April 2002

Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility

April 19 2002 by Haven Parrott , Mark 10:17-31

Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility

By Haven Parrott Mark 10:17-31

Possessions - power - prestige. The man had them all. His portfolio provided for every possibility, save one. To tie up that loose end, the businessman went eagerly to God's broker, knelt respectfully and asked, "So what do I need to do to ensure eternal life?" ... as if he, or anyone, could do something worthy of gaining entrance to heaven!

What shall I do? It was the wrong question, to be sure - at least he asked the right person, for Jesus' specialty is meeting folks where they are and leading them beyond.

The man was no stranger to works-based theology, so Jesus started with the familiar. "You know the commandments," Jesus reminded him, the implication being "if you know the commandments, you know you can't possibly earn your way to heaven!" Interestingly, Jesus mentioned only the horizontal commandments: "Don't kill, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your mother and father."

What about the vertical commandments - the first four of the top 10? Perhaps Jesus hoped the man would remember, "have no other gods before Me," and connect the dots - eternal life is about a relationship, not a rule book.

Jesus' comment, "You know the commandments" should have made the man wince, blush, look away or at least stutter a little. But he was either too arrogant or too ignorant to recognize the ridiculous folly of trying to climb the higher-than-Everest wall of perfection with a stepladder. His attitude was similar to that of my 2-year-old son, the time he got into my lipstick and proceeded to give himself a makeover. When I asked the obvious, "have you been in my lipstick?" would you believe ... he denied it! Flat out. Straight-faced. With lipstick smeared from one ear to the other, he denied it. Did he honestly think I couldn't see the evidence?

Did the rich young ruler honestly think he could claim perfection in the presence of God? "No problem," he confidently countered. "Check! Check! Check! Check! Anything else?"

One thing you lack "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him." Astounding! Jesus loved the man anyway - lipstick and all. Can you see the tenderness in His eyes, the softness in His smile? Can you hear the "oh-how-I-want-you-to-choose-Me" in His voice?

But after all, Jesus came so no one would have to perish. Jesus outlined the investment required for eternal life so clearly there could be no confusion, just in case the man was genuinely unaware of the graven image of self-sufficiency that he worshiped. "One thing you lack: go and sell all your possesses and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

Wait a minute. Isn't "going and selling" doing something? Can eternal life actually be bought by selling all one's material possessions? And is that what Jesus requires of you and me - just one big yard sale and then we are heaven bound?

Gaining eternal life isn't about becoming materially impoverished. It's about recognizing our poverty of spirit - the absolute impossibility of gaining heaven by any means other than God's glorious grace.

Matthew and Luke's gospels describe the man as a "rich, young, ruler." Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with being rich, young and in leadership - except those labels not only described this man, they defined him. Jesus knew the man's identity and security were wrapped up in his achievements and wealth; that he not only had it all - it all had him as well. Securing eternal life would require him to surrender the things he put first and trusted most. The encounter with Jesus forced him to reassess his assets and make a decision.

It happens every time. Give Jesus an inch, and He'll want to take you a mile. "What must I do?" is a long way from, "What must I surrender?"

But then, eternal life lasts an awfully long time.

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4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Mark 10:17-31 | with 0 comments



Does the 'old Southeastern' still exist?

April 19 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Does the 'old Southeastern' still exist? | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Does the 'old Southeastern' still exist?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

I was taken aback during a recent trustee meeting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While explaining challenges the school will face in raising $50 million for new buildings and expanded programs, fund-raising consultant Jerold Panas praised Southeastern president Paige Patterson as being "off the charts" in popularity with supporters.

That's not what set me back because it is true. Patterson is a strong, personable and capable leader with an extremely loyal following.

But then Panas added, "The seminary was founded in 1950, but it is really only 10 years old. Anything that happened before Patterson doesn't exist."

Ouch.

I know what Panas meant - I think. I presume he meant that the character of the school has changed so greatly that pre-Patterson alumni can't be counted on to support the "new Southeastern's" fund-raising campaign.

I know what he meant, and I know he's an outside consultant from Chicago, but it still hurt.

I thought surely some school official or board member would distance themselves from Panas' comment, or at least acknowledge Southeastern's prior history, but no one did.

The school is indeed quite a different place these days, but not entirely divorced from its past. The theme for the new fund-raising campaign is "Scholarship on Fire!" That's an excellent description of the way I felt in 1979, when I sat down in Appleby Hall for my first class in Old Testament. My professors' scholarship, faith and fervor fed a fire within me, a burning desire to learn and to serve.

And I am not alone.

Men and women who were trained during Southeastern's first 42 years are hard at work throughout America and in mission fields around the world. The scholarship lives on, and the fire lives on in former students who spanned the spectra of theology and talent and calling.

