August 2001

Pentecostals top pollster's 'theological purity' ranking

August 10 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Pentecostals top pollster's 'theological purity' ranking | Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

Pentecostals top pollster's 'theological purity' ranking

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press VENTURA, Calif. - Members of the Assembly of God and other Pentecostal churches ranked ahead of Baptists in "theological purity," or strong commitment to traditional Christian beliefs, in a recent poll by the Barna Research Group. In a nationwide survey of more than 6,000 adults, lay members of the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal denominations were found most likely among 12 denominational groupings to "strongly" hold orthodox beliefs on topics such as Satan, salvation and that Jesus lived a sinless life.

Non-denominational Christians came next, followed by all kinds of Baptists. Catholics and Episcopalians came out on the bottom of the ranking.

Just 41 percent of all those surveyed strongly agreed that the Bible "is totally accurate in all that it teaches." However, 77 percent of Assembly of God respondents said they strongly agree, compared to 66 percent of Baptists.

A strong belief that Christians have a personal responsibility to share their faith was held by 32 percent of adults, 61 percent of Assembly of God and 51 percent of Baptists.

Slightly more than one in four churchgoers (27 percent) strongly disagreed that Satan is just a symbol of evil and not a real being. Among Baptists, the percentage was 34 percent, compared to 56 percent for the Assembly of God.

Thirty percent of those surveyed disagreed strongly that a good person can earn a place in heaven and 40 percent that Jesus Christ committed sins while on earth. Baptists responded to those queries 43 percent and 55 percent, respectively, compared to 64 percent and 70 percent for Assembly of God.

George Barna, president of the research firm that conducted the poll, said the findings challenge the stereotype that charismatic and Pentecostal churches attract people who respond on the basis of emotion but lack strong biblical training.

Barna, however, expressed concern about the overall pattern of beliefs among the various denominations.

"The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy," he said. "How else can you describe matters when most church-going adults reject the accuracy of the Bible, reject the existence of Satan, claim that Jesus sinned, see no need to evangelize, believe that good works are one of the keys to persuading God to forgive their sins and describe their commitment to Christianity as moderate or even less firm?"

The survey, based on telephone interviews of 6,038 adults from January 2000 through June 2001, claimed a sampling margin of error of plus-or-minus 2 percent.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/10/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Scams targeting faithful on rise, state security regulators warn

August 10 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Scams targeting faithful on rise, state security regulators warn | Friday, Aug. 10, 2001
  • Are the seller and investment licensed and registered in your state? If not, they may be operating illegally. Call your state securities regulator to find out.
  • Has the seller given you written information fully explaining the investment? Documentation should be clear and accurate enough to allow you or a financial adviser to evaluate and verify the particulars.
  • Are claims made for the investment realistic? Some things really are too good to be true. Pie-in-the-sky promises often signal fraud. Use common sense and get professional, third-party advice when offered unusually high returns in comparison with other investment options.
  • Does this investment meet your personal investment goals? Whether you are investing for long-term growth, investment income or other reasons, any investment should be consistent with those goals.
  • Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

    Scams targeting faithful on rise, state security regulators warn

    By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press WASHINGTON - Investment frauds that take advantage of people's faith are on the rise, state security regulators warned at a press conference Aug. 7. Three large cases alone combined for losses of nearly $1.5 billion, the North American Securities Administrators Association told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington.

    "I've been a securities regulator for 20 years, and I've seen more money stolen in the name of God than in any other way," said Deborah Bortner, director of securities for Washington state and president of the association, according to a press release on the group's Web site.

    In all, regulators identified 75 such cases affecting more than 90,000 victims and costing investors $1.8 billion in lost funds.

    That is up sharply from a previous study of the five years before 1989, when 15,000 investors nationwide lost $450 million in religious scams.

    In comparison, the Baptist Foundation of Arizona by itself took in more than $590 million from 13,000 investors before being shut down by state officials in August 1999.

    An agency of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the Foundation began managing church building funds and some retirement accounts, investing much of the money in Arizona real estate. When property values fell sharply in the late 1980s, officers of the Foundation allegedly refused to admit losses, covering them up with paper transactions through a network of 120 shell corporations. They then aggressively solicited new investors, court documents charge, using their money to pay earlier investors, setting up an illegal Ponzi scheme.

    Investors, meanwhile, were promised a high rate of return, assured their money was safe and led to believe it was being used to advance Baptist causes.

    "That the Foundation's senior management could solicit hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, knowing that what they were running was nothing but a huge Ponzi scheme, is unconscionable," said Mark Sendrow, director of securities for the Arizona Corporations Commissions.

    Three former officials of the Foundation have pleaded guilty to criminal charges and are cooperating with investigators. Five others have been indicted on charges of theft, fraud and racketeering. Trial dates have not been set.

    Arthur Andersen LLP, the Foundation's auditor between 1984 and 1989, is also targeted in a number of legal actions for allegedly ignoring red flags that could have saved investors millions of dollars.

    "Even though this was terribly devastating and tested my faith - I was in deep depression and praying a lot - it did not destroy my faith," said Forrest Bomar, an investor with the Foundation. "I was reminded through prayer that I still had a lot to be thankful for - my wife, my family - even if we never recovered a penny of our investment."

    Bortner said investors shouldn't let their guard down merely because someone is appealing to their religion. "Always do your homework," she said. "Be as skeptical and as careful when you invest with someone who shares your faith as you would with anyone else."

