September 2018

Suicide: Churches awaken to persistent crisis

September 12 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pastor Andrew McGinnis still remembers his “solemn drive” home on June 25, 1995.
Then 4 years old, McGinnis had been attending a family reunion in Tennessee with his mother and two older brothers while his father Dan, pastor of Double Springs Baptist Church in Waynesburg, Ky., carried out his normal weekend duties at the church. But Dan McGinnis never arrived at church that Sunday morning. Members found him dead in the parsonage – a victim of suicide. Evidence suggested ministerial stress and undiagnosed mental illness may have been contributing factors.
Confused and angry, McGinnis told himself as a child, “I won’t be a pastor because I don’t want to end up like my dad.” But 23 years later, McGinnis has answered God’s call to ministry and is in his third year as pastor of Hustonville (Ky.) Baptist Church.
As he deals with his own ministerial stress and mental illness – a mild form of depression called dysthymia – he is among a generation of pastors determined to shine light on the nation’s suicide epidemic and make the church a haven for those at risk.
“All throughout scripture, there are people that got to that place” of deep depression, McGinnis told Baptist Press. “And God hadn’t abandoned them. There’s always new purpose.”

Suicide prevention increasing

For well over a thousand years, many Christians believed suicide to be an unpardonable sin that automatically condemned a person to hell. But opinions have shifted over the past century, and ministers are focusing more on mental health and suicide prevention.
With nearly 45,000 suicides reported among Americans in 2016, suicide is the nation’s 10th leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Over the past 17 years, 25 states had suicide rate increases of more than 30 percent.
Suicide “is rarely caused by a single factor,” the CDC stated in a June 7 release, and more than half of people who committed suicide from 1999-2016 “did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.”
To confront suicide, LifeWay Research reported, 41 percent of Protestant pastors say they have received formal training in suicide prevention. Forty-six percent have a procedure to follow when they learn someone poses a suicide risk, while 50 percent have posted the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, where staff can find it.
American culture also is confronting the reality of suicide, with media reports of celebrity suicides, including designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, as well as the Sept. 26 debut of ABC’s suicide-themed drama “A Million Little Things.”
For McGinnis, ministering to individuals at risk of suicide requires being open from the pulpit about medical and spiritual ways he’s dealing with his dysthymia. He also encourages the church body to build relationships, be vulnerable and seek professional help when they think they may be suffering from mental illness.
When speaking theologically about suicide, McGinnis seeks to strike a balance between denouncing sin and extolling God’s grace.
Suicide is “taking life into our own hands” and wrongly “putting ourself in the place of God,” he said. But it’s “not helpful or good theology” to say suicide victims automatically go to hell because of the way they died. Mental illness and suicide “cannot take away my new birth” or “rip away the Holy Spirit.”

Suicide in church history

Pastors have not always felt that way.
In the fifth century, African bishop Augustine of Hippo claimed suicide was “a damning piece of wickedness,” said Michael Haykin, professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “For Augustine, a person who commits suicide enters into eternity with a mortal sin upon their conscience, from which they cannot repent.”
That view “shaped the thinking of the West down to the 20th century” and is still the Roman Catholic Church’s official position, Haykin said. So taboo was suicide that churches in the Middle Ages buried suicide victims in separate “unconsecrated” areas of their cemeteries.
Some Protestants, including Martin Luther, believed suicide victims were not automatically damned to hell. However, Luther said in one of his Table Talk discourses that “this ought not be taught to the common people, lest Satan be given an opportunity” to tempt them toward suicide.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote in his Christian Directory that it is “exceedingly likely” suicide victims “send their souls to endless torments.” English Baptist John Bunyan expressed a similar view in his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress.
A hint of change came in the 18th century, when some Anglican clergy like John Berridge and John Newton began to think “that Augustine was just not right” about suicide, Haykin said. Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” ministered to fellow hymn writer William Cowper (“There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) after Cowper attempted suicide at least three times.

Attacking the causes

A compassionate approach has become the norm today in evangelical ministry. Clinical psychologist Chuck Hannaford told BP churches and pastors should actively combat several factors contributing to suicide: stress, anxiety, depression, burnout and loneliness.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” said Hannaford, who served on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Mental Health Advisory Group. “So the problem needs to be addressed.”
Among Hannaford’s specific recommendations for reducing stress, anxiety and depression, particularly among pastors:

  • Set personal boundaries to allow “time for self-care” and family.

  • Eliminate unrealistic expectations for work and ministry.

  • Avoid social isolation because all believers “need outlets and support.”

  • Note any family history of mental illness. A person with family history of mental illness “is seven times more likely to experience a mental health issue, especially ... under chronic stress.”