Quite a number of very conservative leaders in our own state have degrees from the "old Southeastern" hanging on their walls, as do many moderates. I know a few graduates who might qualify as "liberals," and some old-school alumni who are somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. Some have disowned the "new Southeastern," while others are great fans and supporters.

Today's Southeastern is certainly distinctive. The student body is growing, and large numbers are directly involved in missions. The teachers share a conservative bent and a liking for the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, but that does not prevent them from being bona fide scholars who know a lot of stuff and know it well. Students are serious about their calling and serious about their studies.

If you find two students engaged in conversation on one of the ubiquitous memorial benches scattered around the campus, they're likely to be either cramming for a test or debating some point of theology.

Today's Southeastern students may learn as much about historical criticism and other tools of Bible study as ever, and though they are also instructed "why that dog won't hunt," the options are there for the taking. Theological uniformity, to the best of my knowledge, is not a requirement for graduation.

Southeastern seminary is indeed charting a new course and plying new waters, but the "scholar ship" has been in the ocean for a long time. All of its many alumni, in their hearts and lives, are different people because of their experience at Southeastern.

Both Southeasterns, the old and the new, will continue to exist for as long as their graduates and their influence live in this world.

Good has come, and will come, of both.

Is that so hard to admit?

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4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Getting my feet wet

April 19 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Getting my feet wet | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Getting my feet wet

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

I have bought me a boat.

I know that's not grammatical, but it felt good to say it that way.

It's not entirely accurate, either, since the boat is a family affair. "We have bought us a boat."

I never wanted a boat ... much.

But once or twice a year I usually get to ride in someone else's boat, and zip around the lake, and slap on a pair of skis (I've never practiced enough to slalom), and it is inevitably a lot of fun.

So, with a 5-year-old who loves boat rides and fishing, we decided to invest in some memories and bought a used runabout that's just about Samuel's age.

Now I have to learn about boats. Safety rules for driving, road rules for pulling, don't-be-an-idiot rules for putting it in the water without forgetting some crucial plug.

I'll want to learn something about the engine because my greatest fear about boats has always been that I'd be in the middle of the lake and the motor would conk out and I wouldn't be able to fix it.

My first concern, however, is finding a place to park it. Our subdivision is not what I would call upscale, but we have tiny yards and a big list of rules about what you can't park in your driveway. "Boats covered with blue plastic tarpaulins" are right there on the list, along with pop-up campers and rusty cars on cinder blocks.

I could wind up spending more for a parking space at the storage lot than I do for gas.

I'll have to go back and forth to make sure the boat has dried out before putting the cover on.

I'll have to pull it to Durham every time it needs service.

It could turn out to be a whole heap of trouble.

But, on those early evenings when we are sitting in a quiet cove and Samuel is giggling about the little fish he has flopping around on the floor I've so carefully cleaned, I suspect it will all be worthwhile.

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4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Father and son build legacy at Campbell

April 19 2002 by Brad Locke , Baptist Press

Father and son build legacy at Campbell | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Father and son build legacy at Campbell

By Brad Locke Baptist Press

BUIES CREEK - Brooks Lee is not enveloped in his father's shadow. Rather, he is an extension of it.

Lee's father, Billy Lee, just finished his 17th season as head coach of the Campbell University men's basketball team. He is a fixture in Buies Creek, which isn't far from his hometown of Mount Olive. In his expansive orange-carpeted office are countless trophies, basketballs, pictures, camels (the school's mascot) and other knickknacks.

The breadth of his influence reaches far beyond this small, quiet campus and cozy little town. He's brought Campbell basketball to new heights while instilling the program with flawless integrity, which is hard to do not only in Division I hoops, but in an area known for ACC basketball.

As Billy built his legacy, he raised a son in his own image - literally. The two share the same dark features and thick eyebrows, and they are indistinguishable on the telephone. Billy was a standout player at Mount Olive College, and now Brooks is playing for his dad at Campbell, starting at point guard in his first season in a Camels' uniform.

Brooks led the Atlantic Sun Conference in assists, and he brought an unusual cerebral element to the court. In fact, the only person in Buies Creek who's ever approached the game the way Brooks does is Billy.

"It's nice to have somebody on the team that thinks the way you think," Billy said. "I told him I want him to be a little Billy Lee out there on the floor, that if I was standing in the space that he was standing in, I would tell our players this. And now he thinks the same way. I trust him (enough) to say, 'Hey, Brooks, you tell them what you think.'"

Brooks is the established floor leader, and his style of play - which is rooted in split-second decision-making and intimate knowledge of the game - has lifted his teammates' performance levels.

As this past season was ending, Billy said team members' sense of who they were and what they were doing was heightened. "We have some identity of who we are and what we're trying to get done, and Brooks is pretty much spearheading that effort," Billy said.