    The press conference followed by one day the sentencing of Greater Ministries International founder Gerald Payne in federal district court in Tampa, Fla. Convicted of fraud and conspiracy, Payne was sentenced to 27 years in prison. His wife, Betty, was sentenced to 13 years. Other defendants were to be sentenced in coming days.

    Greater Ministries allegedly took in nearly $580 million between 1993 and 1999, promising investors that the church would double their money through divinely inspired investments in the foreign-currency market and gold, silver and diamond mines in Africa and the Caribbean.

    Nearly 20,000 people mortgaged homes, ran up credit card debts or cashed in retirement funds based on appeals to Scripture, such as Luke 6:38: "Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom."

    In another case, the IRM Corporation allegedly raised $400 million in at least five states selling bogus promissory notes and limited partnerships before being shut down by Michigan officials in May 1999.

    Operating what regulators called a classic Ponzi scheme utilizing a labyrinth of 120 affiliates, IRM allegedly recruited investors either in person or through church-related organizations, including religious radio and television programs such as the "Back to God Hour."

    In Michigan alone, officials say, more than 2,400 victims lost in excess of $80 million.

    Other high-profile scams described at the press conference took place in Tennessee, Washington state and Indiana.

    Utah was home to the most religious frauds, 11. Alabama and Wisconsin followed with six. Arkansas had five. Three each were reported in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Maryland, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Washington, California, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Maine, New York and Ohio each had two. Arizona, Illinois, Idaho, Tennessee, New Mexico, South Dakota and West Virginia had one apiece.

    Securities officials said con artists who use religion to promote their scams often predict an imminent financial or social crisis, claim they will reinvest a portion of profits in a worthy cause and equate faith in their organization with faith in God.

    "Cloaking an investment with religion can give it a false aura of safety," said Brad Skolnik, Indiana securities commissioner. "It's one thing to tithe or give an offering so that your money is used for good works. It's another thing if you're led to believe you'll get a monetary return. It's when people are promised earthly returns that we see a lot of fraud."

    Before making any investment, state regulators urged investors to ask the following:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/10/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Texas trustee of IMB sent to prison on fraud charges

    August 10 2001 by Mark Wingfield , (c) 2001 Baptist Standard Publishing Co.

    Texas trustee of IMB sent to prison on fraud charges | Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

    Texas trustee of IMB sent to prison on fraud charges

    By Mark Wingfield (c) 2001 Baptist Standard Publishing Co. DALLAS, Texas - Two weeks before he was elected a Texas trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, a federal warrant was issued for Russell Kaemmerling's arrest on 19 counts of fraud. Kaemmerling, a veteran worker in the so-called "conservative resurgence" within the Southern Baptist Convention, was elected an overseer of the SBC mission board June 13, 2000, while the convention met in annual session in Orlando, Fla. On that same day, Kaemmerling appeared on the program of the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, delivering the benediction for the afternoon session.

    Also on that same day, a grand jury indictment against Kaemmerling was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla. That indictment, which portrayed Kaemmerling as the leader of a seven-man scheme to defraud investors of millions of dollars, led to his conviction on all counts three months later.

    Kaemmerling, who maintains he is innocent of wrongdoing, continued to serve as an IMB trustee, however, until after he entered a federal penitentiary in Beaumont the last week of May.

    IMB spokeswoman Wendy Norvelle said Kaemmerling sent in a letter of resignation from the board dated June 4. IMB administrators were unaware of his predicament until he was incarcerated, she said.

    IMB President Jerry Rankin was out of the country and could not be reached.

    Messengers to this year's SBC annual meeting in New Orleans elected a new trustee to replace Kaemmerling, whose term was not to expire until 2004.

    Kaemmerling's legal troubles began well before his recommendation by the SBC's committee on nominations, which released its formal list of nominees April 28, 2000. Although the grand jury had not formally indicted Kaemmerling by that date, he had been the subject of an FBI investigation since early 1999, according to testimony given at trial.

    Further, Kaemmerling and others related to the criminal fraud case had judgments rendered against them in civil court cases in 1997 and 1999. The plaintiffs in those cases also figured prominently in the criminal trial. In the 1999 civil case, a default judgment was handed down against Kaemmerling just one year before his nomination as an IMB trustee.

    In that case, tried in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., Kaemmerling was ordered to pay Sealacota Trust $459,168 in damages plus punitive damages of $1.37 million. Sealacota Trust is one of several companies Kaemmerling and his co-defendants allegedly wronged in one of two complex investment schemes. Two years earlier, Kaemmerling and two of the same co-defendants were found liable in a civil case brought by investor Serge Chernay. That case, also tried in U.S. District Court in Pensacola but with a different judge, resulted in a $1 million judgment against Kaemmerling.

    The federal criminal charges on which Kaemmerling eventually was convicted grew out of these cases and others. The criminal conviction is on appeal. The civil cases were not appealed.

    According to one of the Pensacola prosecutors, the federal criminal charges were drawn up on only eight cases in which investors allegedly lost a total of $6 million. The total amount believed to have been lost through the two schemes allegedly exceeds $15 million, said Benjamin Beard, who was lead prosecutor in the 12-day trial against Kaemmerling and the others.

    No obstacle to service Despite his earlier judgments in civil court, Kaemmerling was elected as an IMB trustee. And after his conviction in criminal court, he continued to serve as an IMB trustee for eight months.

