September 2017

Future of assisted suicide in D.C. in Senate’s hands

September 22 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The continuation of legalized, physician-assisted suicide in the country’s capital awaits the determination of the U.S. Senate.
 
The House of Representatives nullified the District of Columbia’s Death With Dignity Act as part of an immense spending bill it approved Sept. 14. Representatives included a block on the 2016 D.C. measure as an amendment to legislation they passed 211-198.
 
Opponents and supporters of assisted suicide are waiting to see if the Senate will include the amendment revoking the D.C. law when it acts on the same spending proposal. The final version of the legislation will still need the signature of President Donald Trump.
 
The D.C. law went into effect Feb. 18 when Congress failed to overturn the measure by the deadline it is given under its authority to review the district’s actions. The law was not implemented until June.
 
Southern Baptists outside and inside D.C. hope its legalization will be short-lived.
 
“The so-called ‘Death with Dignity Act’ is a contradiction in terms,” said ethicist Russell Moore, who expressed gratitude for the House vote. “It commodifies death into a marketable good at the expense of human dignity.
 
“My prayer is that the Senate would follow the House’s lead and send the signal that our nation’s capital would defend and honor human life rather than market death,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments for Baptist Press (BP).
 
Efficiency should not be the goal in death, a Southern Baptist pastor in D.C. told BP.
 
“There is a fascination with efficiency in the American moment,” said Nathan Knight, pastor of Restoration Church. “And true life and love are not efficient. They demand toil, heartache and inconvenience. Therefore, we do not dignify the life of others by trying to make their death more efficient for ourselves, their insurers or themselves. Nor do we love those who are sick by making it possible for their impending deaths to be more efficient. Less painful, yes, but efficient, no.
 
“Exploiting life for the sake of an efficient death lies about dignity,” he said in written remarks. “Dignity is seen in the life of Christ, who was given a death warrant, even requested to be released and yet wisely saw it through in order that by his unassisted death life would come.
 
“May we as Christians understand the same. May we mournfully embrace the inefficiency of death for the purpose of honoring the dignity of life,” Knight said.
 
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., also a Southern Baptist, introduced in January what turned out to be an unsuccessful bill seeking to block the D.C. law from taking effect. At the time, he cited a 1997 federal law that bars the use of federal funds for reasons related to assisted suicide – a measure D.C. apparently violated.
 
“Congress has clearly spoken on this issue – no federal dollars can be used for assisted suicide,” Lankford told BP in a written statement Sept. 20). “Despite this unequivocal prohibition, the District of Columbia passed the Death With Dignity Act to legalize assisted suicide in our nation’s capital.
 
“As the Constitution provides Congress with oversight of the District, we have an obligation not only to ensure compliance with federal law, but to protect the most vulnerable among us from the dangers of assisted suicide,” Lankford said.
 
The Southern Baptist Convention has expressed opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia in its annual resolutions dating back 25 years. In the most recent action, messengers to the 2015 SBC meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill and the chronically infirmed.”
 
Assisted suicide is not just potentially abusive, but it already is being used in place of health care, foes say. Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported that Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.
 
The D.C. assisted-suicide law – passed by the City Council in November and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in December – authorizes doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and supposedly have less than six months to live.
 
Assisted-suicide advocates criticized the House action against the D.C. law.
 
“Congress should stop using the District of Columbia as its personal science experiment,” said Anthony Hinojosa, senior political and federal associate for Compassion & Choices, in a written statement. “We are counting on senators from the six states that also have authorized this time-tested medical practice to insist that this amendment be excluded from any final spending bill or continuing resolution to fund the government.”
 
The states in which assisted suicide is now legal are California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Efforts were underway earlier this year in the legislatures of about half of the remaining states to legalize the lethal practice, according to the Death With Dignity National Center.
 
Assisted suicide involves a doctor providing a prescription for a drug that a patient administers in taking his or her own life. In euthanasia, a medical provider acts directly to take a patient’s life, typically by lethal injection.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/22/2017 11:01:31 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



95-year-old DR volunteer is a ‘woman on mission’

September 22 2017 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

When 95-year-old Mary Katie Riddle of Wimberley, Texas, spied stacks of soiled Cambro containers, she did not hesitate.
 
The containers needed washing before they could be refilled with food prepared by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (DR) mass feeding team at First Baptist Church (FBC) in Pflugerville.

Photo by Steve Washburn
Mary Katie Riddle, 95-year-old SBTC Disaster Relief volunteer, washes a food storage container at a feeding unit stationed at First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, Texas.


Riddle, who turns 96 on Sept. 22, plunged in with both hands.
 
“I started washing. I was doing the part where you pick them up and put them in the washer,” Riddle said. “We went through all 600 containers. We just had a good time out there. I would do it again tomorrow.”
 
Riddle admitted that the DR staff at FBC Pflugerville didn’t know quite where to place her when she arrived on Sept. 5 with other volunteers from her home church of 29 years, First Baptist Church of Wimberley.
 
They first assigned Riddle to assist another volunteer with the indoor task of counting out mustard and mayonnaise packets, but she decided it was not a two-person job. That’s when she decided to walk out to the hot parking lot where feeding operations were set up under large yellow tents.
 