As well as things have gone for Brooks and Billy, the Lee duo almost never came together and their reunion was in fact delayed for three years. Brooks and Billy are close, but there came a time when the two had to go separate ways.

Brooks became immersed in Campbell basketball when he was 5 years old and was raised at the end of the bench in Carter Gymnasium. He would watch game tapes with Billy on an almost daily basis during the season, studying the nuances of Billy's flex offense - about which the coach has written a book by that name.

To an outsider, Brooks seemed destined to remain under his father's tutelage right into college. He was a star at Harnett Central High School, where he set school records for points, 3-point field goals and free-throw percentage. He was all-conference and played in the North Carolina East-West All-Star Game.

But Brooks craved a change of scenery, even a change in basketball philosophy. So he took his talents to High Point University.

"Out of high school, I wanted to go somewhere away from Buies Creek and be under a new philosophy," Brooks said.

Brooks also didn't want to deal with the pressure of being the coach's son, a label that often brings judgment on a player no matter how he performs. Billy never pressured his son either way when it came time to make a college choice.

After excelling under Jerry Steele for two seasons, though, Brooks felt his heart being tugged by not only the possibility of playing for his father, but by the atmosphere he had grown up in. At High Point, Brooks didn't feel like he fit in socially or athletically. As another big decision loomed, Brooks was again offered nothing but encouragement and support from Billy and his mom, Shirley.

"They knew that I wasn't real happy at High Point," said Brooks. "I mentioned to them that I was thinking of coming back to Campbell, but they never even gave me advice on what to do. I feel like the Lord led me here, and Campbell is a great university. People are so friendly around here."

This time around, being the coach's son wasn't such a big deal. Brooks proved his mettle as a point guard at High Point, and he had already earned a bit of respect from his future teammates. During Brooks' freshman season, his Panthers came to Buies Creek and crushed the Camels by 24 points. Brooks played a central role in that game, mapping out a defensive game plan beforehand and shutting down Campbell's leading scorer, Adam Fellers.

Fellers, one of the best 3-point shooters in Campbell history and a senior on this season's team, needed no more convincing of Brooks' abilities after that.

"I gained a lot of respect for him, because I didn't know how tough he was," Fellers said. "You look at him and think, 'I can take this guy,' but he's so tough mentally. I'm pretty sure all the guys who were here when we played gained a lot of respect for him."

Brooks' transition from High Point to Campbell was a fairly painless one, except for the foot injury that kept him out of practices for a season, which he had to sit out anyway per NCAA guidelines. He was quickly accepted by his teammates.

"They welcomed me here and didn't make it hard on me at all," Brooks said. "They made me feel right at home."

Brooks is 6-foot, 160 pounds "dripping wet, with a saddle in his hand," to quote Campbell Sports Information Director Stan Cole. His strengths are more mental than physical. He can absorb information, analyze it and act on it in a nanosecond. Though he strongly resembles Billy physically, he is more like his mother: quiet, methodical and observant.

Billy saw those traits in his son early on. During Billy's third year at the helm, Campbell suffered an 89-63 whipping at the hands of Wake Forest. As Billy stood silently before his downtrodden troops, searching for the right words to comfort them, the awkward stillness was shattered by the sudden "THWACK!" of a wooden door hitting a brick wall.

Brooks had flung the door open and trudged into the room, his 8-year-old frame loaded down and nearly obscured by the balls, bags, water bottles and towels he was hauling in. With every sweaty face looking at him, Brooks, Campbell hat sitting askew atop his head, hollered, "Who scheduled this game, anyway?!" The entire room was filled with laughter.

"At 8 years old, he knew we were outmatched," said Billy. His mind hasn't stopped developing. Brooks' brainpower has helped him overcome his physical shortcomings and draw the admiration of teammates and opponents alike.

"I think it's something we've never had, a person to pass the ball like he has," Fellers said. "He sees the open guy more than anybody else I've played with. It's amazing, (with) his size, with guys all over him, he still has the ability to get five to 10 assists per game."

Brooks' intelligence is further seen in the numerous academic awards he has won during his playing career. And though his intellectual side has carried him far, it's his faith that has pointed him in the right direction. Now that he's back in Buies Creek, Brooks is happy with how things have turned out.

Billy wasn't quite sure what to make of Brooks' transfer at first.

"I'm like the dog that caught the truck after he'd chased it every morning," Billy said. "What are you gonna do now? Well here he is. How do you approach the intensity of practice? How do you approach his mistakes? How do you approach him versus other players?"

It hasn't been as big a problem as Billy may have anticipated. There have been no whisperings of nepotism or favoritism since Brooks joined the Camels, and he has had to earn every minute of playing time.