    Kaemmerling was elected to the IMB post during the last year his brother-in-law, Paige Patterson, served as SBC president. The SBC president does not directly control the trustee nomination process but does appoint the committee on committees, which in turn nominates the committee on nominations.

    Kaemmerling is related to Patterson through his wife, who is a sister to Patterson's wife, Dorothy. Kaemmerling's wife also is a sister to Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. There have been no allegations of any of Kaemmerling's extended family being involved in any way with the financial dealings for which he was convicted.

    In correspondence with the Baptist Standard, Kaemmerling insisted none of his extended family "had any knowledge at all of the entire situation until just prior to the sentencing hearing in late November 2000."

    Beyond his wife and children and a couple of close friends, "no one was aware, especially not Chuck Kelley or Paige Patterson," Kaemmerling said.

    Because of his role as SBC president the year Kaemmerling was elected to the IMB, the Baptist Standard attempted to contact Patterson via certified mail for comment. In a letter dated July 27, Patterson's administrative assistant at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary responded that he was in Africa and could not be contacted.

    The chairman of the committee on nominations in the year Kaemmerling was elected to the IMB was David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston. He was one of two Texans serving on the committee. The other was Wichita Falls layman Bill Streich.

    Fannin said he was not aware of Kaemmerling's legal situation prior to his nomination and election. "If we had known that, it would not have gone anywhere," he said.

    Streich also said he "knew nothing" about the matter until late last year, even though he has known Kaemmerling about 12 years. "When I asked him, 'Why didn't you tell me about this?' he said, 'I never took this stuff seriously.'"

    Streich said he wouldn't have nominated Kaemmerling for the IMB post if he had known about the indictment or the earlier civil convictions.

    "Had I known that Russ was involved in any kind of legal battle whatsoever, even had it not been criminal in nature or if he was not yet convicted, I would never have considered nominating him for any position," he said.

    An early warrior In the early days of the fundamentalist movement within the SBC, Russell Kaemmerling's name was virtually synonymous with that political and theological agenda.

    From 1980 to 1985, he was editor of the Southern Baptist Advocate, an independent magazine used to advance the fundamentalist agenda and criticize leadership of the SBC and professors in SBC seminaries.

    In "The Baptist Reformation," conservative historian Jerry Sutton called the Advocate "the most effective communication tool in the early days of the conservative resurgence."

    Sutton, a former Texan who now is pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., says in his history of the SBC conflict that the Advocate was "funded by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies," now known as Criswell College.

    At that time, Patterson was president of Criswell College, a post from which he became a co-architect of the modern fundamentalist movement in the SBC. In addition to editing the magazine, Kaemmerling worked behind the scenes to organize the fundamentalist get-out-the-vote effort in the SBC directed by Patterson and Paul Pressler.

    Pressler, in his book "A Hill on Which to Die," mentions that Kaemmerling arranged for a block of hotel rooms for conservative messengers to the 1984 SBC annual meeting in Kansas City. "This was where we and the Pattersons stayed, along with many other conservatives," Pressler explained, noting that Kaemmerling had secured the hotel because it was not in the block of rooms managed by the SBC Executive Committee.

    Moderate Baptist sociologist Nancy Ammerman also credits Kaemmerling and the Advocate with being highly influential in the early 1980s. "It provided very explicit instruction on attending annual conventions," she noted.

    Research done for her book "Baptist Battles" found that in 1985, two-thirds of SBC clergy read the Advocate.

    Kaemmerling dropped to a lower profile in 1986, when he was relieved of duties at the Advocate Dec. 30, 1985, for what he deemed "personal reasons." In an interview published in the Baptist Standard Feb. 12, 1986, Kaemmerling said he would pursue other avenues of work but remained in sympathy with the fundamentalist movement.

    His departure was affirmed in the same article by Patterson, who said: "Russell, himself, for personal and family reasons, felt it best he get out, and I certainly concurred."

    Kaemmerling moved on to a book publishing business, then a development job with First Baptist Academy, the private school run by First Baptist Church of Dallas. Later, he and his wife opened a travel agency in DeSoto, a Dallas suburb. And eventually, he began identifying himself as an investment consultant, according to court records and IMB documents.

    He and his wife later became members of Southwest Baptist Church in DeSoto, where he was a deacon and served on the missions committee. There, he was an advocate of the church breaking its ties with the BGCT and aligning with the new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

    But on the national scene, he remained out of sight-until his nomination to the IMB and his appearance on the SBC program June 13, 2000, three months before he was to face a jury in federal court.

    Questionable investments Court records show that in the early 1990s, Kaemmerling became associated with two other men in brokering high-dollar investments. The two were Kevin Michael Kelly of Chicago and Ray Pope of Pensacola. Both Kelly and Pope were convicted of fraud charges along with Kaemmerling.

    Little public information can be found about Kelly, who was based in Chicago. Pope was an attorney based in Pensacola, a former Baptist who was well-respected in the professional community and church circles.

    In connection with at least four other individuals who played various roles, Kaemmerling and his co-defendants allegedly operated two fraudulent investment schemes, according to the grand jury indictment and testimony given at trial.

    The indictment is 50 pages long and covers 19 counts of criminal conduct including conspiracy to commit fraud, interstate transportation of money taken by fraud and wire fraud.