“Distress occurs,” Hannaford said, “when the demands in my life are greater than my ability to meet the demands. When this condition becomes chronic, it will eventually lead to some form of mental or physical illness.”
The SBC addressed suicide in a 2013 resolution “on mental health concerns and the heart of God.” The resolution noted, “Suicide is a tragedy, leaving heartache, pain, and unanswered questions in its wake.” The statement expressed a commitment to “affirm, support, and share God’s love and redemption with those with mental health concerns” and “oppose all stigmatization and prejudice against those who are suffering from mental health concerns.”
McGinnis, the Kentucky pastor, said life’s proliferation of stress and trials ensures a continuation of mental distress that churches must confront before it eventuates in suicide.
“The conversation isn’t going away anytime soon,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/12/2018 10:03:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Flawed,’ ‘hot mess’ precedent defeats Florida cross

September 12 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

If the federal court had its way, a 34-foot cross would remain at its Pensacola, Fla., post. But “flawed precedent” that judges called a “hot mess” forced them to rule otherwise, the judges wrote in their opinion.

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty photo
If the federal court had its way, a 34-foot cross would remain at its Pensacola, Fla., post. But "flawed precedent" judges called a "hot mess" forced them to rule otherwise, the judges wrote in their opinion.

Judges said their hands were tied by the 1983 ruling in the nearly identical case of ACLU v. Rabun County, when the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a cross be removed from Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia.
“Given the parallels between the two cases – and crosses – we think it clear that Rabun ... controls our analysis and requires that we affirm the district court’s decision,” the three-judge panel in the current Eleventh Circuit Court wrote in its Sept. 7 decision.
The Eleventh Circuit judges’ ruling answers Pensacola’s appeal of a 2017 lower court ruling in favor of atheists to remove the cross from Bayview Park. The accusers first sued in 2016, contending the cross violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, or separation of church and state.
Two of the three judges in the latest ruling, Charles Ashley Royal and Kevin Newsom, said the precedent itself should be revisited and reversed by the full Eleventh Circuit slate of judges.
“There is no injury, no harm, and no standing to support jurisdiction in this case, but there is an Eleventh Circuit rule that directs us to affirm the district court based on this flawed precedent,” Royal wrote in his concurrence. “Rabun County needs to be reversed, and this Court needs to devise a practical standing analysis.”
Both Royal and Newsom called the precedent and other legal jurisprudence in the Establishment Clause “a hot mess.” The statements come just as the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an Establishment Clause case that struck down a 40-foot cross in Bladensburg, Md., namely the American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Pensacola will appeal yet again, its Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorneys said.
“The Constitution doesn’t require the government to scrub every religious symbol from the public square,” Becket Vice President and Senior Counsel Luke Goodrich said in a Sept. 7 press release. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the government can recognize religion as a fundamental part of our history and culture, and we’re glad that the majority of the court agreed that the cross is constitutional.”
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Howard said the cross is not only a religious symbol, but a World War II memorial that is “an important part” of the city’s history and culture, comparable to 170 other displays in Pensacola parks.
“To tear down this symbol just because a few are offended by it shows hostility to religion, not neutrality,” he said in Becket’s press release. “The city looks forward to being vindicated on appeal – as the majority of the court said it should be.”
Law allows the city 14 days to ask the Eleventh Circuit for a rehearing, and 90 to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, Kondrat’yev et al v. City of Pensacola.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/12/2018 10:03:08 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Special needs termed ‘unreached people group’

September 12 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Any church with at least one member with a medical, mental or psychological disorder such as autism or ADHD essentially has a God-given special needs ministry, Pastor Lee Peoples told Baptist Press.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Peoples
Children with special needs interact with their buddies in a classroom at Heights Baptist Church in Alvin, Texas.

Intentionally meeting the practical and spiritual needs of just one special needs member can mean the difference in reaching whom the pastor characterizes as “an unreached people group within our nation.”
“People with special needs, disabilities, are often – in churches – some of the most underserved groups,” said Peoples, pastor of Heights Baptist Church (SBC) in Alvin, Texas, and the father of 10-year-old James who has autism.
Research supports Peoples’ assertion. Children with chronic health conditions that impede communication and social interaction are most likely to never attend church, according to an analysis in the July 2018 Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (JSSR). In findings consistent for the past 15 years, children with autism in particular are twice as likely to never attend church as children without special needs, researchers said.
Church-based and independent Christian ministries across the U.S. are working to reverse the findings, helping families thrive while caring for special needs children of all ages.
Among these ministries is Jill’s House, opened in 2010 by then pastor Lon Solomon of the multisite McLean Bible Church (SBC) in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, the current pastorate of International Mission Board President David Platt. In Fayetteville, Ark., 99 Balloons is equipping churches to lead respite ministries in the U.S. and abroad. In Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Key Ministry is aiding and training churches and parents who serve and rear children with special needs.
“When we came to Heights, one of the things Heights Church talked to us about early on was a desire the church already had to have a special needs ministry,” Peoples said. His wife Sandra, executive editor and social media manager for Key Ministry, also has a sister with Down syndrome.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Peoples
James Peoples, son of Heights Baptist Church pastor Lee Peoples and his wife Sandra, and Abi (background) play in a special needs ministry sensory room.

