April 2002

Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says

April 4 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

DALLAS, Texas - "It is not enough to say we believe every word of the Bible to be true to be a Baptist," a conservative leader in Texas said.

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, made the declaration in his column, "Speaking the Truth in Love," in the April-May issue of the Southern Baptist Texan magazine. The magazine and a related newspaper are published by the breakaway Texas Baptist convention.

"To say we have no creed is to say we have no beliefs," Richards wrote.

The Baptist Faith & Message as revised by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 is the answer to this theological problem because it "leaves no wiggle room for neo-orthodoxy," he wrote.

"The Baptist Faith & Message statement 2000 is the final expression of the conservative resurgence," he added, referencing the movement that gained control of the SBC in the 1980s and '90s and has reshaped its agencies and institutions.

Richards' column is devoted to defending the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message against criticism from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). Although he does not specifically name BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade, Richards counters what have become well-known Wade criticisms of the SBC faith statement.

Wade, for example, has called the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message a non-Baptist creed and has said he will gladly sign every page of the Bible but not any man-made creed. Wade has championed the historic Baptist confession of "no creed but the Bible."

Those who oppose the signing of creeds by Baptists leave the door open to all manner of theological error by individuals who still might claim to believe every word of the Bible, Richards wrote. As an example, he cites Alexander Campbell, who led a major schism among Baptists in the 19th century that created the Church of Christ.

The "signing of documents" should not be a concern to faithful Baptists, Richards said. "When people hide behind nuances of words or a perverted view of the priesthood of believers, then it becomes necessary to have an instrument of accountability.

"Southern Baptists expect those who receive the Lord's money through Southern Baptist giving channels to represent what Southern Baptists believe," he also wrote. "We should encourage and support our Southern Baptist leadership who are making the difficult decisions to make this happen."

Ensuring doctrinal conformity has been a major theme of the SBC's conservative movement since its public debut in 1979. The focus initially was on the convention's six seminaries, which conservatives said were too liberal.

The need for doctrinal accountability was sounded forcefully through the years by Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, three-time SBC president and a powerful figure in the conservative movement.

Rogers quipped in 1987, while he was SBC president, that "if Southern Baptists believe that pickles have souls, then professors must teach that."

With the six seminaries now fully in line with the desires of the new SBC leadership, conservatives have turned their attention to foreign missionaries, an area where many moderates and centrists have continued to find common ground with conservatives.

However, the new requirement that IMB missionaries sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message has created rifts in this missions coalition.

In the Southern Baptist Texan newspaper, a companion piece to the magazine published by the SBTC, Editor Gary Ledbetter devoted his March 19 editorial to rebutting the concerns of the BGCT regarding missionaries. IMB missionaries, he said, do not need to be "rescued" from the threat of creedalism as stated by the BGCT and moderate Baptists.

"Jerry Rankin's request that missionaries affirm their denomination's confession of faith is not insulting, offensive or even surprising," Ledbetter wrote. "A benefit of this move is that it puts our missionaries on the same plane as other denominational workers.

"Some moderates have behaved as though it is possible to hold the seminaries and other agencies in contempt and still support the missionaries."

Those who don't support the new direction of the SBC shouldn't appoint themselves as "rescuers" of SBC missionaries, Ledbetter said.

"Why would they want anything to do with SBC missions? Most of these folks (the missionaries) were trained at the same seminaries moderates distrust. Our missionaries were interviewed and approved and appointed by a staff and board the moderates now call idiots and wolves. Wouldn't some of that bad stuff rub off on the missionaries?"

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

Bill would remove electioneering ban

April 4 2002 by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

Bill would remove electioneering ban | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Bill would remove electioneering ban

By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press

WASHINGTON - A longstanding IRS rule that churches and other non-profit organizations that are exempt from paying taxes may not engage in partisan politics, such as endorsing candidates, would be removed from the tax code if a bill pending in Congress becomes law.

A bill now in a U.S. House committee would allow churches to spend as much as 20 percent of their budget on partisan politics without risking loss of their tax-exempt status.

Supporters of the change say the current law infringes churches' right to freedom of speech. Opponents say removing the limits would unnecessarily politicize America's pulpits.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly believe clergy should refrain from endorsing political candidates.

House Resolution 2357 is called the "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act." Sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), it would remove a prohibition - in place since 1954 - that prevents churches and other non-profit groups organized under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Service code from engaging in partisan politics while maintaining their freedom from being taxed.

"For me, its a First Amendment issue," Jones told the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper. "Prior to 1954, a rabbi, priest, or minister could say anything they wanted to say. This is simply trying to return free speech to churches and synagogues."

Opponents of the bill say current laws don't prevent tax-exempt charities from speaking out on political issues. Churches and ministers can already address social and moral issues - such as opposition to lotteries, gay rights and abortion - as long as they don't endorse candidates.

"This bill isn't about free speech; it's about hardball politics," said Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Pat Robertson and his friends are desperately trying to forge churches into a political machine, and this bill allows them to get away with it."