    Kaemmerling, who is identified in court documents as the leader of the business, was accused of luring investors with promises of extraordinary returns of up to 2,700 percent. These investments, he told his clients, carried virtually no risk, according to his own testimony at trial.

    Also according to testimony given at trial, Kaemmerling told investors they could turn $500,000 into $40 million within 40 weeks.

    The trio offered two investment vehicles, neither of which exists, prosecutors contended. In correspondence with the Standard, Kaemmerling insisted both investment vehicles were "legitimate, honest, straightforward and real."

    The first was what they called a "high-yield leverage program" in bank debentures.

    Kaemmerling and his associates claimed that they could purchase debentures or IOUs from foreign banks at a discounted rate and then resell those debentures to other foreign banks at a profit within days. Investors were told their money would not be used to purchase the debentures but would be used only as security to prove to the foreign banks that Kaemmerling and his partners could cover the cost. The investors were told their money never would leave the account set up by Pope as a holding tank.

    In reality, prosecutors asserted at trial, investors' money left Pope's account and was divided among the perpetrators of the fraud. Kaemmerling acknowledged on the witness stand that not one of his investors in debentures ever realized a profit.

    The second scheme involved the purported rental of U.S. treasuries. According to prosecutors, U.S. treasuries cannot be leased.

    Nevertheless, Kaemmerling and his associates offered to lease such securities to investors for a one-year period with the promise of a high rate of return with little risk. To get their money back, investors were required to produce a "safekeeping receipt" from a reputable bank. The legal contract spelled out the conditions required for such a "safekeeping receipt" and stipulated that if such a document could not be produced within 48 hours, the investor would forfeit all his money.

    According to Kaemmerling's own testimony at trial, not a single investor ever produced a satisfactory "safekeeping receipt." All investors in the treasury rentals lost the money they put up, he acknowledged.

    One investor testified that he produced 10 "safekeeping receipts" but none of them were deemed acceptable by Kaemmerling and his partners. This testimony was given by Serge Chernay, a retired Air Force colonel who planned to use the return on his investment to provide medical supplies to Russia and the Far East. He lost $250,000.

    Chernay received a default judgment against Kaemmerling and others in 1997 but never received any compensation, he testified. Testimony introduced in the Florida criminal trial stated that the judge presiding over Chernay's civil trial cited Kaemmerling and his co-defendants for contempt.

    "The defendants have engaged in a clear pattern of contempt, and their conduct threatens to make a mockery out of this judicial system," wrote Judge Lacey Collier. "This court cannot allow the waste of judicial resources or the inconvenience to jurors which would result from holding a trial that the defendants chose not to attend."

    Kaemmerling acknowledged on the witness stand that Chernay's $250,000 was divided between himself and Kevin Kelly because they had been "at risk" in the investment, which would only produce a profit beyond the second month.

    He did not attend the civil court trial because he was running out of money and had an opportunity to provide for his family by leading a group of people on a trip.

    Chernay's civil judgment against Kaemmerling was entered three years before Kaemmerling's nomination and election to serve as an IMB trustee.

    Missing person A key figure in one of the civil cases filed against Kaemmerling was Scott Wolas of New York City. Wolas was an attorney with the law firm of Hunton & Williams and a broker until his mysterious disappearance in late 1995.

    A New York grand jury has indicted Wolas for grand larceny in the first degree and other crimes, alleging that he absconded with millions of dollars from hundreds of investors. Prosecutors have alleged Wolas had links to organized crime. They also believe he resurfaced in the Orlando, Fla., area in 1997 and committed additional acts of investor fraud.

    Wolas was a partner in the ill-fated investment schemes for which Kaemmerling was found liable of mishandling investors' money in Oregon civil court. That case was brought by Sealacota Trust.

    Part of Kaemmerling's defense in his criminal trial was his assertion that Wolas stole $1 million Kaemmerling had arranged to invest through him. That's why Kaemmerling was unable to fight the civil case brought against him in Portland by Sealacota Trust, he said.

    In correspondence with the Standard, Kaemmerling reasserted his contention that Wolas was the source of much of his troubles. Kaemmerling said he cooperated with legal investigations into Wolas' alleged criminal activity and turned over his own records for examination.

    However, evidence presented at trial showed Kaemmerling operated at least two corporations for which he kept no financial records. These corporations were Star Financial and Southwest Financial Services. Prosecutors suggested that money passed through these two corporations to two travel companies owned by Kaemmerling.

    Further evidence presented at trial showed that Kaemmerling personally received at least $800,000 from the various investment offerings. Where that money went is unclear, other than Kaemmerling's assertion that his resources had been drained by seeking to defend himself against previous court cases.

    In correspondence with the Standard, Kaemmerling said he chose not to fight the Oregon civil judgment because he was "insuring that I would have enough funds to fight any serious legal issues that arose" later.

    "The default was entered based on an affidavit from a dead woman on behalf of an illegal business trust," he said. "I have been assured that when this is all over, it will be a simple matter to get that reversed, and I have not put my physical or financial resources in that direction."

    Kaemmerling also told the Standard he sees himself as a victim of a government conspiracy. He referred to a book titled "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," which he said "demonstrates how the federal government is abusing power, manufacturing evidence and prosecuting non-criminal activity as if it were criminal just to gain convictions."

    The appeal of his criminal conviction is based on several wrongs that allegedly occurred during the trial, according to Kaemmerling and his Dallas attorney, James Moon.