Church is as important to people with disabilities as to those without such characteristics, according to research JSSR reported. Consistent church attendance among children and adolescents is associated with improved mental and emotional health, higher self-esteem and overall wellbeing, researchers said.
Heights Baptist special needs ministry director Lisa Rose, whose niece has the genetic disorder Angelman Syndrome, was personally aware of the struggles special needs families face before her church began its ministry in 2017.
“They finally just stopped going to their church because it was so hard,” Rose said of her brother’s family. “We (Heights Baptist) had a lot of special needs in our church that just weren’t being served. So we said, we haven’t helped you, how can we fix this?”
Heights Baptist augmented its special needs ministry by investing about $3,000 to convert two church areas into sensory-friendly rooms, pairing special needs members with chaperones aided by the Special Buddies curriculum of LifeWay Christian Resources, and establishing a respite program for parents and caretakers through 99 Balloons training and curricula.

99 Balloons

Matt and Ginny Mooney of Fayetteville, Ark., founded 99 Balloons as a Christian nonprofit in 2007 in honor of their son Eliot, who was born with the chromosomal disorder Edward’s Syndrome and lived 99 days. A main 99 Balloons component is rEcess respite care, spelled with a capital E recognizing Eliot.
“They’ve laid it all out and made it so easy,” Rose said of 99 Balloons. Heights Baptist has held at least three rEcess sessions, Rose said, with as many as a dozen families from the church and community benefitting.

Photo from Facebook
Eliot, who lived 99 days in 2006, inspired his parents Matt and Ginny Mooney to found the nonprofit special needs ministry 99 Balloons.

“It’s acceptance,” Rose said. Special needs families “have to know, one, that they’re welcomed. It doesn’t always look pretty and it doesn’t look the same, but we’re flexible and we’re open, and we’re ready for whatever’s coming.”
Heights Baptist is one of nine Southern Baptist churches in five states offering rEcess, 99 Balloons’ registration list shows. The Mooneys began with just one rEcess site and have expanded internationally with 43 rEcess sites in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and with limited special needs partnerships in Haiti, India, Nicaragua, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Churches can offer rEcess with curriculum and organizational resources that 99 Balloons provides for just $25 a month or $250 a year, Matt Mooney said, with scholarships for churches unable to pay. Registration is available at
“We want to equip churches to do this,” Mooney said. “It really is something that you can do that has a real effect in your community.”
The Mooneys see in 99 Balloons an opportunity to share life-changing lessons God taught them through Eliot.
“We felt like God had woven him together in his mother’s womb, just like scripture says, and that Eliot had a purpose; he had a life.” Mooney said. “God measures life differently than man does. We also just learned about the worth of an individual and the worth of a human being through Eliot’s life.... We loved Eliot so much, just as he was.”

Jill’s House

Special needs ministry often flows from the personal experiences of parents, said Dana Hecht, vice president of family support at Jill’s House. McLean Bible Church Senior Pastor Emeritus Lon Solomon and his wife Brenda founded the ministry while parenting their daughter Jill, born with the rare seizure disorder Dravet syndrome.
“Brenda couldn’t even go to worship service anymore because she couldn’t leave Jill with anybody else,” Hecht said. “It was a time of real stress and need in their life, and it was stressful on their marriage as well.” Brenda Solomon asked God to redeem the pain.
Redemption came in the form of a church member who approached the Solomons with a God-inspired desire to learn to care for Jill and give the Solomons rest from the continuous care Jill required.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Peoples
Heights Baptist Church special needs ministry leader Lisa Rose, center, is flanked by ministry volunteers Sarah Ihnen (left) and Hallie Rose.

“From there it grew into this network of people who trained to be able to meet Jill’s health needs, and Brenda and Lon realized what it meant to get respite,” Hecht told BP.
Today, Jill’s House provides short-term respite and other activities for 600 families and their children through its main campus in Vienna, Va., and four national campsites in Middleburg, Va.; Seattle; Nashville, Tenn.; and Chicago.
“We want to really minister to and walk alongside people who unexpectedly find themselves in these circumstances, and some people who go into it with eyes wide open,” Hecht said. “We believe as an organization that being pro-life means you walk alongside people who’ve made a decision like that.”
Jill’s House, at, connects families with churches that will embrace them and serve their unique needs.
McLean Bible Church operates multifaceted Access special needs ministry at all of its sites independent of Jill’s House. But church-based ministry can be as basic as a couple of church members trained in special needs care, with information on the church website for parents to access the ministry, Hecht said.