The Cambros disinfected by Riddle would be used by the Red Cross to deliver hot meals to Hurricane Harvey evacuees sheltering in Austin.
 
“Someone always kept wanting to relieve me. I said no, I am not going to volunteer for things I can’t do,” Riddle said.
 
Volunteering is what she has done for more than nine decades.
 
Riddle’s involvement in disaster relief caps a lifetime of commitment to serving others. She has always been a “woman on mission,” she explained.
 
Riddle’s parents met in post-World War I Germany, where her father fought in the war and then served in the United States Army of occupation.
 
Riddle said her father enlisted at 16, lying about his age and serving five years. He met her mother in Germany, they married, and then Riddle “came along.” With an American father, she was “automatically a citizen of the U.S.”
 
Riddle’s German-born mother brought her to Texas as a baby, and the family settled in Dallas.
 
“Mother was Catholic. My dad was Lutheran. And I’m a Baptist,” Riddle said, recalling her mother’s determination to learn English. The Latin masses of the Catholic church challenged both mother and daughter.
 
A neighbor invited Riddle and her brother to Sunday school at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dallas.
 
Riddle’s parents never became Baptists, but they made sure their children attended church. “[My mother] dressed me up Sundays and made sure I went because that’s where I wanted to go. I loved church,” Riddle said.
 
“I’ve been a missionary all my life,” Riddle noted. Even as a youngster, she visited nursing homes.
 
After Pearl Harbor, Riddle worked for the government and joined the Marine Reserves.
 
Eventually, she earned degrees in teaching from the University of Corpus Christi and arts and humanities from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
 
She became a secondary English teacher in Corpus Christi, raised two daughters who also became teachers, retired from public school in the late 1980s and relocated to Wimberley with her husband.
 
After her retirement from teaching, the Riddles volunteered with the International Mission Board, spending a year in Brazil, where Riddle taught missionary children and her husband assisted in building churches.
 
Following her husband’s death in 1996, Riddle went on five short-term mission trips of six weeks each to China, Russia, Germany, Jamaica – mostly doing vacation Bible schools or teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) – although she also worked with orphans in Kenya.
 
Ten years ago at age 86, Riddle became certified in disaster relief cooking and feeding.
 
“I got me a nice yellow cap,” she chuckled. Pflugerville marked her first opportunity to deploy.
 
Riddle said she would like to accompany the FBC Wimberley DR team as they go to clean out a large house in Southeast Texas. But the long drive makes her hesitate.
 
“But give me some more of those Cambros, I’ll wash them,” she exclaimed.
 
When asked about her accomplishments, Riddle laughed, “You need 96 years to do all this. You go from 1921 to 2017, that’s a lot of years.
 
“The only message I have to older people: Get out of your rocking chairs. It is wonderful what you can do when your heart is in it. I had a great day in Pflugerville.
 
“You are never too old if ... God is with you. I am happy I could do it. I would encourage anybody to volunteer. Don’t worry about age. Find what you can do.
 
“God is good. He opened the door. When you get to be 90-plus, people want to wait on you. You don’t want to hear that.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

9/22/2017 10:38:39 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Hurricane Maria pounds Puerto Rico

September 21 2017 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

As Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico with potentially record-breaking winds on Sept. 20, Southern Baptist disaster relief workers pulled back and prepared for a long-haul response in the Caribbean.

Image from the National Hurricane Center
As Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico with potentially record-breaking winds on Wednesday Sept. 20, Southern Baptist disaster relief workers pulled back and prepared for a long-haul response in the Caribbean.


“It’s going to be a long, multi-month response with a lot of needs for volunteers and supplies,” said David Melber, vice president of the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief.
 
Disaster relief teams had just received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approval to take much-needed aid to the Virgin Islands – an area hit hard two weeks ago by the Category 5 Hurricane Irma – but had to press pause on relief efforts when Maria rolled in.
 
With its 175 mph sustained winds, Maria “is really scraping the upper echelon of what’s possible with hurricanes,” according to CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. The storm – the first Category 4 storm to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years – uprooted trees, ripped roofs off houses and sent thousands more refugees into already packed shelters. The infamous storms that hit the island in 1928 and 1930 pale in comparison to Maria, Van Dam said.
 
Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor, called it “total devastation” of “historic proportions.”
 
Because of that, Melber said, disaster relief teams have a lot of work to do.
 
“We think it’s going to be a three-to-six-month effort,” he said. “There is a very high demand and need for volunteers both trained and untrained ones who would be willing to go receive training once on the island.”
 
Melber said he assumes these areas hit hard by Irma then pummeled by Maria will be without power for “a great length of time.” Getting clean water will be a big problem, he said. “They will need a lot of help in the way of getting food and having a water supply.”
 
The first wave of teams is on standby, ready to go to the Caribbean as soon as traveling into the disaster zone is safe, he said.
 
But even with large-scale preparation, disaster relief forces “will be stretched very thin” as Southern Baptists continue to respond to domestic hurricane victims in Texas and Florida and victims of lesser-publicized disasters such as the Montana wildfires, Melber said.
 