    Kaemmerling contends evidence that would have exonerated him was not allowed to be used in the trial. Further, he said, "the U.S. attorney simply took several names, strung them together, manufactured evidence ... and was able to get a conviction after a lengthy trial."

    Character witness Throughout the trial, both Kaemmerling and Pope made reference to their religious involvement. Kaemmerling told how he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and became a pastor, about his work as editor of the Advocate and his work with First Baptist Church of Dallas.

    Pope told the jury how he met Kaemmerling through a mutual acquaintance and how the two men came to be friends as they discovered they both were engaged in similar Baptist causes.

    In the end, however, the purported piety of the co-defendants proved to be a stumbling block. At the sentencing hearing Nov. 30, 2000, Judge Roger Vinson said he found Kaemmerling's conduct at trial to run counter to his religious presentation.

    "With respect to Mr. Kaemmerling, his testimony, I have noted that I did not find his testimony to be truthful and consistent with the overwhelming weight of the evidence of the case, and that has been confirmed by the jury," the judge said. "I will simply count the number of occasions, 28 separate occasions, Mr. Kaemmerling gave testimony that was untruthful during the course of the trial. I consider this to be an obstruction of justice."

    Beard, the prosecuting attorney, responded to Vinson's declaration later in the sentencing hearing.

    "He has intentionally hurt people for his personal gain in contradiction of what he says he stands for," Beard declared. "He has put in a bad light every other individual of like position. ... What Mr. Kaemmerling did here is all the more terrible because he holds up his entire life as a hypocrisy."

    As he waits in federal prison in Beaumont, Kaemmerling continues to maintain his complete innocence of any wrongdoing. And he insists that he will be exonerated on appeal.

    "I will state plainly that I have never taken any money illegally," he told the Standard. "The business transactions we brokered were legitimate and real with positive results both possible and intended."

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Jim Newton provided additional research and reporting for this article. This article, published in the Aug. 6, 2001, issue of the Baptist Standard, is a copyrighted article and may not be reproduced in part or in whole without permission from the publisher. Other media outlets are free to quote from the article; however, due to the legal issues involved in this report, the article may not be edited and reproduced without express permission from the Baptist Standard.)

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/10/2001 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , (c) 2001 Baptist Standard Publishing Co. | with 0 comments

    Image is everything

    August 3 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Image is everything | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Image is everything

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor I'm about to bust trying to get my hands on one of those new purple pills. Aren't you? They must be something really special. That's the impression I got when I first heard a radio commercial for Nexium, a new product from drug maker AstraZeneca.

    The commercial was upbeat and the voices were warm and welcoming. An excited, pleasant-sounding woman says, "I didn't know there was a new purple pill until I talked to my doctor."

    A male announcer concludes the pitch with, "It's new, it's purple, and maybe you need to know about it!"

    I was ready to do a U-turn on I-440 and rush over to my doctor's office so I could get some of those marvelous new purple pills.

    The commercial never bothered to say what the purple pill was for. Asthma? Arthritis? Incontinence? Influenza? Obesity?

    Somehow the lack of specifics bothers me. Prescription drugs are serious business, but they're being marketed like candy.

    A television commercial I saw later added little to my information base, except for the competitive tidbit that the new purple pill would be a good alternative for people who take Prilosec. Since I don't use Prilosec, however, it was little help. I wondered if Prilosec is purple, too.

    I had to go on the Internet and search for Nexium's home page ( to learn that it's a heartburn medication designed to treat acid reflux disease.

    I still don't know what purple coloring has to do with medical efficacy. The commercials remind me of Ray Stevens' debut song from 1961, which attributed miracle cures to "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills."

    In our world, it seems, image is everything and substance hardly seems to matter.

    I can hear the commercial now. The breathless woman: "I didn't know there was a new church with purple pews until I talked to my neighbor!" The authoritative announcer: "It's new, it has purple pews, and maybe you should know about it."

    Maybe not.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Taking aim at sucker

    August 3 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Taking aim at sucker | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Taking aim at suckers

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor I commiserated in a column about this time last year that my tomato crop had degenerated into a collection of tall vines bearing golf-ball sized-fruit. I bemoaned the pitiful appearance of my minuscule 'maters and concluded that a nearby hedgerow of red tip photinias must have robbed them of needed sunlight. Cleve Wilkie of Kinston heard my plea and wrote a nice two-page letter to set me straight and render sage wisdom on the growing of one-slice-per-sandwich tomatoes.

    Wilkie is retired from the N.C. Baptist Children's Homes and widely respected for his contributions there. He still writes an earthy and delightful column for Charity and Children, and he harbors a wealth of information about growing tomatoes.

    I was already doing much of what Brother Wilkie suggested - using lots of mulch and lime and such - and he counseled the addition of elements such as chemical sprays to bolster blossoms in setting fruit and preventing the perennial problem of blossom-end rot.

    But there was one piece of advice that made all the difference, and it had to do with suckers. My friend, Roger Hensley of State Road, had given me the same advice a couple of years before, but it seemed like so much trouble that I didn't follow through. I should have taken Roger's advice.

    After Brother Wilkie explained to me the science of suckering (complete with hand-drawn illustrations), I decided it was worth a try. "Suckers" are shoots that sprout in the junction of two stems at about the same time blossoms begin to form. If allowed to grow unchecked, they will produce blossoms and fruit of their own, but in doing so, they draw strength and resources from the first round of blossoms.

