April 2014

The Civil Rights Act: 50 years on

April 11 2014 by Richard Land, Baptist Press

I believe the vast majority of Americans are disappointed in the degree of racial division, mistrust and misunderstanding that still plagues our society. And I further believe that disappointment and discontent stretch through all ethnic groups and generations.

In the wake of the tremendous, revolutionary victories won over institutionalized racial segregation in the 1960s, most Americans expected and hoped for far more rapid progress toward Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s dream of a nation where people were “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Alas, while legalized racial segregation was dismantled rapidly in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, racial prejudice has lingered like a stubbornly antibiotic-resistant virus that just refuses to die. Why? The Bible tells us that man is fallen and sinful (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). Thus racism is pandemic because people are always tempted to think more of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3) and less of people who are different.

Ultimately, racism will be tamed not just by the law, but by the kind of inward spiritual change wrought by the transformative power of the gospel of Christ. When it comes to racism, as well as other sins, the salt of the law can change actions, behaviors and habits but only the light of the gospel can change attitudes, beliefs and hearts.

That does not mean the salt of the law is unnecessary in the quest for racial equality and justice. While you cannot legislate morality in the sense of mandating beliefs, you can, and must, legislate against behavior when that behavior involves someone denying another person their basic rights to equality under the law merely because of their skin color or ethnic identity.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, it is helpful to reflect on how far we have come from the dark days of segregation, not to rest on our laurels, but in order to draw inspiration for finishing the journey.

Those of us who lived through the transformative years of the Civil Rights revolution often tend to forget that the majority of Americans now alive had not yet been born when segregation was put out of its misery by civil rights legislation.

It was a different world a half-century ago and racial segregation was far more pervasive in many parts of America than young people today can ever imagine.

I was born in 1946 in Houston, Texas, already well on its way to becoming the country’s fourth-largest city. I was almost 18 when the civil rights law passed in 1964. The Houston in which I grew up (now the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the U.S.) was rigidly segregated.

I grew up in a city that was at least one-fourth black and I never met a black person my own age until I was a freshman at Princeton. I knew a lot of black people, but they were all adults – the cooks, the maids and the janitorial staff at my segregated church and public schools in my segregated neighborhood. Former heavyweight champion George Foreman grew up no more than five miles from my boyhood home, and for all intents and purposes, we might as well have been raised in different countries, if not on different continents.

I can remember segregated buses, water fountains and waiting rooms. I can remember as a boy in the mid-1950s asking my mother why black people had to sit in the back of the bus and her replying, “It’s not right, but that is just the way it is.”

The laws changed, that blatant racism in everyday American life vanished and all people of good will said “good riddance.”

Now, on the 50th anniversary of this great triumph which liberated all of us from the prison of an institutionalized racist past, let us pause a moment and celebrate just how far we have come as we simultaneously resolve to keep moving toward the goal envisioned by Jesus and the apostles and articulated so powerfully by Dr. King.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., and former president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)
4/11/2014 10:03:33 AM by Richard Land, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

An old song made new again

April 10 2014 by Nate Adams, Baptist Press

Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.

Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns. We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”

Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.

Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.

Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.

That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members about the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.

Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, 900 new churches were planted last year, and coordinated ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief help place thousands of volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.

Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year and start 25 new churches.

There are lots of good resources at www.sbc.net to help church members understand how CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.

Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new generations of church leaders to carry the tune.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.)
4/10/2014 9:37:27 AM by Nate Adams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Opportunities abound to serve in Haiti