“I’m grateful for so many partners across the Southern Baptist spectrum who have been working so hard – some of them seven days a week even before Hurricane Harvey hit,” he said.
 
Volunteers are working harder than ever before, but Melber said this could be “the church’s finest hour as we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and share the salvation found in Him with many who are hurting and asking questions.”
 
For more information, go to sendrelief.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.)
 

9/21/2017 10:32:32 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



CP overage reallocation to aid hurricane survivors

September 21 2017 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program (CP) helped survivors after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; it will do so again in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and, now, Maria.
 
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), in its Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, voted to utilize overages in the 2016-2017 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for disaster relief in two ways:

  • Designating the first $1.25 million of any overage in the SBC’s $189 million allocation budget for disaster relief in Florida and Texas by the Send Relief ministry of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
  • Redirecting all of the overage that would go to the Executive Committee to the International Mission Board (IMB) for international disaster relief initiatives such as those under way in the Caribbean.

 
The EC also made provision for other SBC entities to assist with hurricane relief from their budgets through a one-time action to suspend SBC bylaw stipulations.

Screen capture from NAMB
Send Relief efforts led by the North American Mission will receive an additional $1.25 million for ministry in Florida and Texas from a reallocation of a Cooperative Program overage by the SBC Executive Committee from gifts by Southern Baptist churches during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.


The Executive Committee also issued a “Call to Prevailing, Intercessory Prayer” in light of recent natural disasters, including wildfires raging in the West, and the current cultural tumult in the U.S. such as racism and “rampant disregard for the commands and teaching of God’s Word.” (See today’s Executive Committee wrap-up report.)
 
Frank S. Page, the Executive Committee’s president, set forth the CP reallocation by noting to EC members, “We are blessed this year to receive more than we needed for our budget. We praise God for that. So we’re asking that of the overage, $1.25 million go to disaster relief.
 
“But of the Executive Committee’s overage, we’re giving 100 percent of that overage to disaster relief through the IMB,” Page said of the recommendation, adding that it’s important that Southern Baptists be “proactive, take a stand and say, ‘We want to bless those who are hurting in this difficult time.’”
 
The Executive Committee actions, approved unanimously acting ad interim on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, parallel those taken by the EC after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005.
 
The $1.25 million CP reallocation to NAMB’s Send Relief and the reallocation to the IMB from the Executive Committee are “a good starting place,” Page said, in an overage that could reach $8 million by the close of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Beyond the $1.25 million reallocation, the remainder of the CP overage will be distributed to the SBC entities according to the standing CP allocation percentages, with Page noting that each entity will have the opportunity “to give even more” for Southern Baptists’ relief work in the disaster zones.
 
In a time of prayer stemming from the EC’s call for prevailing intercessory prayer, Page prayed for its overall intent to stir Christians to a vibrant faith amid the nation’s woes. Regarding the hurricanes, he prayed, “There are men, women, boys and girls now in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Caribbean, who didn’t know what their lives were going to be like a month ago. But now they find themselves in extreme stress and anxiety, wondering where the next meal will come from, wondering where they will spend the night. So Father, in this time of extremeness, we pray for Your hand of comfort. We pray, God, that God’s people would rise up to minister like never before.”
 
Page, in comments to Baptist Press (BP), voiced gratitude to the officers and members of the Executive Committee for the CP reallocation, describing it as “a strong stance to minister to hurting persons in the many disasters that have recently befallen our nation and world.”
 
“It is imperative,” he reiterated, “that we be proactive and set a good example of ministering to these persons whose lives have been forever altered.”
 
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria was a Category 4 storm inflicting unprecedented damage on Puerto Rico. Harvey began its rampage of record rainfall and sweeping flooding in Houston, south Texas and southwest Louisiana on Aug. 25 followed by Irma’s onslaught on Florida on Sept. 10.
 
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, noted that the CP reallocation underscores that “Southern Baptists have a history of ministering to and providing for disaster survivors in their greatest hour of need. I am grateful to the members of the SBC Executive Committee for taking this action, which will help us serve even more people who have been through such tragedy. And I want to thank Southern Baptists whose generosity in giving makes this possible.”
 
IMB President David Platt said he is “deeply grateful to Southern Baptists for their generous giving through the Cooperative Program in a way that has led to opportunities for increased giving to disaster relief.”
 
“It is a powerful sight to see Southern Baptists coming together as churches, state conventions and national entities to share and show God’s grace in the midst of urgent physical and spiritual need,” Platt said in comments relayed to BP. “Let’s continue to pray for all those affected by these disasters and all those who are working tirelessly to provide relief in the midst of them.”
 
Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Relief (BGR), reported that the Southern Baptist humanitarian organization in partnership with the IMB, is assisting local Baptist partners and entities in three Caribbean countries.
 
“The contributions to the IMB from the EC will go a long way to place food and supplies into the hands of our Baptist brothers and sisters as they help with the continuing assessments and distributions,” Palmer said in written comments.
 