Everyone, from Billy to Brooks to the team, is happy with Brooks' decision to come home. It's where he feels most comfortable, and where Billy feels most comfortable having him.

"It's a real pleasure to have him here and know he's at least hearing the Christian message constantly," Billy said.

"We all think he made the right decision," Fellers said.

"It's the best decision of my life so far," Brooks said. "I've really enjoyed it."

Though he's still in a fish bowl, Brooks said he can be himself at Campbell. He's involved in student life, lives on campus and he's stronger in every facet because of the year he sat out.

Brooks hopes to be a coach after he graduates. He thinks being under two different college systems will make him a better teacher, being an X's and O's kind of guy. After years of being indoctrinated with his father's system, and now running those schemes on the floor, Brooks will certainly be prepared. He keeps a notebook filled with set plays and defenses - taken both from Billy's and Steele's playbooks - and plans on creating his own mix-and-match method.

Even after he leaves Campbell, Brooks will likely still be known mainly as Billy Lee's son, no matter how well he plays or how successful he becomes as a coach.

"That's just the way it's gonna be," Brooks said. "It doesn't really bother me."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Brad Locke , Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Golden Rule shines brightly

April 19 2002 by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent

Golden Rule shines brightly | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Golden Rule shines brightly

By Craig Bird BR Correspondent

Call it: "Matthew 7:12 - The Rest of the Story," or, "How I ministered to Dinkas and got a lot more than I gave."

The official name is the St. John's Baptist Church Sudanese Relief Committee and the tall African men from the Dinka tribe are better known as members of The Lost Boys of Sudan. But whatever you call it, what is happening to the very heart and soul of the Charlotte church is worth talking about.

Because the do-gooders have been done well unto - St. John's has benefited in marvelous ways, according to eyewitnesses.

"Working with the Sudanese young men had brought before our church's eyes the trauma of an entire nation a world away," pastor Richard Kremer said. "Their stories of escape, survival, persistence and deliverance have reminded us in a profound way of how resilient is the human spirit and how amazing is the providence of God.

"Helping them adapt to our culture and watching them mature in every facet of their lives has been a delight and a blessing for St. John's. We have taught them much in ministering to them; we have gleaned a great blessing from their ministry to us."

Carl and Nina Phillips admit they were "looking for something to do" after retirement, something that also would get them more deeply involved in church again. Three months later David Thol and James Chol have gone far beyond a mission project. Like many of the Sudanese, they have become practically family.

"They look to us as their parents," Phillips said. "But they give us so much. The reason we volunteered (is that) we were inspired by their courage and their good spirits, in spite of the unbelievable hardships they suffered. Once we met them we were drawn by their warmth."

So while she teaches them to cook and does their laundry, and he teaches them computer skills, the Dinkas inspire them in unexpected ways.

"James had never seen a piano but he sat down one day and started picking out notes," Phillips said. Slowly a melody emerged that Nina recognized so she went over and started helping him. "Do you know this song?" she asked. "Oh yes, we sing this in Dinka," James replied. The song was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

Lou and Nancy Fuller realized it would be good for their blended household of six children "to know that having everything is not how most of the world lives." Abraham Maker and Daniel Mayool have taught that and more.

"They are incredibly neat guys," 17-year-old Brooks said. "My other friends think they are pretty cool too. Realizing what they went through when they were eight or nine years old really helps me put things in perspective."

Morgan and Jane Newman married later than most and by the time they found they couldn't have children they were too old to adopt. They signed up for the mentoring program simply because it was a good thing and the right thing to do as Christians.

They never anticipated - or even thought - that Joseph Kur and Jacob Makol would provide them the thrill of parenting. Last Christmas, Morgan had a picture taken of himself and the two Dinkas, then mounted the photo on a frame with the words, "World's Best Mom."

It was Jane's favorite present - by far.

"I always wanted children," she said. "But I'll admit I never dreamed that my first child would be a 6'4" African."

Perhaps that is why the Golden Rule is golden.

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4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments



Grocery trip results in outreach

April 19 2002 by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent

Grocery trip results in outreach | Friday, April 19, 2002
  • An intensive mentoring program is flourishing with almost 40 St. John's members involved;
  • Members teach life skills classes on everything from filling out the U.S. income tax form to how the American government is organized;
  • Each young man was given a bicycle (to save on transportation costs);
  • A former Second Harvest store room is filled with donations of clothes, small appliances, food and other items, all carefully organized and fairly distributed by need;
  • Medical and dental problems, complicated by years of malnutrition and neglect have been corrected (some required extensive surgery);
  • Dianne Green, a former parish nurse, provides first call medical advice and trains volunteers how to spot medical problems;
  • The difficulties of getting into the American education system are shared, if not always solved, by St. John's volunteers.