April 9 2014 by Bartley Wooten, Guest Column

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean country of Haiti. Already a poverty-stricken nation, this earthquake and the dozens of aftershocks that followed catapulted the population into economic, political, social and physical collapse.
Both the earthquake itself and the disastrous effects it caused killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians. For four years now, many organizations, companies, governments and churches have continued the relief work much needed in this country.
After a recent trip there, it is difficult to express what we witnessed. We returned home a day late because our flight from Miami to Raleigh was cancelled. After sleeping in chairs and on the floor at the airport, we remembered the words of one of our Haitian team leaders, “Preaching the gospel is always hard.”
His words were certainly accurate for us. In fact, one Haitian pastor told us that the week before a group of voodoo sorcerers invaded his church and attempted to assault and kill him. But the Spirit of God prevented the lead sorcerer from touching him and the sorcerers eventually left. 
Although Haiti is a land of very real spiritual warfare, this is the moment to reach the country for Christ! Rene Romil, our team leader for Christian Faith & Action Ministries – Haiti (CFAM) and former North Carolina Baptist Men’s (Baptists on Mission) helper, said it is time to “invade Haiti with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Our team included Paul Langston, director of missions at Eastern Baptist Association; Jeff Broadwell, pastor of Green Springs Baptist Church in Parkton; Richard Weeks, pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Faison; his wife Tammy; Ted Press and Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville. 
We visited 11 schools and the churches with which they are associated. The team shared the gospel at most of the schools and saw 676 people make professions of faith – about 60 of those were adults. 
Each school administrator works under the authority of a local church and a pastor. Most struggle to pay the teachers’ salaries that average $75 per month. The typical school has 30-70 children in each classroom with one teacher. The schools are very basic and most students are unable to pay the $100 annual tuition.
Students sit on wooden benches side-by-side, and the teacher uses a chalkboard. The schools have very few resources. Teachers are not formally educated. There is a great need to help these teachers with more resources and training.
On top of the many churches and schools Romil and his team have planted, several new churches that have asked to come under the umbrella of CFAM. This speaks to the integrity of Romil and his team. His ministry was birthed out of his partnership with N.C. Baptist Men during the earthquake relief. Baptist Men continue to assist Romil with some expenses.
From North Carolina Paul Langston and Tammy Weeks established Hearts for Haiti, a handmade ink pen ministry. They send $1,000 monthly to support the schools.
CFAM’s mission statement says, “Our vision is to bring the gospel to the nations, which is the Great Commission. We feel that the only way the nation of Haiti will ever rise up out of physical poverty and [out of] spiritual slavery to Voodoo (satanic worship) is by introducing them to Jesus Christ.” 
They are committed to reach the rural areas of Haiti where people have no access to electricity, road, school, hospital, drinking water or church. They plant churches accompanied by schools and community clinics whose primary purpose is to spread the gospel and equip believers. The ministry focuses on making disciples and training church leaders.
There are many opportunities to pray for CFAM and be involved in the needs in Haiti. The ministry wants to build a concrete block-making facility near Arcahaie that will help provide salaries for teachers and pastors. They will need a vehicle to deliver the blocks they make. There are needs to build chicken houses in several mountain communities so the nationals can raise chickens for food and for sale. A medical clinic in Cabaret needs volunteers. Sports camps need to be staffed, construction workers are needed, and financial support is always appreciated.
For more information, call Langston at (910) 293-7077 or email dom_easternbaptist@embarqmail.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bartley Wooten is pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville. He also occasionally writes Sunday School lessons for the Biblical Recorder.)
4/9/2014 11:43:23 AM by Bartley Wooten, Guest Column | with 0 comments