    The result is scads of little-bitty tomatoes and hardly any big ones.

    The solution is to check the vines every few days and pinch those little suckers off. Since my "garden" consists of only six tomato vines surrounded by a short row of green beans, it doesn't take very long. And, as I search for suckers, I can practice my imitation of Barney Fife saying "Nip it! Nip it! Nip it in the bud!"

    After faithfully following Wilkie's advice, my vines produced tomatoes that could strike fear into the heart of a bad comedian. The quantity is down, but the quality is up. My tomatoes are healthy, hefty and lip-smackin' good.

    Now I can share the red fruit of happiness with neighbors and friends without having to apologize for their puny proportions. Just one tomato goes a long way.

    My thanks to Cleve, whose lifetime of ministry extends even to the fruits of the field and to the gardening-challenged.

    I'm still a preacher at heart, and couldn't learn about growing big tomatoes without seeing an obvious analogy to a problem we face in fostering Christian maturity and church growth.

    How often have we as Christians allowed extraneous activities to distract us and keep us from growing in our faith? How often have churches gotten themselves into so many different projects and ministries that they can't do any of them well?

    Our resources can become so stretched by a multiplication of well-intended but energy-draining activities that we can become ineffective in our core mission to God and to our families. We become like tomato plants diverting our energies to hungry suckers and failing to nourish the work of our first calling.

    Sometimes it's better to do a few things well than to do many things poorly.

    Spend a few minutes thinking about personal, church or even denominational "suckers" that might be diverting needed energy from your life and ministry as an individual or from your church's work as part of God's family.

    It could be time well spent.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Love them and support them

    August 3 2001 by Steve Hendrix , A first-person account

    Love them and support them | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Love them and support them

    By Steve Hendrix A first-person account We had talked around the subject, about the subject, and through the subject for five years before making the decision. The subject was, if and when, mom and dad should sell their home and move to the Brookridge Retirement Home in Winston-Salem. The decision was a difficult one for each of us. We each approached it from a different perspective. I will try to give you my perspective as a child who lived near parents whose ability to care for themselves was declining at an ever-increasing rate.

    Since I was the remaining child living in the same area as my parents, it was clear that as their health deteriorated their reliance on my wife and me would increase. While I watched the two most stable people in my life slowly become dependent on friends and family, I experienced a multitude of emotions. These emotions ranged from fear to regret and from grief to anger.

    The combination of emotions, the responsibility I felt and a desire to achieve as much normalcy in our lives as possible, created a unique blend of mutual dependency that served as a strengthening agent for our entire family's relationship.

    With mom suffering from progressive dementia, and dad suffering through cancer, diabetes, heart arrhythmia and kidney failure, I felt it my obligation and responsibility to help them make a decision that logically was the best choice for their health and long term care. My failure in successfully convincing them of their need for this move was frustrating, at a minimum, and infuriating occasionally. Mom, dad and I held many discussions about their decision and the opportunity for conflict and divisiveness was ever present. Through the pastoral care skills dad had learned during his 35-plus-year career as a minister, he was able to influence these discussions. While they were always difficult, we were always able to end in a spirit of life and unity.

    One day after discussing our family's situation with a wise friend, my perspective changed. After quietly and attentively listening to me relate our situation, my friend offered this opinion: "Steve, your mom, to some degree, and dad are still capable of determining what is best for their lives. It is not your job to convince them of anything, or decide for them (until they can no longer mentally make that decision.) Your job is to give them information that they may not have and support them in the decisions they make."

    At first, I was a little put off but in a day or two the wisdom of his advise became overwhelmingly clear, and I knew that the choice was theirs. They were still the people with the most at risk with the decision of if and when to move from their home to a retirement facility.

    In closing, I offer this advice. Love them, support them, facilitate their decisions, but don't try to decide for them.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Hendrix is the senior vice president for store operations for Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation. He is a 1969 graduate of Gardner-Webb University and a 1971 graduate of Wake Forest University. He is a member of College Park Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.)

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve Hendrix , A first-person account | with 0 comments

    NAMB employees leave over BF&M

    August 3 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    NAMB employees leave over BF&M | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001
  • The removal of the statement that says Jesus is the criterion by which Scripture should be interpreted.
  • The inclusion of what Hutchinson called "one-way submission," in the amendment on the family that calls for wives to submit graciously to their husbands.

    "I favor mutual submission as referenced in Ephesians 5:21," he said.

  • The prohibition against women pastors in the paragraph on the church.

    Hutchinson said that after he discussed the issue with his superiors they "agreed to disagree" and he chose to resign.

    "I could not look myself in the face in the morning if I signed the Baptist Faith and Message just to keep a job," he said.

    Hutchinson said he had affirmed the 1963 version of the BF&M five times during his 20 years with NAMB, the last being in 1994.

    "With the changes that occurred in 1998 and 2000, I could no longer do that," he said.

    The family amendment was added to the BF&M in 1998. The statement was revised in 2000.

    Hutchinson said NAMB plans to honor the three employees at a reception.

    "I felt very good about the way we concluded my service at the board," he said. "I have no ax to grind in wanting to be judgmental or vengeful toward the agency."

    Hutchinson said he prefers to remember his good experiences with NAMB and its predecessor, the Home Mission Board.