    There are more.

    "It is difficult for us to imagine what horrors these young men have lived through," Taylor said. "It is even more difficult for us to realize that, in many ways, living in this land of safety and prosperity can be just as frightening."

  • Friday, April 19, 2002

    Grocery trip results in outreach

    By Craig Bird BR Correspondent

    It all started with a simple trip to the grocery store. At least as simple as a mom toting three young children to shop can be. But as Martha Kearse navigated the Harris-Teeter aisles she befriended six young men who were bewildered by the strange food surrounding them.

    "I'd seen a 60 Minutes report and read in the New York Times about the Sudanese who were being relocated to America after years of struggle and trauma," Kearse said. "I just recognized that that must be who they were."

    She introduced herself, invited them to St. John's and gave them the church's phone number and her home number, "in case we can help you in any way."

    They called. And St. John's could - and soon was reaching out to 37 young immigrants.

    For a while it was a two-woman show after Kearse drafted her good friend (also a mother of three young children) Maggie Bond by commenting, "these guys are starving."

    Bond immediately skipped Sunday School to make the round of adult classes and challenge each to fill up an envelope with money. With more than $600 in donations, the women took the group to a discount food store and to a produce market.

    "Then we realized they didn't know how to cook and had never really been around canned food or boxes," Kearse said. There were medical needs, transportation needs, educational needs, etc.

    Bond "basically turned my time and my family over to the Sudanese" for the whole summer, picking up some donations in her husband's pick-up and scouting for others (she got some large size tennis shoes from the NBA Charlotte Hornets).

    But the task threatened to overwhelm them.

    Caroletta Partain "saw these two young mothers wearing themselves out" and teamed with Dana Packman to help. Partain would teach life skills while Packman arranged transportation. Even then, "it became clear we needed more help and needed to get organized," Partain said.

    Enter Blythe Taylor, the church's associate pastor and "terribly organized."

    Since then:

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    4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments



    House approves bill to protect minister-housing allowances

    April 19 2002 by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

    House approves bill to protect minister-housing allowances | Friday, April 19, 2002

    Friday, April 19, 2002

    House approves bill to protect minister-housing allowances

    By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press

    WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives may have short-circuited an anticipated constitutional challenge to a special tax privilege enjoyed by American clergy - but future threats to the arrangement still loom.

    On April 16, the House passed the Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act on a 408-0 vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), was intended to pre-empt a case now before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco.

    Legal observers say the court will likely use the case to overturn tax exemptions for ministerial housing expenses. This perk - provided for in the federal tax code since 1921 - has enabled many small and low-income congregations to hire full-time pastors, rabbis or priests.

    The exemption means that ordained clergy can deduct housing expenses - often including rent, mortgage payments, utilities and even furniture purchases - from their taxable income, as long as the deduction amount is approved by the clergy person's religious governing body.

    The case now before the 9th Circuit originally stemmed from an Internal Revenue Service dispute with Rick Warren, a nationally known pastor and author of The Purpose-Driven Church. Warren's Saddleback Valley Community Church in suburban Los Angeles is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

    The IRS, in auditing some of Warren's tax returns, said he was claiming too high an amount of his income as his tax-free housing allowance. Warren attempted to claim $79,999 - about 80 percent of his income from the church - as a housing allowance, but the IRS auditor asserted that $59,479 was the maximum Warren could claim. The auditor relied on an IRS standard - not found in the original law providing for clergy housing tax exemptions - of "fair rental value" being the cap for the amount clergy could claim under the housing allowance. However, the IRS never clarified how to determine "fair rental value" in such cases.

    Warren challenged the standard, claiming that it gave IRS auditors too much latitude in determining what "fair rental value" was. A California tax court ruled 14-3 in his favor.

    The IRS appealed the ruling, and it ended up in the 9th Circuit. That's when an unexpected development took place. A three-judge panel of the court voted 2-1 to ask for briefs from both sides as to whether the housing allowance tax exemption for clergy was constitutionally acceptable. The majority judges appointed a University of Southern California law professor, Erwin Chemerinsky, to weigh in on the issue with a brief on the constitutionality of the practice. The professor has been asked to file his brief by May 3.

    Chemerinsky has already said publicly that he believes exempting clergy housing costs from taxes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That clause prevents the government from supporting or endorsing religion. "If the government wants to subsidize journalists because it feels they aren't paid enough, I don't have any problem with that. But if they want to do the same thing with regards to religion, they can't," he told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

    Several observers, including Ramstad, have termed the 9th Circuit's move "judicial overreach" because neither Warren nor the IRS is challenging the allowance's constitutionality. Frank Sommerville, a Dallas attorney who specializes in clergy tax law, said the 9th Circuit has no right to decide whether housing allowances violate the First Amendment.

