I recall in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, local associations and state conventions, with the support of national entities, were able to check on every Southern Baptist church in the affected areas. The value of our cooperation was never more evident than when we saw independent churches with no one coming to their aid.”
 
Another objection leveled at the ACP is an alleged misuse of the data. Stetzer views the data positively, citing “statistical measures and benchmarks” as a benefit of the yearly report. “Facts are our friends,” he said, “and they help us hold ourselves accountable.”
 
It allows for more accurate evaluation of church ministries. “Local churches are often so busy with seeking to establish new missionary and ministry efforts,” said Davis, “they do not often take time to do the difficult work of evaluating the effectiveness of current missionary and ministry efforts.”
 
William Thornton, a Baptist blogger and Georgia pastor, took another perspective after the dip in ACP participation four years ago. He said in a blog post one of the reasons pastors refuse to lead their churches to submit their information is that “ACP data from individual churches is sometimes used as a club.
 
“Did not baptize anyone? Wham! Did not give much through the Cooperative Program? Wham! Did not participate in the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings? Wham, bam! Those running for state or national SBC office, or nominated for SBC entity positions can be sure their ACP will be scrutinized.”
 
Thornton’s concern for SBC entity position candidates is not entirely unfounded. Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told SBC Life, “As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ACP helped me in making appointments to various committees.
 
“I said at the beginning of my tenure as president there were several criteria I would use for appointments,” Page continued. “One was, were they soul-winners? Well, the ACP helped me know. … Are you a Cooperative Program champion? Well, if they were, I saw it. If they weren’t, I saw it.”
 
Greear said that scrutinizing a ministry based on numerical data isn’t biblical, though he supports record keeping. “There is a potentially disastrous illusion in such numbers,” he said. “Attendance, decisions and baptism do not equal the discipleship that ends in eternal life.”

Stetzer said, “I am aware some pastors question why they should share their church’s information with the convention. But, I am also aware that what we measure points to what we value. If we want SBC churches to grow, want new SBC churches to be added, want more individuals to be involved in Bible study and missions, and want churches to cooperate in Great Commission giving, we should be willing to measure our progress.”
 
In essence Stetzer values the health of the convention as a whole over the organizational aspirations of individual pastors. Page agrees. The simple act of submitting the ACP demonstrates cooperation with a broader group, Page told SBC Life. “It helps churches understand who they are as a family of Baptists. … It gives a lot of validity and affirmation of a local ministry to say we are part of a broader group and here are some statistics about that group.”
 

Submitting the form

Still another obstacle some churches may try to overcome to fill out the ACP is a notion that it is a long, tedious process. Russell Schwab, BSC system administrator, offered tips for navigating the ACP process. “Churches that are willing to fill out their yearly church profile can go to nc.sbcworkspace.com,” he said. To access the online form (Ask NED), churches will need a username and password that can received by contacting their respective local association office or by emailing Schwab at rschwab@ncbaptist.org.
 
There is a printed version of the ACP as well. It too can be received – and potential questions can be addressed – by contacting the local association or Schwab. He said about the process, “Churches should try to reach out to the associational clerk or secretary first in trying to get ACP questions answered.” Then, if technical questions arise, or if more help is needed, contact him directly.
 
Each association has their own deadline for reporting, he said, but Nov. 15 is the deadline for submitting the ACP at the state level. After churches have completed the ACP, Schwab added, “the data is shared with the local association office, the [BSC], and with [Lifeway Christian Resources] … for reporting purposes. This allows each entity to report statistical data at their level.”
 
The reported data is important, according to Davis. He said, “your state convention staff depends on this information. The data mined from the ACP is necessary for our research and our strategic planning. This information is essential for convention staff as we fulfill the convention’s mission of assisting the churches in their divinely appointed mission. Convention staff may be able to follow-up for specific details to ensure that there are not unnecessary duplications in effort, and, where needed, additional resources can be invested in underserved areas. With more than 4,300 churches in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, it is a great task to keep up with all that God is accomplishing through the churches of the convention.”
 
Churches that overcome each objection to the cooperative efforts of the yearly profile, and submit their information, can view up to seven years of statistical data at churchpop.ncbaptist.org.
 

Related Stories:

Annual Church Profile – more than the annual report card
Annual Church Profile gives churches, SBC ‘report cards’

9/21/2015 2:10:48 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



IMB transition team announced for missionary retirees

September 21 2015 by Marie Curtis, IMB Connecting

International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt has announced a transition team that will focus on the practical needs of missionaries who accept the voluntary retirement incentive recently offered to personnel who are at least 50 years of age with five years of service.
 
The retirement incentive is the first phase to reduce IMB staff and field personnel by 600 to 800 people in response to revenue shortfalls. See related story. The goal of the plan, IMB leaders shared, is to offer as generous a voluntary retirement incentive as possible, while honoring years of service and providing a smooth transition for the personnel.
 
“I know that this transition is not going to be easy, particularly for those who might be moving back to the U.S.,” Platt told staff and missionaries during a Sept. 17 chapel service.
 
“We want to help as much as possible with practical needs and leverage the entire SBC family to that end,” he said.

 
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BP Photo
David Platt

Clyde Meador, IMB’s executive advisor to the president, is leading the transition team.
 
“The team is definitely unified and has a great concern for missionaries,” Meador said. “They have many, many ideas of ways to minister to our returning personnel.”
 
He noted most members of the team have significant field experience and have made the adjustment from international service to life in the U.S.
 
Meador said Southern Baptists already are responding with offers of assistance. IMB has received offers of housing, employment opportunities, vehicles, counseling and other practical expressions of support from individuals, churches, associations, state conventions, Woman’s Missionary Union, seminaries and other partners.
 
To best serve personnel during this time, Meador said he hopes the team will be able to connect individuals to the resources they most need. After missionaries indicate they are accepting the retirement incentive, the transition team will send them a detailed questionnaire regarding their expected needs, including housing, child education and other employment opportunities.
 
The transition team will work to pair specific needs with the offers of assistance from Southern Baptists that the team is receiving.
 
“As we all approach this opportunity to welcome and honor these faithful servants, I have no doubt Southern Baptists will respond in overwhelming ways we could never imagine,” said Terri Willis, director of national relations for IMB and member of the transition team.           
 
A statement from the team referenced that the greatest need is prayer: “We trust that our churches, above all else, will be praying for these individuals and their stateside families who will be welcoming them.”
 
Meador indicated the team will focus first on offering assistance to field personnel and then seek ways to assist staff, who accept the retirement incentive.
 
To offer practical expressions of support, contact IMB’s transition team at transitionteam@imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marie Curtis is a writer and editor for IMB.)
 

Related Stories:

IMB announces voluntary retirement incentive details
An open letter about the IMB ‘reset’
IMB plans organizational ‘reset’ to ease budget woes
Platt: No gospel drawdown despite personnel cuts

9/21/2015 1:58:18 PM by Marie Curtis, IMB Connecting | with 0 comments



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