But in multi-site, I don’t know the pastor

April 8 2014 by J.D. Greear, Guest Column

It has been nearly 10 years since The Summit Church moved to a multi-site strategy. We’ve learned a lot during that time, and continue to evaluate how this strategy is serving God, our people and our community. One of the objections I hear a lot to our multi-site strategy is this: “In a multi-site church, I don’t know the pastor (and the pastor doesn’t know me).” For those who make this objection, multi-site appears to be a hindrance to good member care. And because I believe the church is to be a family that cares deeply for its own, and that we elders will have to give an account for every member of our church, I feel deeply, and personally, the weight of this objection.
Here is the heart of my response: Why is the senior pastor the one expected to administer all the pastoral care? Doesn’t that presuppose the very “cult of personality” for which multi-site churches are often criticized? “I need to be known by my pastors” is a legitimate request. “I need to be known by that pastor because he is special” is not.
It is undeniable that large churches face pastoral issues. But so do small churches. In fact, Rodney Stark demonstrated in What Americans Really Believe megachurches had more intimacy and better pastoral care than smaller churches (p. 48-49). Stark’s research notwithstanding, however, let’s acknowledge that it is easier for people to slip in and out of a large congregation unnoticed. In fact, this is why we moved to a multi-site model as our church began to grow. It’s easier to hide in an auditorium of 5,000 than it is in an auditorium of 500.
Our people ceased to “know me” when we passed 500 people. In fact, that was the hardest ecclesiological shift for me – going to more than 500 weekly, not going multi-site! When we hit 500, I realized that I could no longer know every member in a meaningful way. And even then I was behind the curve, since a lot of research shows that pastors can’t personally pastor a congregation of more than about 200!
So in reality, the problem of the lead pastor not knowing everyone in the congregation is an issue for any church of more than 200 people. Unless you want to stay below 200, you’re going to have to adopt a “multiple elder” model, where everyone is known and pastored by an elder, though not necessarily the “lead” elder.
I think that the multi-site church may most effectively address that problem for churches of several thousand. Since the venues are smaller, it is easier for campus pastors and elder representatives to keep up with those that come. Smaller venues reduce anonymity.
It’s easier for a campus pastor to keep up with his elders, who keep up with their small group leaders, who keep up with their people, when they all see each other every week.
But still some say: “The multi-site movement fosters a cult of personality by tying everyone to one mega-teacher.” Perhaps. And unfortunately, many large church leaders seem all too willing to foster it.
But the cult of personality can exist as much in a small, single-campus church – in fact, sometimes moreso! When I pastored a small church, my congregation seemed to think that my presence was necessary for everything of spiritual significance.
I had to marry and bury everyone, and my people wanted me to resolve every problem and answer every question. I tried to teach them otherwise, and even though we had other pastors, their natural tendency was to look to me as the only “real” one. If I wasn’t there personally, it was [junior varsity].
Now that we are multi-site, however, members of the Summit are regularly exposed to other Spirit-filled pastors in our church, men to whom they can look for leadership and ministry. When our people have a question or need pastoral guidance, their first move is often toward their campus pastor, because that is a relationship in which they know and are known.
The bottom line is this: A church is not an audience, it is a community, a body and a family. And those necessitate close, intimate relationships. So, regardless of the size of our church, everyone should be known and cared for by their elders. But unless we strictly limit congregations to 200 people, we simply cannot expect that one particular person will carry the entire pastoral responsibility. And whenever the expectation arises that everyone must know that specific pastor, then we’ve elevated that pastor to an impossibly super-human role. That kind of expectation is not fair to the pastor, and it bypasses the ways in which God has gifted other elders in the church to care for his flock. The irony is that those who accuse multi-site churches of a ‘cult of personality’ are often guilty of a cult of personality themselves.
God has called churches to do two things that can sometimes compete with each other: a) take care of our local church body, and b) reach new people as fast as possible. If we lean too far toward evangelism, we risk neglecting pastoral care; if we lean too far toward pastoral care, we risk becoming insular and neglecting evangelism.
It’s so much easier to pursue just one. But we have to do both. In our judgment, the multi-site approach allows us to continue drawing unbelievers in while still being pastorally responsible for our members.
A multi-site approach can certainly be organized in a way that heightens the pastoral cult of personality and squelches other leadership. But we believe that this is due less to the structure itself and more to sinful human nature, which can lionize personality in any structure. For us, the argument comes down not on whether to do multi-site but on how to do it. And our responsibility is to use this structure in as biblical and God-honoring a way as possible.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Chris Pappalardo, pastoral research assistant helped Greear with this entry which appeared March 12 on jdgreear.com.)

Related Stories:

Dublin church launches new site on Easter
Multi-site churches a growing trend in North Carolina
4/8/2014 1:40:18 PM by J.D. Greear, Guest Column | with 0 comments

The worship style Millennials want

April 4 2014 by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press

My son, Jess Rainer, and I recently spoke in Texas on the topic of the Millennials, America’s largest generation of nearly 79 million persons. Because we co-authored a book entitled “The Millennials,” we have had the opportunity to speak on the subject on many occasions.

We reminded this audience in Dallas of the birth dates of this generation, 1980 to 2000, and then proceeded to share our research. We had commissioned LifeWay Research to survey 1,200 of the older Millennials; the researchers did an outstanding job. We have thus been able to share incredible amounts of data and insights from these young adults.

The Question about Worship Style

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or are they somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”

The Three Things That Matter Most

You see, most Millennials don’t think in the old worship war paradigm. In that regard, “style” of worship is not their primary focus. Instead they seek worship services and music that have three major elements.
  1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. It is no accident that the hymnody of Keith and Kristyn Getty has taken the Millennials by storm. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.
  2. The Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.
  3. This large generation does want a quality worship service. But that quality must be paired with the authenticity noted above and stem from adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of rehearsal. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.

The Churches They Are Attending

Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating to churches where the teaching and preaching are given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many Millennials in their churches.

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity and quality that reflects adequate preparation in rehearsal and prayer.

But they will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to Millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com.)
4/4/2014 10:00:55 AM by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Who could use a little compassion?

April 2 2014 by Judy Bates, Baptist Press

At a huge Christian music event, I waited in line to enter a restroom and eventually joined another 20 or so women inside. Above the roar of hand dryers, there was chatter and laughter, but there was also another sound. One woman faced the wall in the far corner and was sobbing uncontrollably.

I don’t know how long this had been going on, but I was appalled to see how every woman there was simply ignoring a situation they either didn’t know how to handle or didn’t want to be become involved in.