“Moreover, we pulled our BGR team out before the second hurricane hit (Maria) and will move quickly back in with new assessments and waves of help,” Palmer reported. “We have already committed $250,000 of assistance in [the Caribbean] and know that there will be calls for more after Maria. Thank you EC for the boost to our ability to respond.”
 
Stateside, nearly 400 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units from multiple states had been deployed in various capacities in Florida and Texas as of Sept. 19, preparing nearly 1.9 million meals; tackling nearly 2,000 chainsaw, mud-out, debris removal and mold remediation assignments; engaging in 1,300 gospel conversations; and witnessing 225 professions of faith.
 
A video for use in churches highlighting the work of NAMB’s Send Relief ministry can be accessed here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. BP operations coordinator Laura Erlanson contributed to this story.)

9/21/2017 10:12:34 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



CP withholding found to be ‘lower than anticipated’

September 21 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A committee established in February to study “the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds” concluded that fewer than two of every 1,000 Southern Baptist churches diverted Cooperative Program (CP) funds during the past year.
 
“This percentage was lower than anticipated,” and reasons for diverting CP funds “varied as much as the number of churches identified,” according to the final report of the CP Study Committee, an ad hoc group created by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s (EC) CP Committee.

Rolland Slade


The study committee’s written report, which included 10 suggestions and encouragements for addressing future challenges to CP, was released Sept. 19 at an EC meeting in Nashville.
 
During the month preceding the study committee’s formation, Baptist Press (BP) reported on two specific churches that said they would escrow CP funds based on actions taken by specific SBC entities. Other churches had taken or were considering similar actions, according to reports received by the EC. The CP Committee cited such reports when it voted, in response to a member’s motion, to establish the study committee.
 
The study committee’s objective, CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade told BP, “was to find out why churches were either escrowing, withholding or designating CP funds. That was the first part. The second part was to come up with redemptive solutions for whatever those reasons were.”
 
The 13-member ad hoc committee received reports from executive directors of state Baptist conventions that 75 churches across the SBC “were withholding, designating or escrowing CP funds.” That total represented .0016 percent of Southern Baptist churches, the study committee stated.
 
“It was difficult to quantify the total of CP dollars being withheld or escrowed” by those 75 churches, according to the report.
 
Only 14 churches were “identified and confirmed” by the committee as “escrowing, designating or withholding funds.” Based on information from the SBC’s 2015 Annual Church Profile, those 14 churches were estimated to have diverted a total of about $1.5 million away from CP.
 
Total gifts through CP in 2015-16 eclipsed $475 million, according to the 2017 SBC Annual.
 
Twenty-two of the 42 state convention executive directors surveyed “stated they were uncertain or did not know of any churches withholding or escrowing CP funds,” according to the report.
 
Though reasons for diverting CP funds varied, the committee stated, “one of the more frequent responses was varying opinions of political candidates, followed by the amicus brief supported by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the International Mission Board” backing a New Jersey Islamic society’s religious liberty lawsuit.
 
Some churches said they decreased CP giving because of “congregational financial indebtedness” or because they believed cooperating with the SBC did not benefit the congregation, the report stated.
 
“Some reduction in CP” appeared to be “offset by a corresponding increase” in designated giving, according to the report.
 
Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., said “communication is the key” to resolving conflicts among the Southern Baptist family that affect CP. The study committee’s 10 suggestions and encouragements, he noted, call for ongoing communication among EC members, EC staff and state convention executive directors.
 
Among the suggestions and encouragements:

  • “We encourage first and foremost that the Southern Baptist Convention keep its focus on the overall goal of winning the world for Christ.”
  • “We suggest that in the event of a conflict or issues that are deemed threatening to the Cooperative Program, a process fashioned after the restoration model outlined in Matthew 18 be entered to bring about a resolution.”
  • “We suggest that a summary report be made to the Executive Committee officers” during their “regularly scheduled meetings in February, June and September” of communications to the EC that may impact CP.
  • “We suggest [that] the Cooperative Program Committee ... bring a report to the SBC Executive Committee” of significant findings related to CP “annually at the [EC’s] September meeting.”

 
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified channel for supporting missions and ministries in North America and across the world.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/21/2017 9:54:34 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Another Mexico quake compounds disaster response needs

September 21 2017 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

In the aftermath of an earthquake in central Mexico that killed at least 217 people, Southern Baptists are moving to assess opportunities for response.

Screen capture from CNN
This Mexico City school was among many buildings destroyed by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake Sept. 19.


The 7.1-magnitude quake struck Sept. 19, exactly 32 years after an even-larger tremor devastated large areas of Mexico City and killed about 10,000 people. This new earthquake was centered about 76 miles southeast of the city and affected five states.
 
Less than two weeks ago, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck southern Mexico about 400 miles southeast from today’s location. That tremor damaged 41,000 homes and killed nearly 100 people.
 
Now 2 million people in Mexico City are without power, and at least 29 buildings in the city have collapsed, according to initial news reports. Civil protection authorities in Mexico are evaluating the need for international assistance.
 
Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist humanitarian organization, “is already in contact with our on-ground partners in Mexico and surrounding areas to determine appropriate responses in the next few days,” said BGR CEO Jeff Palmer. “We also are monitoring the Mexican authorities with respect to see if there is a call for international assistance.”
 