Currently, if a church endorses a political party or a particular candidate, then it risks losing its tax-exempt status. The only known case of that happening came in 1995, however. That's when the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of The Church at Pierce Creek, near Binghamton, N.Y., as the result of a 1992 newspaper advertisement the church purchased. The ad told voters it was wrong to vote for Bill Clinton for president.

In recent years, the IRS has conducted several investigations into other churches and religious organizations that appeared to endorse candidates or political parties.

The Washington Post quoted Jones as saying conservative churches are most likely to be investigated, producing what he termed a "chilling effect" on their freedom of political speech.

Americans United, however, claims the IRS is enforcing the tax code fairly. "I know of no evidence whatsoever that the IRS has singled out conservative churches for penalties," Lynn said.

Lynn noted that prominent African-American pastor Floyd Flake got into hot water after endorsing Al Gore's presidential campaign from a New York pulpit in 2000.

"IRS agents came to the church for a visit," Lynn said. "To avoid penalties, Flake signed a document promising to follow federal tax law more carefully in the future."

Lynn said the only reason the Pierce Creek congregation lost its tax exemption for electioneering is that the pastor told the IRS that he had used church funds to take out candidate advertisements in the newspaper and he intended to continue to do so. Federal courts later upheld the revocation.

Language of the new bill was drafted by Colby May, a lawyer for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLS). Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson founded the ACLJ.

The coalition recently lost its own battle to maintain its tax-exempt status with the IRS, meaning donations to the group are no longer tax-deductible. In January, Jones appeared on Robertson's "700 Club" television program to promote the bill. Robertson urged viewers to contact House Ways and Means Committee chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and ask him to schedule a hearing for the bill as soon as possible.

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, supports the Jones legislation. "We don't think the government should be telling churches what to do," he told the Raleigh newspaper. "It's for us to decide, not the government."

While he believes churches should have the right to endorse candidates, however, Land added, "We will continue to urge our churches not to do it." Overt partisan politicking is "not an appropriate role for the church," he said.

Former SBC president Ed Young, whose Second Baptist Church of Houston endured its own four-year investigation by the IRS, also endorsed the change in comments reported by the New York Times.

"I just think the religious entities of America need to keep their prophetic voice," Young said. "And you lose that if you send money to politicians or openly support them during an election season."

Jones' bill has 113 co-sponsors in the House - all but four of them are Republicans. Though Jones has said he hopes the proposal will receive a hearing in May, sources say it has not yet been scheduled for any hearing.

The bill comes at a time when a major new poll shows that Americans, by a three-to-one majority, oppose religious groups involving themselves directly in partisan politics.

On March 20, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life announced the results of a poll on the attitudes of Americans toward religion and politics. The poll found that 70 percent of respondents were opposed to clergy endorsing political candidates, while 22 percent supported the idea. In addition, majorities of all of the demographic groups polled opposed the idea - white mainline Protestants, African-American Protestants, Catholics, and those of other faiths or no faith at all. Even white evangelicals - the most supportive group of church endorsements of political candidates - still opposed the idea 61 percent to 31 percent.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge

April 4 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

EL PASO, Texas - As recently as December 2000, Jerry Rankin pledged to a retired missionary living in El Paso that as long as Rankin is president of the International Mission Board (IMB), no missionary would be required to sign a doctrinal statement.

Now that retired missionary, Siegfried Enge, is wondering why Rankin in January declared IMB missionaries must sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M).

In a Dec. 8, 2000, letter to Rankin, Enge recounted meeting Rankin at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso in 1993. "I asked you about missionaries possibly being obligated to sign a doctrinal statement. ... I remember your clear and unequivocal answer: 'As long as I am president of the IMB, no missionary will be obligated to sign a doctrinal statement.'"

On Dec. 19, Rankin wrote back to Enge, confirming the former missionary's recollection of that visit.

"You are correct - Baptists are not a creedal people," Rankin wrote to Enge. "Asking people to sign the BF&M would make it a creed. No one is proposing that be done. And I stand by my statement made during my visit to El Paso, although it was probably unwise for me to make such a statement since I do not have the authority to prohibit our board from requiring it if they should so choose. Fortunately, that does not seem to be their inclination."

After Rankin wrote to missionaries around the world this January telling them of his administrative action requiring them to sign an affirmation of the 2000 BF&M, Enge wrote to Rankin once again.

"I am totally surprised and shocked by this request," Enge wrote. "It certainly does not accord with what you wrote to me in December 2000.

"It is one thing to ask missionary candidates to draft their own doctrinal statements and then to signify that they have read the BF&M 2000 and indicate any disagreements with it, and another thing to ask them to sign their affirmation. Signing an affirmation or signing the BF&M is the same thing."

Rankin and other IMB officials have drawn a distinction between asking missionaries to sign a statement about the Baptist Faith & Message versus asking them to sign the Baptist Faith & Message itself. This is the line between using the faith statement as a creed, Rankin said.