I couldn’t ignore her. I excused my way through the crowd and went to the lady, gently putting my hand on her shoulder and asking, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

She turned and, between sobs, told me that she was the mother of a family group who was currently on stage and that she’d just received a phone call that her own mother had passed away. Surrounded by professing believers at a Christian event, this woman was dealing with a devastating heartache alone.

Jesus Christ had compassion for the hurting. In Matthew 14:14, He looked at the crowd and “had compassion.” Likewise in Mark 6:34. And Matthew 9:36. And Mark 8:2. And in so many other passages. And we’re to be like Him.

Scripture clearly teaches us that compassion is a distinguishing characteristic of those who are in Christ Jesus. If an individual believer or an individual church focuses only on self, the compassion of Christ is missing.

If we are to reach a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus, we must do so with hearts of compassion. Our job is not solely to comfort and love “the brethren” – we’re to extend Christ’s love outside our comfort zones. Beyond our family and friends. Beyond the walls of church buildings.

Jesus never stood at the church door, so to speak, and said, “Y’all come” (even though He was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah). He did, however, tell the church to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23).

When I was a kid, an emaciated, clearly abused, dog appeared on our carport during a rainstorm. Trembling, she cowered against the brick wall, as terrified of me as she was of the booming thunder and torrential downpour. How did I get her trust me? I patiently worked my way closer to her as I spoke softly and offered her food and water. I was willing to put in the time it took to get her to trust me.

It took days, but eventually I was able to put out my hand to pet her without her flinching in fear. A couple of weeks later, she actually allowed me to clean and doctor her wounds. Halo and I became the best of friends because I made a conscious effort to get her to trust me, which was when I was able to truly show her compassion.

There are so many hurting, wounded people in the world. And some may want no part of your offer of help. At first, anyway. Relationships, like houses, require building. One piece at a time. Don’t sit around waiting to develop compassion because it’ll never just happen. You learn compassion through extending it.

Who around you could use a little compassion, like the woman at the Christian concert? Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Patient. Loving. Open. Vulnerable. Willing to meet people on their own level and taking the time needed to nurture a relationship.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Judy Woodward Bates is a speaker, TV personality and author of Bargainomics: Money Management by the Book. Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com.)
4/2/2014 1:15:08 PM by Judy Bates, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

24-hour surveillance

April 1 2014 by Kathy Ferguson Litton, Baptist Press

During a recent spin class I introduced myself to a new, unfamiliar instructor. “Hi, I’m Kathy.” Warmly she says, “You’re Kathy Litton aren’t you?”
It’s a reminder that I am often known and observed by others. Not just in a relatively small community but on social media, in my business dealings and on airplanes. I am watched as the pastor’s wife at church, while I am playing racquetball or opening a checking account. What I post or tweet or what’s in my grocery cart does not go unnoticed.
None of us respond identically to a ministerial environment. The more private souls despise it. Others have their egos stroked by the attention yet enjoy complaining about their constant celebrity. At times this quirk of our culture can be legitimately painful.
Yet, there are a couple of benefits here: I get to put the Gospel on display. And I am made accountable.
Can I be a sports fan and not make an idol out of it?
Do Ed and I have conflicts and learn to hammer them out for our good?
When my son bit kids in the nursery – what was my reaction going to look like?
Does my behavior reflect a servant or one who wants to be served?
If I lose my cool at the service counter will I go back to apologize?
Or am I a racist or do I have serious anger issues or a problem being honest?
As leaders, we tend to think our most sacred moments leave the greatest mark. Yet in the mundane we may leave the most powerful footprint. Let’s face it: Sunday services aren’t the only reality. Here’s another part of reality: I recently returned to the airport only to find a dead battery in the long-term parking lot. In the rain; not my best moment – only to be asked, “Aren’t you Ed Litton’s wife?”
Our moments of reality just may count for double over the times we have a microphone in our hands. The crucible of daily life on this planet where we dwell with real emotions, temptations and failures gives us a platform not to merely talk about transformation but demonstrate it. Being accountable when our buttons are pushed is a good thing because those around us long to see the reality of the gospel displayed.
Recently I became aware of a neighborhood that learned a church planter’s family was moving onto their block. The neighborhood wasn’t exactly thrilled. This ministry wife had no idea she was moving to a less-than-welcoming welcome. Yet, the first place this family would plant the gospel would be under the watchful eye of unwelcoming, cynical neighbors. Long before they would name their church or pick a site, they would begin to advertise the power of the gospel.
In thinking about them, I tried to imagine the apostle Paul’s reaction to 24-hour surveillance as he planted churches. I think he welcomed scrutiny. These words seem to suggest it: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He also said this: “Not I, but Christ,” knowing he was not on display but Christ was.
God is not looking for perfect specimens. So let’s get over any attempts to project that. His surpassing greatness, His strength and His glory are most obvious in us when we are none of those things.
In moments at the Little League field or when your child is arrested or when you receive poor service in a restaurant, you may most advertise the power of the gospel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Ferguson Litton is the North American Mission Board’s national consultant for ministry to pastors’ wives. See more resources at NAMB’s www.Flourish.me website, an online equipping community for ministers’ wives. Her husband, Ed Litton, is pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.)
4/1/2014 12:25:11 PM by Kathy Ferguson Litton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cody Sanders at Gardner-Webb University