Key Ministry

Founded in 2002, Key Ministry trains churches in special needs ministry through online video conferencing, free online downloadable resources and onsite training when possible, never charging a fee, according to
Key Ministry executive editor Sandra Peoples, through her ministry website, offers the free downloadable “30 Prayers for Special-Needs Parents.” Her latest book, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family, releases in November.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/12/2018 10:02:52 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SWBTS English institute aiding int’l students

September 12 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) English Language Institute (ELI) is now assisting full-time international students who need to improve their English comprehension.

Southwestern Ph.D. candidate David Sanchez teaches a class of international students in the English Language Institute, designed to prepare English-language learners to study and communicate in English at the academic level and use English for global ministry.

“Students who couldn’t study here before at Southwestern now have a pathway,” said Caitlin Yowell, ELI director.
“The intensive English program is a fast-paced study program. As practical preparation for the ministry, the ELI prepares English-language learners to study and communicate in English at the academic level and use English for global ministry,” Yowell said.
The 36-hour program – three years in the making – includes instruction in grammar, speaking, listening, reading, writing, theological vocabulary and academic skills. The program is for incoming students who score high enough on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to have basic skills but not high enough to begin a degree program.
“It allows us to train F1 visa students whom we were never able to reach before, and allows remedial English assistance for existing students who need help,” said Michael Wilkinson, dean of Scarborough College, the seminary’s undergraduate school. “Also, current students’ wives can enter the program to be a help to their husbands in their ministry.”
Support is provided through formal classroom instruction, computer-assisted learning and cultural immersion opportunities. Classes are taught by Yowell and David Sanchez, a Ph.D. candidate at the seminary. Students who successfully complete the program will earn a TOEFL waiver for bachelor’s and most master’s degree programs at Southwestern.
The ELI was first conceived in a Scarborough College faculty meeting three years ago, Wilkinson said. “It was envisioned as a way to certify Southwestern students to teach English internationally. Then, we met with Andy Morris and realized that it would allow us to reach out to an entirely new group of students.” Morris, Southwestern’s director of international student ministry and services, suggested that the ELI could aid incoming international students in English language proficiency and began the process of requesting federal approval for that role.
The U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reviewed the program for approval to admit international students, which was granted in July. SEVP, under the authority of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is education.
“We are incredibly excited that this door is now open so that we can ultimately train and send out even more workers for God’s harvest around the world,” Morris said.
The program is up and running with students who already live in the Fort Worth area. Yowell said that, by fall 2019, the seminary hopes to have a full-fledged cohort of incoming full-time ELI students.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Julie Owens of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/12/2018 10:02:35 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New NCBM disaster relief director gets trial by fire

September 11 2018 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

First days at a new job usually include human resources paperwork and a basic introduction to the organization.

BR file photo
Jack Frazier, left, joined the Baptists on Mission staff Sept. 10 as disaster relief director. Frazier has been involved in disaster relief efforts for 10 years, even while working with the Cary Fire Department. Here, Frazier, left, is seen with a January 2010 team returning from a trip to Haiti after an earthquake hit Jan. 12.

But for Jack Frazier, the new disaster relief director for Baptists on Mission, Hurricane Florence brought a whirlwind to his first couple of days, Sept. 10-11.
Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), is preparing to respond to Hurricane Florence, a category 4 hurricane predicted to hit North Carolina’s coast Thursday.
“Jack has been involved in N.C. disaster relief as a volunteer for the past 10 years, so in some ways he is an insider,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director. “He also brings a strong emergency management background and a strong commitment to Christ and to missions.”
Frazier is a member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina.
In an email to the Biblical Recorder, Brunson shared that Frazier had been at the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) both days on the job.
As a former battalion chief for the Cary Fire Department, Frazier “knows how to manage a disaster, and he understands incident command structure,” said Brunson. “He also understands Baptist churches and is committed to glorifying God through disaster relief.”