    "I feel deeply about my sentiments," he said. "I was willing to pay whatever price necessary."

    Hutchinson graduated from Mars Hill College. He served as director of church and community ministries for the New River Association from 1981 to 1987.

    He said he is exploring his career options and hopes to return to North Carolina.

    Pickle could not be reached for comment.

    Escobar said that he decided to take early retirement effective Aug. 1. He would not say if he left rather than sign the BF&M.

    "I wish I could discuss that with you, but part of my agreement allowing me to take early retirement was that I was not going to discuss publicly the reasons other than I was taking early retirement," Escobar said. "Under contract, I'm not at liberty to discuss it."

    NAMB's King said he did not know the specific conditions of the retirement agreements.

    "I know often when someone leaves the board or other types of employment, it's not unusual to have an agreement that we won't speak critically of one another," he said.

    King called the three men "good employees, brothers in Christ."

    "It's sad for us that they've left, but they're the ones that made the determination that they couldn't conduct their ministries in accordance with guidelines set down by the owners of the agency, the Southern Baptist Convention," he said.

    King said the three were given severance packages that are "fair" and additional assistance to help their transitions to other ministries.

    NAMB missionaries are asked to affirm the BF&M during the application process, King said.

    "We have not gone back to the mission force of 5,000 and asked them to reaffirm the current Baptist Faith and Message," he said.

  • Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    NAMB employees leave over BF&M

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor Three North American Mission Board (NAMB) employees, including one with North Carolina ties, have left the agency over disagreements with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

    NAMB spokesman Martin King said Gerry Hutchinson, Denoso Escobar and George Pickle "have left the board because they said they could not do their ministries in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message."

    Hutchinson, a N.C. native, was head of church and community ministries evangelism for NAMB. Escobar was an associate in that department. Pickle was a chaplaincy evangelism associate.

    Hutchinson resigned effective July 31. Escobar and Pickle took early retirement.

    King said NAMB's professional and management employees, which make up about half the agency's 425 workers, were given a copy of the BF&M to review in late May or early June. The employees were then given a two-part document, he said.

    The first part contained a statement that the employee had read and agreed with the BF&M. If the employee said "No," to this, they had to explain why.

    The employees were then asked to sign the second part of the document promising to carry out their responsibilities "in accordance with and not contrary to" the current edition of the BF&M.

    King said it was possible for an employee to say "No" on the first part, as long as their differences with the BF&M were minor and they signed the second part.

    Hutchinson, Escobar and Pickle would not sign the second part, King said.

    "They said they couldn't work according to the guidelines of the Southern Baptist Convention," he said.

    King said NAMB sees the BF&M as guidance for SBC agencies.

    "That's different from a creed which is forced on a local church, an association or a state convention," he said. "A local church is autonomous from the Southern Baptist Convention, but the agencies are not. They are owned by the Southern Baptist Convention."

    Hutchinson said he told his supervisors why he could not sign. He said he objects to three parts of the revised BF&M:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C.

    August 3 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

    Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C. | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C.

    By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor The Baptist presence in North Carolina has declined dramatically in the past 20 years, according to a Baptist State Convention (BSC) analysis of population and church records.

    A report by the BSC's Strategic Initiatives and Planning Group shows that membership in N.C. Baptist churches is not keeping up with the state's population.

    Tom Jenkins, the group's executive leader, wrote the report. It is based on an analysis of statistics from the Census Bureau and the Annual Church Profile, the annual report churches send to the BSC.

    From 1980 to 2000, the percentage of Baptists in the state has dropped from about 25 percent to about 14 percent, the report said.

    "In real terms this means that the Baptist presence in North Carolina has dramatically declined," said the report, which is posted on the BSC's Web site at

    During the 20-year period, the state's population increased by more than two million, or about 26 percent, to more than eight million, according to the report. Meanwhile, membership in N.C. Baptist churches grew by less than 55,000, or about 1 percent.

    "Most of the gain in membership came from new churches and a large percentage of them were ethnic churches that the convention helped start," the report said.

    The report also shows that giving to churches grew three times as fast as giving to the BSC.

    Between 1980 and 2000, financial contributions to churches increased from about $200 million to about $700 million per year, an increase of more than 300 percent. Money that was passed on to the BSC grew from about $16.8 million to about $34.5 million, or more than 100 percent.

    "During that same period of time, the Cooperative Program dollars shrank from over 8 percent of the receipts of our churches to an average of 4.88 percent per church," the report said.

    Overall, offerings in N.C. Baptist churches fell well short of 10 percent, according to the report.

    "Based upon per capita income in North Carolina, if Baptists were to tithe, over $2.4 billion would be available for kingdom work," the report said.

    The best strategies for growth in the BSC are starting new churches and revitalizing existing churches, the report states. Both are included in goals stressed by BSC Executive Director-treasurer Jim Royston.

    Historically, new churches grow faster than existing churches, the report said. In many associations, most of the growth since 1980 is in new churches. "With an unchurched population in North Carolina of more than four million people, starting new churches to reach specific people groups is one of our best strategies for reaching these four million people," the report said.

    More than 2,000 of the BSC's 3,800 churches are declining or on a plateau, according to the report. Some are in rural areas that aren't growing. Others are in "high growth areas" but haven't responded to cultural and population changes.

    "These churches may sense a new vision in their context," the report said.