After the Sept. 7 quake, a relief caravan made up of Mexican Baptists and Southern Baptist representatives made its way into that disaster zone. In addition to that response, Southern Baptists also have mobilized for disaster relief after two hurricanes – Harvey and Irma – ravaged Caribbean islands and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
 
Now the suffering of all those multitudes is overlaid with widespread trauma in Mexico, and yet another hurricane is bearing down on the Caribbean. Palmer calls for a renewed focus on prayer.
 
“Pray for the people affected by this earthquake,” Palmer said. “Pray for the Mexican national organizations that are responding with search and rescue operations.”
 
To learn how you can help with the ongoing Southern Baptist disaster responses, visit namb.net and gobgr.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is a career Southern Baptist journalist and freelance writer in Marietta, Ga.)
 

9/21/2017 9:30:54 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prayer, Disaster Relief giving top EC actions at 100 years

September 21 2017 by BP staff

Intercessory prayer and special disaster recovery funding topped the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) agenda during its Nashville meeting Sept. 18-19, which marked the group’s centennial.
 
The Executive Committee unanimously approved a resolution calling Southern Baptists and other Christians to prevailing prayer in the midst of “racial unrest, cataclysmic storms, raging wildfires, political strife, daily shootings in cities across the land, and rampant disregard for the commands and teachings of God’s Word.”

Photo by Morris Abernathy
SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page leads the committee in a special prayer recognizing God’s power to overcome obstacles too great for mankind. Intercessory prayer and special disaster recovery funding topped the committee’s agenda at its Nashville meeting Sept. 18-19, which marked the group’s centennial.


EC President Frank S. Page led those in attendance in a special prayer, recognizing God’s power to overcome obstacles too great for mankind.
 
“The needs that are out there are bigger than we are, but they’re not bigger than You, and we rely on You,” Page interceded. “We pray, God, that God’s people would rise up to minister like never before ... and do what Christian people do, because it’s right, because there’s a need.”
 
EC chairman Stephen Rummage pledged to read the resolution during Sept. 24 worship services at his pastorate, Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and exhorted other pastors and leaders to do the same.
 
“I know that my church family will be thrilled to know that the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention has a heart for prayer, and we’re just going to have a season of prayer together as a church, related to the needs that are explained and so beautifully talked about in this resolution,” Rummage said. “I would challenge you and encourage you to do that if you’re a pastor, and certainly any leadership opportunity the Lord would give you, to call our people to prayer.”
 
The resolution encourages Christians to pray by:

  • “Humbly acknowledging God’s sovereign control over the world He created;”
  • “Regularly communing with God through meditating on His Word and praying in the Spirit;”
  • “Earnestly desiring to know the heart of God, the mind of Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in every word, thought, and deed,” and
  • “Joyfully turning from fleshly allurements that seek to distract us from complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of our lives.”

With Southern Baptists responding concurrently to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and with Hurricane Maria raging through the already battered Caribbean, Southern Baptists committed additional dollars to disaster recovery.

 
The EC will give the first $1.25 million of any overage in the SBC’s 2016-2017 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to disaster relief efforts in Florida and Texas. The full budget overage for the Executive Committee, meanwhile, will be forwarded to the International Mission Board for international disaster relief, the EC voted, while also making provision for other SBC entities to assist with hurricane relief from their budgets through a one-time action to suspend SBC bylaw stipulations.
 
The actions came as the EC marked 100 years of service. Southern Baptists formed the EC in 1917 “to act for the Convention during the interim of its meetings on matters not otherwise provided for in its plans of work.”
 
In what Page described as a “low-key” celebration, he told the EC “we don’t exist to promote ourselves. We exist to make sure missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention succeed.... So we don’t need to have much attention to ourselves.”
 
In other business, the EC received a report from an ad hoc Cooperative Program Study Committee formed at the EC’s February 2017 meeting after a motion cited a “current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds.”
 
In its report, the study committee said less than .0016 percent of Southern Baptist churches have withheld, designated or escrowed CP funds – a percentage “lower than anticipated.”
 
The reasons for redirecting CP funds, the ad hoc committee’s final report stated, “varied as much and the number of churches identified.” The committee issued 10 suggestions and encouragements for increased cooperation moving forward.
 
In other business, the EC approved a detailed 2017-2018 EC and SBC Operating Budget of $7.45 million. That amount reflects the budget approved at June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
 
Also during the meeting, Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented the EC with checks totaling more than $778,000 for the SBC’s two mission boards. The contributions were the sum of offerings this summer by participants in LifeWay’s Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries – $468,000 for the International Mission Board and $310,000 for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
 
In a special CP gift beyond its annual contribution, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention gave the EC $274,500, half of a $549,000 estate gift earmarked for the CP. Chad Garrison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., presented the check after leading the devotion during the Sept. 18 plenary session.
 