It was around 10 years ago that Frazier was encouraged by a coworker to get involved with NCBM. His background in emergency rescues spurred his involvement in Rescue 24, a search and rescue ministry of NCBM.
Frazier retired about 18 months ago and didn’t plan to go back to work. He planned to be more involved in NCBM and mission work, but had not intended for it to develop into a job.
“Maybe God was training me all along in this type of background,” Frazier pondered in a phone interview with the Recorder today from the EOC. “Maybe this is how God is working to get me involved more. It’s trial by fire.”
Frazier said one of his plans for next spring is to attend some of the regional training meetings to allow him to understand more of what volunteers and leaders do.
Frazier is married to Paula, and they have two daughters, Katie and Jessica.
Gaylon Moss, the former NCBM disaster relief director for almost 20 years, is now serving as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) disaster relief state director. MBC has a mobile kitchen standing by to respond to Hurricane Florence.

9/11/2018 5:17:28 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists prepare for powerful Hurricane Florence

September 11 2018 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

As Hurricane Florence aims toward the North Carolina coast, Baptists on Mission, also known as N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), calls on volunteers to be ready to respond.
Administrative leaders have been at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in Cary preparing kits for potential sites as Florence is predicted to hit the state Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane.
With weather forecasters calling for record strength, high winds and heavy rainfall, relief leaders are encouraging North Carolinians to evacuate if called upon and seek shelter.
“Hurricane Florence is a powerful hurricane that could do major damage to the Carolinas and surrounding states,” according to the NCBM website ( “We are preparing to respond. Please pray for those in the path of Florence as well as our disaster relief volunteers and other relief workers.”
NCBM staff have been on the phones updating its list of churches and associations that have commercial kitchens, beds and showers. With its stockpile of shower trailers and several large portable kitchens, NCBM has responded to many disasters in the past.
“Right now we are planning and preparing to respond to needs after Hurricane Florence makes landfall,” said an updated NCBM statement today. “It is very likely that we will need clean up volunteers for many weeks (or months) to come.”
The staff at Fort Caswell were busy today finishing preparations to evacuate Oak Island on Wednesday.
The staff posted a picture of a rainbow and said, “A reassuring sight to see today, God is good.”
Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director, welcomed Jack Frazier Sept. 10 as NCBM’s new disaster relief director. Frazier is a retired battalion chief for the Cary Fire Department. He has extensive experience in disaster relief and emergency management. He has volunteered with search and rescue for NCBM disaster relief for the past 10 years.
In an interview with the Biblical Recorder today, Frazier said NCBM has put three mobile kitchens on standby.
“We’re loading equipment,” Frazier said. “We’re getting everything ready to move.”
Frazier said 11 crews had been secured to respond as soon as the hurricane passes and sites are established, but the desire is to have 20 crews ready.
Volunteers have been stockpiling water in warehouses as well.
NCBM contacted the North American Mission Board (NAMB) about recruiting 16 more mobile kitchens from across its network, Frazier confirmed.
“We haven’t had a Category 4 hit North Carolina since Hurricane Hazel, 50 years ago,” Brunson said in an interview with NAMB. “It just depends where it comes in, but it’s a very powerful hurricane that could be devastating, catastrophic. Those are the words they’re using to describe Hurricane Florence.”
Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts may be disrupted in the state, Frazier said, but the plan is to continue with those efforts as soon as possible as well as any disruption in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria efforts.
“We just finished a training in Puerto Rico,” Frazier said. “We just trained 50 people to do disaster relief. They are going to be able to do some of their own work.”
Brunson pointed people to the website to volunteer or donate. If you would like to pay by check, please make it payable to NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Designate “Hurricane Florence” or “disaster relief” in the memo line. Additionally, gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) also support ongoing disaster relief efforts by Baptists on Mission. If already a trained volunteer with NCBM, contact a regional coordinator or team leader to let them know of availability.
The offering provides most of NCBM’s annual support. Churches are encouraged to give generously to NCMO in the month of September.
Baptists on Mission published information online Sept. 11 about how churches can minister amid natural disasters.


9/11/2018 4:52:44 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 1 comments

Getty worship conference strikes a chord

September 11 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

(Story updated Sept. 11, 6:15 p.m.)

Hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty hosted their first-ever worship music conference last year. The inaugural event drew more than 4,000 attendees. The second annual “Sing!” conference, Sept. 10-12 in Nashville, Tenn., has garnered nearly twice as many pastors, worship leaders and other Christians eager to hear dozens of speakers and artists.

Getty Music photo

The Gettys hope the gathering will help church leaders “build a biblical understanding and creative vision for congregational singing,” according to the event’s website.
The program schedule features well-known pastors and theologians such as John Piper, Alistair Begg and John MacArthur, along with worship leaders and performing artists including Trip Lee, Shane & Shane, Bob Kauflin and John Patitucci.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Biblical Recorder he believes the conference is timely and important.
“Worship is central to the Christian life,” Greear said. “The quality of our preaching, the effectiveness of our ministries and the reach of our missions will never exceed the depth of our worship. I’m so grateful that God has raised up the Gettys at this time to call the church to a Christ-exalting, gospel-rich theology and practice of worship.”
Greear is scheduled to participate in an on-stage interview Sept. 12 with Keith Getty about “Singing & the 21st Century.”