    "Since the parties are not in dispute over the constitutionality, then we believe the court doesn't have authority or jurisdiction to decide the procedural issue," he said in a phone interview. Sommerville participated in oral arguments before the 9th Circuit on behalf of Warren's case.

    Sommerville pointed out that the government provides housing-allowance tax exemptions to other professionals as well, such as U.S. military personnel and U.S. employees living overseas.

    As for the strategy behind Ramstad's bill, it would codify and slightly clarify the IRS's "fair rental value" standard in the hopes that it would lead to dismissal of the 9th Circuit case before the court could decide the constitutional question.

    It rushed through the House in just over a week, an unprecedented amount of time. The bill had the support of the Church Alliance, which represents the benefits-administering arms of several Jewish, Catholic and Protestant denominations - including the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    However, Ramstad's bill does nothing to prevent future, more direct constitutional challenges to the exemption. That's why the National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA) - while supporting the measure - has noted problems with the legislative quick fix. Another question: "(Ramstad's bill) still raises the question, 'how do you define the fair rental value?'" said NACBA's education director, Phill Martin. "There are not clear guidelines to help in that case. That is part of what brought the issue to a court battle in the first place."

    Martin is a member of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas and is moderator-elect of the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

    Martin's concerns may end up being moot. A version of Ramstad's bill still has to be introduced and passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Bush before the 9th Circuit rules on the case, which may happen as early as the first week of May. As of mid-April, no senators had introduced such legislation in the Senate, nor was the House version of the bill scheduled for an introduction into the Senate.

    The bill is House Resolution 4156.

    The case before the 9th Circuit is Warren vs. Commissioner of Revenue.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



    SEBTS trustees OK $50 million campaign

    April 19 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    SEBTS trustees OK $50 million campaign | Friday, April 19, 2002

    Friday, April 19, 2002

    SEBTS trustees OK $50 million campaign

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    Construction at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) will soon bloom over the town of Wake Forest if a new trustee plan is successful. Trustees approved a 10-year, $50 million fund-raising campaign during their spring meeting on the SEBTS campus April 15-16. The campaign, which will be called "Scholarship on Fire," must be submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee for approval later this year.

    During his president's report, SEBTS president Paige Patterson introduced consultant Jerold Panas of Chicago to make "what is perhaps the most significant presentation made during my tenure." Patterson said that whenever he should leave SEBTS, he wants the new administration to inherit adequate facilities and "not have too hard a mountain to climb." The trustees had previously identified $50 million in needs during the next 10 years, he said, and sought Panas' help in evaluating the seminary's prospects of raising $20 million in the initial phase.

    Panas said his study was designed to determine how people felt about the seminary and its leadership, how the economy and competing campaigns might impact the drive, whether good leadership could be recruited, and what was the proper timing and strategy.

    His research involved 15 visits with people capable of making or influencing large gifts. Nearly all of the people contacted were members of the Board of Trustees or the Board of Visitors, he said, noting that the responses admittedly came from "family" who already loved the seminary.

    Never had he seen such passion among supporters of a school, Panas said, or such united support for an institutional president or CEO. "It's off the chart," he said, citing a common response "he's my hero." Panas cited the close working relationship between Paige and Dorothy Patterson, who were credited with the "extraordinary transformation" of the seminary over the past 10 years.

    Panas said SEBTS is "a great institution whose wave has not crested," with "a strong leader and a great development staff."

    His only reservation, Panas said, was the seminary's lack of a long history from which to recruit donors. "The seminary was founded in 1950," he said, "but it is really only 10 years old. Anything that happened before Patterson doesn't exist."

    As a result, Panas recommended a Phase 1 goal of $16.5 million rather than $20 million, adding that Patterson's popularity would require him to take an active role in raising the funds.

    Panas encouraged the trustees by saying, "Remember that you're only 10 years old, but what you've got, you've got in spades." Panas cited fervor, passion and commitment as characterizing the school.

    Patterson said he was disappointed that the goal was less than $20 million, but could accept $16.5 million as a first phase goal. He said the seminary would try to meet the goal within 12 months of SBC Executive Committee approval.

    Campus Planning Trustees voted to adopt a campus planning committee report that calls for a major renovation of the western part of the campus. The current cafeteria and former Ruby Reid Child Care Center are to be razed and replaced with a 40,000 square foot student center that will house health and counseling services, classrooms, a large dining hall, a new bookstore and a coffee shop.

    In addition, plans call for Wingate Street to be closed between Stadium Drive and N.C. 98. The town of Wake Forest will give the street to the seminary, Patterson said, in exchange for other land to be used for a new connector.

    A new pedestrian walkway is to run from Stealey Hall to a plaza between the new student center and the current Ledford Center, extending on to a new library to be constructed at a future date.