In the latest letter from Rankin to Enge, dated March 4, Rankin wrote: "Our missionaries are not being required or coerced to sign a creed, nor has there been a reversal of our policy not requiring them to sign the 2000 BF&M. ... It can hardly be considered imposing a creed when they are just being asked to affirm what Southern Baptists have said is what they believe and work in accord with it."

Enge and his wife, Donna, served with the IMB 32 years, including 19 years at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House.

A spokesman for the IMB said the letters do not change what Rankin and other IMB officials have said.

"Our policy has not changed. Missionaries are not 'obligated' or 'mandated' to 'sign the BF&M,' just as Dr. Rankin said they would not be. Missionaries have only been 'requested' to 'affirm' the BF&M, with complete freedom to note any exceptions, just like when they were appointed," said spokesman Mark Kelly. "The only difference between the situation now and the situations that prevailed under previous administrations is that the Baptist Faith & Message has been revised during this administration."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

Taking Jesus on the road

April 4 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Taking Jesus on the road | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Taking Jesus on the road

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

DUNN - Truckers often use the sleeper cab of their truck as their bedroom. A truck stop's television room is their living room, and the restaurant is their kitchen.

What many don't have while on the road is a church.

Mark Bordeaux is trying to change that.

Bordeaux runs a truck stop ministry for the Little River Baptist Association. He ministers out of a chapel at Sadler's Truck Stop on Interstate 95 between Dunn and Benson, where more than 300 trucks and hundreds of cars stop each day.

Bordeaux leads worship services at the truck stop on Sunday mornings and Bible studies on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. At least three people have made professions of faith through the ministry and others have received counseling and other help, he said.

The ministry has distributed about 1,900 New Testaments designed specifically for truckers.

In the fall, Coats Baptist Church in Coats helped sponsor a movie night for truckers in the truck stop's television room. About 15 truckers watched the "Jesus" video. Bordeaux and volunteers from the church distributed gift bags that included a copy of the video.

Highland Baptist Church in Raleigh, where Bordeaux is a member, held an "adopt-a-driver" emphasis in December. The event raised $300 for the ministry.

Herman Sadler, who owns the truck stop and another like it, paid a surprise visit to Bordeaux in February. He stopped in to tell Bordeaux that the company appreciates his efforts.

Sadler was on his way to Florida to see his son, Elliott, race in the Daytona 500. The younger Sadler finished second in the race.

The ministry started in May with Bordeaux looking for a supervised ministry project for his studies at Mount Olive College. At about the same time, Steve Reed, chairman of the Little River Baptist Association's Evangelism Committee, was talking with Little River Director of Missions Dan Deaton about starting a truck stop ministry similar to one in Columbia, S.C.

While looking for a project, Bordeaux talked with Kelton Hinton, the director of missions in the neighboring Johnston Baptist Association. Hinton called Deaton. A short while later, Bordeaux was called to work 10 hours a week on the truck stop ministry for the summer. He started the ministry after getting training from Ted Keller, of the North American Mission Board, and Transport for Christ, an international trucking ministry.

Mark Mitchell, the director of truck stop operations for Sadler's and manager of the Dunn truck stop at the time, said Bordeaux approached him about the ministry.

"I thought it was a great idea," Mitchell said.

Mitchell offered to convert an old television room into a chapel. The truck stop cleaned, painted and repaired the room; upgraded the lighting; and installed a telephone for Bordeaux to use.

Deaton said the association recognized the importance of the ministry and asked Bordeaux to keep working and increase his hours to 15 a week.

By January, the association had asked for and received financial assistance from the Baptist State Convention, allowing Bordeaux to increase his hours to 20.

The trucking industry is becoming more professional, Bordeaux said.

"Everything we eat and touch at one time came off a truck, because there's no train rails running to Wal-Mart," he said.

Bordeaux said he tries to respect the drivers' privacy but prays for "divine appointments" when he can share his faith.

Mitchell said the ministry has meant a lot to the truck stop.

"You don't have all truck drivers who are religious, but there are more than you think," he said.

Some truck drivers have told Mitchell that they make a point to stop at the Dunn truck stop because of the ministry.

"They make out their routes and stop at facilities like ours that have a ministry," he said. "We've actually put ourselves on their map."

Mitchell said the truck stop is planning to put up signs about the chapel and put decals about the ministry near the diesel pumps where truckers often spend 10 to 15 minutes filling their trucks.

"That's the perfect place to get the word out," he said.

Mitchell said Sadler's is including space for a chapel in plans to expand its other truck stop in Emporia, Va.

Deaton said the people at Sadler's have meant a lot to the ministry.

"We feel like it's a good partnership," he said.

Deaton and Bordeaux said they want the ministry in Dunn to expand. They're hoping to train members of nearby churches to work as volunteers in the chapel.

Bordeaux said he'd like for the chapel to have set hours.

"We've got to find a way to move it from part-time to full-time," Deaton said.

Deaton said he'd like to see similar ministries start near I-95 in the southern and northern parts of the state. More than 60,000 cars drive along the highway each day, he said.

"It's apparently something that's needed," he said.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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