Attendees traveled to the event from more than 30 countries, according to a spokesperson for Getty Music. More than a dozen people received scholarships to cover a significant portion of the costs to attend.
The international focus represented Getty Music’s “desire to expand our reach internationally and serve the global church through training, resources and teaching,” the spokesperson said.
The organization plans to host similar events in multiple locations across Europe in 2019, possibly including London, Paris and Belfast.
“These will be a part of our global Sing! initiative to help transform the way churches and individuals think about worship in the home, church and as individuals,” said the spokesperson.
Watch the Sing! Conference livestream at

9/11/2018 10:36:39 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Marijuana advance stalls in Oklahoma

September 11 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Since adopting what may be America’s most permissive medical marijuana law, Oklahoma has seen pushback by medical experts and other citizens against potential misuse of the drug.

State Question 788 was adopted by Oklahoma voters June 26 to legalize medical marijuana, but the ballot measure did not provide detailed instructions on who may use marijuana or who may prescribe it. That task fell to state legislators and licensing boards.
To marijuana supporters’ chagrin, medical experts have advocated regulations that would limit the potency of medical marijuana and ban sales of smokable cannabis. The state Board of Health enacted both regulations July 10 but rescinded them less than a month later, leaving the state legislature to decide whether to reenact such policies. Fewer than 50 doctors have joined a registry of Oklahoma physicians interested in recommending medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, a petition to put legalization of recreational marijuana on November’s ballot in Oklahoma failed to garner enough signatures.
State Question 788 on medical marijuana “was a deceptive ploy” to pave the way for “widespread use of recreational marijuana,” said Blake Gideon, an opponent of the measure and pastor of First Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla.
“My prayer,” Gideon told Baptist Press, is for “clear guidelines on what type of doctors can prescribe medical marijuana,” “strict guidelines on the types of illnesses that qualify,” a ban on smokable marijuana and a reversal of S.Q. 788’s provision allowing two-year prescriptions for marijuana.
Oklahoma’s law permits individuals 18 and older to obtain a medical marijuana license with the approval of “an Oklahoma Board certified physician.” Minors are permitted to obtain medical marijuana with the signatures of “two physicians and the applicant’s parent or legal guardian.” The law took effect July 26, but it could take nine months or longer for the measure to be implemented, according to media reports.
In August, multiple panels of medical experts told an Oklahoma legislative working group that tight regulation of medical marijuana is needed, including a ban of smokable cannabis and a cap on the permissible amount of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC.
When legislators expressed concerns about overturning voters’ desire for largely unrestricted medical marijuana access, Oklahoma State University psychiatrist Jason Beaman replied, “The way that the people vote doesn’t change the danger in the THC content. So if [voters] want high levels, that’s certainly their vote, but it doesn’t change the science of what the high levels do,” the Tulsa World reported.
Bob McCaffree, a faculty member at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, told legislators, “I don’t envy you. ... All I can say is as a scientist, we know what the ill effects are of smoking any substance,” the World reported.
The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City reported Sept. 9 that just 48 doctors have joined a state registry of physicians open to recommending medical marijuana to patients, “only a small percentage of all doctors practicing statewide,” though some physicians not on the registry also may be willing to prescribe marijuana. In contrast to the apparently small number of participating doctors, nearly 3,000 patients applied to use medical cannabis during the first five days the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority accepted applications.
Mike Scifres, a retired Oklahoma pharmacist who serves on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said some patients with severe pain may “need” cannabis-based medication, but it long has been available in prescription pills approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Smokable cannabis, he said, is not likely to provide medical benefits unavailable through regulated pills.
“The cost is going to be, I’m sure, cheaper for the smokable” marijuana, Scifres told BP. Yet “it’s probably not going to help as many [patients] as [marijuana proponents] want it to help. And I don’t believe it’s beneficial for our society.”
An OSU public health specialist told legislators marijuana dispensaries increase the risk of property crime in adjacent neighborhoods at a rate similar to the increased risk near bars, alcohol-service restaurants and liquor stores, according to the World.
Up to 10 percent of marijuana users develop signs of addiction, The Oklahoman reported, though recreational users have been studied more often than medical users.
On Aug. 20, a petition drive to put recreational marijuana legalization before Oklahoma voters fell about 20,000 signatures short of the required 123,725, according to media reports.
Gideon urged churches to prepare for ministry as the implementation of medical marijuana progresses.
“We have to be ready to minister to individuals and families,” Gideon said. “There will be negative side effects” of medical marijuana.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/11/2018 10:36:26 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Academic competition to debut for Christian schools

September 11 2018 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS) has announced it will begin an online-based academic competition, Knowledge Quest, for its member schools next spring.