    Trustees voted to proceed with retaining an architect to draw plans for the student center, demolition of the two existing buildings and site preparation for the new building, with the cost to come from funds previously earmarked for renovation of the Ruby Reid Center.

    Patterson told the Recorder that the seminary could have the former cafeteria and Ruby Reid Center razed at no cost by donating them to the fire department for training exercises.

    ATS and SACS Patterson also reported that the seminary has hosted visitation committees from two accrediting agencies, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). He reported that hosting the committees had cost the seminary more than $70,000, not including the time put in by SEBTS personnel.

    ATS already has granted continuation of the seminary's accreditation. The SACS report is expected this summer, and is expected to be positive, Patterson said.

    The committees raised many minor issues that were easily corrected, Patterson said, and three larger concerns.

    The first was that the seminary's college program, called "Southeastern College at Wake Forest," operated corporately under the same corporate papers as the seminary but was not described as a division of the seminary in publications or on diplomas. "We have to incorporate the college separately," Patterson said, "or adjust the literature and publications to show that the college is a division of the seminary."

    Trustees chose the latter option, approving a new statement of purpose that incorporates the college as a division of the seminary. The statement identifies the school's purpose as training men and women for leadership roles in Baptist churches, and closely ties the school with the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

    The accrediting agencies were also concerned about faculty overload, Patterson said. SEBTS requires faculty members to teach only 20 hours per year, but allows them to teach voluntary overloads for an additional stipend. Patterson said up to seven new faculty members would be added by the fall semester, addressing the issue quickly.

    The third major issue related to the library, where an undersized staff has been unable to keep up in cataloging new books and getting them on the shelves, Patterson said. The bulk of an unexpected gift of $157,000 from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is being used to hire additional staff members and to increase the collection in some areas noted by the agencies, he said.

    Missions Patterson said the "2X2" program, which sends students onto the field for two years of experience in church planting, "is proceeding at an unbelievable rate." He said new church starts were ahead of schedule in New Hampshire and Vermont, and that a new work was being started in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    He gave positive reports from Utah, Arizona and Toronto, as well.

    Budget Trustees approved a budget of $17.64 million, with just more than $7 million coming from the SBC Cooperative Program. The administration had recommended one percent raises for faculty and none for the other staff, but trustees amended the recommendation to give across the board raises of three percent.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    BSC leaders nix funding for CBF church

    April 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Funding denied for Hendersonville church | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    Funding denied for Hendersonville church

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    HENDERSONVILLE - Providence Baptist Church of Hendersonville will not receive church-start funding from the Baptist State Convention (BSC), according to a recent letter sent to the church by BSC officials.

    The decision, which was also announced during the BSC's Executive Committee meeting at Caraway Conference Center on April 11, came after the BSC, in effect, gave an association in the area veto power over the funding.

    Controversy has swirled around the young church, which announced last summer that it planned to affiliate with the BSC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), but not the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The church also called a woman, J. Gail Coulter, to serve as pastor and church planter.

    Coulter was serving on staff at First Baptist Church of Asheville, the mission's primary sponsor. Providence has several other sponsors, most in the Buncombe Baptist Association. The church, however, is geographically located in Henderson County, which is home to the Carolina Baptist Association.

    When church representatives made overtures for admission to the Carolina Association, they were told that the association requires affiliated churches to be cooperating members of the SBC.

    Providence was later accepted into the United Association, which requested partnership funding for the church.

    A number of pastors in the western part of the state voiced opposition to state funding of the church, and the BSC Executive Committee appointed a "Church Starts Study Committee" to look into the matter.

    The committee's report, approved by the Executive Committee on Dec. 4, affirmed language in the BSC constitution that says "the Convention works in partnership with the district associations" in seeking to fulfill its purposes. The Executive Committee instructed the BSC administration to develop a process for dealing with exceptions to the typical method of working within geographic associations, and empowered administration officials to make funding decisions in those cases. A "check-off" form was then developed for local associations to indicate their level of endorsement for church starts located in their geographic area.

    When the Carolina Association was asked to complete a form relative to the Providence congregation, representatives checked two of the possible six responses, including one under "Strategy Issues" that says, "It appears that this start could have negative impact on the harmony and fellowship of the association."

    Under a heading for "Funding Issues" officials checked the response, "This association agrees that new church starts are a vital part of the BSCNC mission strategy but this association at this time does not feel comfortable in offering support to this church start."

    Options not chosen include, "This association will consider participating strategically and financially in support of this new work," and "This association is not formally or strategically opposed to this church start and would not object to financial support being given to it by the BSCNC."