Resolution of appreciation

The EC approved a resolution of appreciation honoring J. Robert White for 25 years of service as executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
 
Noting White’s “unwavering commitment to God’s Word” and “his steadfast devotion to the cause of Christ,” the EC commended White for “visionary and effective leadership ... for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”
 
White began leading Georgia Baptists in 1993 and led the convention through “numerous crises that threatened the health and unity of the convention,” the resolution notes.
 
In 2002, the EC honored White with the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award in recognition of exemplary leadership promoting the CP. Georgia Baptists have given more than $1 billion to missions and ministry through the CP under White’s leadership, the resolution reads.
 
In other action:

  • the EC approved a request from NAMB to amend the articles of incorporation of its former subsidiary, FamilyNet Inc., to change its name to Send Relief, Inc.
  • elected Mrs. V.J. Sanchez, a layperson and member of Briggs Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, to fill a vacancy on the 2017-1018 SBC Committee on Nominations.
  • declined to recommend at the SBC 2018 meeting in Dallas a bylaws amendment requiring that SBC nomination speeches include information on CP giving. SBC messengers, the EC said, “are fully capable of using all publicly available information about any nominee to determine whether the content of any nominating speech is accurate, sufficient, and persuasive.”
  • declined to recommend to SBC 2018 messengers a referral requesting that SBC entities publish trustee contact information, because such information is available on SBC.net, in the online and print editions of the SBC Annual, and on the websites of various SBC entities as pertinent.
  • heard various ministry reports and updates from SBC entities and related organizations.

 

Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention Nashville, Tennessee
A Call to Prevailing, Intercessory Prayer

 
In light of recent events that have shaken our nation – racial unrest, cataclysmic storms, raging wildfires, political strife, daily shootings in cities across the land, and rampant disregard for the commands and teachings of God’s Word – the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention calls on Southern Baptists and fellow Christians to join us in pledging to engage in prevailing, intercessory prayer by:

  • HUMBLY ACKNOWLEDGING God’s sovereign control over the world He created (“shall humble themselves”);
  • REGULARLY COMMUNING with God through meditating on His Word and praying in the Spirit (“and pray”);
  • EARNESTLY DESIRING to know the heart of God, the mind of Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in every word, thought, and deed (“and seek My face”);
  • JOYFULLY TURNING from fleshly allurements that seek to distract us from complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of our lives (“and turn from their evil ways”).

 
The Executive Committee further calls on ourselves and others to engage in such prevailing, intercessory prayer for no ulterior purpose but to know Him (Philippians 3:10) and to make Him known among the nations (Psalm 67:1-2) – not to return to an idolized, idyllic vision of an era in human history now past; nor to wield influence in the public square in respect to political processes and outcomes; nor even to protect and preserve our lives and possessions from the ravages that afflict this fallen world; not to forestall the Lord’s hand of righteous judgment upon a sinful nation; nor to seek justice for the oppressed; nor even to effect revival and spiritual awakening in our land – as noble as these all may be, but merely for the joy of dwelling daily in His presence.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler, chief national correspondent David Roach and senior editor Art Toalston.)
 

9/21/2017 9:19:39 AM by BP staff | with 0 comments



State DR, non-Baptist donors crucial, Ezell says

September 20 2017 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

State Baptist conventions and donors from across the nation have been pivotal to Southern Baptists’ Send Relief efforts for survivors of catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
State conventions and donors from the across the nation have been pivotal to Southern Baptists’ Send Relief efforts for survivors of catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Kevin Ezell tells SBC Executive Committee Sept. 18.


Kevin Ezell, speaking to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) on Sept. 18, voiced gratitude to state Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partners and to donors beyond the Southern Baptist family who have provided the majority of Send Relief donations to aid in recovery efforts in Florida and Texas.
 
Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) with its Send Relief arm to respond to natural disasters and to humanitarian issues such as hunger and human trafficking, noted in a report to the Executive Committee that state disaster relief organizations have done “an absolutely incredible job” since the landfall of Harvey in Texas on Aug. 25 followed by Irma in Florida on Sept. 10.
 
With the magnitude of the destruction, Ezell said, “It’s going to be a long-term response in both places and we need help in the months to come. We have a desperate need for more volunteers in Florida and in Texas.”
 
More than half of Send Relief donations to date have come from other evangelicals and “people who do not know Christ but still have a desire to help people and have learned to trust the name ‘Southern Baptist’” in disaster relief, Ezell reported.
 
“[O]ften people will downplay denominations or say disparaging things – we’re not a perfect family – but we are very well respected,” he said.
 
During its Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, the Executive Committee bolstered Send Relief by designating that the first $1.25 million of any overage in the SBC’s Cooperative Program Allocation Budget be provided for disaster relief in Florida and Texas, while any Executive Committee overage would be forwarded to the International Mission Board for disaster relief in the hurricane-battered Caribbean. The EC also made provision for other SBC entities to assist with hurricane relief funding.
 
Ezell, in his report to the EC, spoke of a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on Sept. 1, which included Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross, and Col. David Hudson, national chief secretary for the Salvation Army USA.
 
“I was grateful to Gail, the president of the Red Cross, [who] several times mentioned to the president and others that if it were not for Southern Baptists, ‘we could not do what we do,’” Ezell said.
 