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At North Raleigh Christian Academy, "We really try to be other-oriented and for our kids not to just soak it all up like a sponge but to be used," founder S.L. Sherrill said, noting an emphasis at the school on serving others through mission trips and other projects. Students can receive a biblically integrated Kingdom education when the family, the church and the school work together to train the next generation with excellence, Sherrill said.

Students from third grade through 12th grade can complete test modules in individual core subjects, electives and Bible knowledge, competing with other schools without having to travel, Wesley Scott, executive director of SBACS, told Baptist Press.
Schools may register as many students as they wish for each subject in each grade, and all that is required is an internet connection and a proctor to oversee testing sessions at each participating school.
The testing window is open for 30 days so that schools and students may schedule the testing any day or time they wish at their school site. Each test must be completed within a specified time.
Once the testing window closes, results will be released with awards for first, second and third place in each subject in each grade level.
“We are excited to make this opportunity available,” Scott said.
SBACS, with about 100 member schools nationwide, assists churches in starting Christian schools, strengthening existing church-affiliated schools and guiding parents who seek to educate their children with a biblical worldview while holding high academic standards.
Scott noted that children are under the direct influence of a school, whether public or private, for a collective 16,000 hours from kindergarten through 12th grade, yet they receive only 1,600 hours – if any – of structured Christian teaching at church during that same time period.
“The single greatest influence in a child’s life regarding academic content and philosophical framework, in regard to hours invested, is the schoolhouse,” Scott said.
“Who has the primary responsibility to educate children? According to Deuteronomy 6, God gave that responsibility to parents – not the government, state, district, community or even the school,” Scott said. “Parents have choices regarding the education of their children, and without guidance from the church, may likely choose what is convenient and free.”
When parents join hands with schools under a church ministry to teach the truths of God and His Word, Kingdom education is the result, Scott said. “All 16,000 school hours plus the 1,600 church hours under godly pastors and teachers and all other home hours spent with Christian parents give us the best opportunity to lead, build and equip children to serve Christ.”
One of the most crucial battles in the world today is for the minds and hearts of children, said Larry Taylor, head of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. “A child’s heart is nurtured best when a congruent message is modeled and communicated by the three primary training entities: parents, church and school,” he said.
The Bible says a threefold cord is not easily broken, S.L. Sherrill, founder and superintendent of North Raleigh Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., told BP, and between the family, the church and the school, children can receive a biblically integrated Kingdom education with excellence.
Sherrill mentioned teachable moments that are not possible in public schools.
“You may be teaching AP Biology, and obviously for the AP exam they need to understand the tenets of evolution, but when our teachers teach it they have the opportunity to share truth as far as what true creation is all about – to be able to present it from a biblical perspective.

Photo from Facebook
Seventh-grade students at Prestonwood Christian Academy tend to a Stem Tower Garden that provided lettuce for the school cafeteria for a day.

“An English teacher might be teaching The Scarlet Letter, and you can talk there about a group of people that are very worldly, a group of people that are very legalistic and people who are biblical theists – they base their life upon the principles of God’s Word,” Sherrill said. “That’s not something that you could really teach in a public school as an English teacher, but you have the opportunity to make that application in a Christian school.”
Debbie Johnson, senior marketing director at Prestonwood Christian Academy, said when a biblical message is consistent in the home, school and church, it’s more likely to be internalized and then lived out.
“Kingdom education is not the bubble that people think it is,” Johnson told BP. “It is not just learning about Christianity or Christian values. A biblical worldview is not just forming everything to God’s Word, but it is allowing God’s Word to inform decisions and relevant topics. We tackle some of the toughest issues that everybody is batting around. Do we have answers for all of them? No. But do we understand how to process it, how to think about it, how to intelligently converse? Yes, and that’s what matters.”
An important lesson Prestonwood has learned, Johnson said, is that “embracing diversity has enriched our culture. We don’t want people to assimilate to a particular culture, but what we do is extract from all the various ethnicities that we have, and it makes us better for it.”
North Raleigh Christian Academy has more than 1,400 students, and last year’s senior class of 132 graduates averaged in the 1200s on the SAT and received about $4.5 million in college scholarships, Sherrill said.
“This past year one of our young ladies on our state championship volleyball team got a scholarship to West Point. Another one went to Cornell to play volleyball. One went to Duke University to play volleyball,” Sherrill said.
Duke gives 10 scholarships per year that are full tuition, room and board, and North Raleigh’s salutatorian last year received one of those scholarships, he said.
All of North Raleigh’s chapels are student-led, Sherrill said, and the school sponsors three or four mission trips per year – from Florida to India. Participation in a mission trip even is a requirement for graduation.
“We really try to be other-oriented and for our kids not to just soak it all up like a sponge but to be used,” Sherrill said, adding that the school sent student volunteers to clean up after hurricanes devastated Texas and Florida last year.
Parental involvement is high at schools like North Raleigh, he said, because parents who are paying to send their children to school usually are more engaged.
Behind Bible, Sherrill believes language arts is the second most important subject at North Raleigh “because faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” he said. “So we want to learn to do English well, to speak well, to write well, to read well because that is the medium by which God has given us His truths.”
Like North Raleigh, Prestonwood Christian Academy has been training students for more than two decades, “going deeper to take the results higher, intentionally building lives on Kingdom foundations,” Taylor said.
“Striving for academic excellence is essential to the full development of the mind and thinking Christianly and is best fulfilled in a learning environment framed by a Christian liberal arts design, where critical thinking and communication is expected throughout all of the scholastic disciplines,” he said.
At Prestonwood, “faith is not separated from learning but rather integrated intentionally.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/11/2018 10:36:15 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kavanaugh appears likely to gain Senate approval