April 1 2014 by Frank Bonner

As president of Gardner-Webb University, I am writing to address concerns expressed about a speaker at the University on February 26 as part of the “Life of the Scholar” (LOTS) program. Part of the concern has been that having this speaker suggests an endorsement by the University. That is not the case. In so far as I am authorized to speak for the University, I can say that Gardner-Webb University affirms that the only proper and appropriate place for intimate sexual relations is within the marriage of one man and one woman.

Furthermore, because a university by its nature as an educational institution is a place for free and open discussion, it should not be automatically assumed that any particular viewpoints expressed by any speaker are necessarily those of the university itself or its community. In fact, the introduction of the speaker that evening distinctly made this point.

While we had not read the specific presentation that the speaker shared, we had no concern that he would use the occasion to promote the lifestyle with which he is associated. His express invitation was to share the results of his scholarly reflection. While I am a strong advocate for academic freedom, I will be the first to affirm that there are appropriate guidelines and boundaries.

From time to time the University has invited representatives of alternative viewpoints on many subjects to speak on our campus. This is in keeping with the idea of a university, whether Christian or secular, as a place where ideas can be analyzed and understood in great depth. At Gardner-Webb this always happens in the context of the Christian faith that undergirds our mission. We have had countless speakers (and faculty/staff) who represent an orthodox vision of Christian sexuality to our students. But these, of course, are not newsworthy events.

For the most part, students and the wider community have understood the value of hearing from the “sources” themselves of alternative viewpoints, even on controversial topics. Homosexuality is, of course, an explosive topic, and consequently it is not too surprising that many feel in this case the option of hearing an alternative viewpoint should be closed, so to speak.

In reality, the LOTS speaker was invited to share his research on how, in part, the Christian community might guard against contributing to the staggering statistics that he shared, statistics which show the remarkable increase of incidence of homelessness and suicides among non-heterosexual youth as opposed to the general population.

 At Gardner-Webb, we recognize that we should give careful thought to the ways we shine an investigatory spotlight on the most challenging social issues of the day, lest we give rise to misunderstandings. One of the lessons that we are taking away from this event is the need for further conversation about this important issue facing students and churches today.

In fact, a pastor of one of our strong Baptist State Convention churches has offered the helpful suggestion that the University implement a series of presentations and lectures on what it means to see our homosexual neighbors through the eyes of Christian compassion. As the same pastor has shared, “There is much in the recent press about why Millennials are leaving the church, and one of the reasons given is because they feel they are forced to choose between compassion and holiness. At Gardner-Webb, dialogue is available to model for students and churches the possibility of an environment where compassion and holiness are able to meet face to face.”

Our University is a place where all are welcomed, supported and encouraged under the Lordship of Christ. Consequently, we stand against every form of hatred, bigotry, and harassment. In attempting to appreciate our differences, we may find that there can be a richer understanding of ourselves and the world in which God has placed us. Our community is one where students, alumni and the greater Gardner-Webb family can indeed grow intellectually and in the knowledge of Christ. We have been that, and that will not change.

In closing, I want to affirm that Gardner-Webb University remains deeply committed to its essential purpose to advance the Kingdom of God through Christian higher education as well as the mission represented in our motto, “For God and humanity.” Within our Statement of Values we continue to affirm our Baptist Heritage and historic Baptist principles such as the authority of Scripture in matters of faith and practice, the freedom of the individual conscience and the right of people to worship God as they choose, the priesthood of every believer, the autonomy of the local church, and the separation of church and state.

Thank you for receiving our perspective on this matter. Gardner-Webb University covets your prayers, and we in turn commit to pray for the ministries of our fellow Baptists throughout North Carolina and our region.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Bonner is president of Gardner-Webb University.)

Related Story:

Where are the wise at Gardner-Webb?
4/1/2014 12:06:46 PM by Frank Bonner | with 3 comments

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