In natural disasters, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding units prepare many of the meals distributed by the Red Cross in shelters and by its vehicles in stricken communities. SBDR also deploys mud-out teams and laundry and childcare units as well as chaplaincy volunteers.
 
Disaster relief officials, Ezell said, are “very grateful and understand the sacrifice of Southern Baptists all over North America.”
 
At NAMB’s Disaster Relief website, he noted, 271 referral visits came from the Obama Foundation; 5,500 from National Public Radio; 2,200 from the Huffington Post; and 750 from NBC News.
 
“One hundred percent of the money that is given through Southern Baptists, channeled through Send Relief, goes on the field,” Ezell said.
 
Various costs, for example, are $360,000 for a Send Relief truckload of Shockwave Mold Remover and $90,000 for a truckload of roofing supplies.
 
“It’s an incredible amount of money we need for the resources to take care of those on the ground,” Ezell said. To date, NAMB has sent a little more than $1.5 million to relief efforts in Florida and Texas.
 
To those who ask how a disaster response is sustained if Send Relief donations go directly to aid storm survivors, Ezell noted, “We’re supported by the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program, and because of that, we’re able to take care of those infrastructure costs.” The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ support channel for state, national and international missions and ministry.
 
Ezell said several Send Relief commercials have been produced for broadcast media and for churches from the North American Mission Board’s regular budget.
 
One commercial’s narration states: “When the storms hit, when homes are broken, when everything familiar is washed away, all is not lost. We are here today, tomorrow and until the work is done. We are Send Relief. One hundred percent of your gifts will help the homes, families and lives caught in the disaster’s path. Go to SendRelief.net to give or volunteer.”
 
“We’re not compromising anything,” Ezell said. “Our whole purpose is to help people, with the purpose of sharing the hope of Christ. It’s one thing to help, but we must share the hope.”
 
And for non-Christians who may volunteer for Southern Baptist disaster relief work, he added, “It’s a great way for us to even evangelize people.”
 
To date, nearly 400 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units from multiple states have been deployed in various capacities, preparing nearly 1.9 million meals; tackling nearly 2,000 chainsaw, mud-out, debris removal and mold remediation assignments; engaging in 1,300 gospel conversations; and witnessing 225 professions of faith.

North Carolina Baptists' disaster relief ministry is N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission. Please send gifts to http://baptistsonmission.org/Donate. To volunteer, visit http://baptistsonmission.org/missions/by-type/disaster-relief
 
A Send Relief video for churches as well as two Send Relief TV ads are below:





(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

9/20/2017 12:49:37 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



EC marks 100 years with ‘happy-birthday party’

September 20 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) commemorated its 100th year of existence with what EC President Frank S. Page called “a little happy-birthday party” intended to reflect the EC’s behind-the-scenes ministry of helping other SBC entities succeed.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
SBC Executive Committee Chairman Stephen Rummage, left, presents a framed display honoring the EC’s six presidents to Frank S. Page, who currently holds the position, at the EC’s 100th birthday celebration.


“Some people ask, ‘Why haven’t you [made] a bigger deal about the 100th anniversary of the Executive Committee?’” Page said at the EC’s Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville. “The bottom line is that we don’t exist to promote ourselves. We exist to make sure missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention succeed. That’s why we’re here. So we don’t need to have much attention to ourselves.”
 
The EC was formed in 1917 by a vote of messengers to the SBC annual meeting. Its lead assignment, reflected in SBC Bylaw 6 and unchanged for 100 years, was “to act for the Convention during the interim of its meetings on matters not otherwise provided for in its plans of work.”
 
Though the actual anniversary was marked by June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Page said at the time a “low-key” celebration would be deferred until the EC’s September meeting because there was already “so much going on” at the annual meeting.
 
The Sept. 18 celebration included a commemorative issue of SBC LIFE, unveiling of a framed portrait collection with paintings of the EC’s six chief executives, commemorative clocks for EC members and staff and, naturally, a birthday cake.
 
Included in the SBC LIFE issue were:

  • Highlights from the tenure of each EC chief executive: Austin Crouch (1927-46), Duke McCall (1946-51), Porter Routh (1951-79), Harold Bennett (1979-92), Morris Chapman (1992-2010) and Page (2010-present).
  • Articles chronicling the EC’s history, including its formation in 1917, reorganization in 1927, promotion of the Cooperative Program and role in shepherding the convention through key junctures in its history.
  • Explanations of the EC’s purpose and work, as defined by SBC governing documents.
  • A chart illustrating the EC’s role in helping the convention conduct business.

 
Baptist Press (BP) published a story in June chronicling the EC’s first century. Among the EC work noted was averting a convention-wide financial crisis in the early 20th century, spurring the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and steadying the convention following the Conservative Resurgence.
 
Page told the committee its chief aim long has been “to help coordinate the work of the national convention as it encourages churches.”
 
“We seek to encourage the work of local churches,” Page said. “That’s why we exist. We are a top-down convention. The top is the local church. We don’t forget that.”
 
EC chairman Stephen Rummage called the committee’s history “an incredible story.”
 