September 10 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Brett Kavanaugh appears likely to gain confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court after completing the gauntlet that is now the hearing process for nominees to the country’s highest bench.

Screen capture from C-Span
Brett Kavanaugh appears likely to gain confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court after completing the gauntlet that is now the hearing process for nominees to the country's highest bench.

The Senate is expected to hold a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh, 53, before the Supreme Court begins its term Oct. 1. President Trump nominated the appeals court judge July 9 following the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh – a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals – appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 4-6. He received on the last two days often tough questioning from Democrats in particular. His responses seemed not to damage his support among Senate Republicans, who hold a 51-49 advantage, and some of his supporters expressed confidence a few Democrats would join them in an affirmative confirmation vote in which only a majority is required.
Democrats on the committee pressed Kavanaugh on his opinion of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, as well as his view of presidential authority. Democrats also squabbled with Republicans on the committee regarding the release of documents on Kavanaugh. Outbursts from protesters opposing the nominee punctuated the hearing, and police took dozens from the room.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore commended Kavanaugh while expressing his dismay with the theatrics.
“Careful consideration of potential justices for our nation’s highest court is understandable and even commendable,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “But the hysteria around the confirmation hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a sign of a dysfunctional political climate.
“Brett Kavanaugh is eminently qualified, and attempts to fashion him as some partisan Trojan horse ignore a career marked by judicial restraint and faithfulness to the Constitution,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “I join with many other Baptists and evangelicals in calling upon the Senate to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without delay.”
On the evening Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh, a statement signed by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, both vice presidents, several former presidents and SBC entity heads was released in support of the judge. The ERLC sponsored the document.
Later, Greear – speaking on behalf of first vice president A.B. Vines and second vice president Felix Cabrera – said, “All three of us have a desire to keep the SBC out of politics, but we also want to speak with clarity in those places we feel like there is clarity. And when it came to potential justice Kavanaugh, here’s somebody who has a history of standing for the sanctity of life and religious liberty.”
Kavanaugh’s record as an appellate judge has received favorable reviews from nearly all pro-life and religious freedom advocates.
On the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, Kavanaugh told the committee Thursday (Sept. 6) his advice while working in the White House in 2003 that the ruling not be described as the “settled law of the land” reflected the “views of legal scholars,” not his own perspective, The Washington Post reported. In the email, Kavanaugh said the high court “can always overrule its precedent,” according to The Post.
Sen. Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican from Maine, said Aug. 21 after meeting with Kavanaugh that he told her he believes Roe is “settled law.”
Regarding judicial independence and presidential power, Kavanaugh said Sept. 6, The Post reported, “I’ve made clear in my writings that a court order that requires a president to do something or prohibits a president from doing something is the final word in our system.”
In his opening statement Sept. 4, the nominee said, “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
The hearing closed Friday (Sept. 7) with testimony from witnesses both in support of and in opposition to Kavanaugh.
The American Bar Association has given the nominee a rating of “unanimously well-qualified.”
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump will have been able to nominate two of the members of the high court in his first two years in the White House. He nominated Neil Gorsuch in January 2017, and the Senate confirmed the federal appeals court judge in a 54-45 vote.
A judge on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years, Kavanaugh was nominated to that bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush but did not receive a confirmation vote for three years, when he was approved 57-36 by the Senate. Previously, his experience included time as a senior associate counsel and staff secretary for Bush, as well as a Supreme Court clerk for Kennedy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/10/2018 12:02:50 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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