    The BSC's decision to deny funding was based squarely on the guidelines approved by the General Board and the Carolina Baptist Association's stated belief that BSC funding for the church could have a negative impact on the fellowship and harmony of the association, according to a letter to the church from BSC officials. Nelson Tilton, team leader for church planting, and Milton Hollifield, executive team leader of the Mission Growth Evangelism team, signed the letter.

    Sandy Beck, director of missions for the Carolina Association, said the association's answers on the form were related to the church's lack of ties to the SBC.

    "This is a church that is not a Southern Baptist church and we have adopted in our purpose statement that we are a fellowship of Southern Baptist churches," he said. "They do not fit in with our purpose."

    Beck said he has no problem with United Association supporting the church.

    "I have no opposition to autonomy," he said. "Therefore the United Association has every right to accept who they want according to what I read in the Baptist State Convention constitution."

    Beck said the association's response was not related to the church having a woman pastor.

    "Gail's a real sweet person," he said. "I have no problem with her as a person."

    BSC officials reminded the Executive Committee that the convention has funded many types of church starts, including some that support CBF. Circumstances of the Providence church are unique, officials said, and the decision relative to its request should not be interpreted as determinative for how churches will be dealt with in the future.

    "We should not see this as 'the' situation, but as 'a' situation," said Hollifield, who said he hopes the issue doesn't cloud the future of church planting.

    In a written statement, Coulter responded to the letter, indicating no ill will toward the BSC. "Of course, Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville is disappointed and sad that the Baptist State Convention has decided not to provide us with church planting funds from the gifts of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Plan C churches," she said.

    But, Coulter noted strong support from CBFNC, sponsoring churches, the United Baptist Association and personal supporters, who plan to celebrate the church's first nine months in a special service on April 21.

    "The response from the State Convention calls us as a congregation to renew our commitment to prayer for our ministry and for the convention," Coulter said. "We must voice our prayers of thanksgiving for the evidence of God's love in all those who do undergird us in such a fine fashion. This response also is a call to reinforce our efforts at ministering with the Gospel to unchurched and unsaved people in this area and around the world. We know that the Holy Spirit of God is very present in our expression of being Christian and Baptist witnesses in this place. We thus trust God, as we follow, to provide for our needs."

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



    Employees not required to sign BF&M, BSC leaders say

    April 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Employees not required to sign BF&M, BSC leaders say | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    Employees not required to sign BF&M, BSC leaders say

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    A recommendation from the Steering Committee of Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) received a mixed response from the General Board's Executive Committee on April 11.

    The MBNC asked the Executive Committee to "adopt a resolution affirming that no full time employee of the General Board and no 'joint employee' of the General Board will be required to sign any statement of 'Faith and Message.'"

    Employees of the Baptist State Convention are not currently required to sign any version of the Baptist Faith and Message.

    On a recommendation from the administration, the Executive Committee responded by reaffirming an earlier statement on hiring practices that was approved by the committee on Sept. 26, 2000. The statement, as adopted by the Executive Committee, said, "We affirm our past and present practice of trusting Convention leaders to deal with issues of personal faith and practice through careful interviews with potential employees rather than defining acceptability for employment by specific doctrinal statements such as the Baptist Faith and Message."

    The General Board approved the statement the following day, after amending it to read, "We affirm our past and present practice of trusting Convention leaders to deal with issues of personal faith and practice through careful interviews with potential employees."

    The MBNC recommendation also asked the Executive Committee to "seek ways and means within our Convention giving plans to provide funds for a 'safety net' for those missionaries who have ties with our state and cannot in good conscience sign the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention Baptist Faith and Message," and that a procedure be established to receive gifts from churches wishing to contribute to such a fund.

    The Executive Committee voted to refer that request to the convention's Budget Study Committee.

    The MBNC recommendation came in the form of a letter from Roy J. Smith, chair of the MBNC Steering Committee and former Executive Director-Treasurer of the BSC, and Kathryn Hamrick, secretary of the Steering Committee and former officer of the General Board.

    The request was made "in light of the recent actions of the International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB)," according to the letter.

    In January, IMB president Jerry Rankin requested that all IMB missionaries sign an affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) as revised in 2000, indicate any areas of disagreement with the statement, and pledge that they would work within its doctrinal guidelines. Soon afterward, NAMB officials announced that its 59 "national missionaries," those fully funded by NAMB, were being asked to sign a similar affirmation. Personnel jointly hired prior to the 2000 BF&M are not affected by the request, but current and future joint hires will be expected to affirm the new BF&M, according to a letter from NAMB president Robert E. Reccord to state executive directors.

    When contacted at home, Smith said he was gratified that the Executive Committee reaffirmed the current hiring policies but concerned that the issue of jointly hired staff may not have been fully addressed by the action.

    He also expressed gratitude that the request for a "safety net" would receive further study.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



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