“It’s an honor to be able to preside and to serve as chairman of the Executive Committee as we celebrate our 100th anniversary and ... the track record the Executive Committee has developed helping Baptists work together and helping to promote the Cooperative Program,” Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told BP.
 
Rummage added, “I’m thankful for what’s going to happen in the future.”
 
Page, in his report to the EC, urged the SBC to keep focus amid “a time of national crisis” that has included hurricanes, political division in the country and threats to fellowship within the convention.
 
“If there was ever a day we need a word from the Lord, it is now,” Page said.
 
Drawing from 2 Samuel 22:1-7, Page said believers must recognize that their stability comes from God and keep their focus on Him.
 
“It’s easy to start looking to other people for help and assistance,” Page said. “There are hurricanes of theological, methodological and ecclesiological differences that seek to distract us, and they often do. However, we must keep our focus singular. Don’t let anybody pull you away from that singular focus on the Lord.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/20/2017 12:48:59 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC, others endorse bills to combat sites aiding sex trade

September 20 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has strongly endorsed congressional efforts to hold accountable Backpage.com and other online sites that profit from sex trafficking.


ERLC President Russell Moore and officials with other organizations wrote Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sept. 7 in support of their legislative proposals, which Moore and the others said would enable law enforcement “to effectively combat online sex trafficking hubs that provide a safe haven for modern day slave traders.” A Senate committee held a hearing on Portman’s bill Sept. 19.
 
Joining Moore on the letter endorsing Wagner’s bill were officials of the Family Research Council (FRC), National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Faith & Freedom Coalition, while the head of Concerned Women for America (CWA) added her endorsement to those of the other signers on the letter to Portman.
 
“The internet has become a haven for predators using it to traffic and sexually exploit innocent women and children,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “It is well past time to provide a legislative solution that allows victims of online sex trafficking to seek justice and restitution from the websites that facilitate their abuse. This legislation would close loopholes and ensure those complicit in the online sex trade would find no refuge in America’s justice system.”
 
Moore urged Congress “to take the necessary action to get this bill to the president’s desk, and I pray that churches around the country would be known as those that stand for human dignity and protect the vulnerable.”
 
The use of the internet has grown to dominate the trafficking of adults and children for sexual purposes. During the last five years, 81 percent of reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) regarding child sex trafficking relate to the online trade of a minor.
 
Backpage.com, a classified advertising website, is reportedly far and away the leading online facilitator of the sex trade. More than 73 percent of reports by the public to NCMEC in the last five years concern a Backpage.com ad.
 
Both legislative proposals – the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 1865) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693) – would amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 to clarify internet service providers that take part in the sex trade are not legally protected. Courts have interpreted the CDA’s Section 230 to safeguard such sites from liability.
 
In each letter, Moore and the other signers said Congress never meant for CDA’s Section 230 “to serve as a liability shield to companies so that they could profit from the sale of women and children for sexual exploitation.” They described each bill as “an important and critically needed reform that will protect women and children without undermining internet freedom or the [F]irst [A]mendment.”
 
Both bills include provisions that would enable states to use their laws to “investigate and prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking” and permit victims of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation to gain civil judgments against online sites.
 
Moore and the others commended the efforts by Wagner and Portman to expose or investigate Backpage.
 
In January, a Senate investigative subcommittee chaired by Portman reported Backpage knows its site facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs also found Backpage had hidden evidence of criminal acts by editing the ads in its “adult” section and by coaching its customers to post acceptable ads for illegal activities.
 
In addition, the subcommittee reported Backpage’s growth in gross revenue from $5.3 million in 2008 to $135 million in 2014 “was attributable to ‘adult’ advertisements.”
 
Backpage shut down its “adult” section shortly after the Senate subcommittee released its report, but ads for prostitution and child sex trafficking reportedly have moved to other places on the site, such as its dating section.
 
Signing both letters with Moore were David Christensen, FRC’s vice president for government affairs; Patrick Trueman, president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation; and Timothy Head, executive director of Faith & Freedom Coalition. CWA President Penny Nance joined in the letter to Portman.
 
In a Sept. 19 hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, NCMEC Senior Vice President Yiota Souras endorsed Portman’s bill. In prepared testimony, she said his legislation “strikes an important balance between providing sex trafficking victims the opportunity to hold everyone actively participating in their victimization accountable with the need to continue encouraging innovation of technology on the internet.”
 
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra supported the proposal in his written testimony but said it needs to be strengthened by broadening it to include all criminal prosecutions, not just those for sex trafficking. Abigail Slater, general counsel of the Internet Association, told the committee in prepared testimony the bill needs to be more targeted to prevent the work of online companies from being impacted. The Internet Association represents the world’s leading internet companies on public policy issues.
 
Earlier this summer, the House approved more than a dozen anti-trafficking bills, including the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act, comprehensive legislation authorizing more than $500 million for four years to combat sex and labor trafficking.
 
In the Southern Baptist Convention’s most recent resolution opposing human trafficking, messengers to the 2013 meeting approved a proposal that included a call for Southern Baptists to support government policies to fight trafficking.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 

9/20/2017 12:41:38 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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