    Some churches might not be able to practically consider numerical growth, but all churches should re-examine their ministries, according to the report.

    "The positive side of the data is that it tells us that we have the greatest opportunity to share the gospel with the greatest number of people that we have ever had," the report said.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

    Retreat at Caraway filled with fun

    August 3 2001 by Mary Moorefield , BR Correspondent

    Retreat at Caraway filled with fun | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Retreat at Caraway filled with fun

    By Mary Moorefield BR Correspondent CARAWAY - A few minutes at one of the Happiness Retreats leaves little doubt how organizers came up with the name. The three-day events for people with developmental disabilities are filled with singing, clapping, games, crafts, parties and all-around fun. Little wonder why the retreats are the largest hosted by Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro each year.

    The retreats are sponsored by the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Special Ministries Department. This year three, three-day retreats were held July 28 to Aug. 3.

    The retreats have been taking place since the mid 1970s. Originally, the retreats were held at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Caswell, then moved to the campsites at Caraway and finally into the conference center.

    The retreats were started so people with disabilities could have a special place to come to be themselves and learn about God.

    "They need to know the Lord like everyone else," said Donnie Wiltshire, special ministries consultant for the BSC's General Board.

    The Happiness Retreats are a time when those with disabilities can come together and learn about God, have fun with others and make lots of new friends. Many church groups come year after year.

    First Baptist Church in Greensboro has been coming to the Happiness Retreats since the early 1980s.

    "The group really looks forward to this from year to year," said Sally Skidmore, a chaperone. "They talk about it all year long."

    Jerry Woolery, associate pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Charlotte, said his group has been coming for 12-15 years.

    "This gives them the chance to feel normal and go on a trip like other groups in the church do," he said.

    The campers participate in many activities that go on at most summer camps. In the morning, they attend classes patterned after typical Vacation Bible School (VBS) classes. In fact, the theme for the retreats is the same as the VBS theme each year. This year the theme was "Truth Trackers - The Secret of the Stone Tablets."

    The teachers decorated their rooms in safari and desert styles to go along with the theme.

    In the afternoon, the campers spend time doing arts and crafts, swimming, using puppets and participating in other fun activities. The evening brings a time of fun, high-energy worship.

    "It's unlike anything you've ever seen before," Wiltshire said.

    The service opens with group singing, followed by a performance by the Happiness Retreat Choir, which is made up of campers. On the night of July 31, several members of the camp helped to present a puppet show of the "Daniel in the Lion's Den" story.

    Other events that occur during the week include a talent show and a theme party.

    "The talent show is a chance for the campers to perform a talent without fear of embarrassment, and they are encouraged by others," Wiltshire said.

    The party is a time for games and activities that are based on the retreat theme. The campers participate in games such as mummy-wrap races and camel races.

    All of the special needs campers have their favorite aspects of the retreat.

    "The prayers are my favorite part," said Bobby Gilreath of Greensboro's First Baptist. "I've been praying for a long time."

    Music is a big part of the retreat as well.

    "The music and the parties are the best part," said Gerry McDaniel of Highland Baptist Church in Raleigh.

    All of the campers enjoy the retreat year after year because of the friends they make.

    "You can't help but go home happy, but you miss the people that you met," said Dee Griffin of Cornerstone Baptist. "I'm glad I get to come back every year."

    In addition to the classes and activities for the special needs campers, there are also classes and seminars for parents, chaperones and counselors. They learn helpful information and new techniques of care for their special needs members.

    "They leave invigorated and have a new enthusiasm just like the campers," said Marci Campbell, a special needs consultant with LifeWay Christian Resources. "This is all a reminder for the leaders as well, that this is what it's all about."

    The Caraway staff appreciates what the special needs retreat means to Caraway.

    "This group looks more like the kingdom of God than anyone," said Charlie Wilson of Caraway's guest services. "I'm reminded of Jesus' words because everyone was invited. They are not shy at expressing love for others."

    Carlton and Geraldine McDaniel of Raleigh's Highland Baptist made the Happiness Retreat a family affair. Their daughter is one of the campers and the other members of their family came along to help.

    They would like to see special needs programs grow in other churches like their own. "In our church, we brought the need," Carlton McDaniel said. "From that, it progressed from a broad community need to a more specific family need."

    As much as the camp means to the campers, it also has special meaning for third-year director Judy Autry.

    "I get so much out of each retreat - lots of hugs, love and the fact that they have such an open spirit," she said. "They teach me how to be who I really am, and it rejuvenates your own spirit to be here."

    The 496 campers and staff who attended the Happiness Retreats this year likely left with energy and a feeling that they were part of something special.

    "I'm already looking forward to next year," Griffin said.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Mary Moorefield , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 19: The Body of Christ - God's Family

    August 3 2001 by Catherine Painter , Ephesians 2:11-22

    Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 19: The Body of Christ - God's Family | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

    Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 19: The Body of Christ - God's Family

    By Catherine Painter Ephesians 2:11-22 From under the dryer I heard a beautician berating the poor man. "That scoundrel walked out! After his wife raised their house full of children by herself, he came home and that fool thing took him back!"

    "What a love story," I thought, about to commend the couple; but remembering my mother's quote: "Speech is silver, but silence is gold," I kept quiet.

    Several women took turns playing "Ain't It Awful?" Noting my failure to join the game, the beautician lifted my dryer, demanding, "Well, what do you think?"

    "He's a real candidate for the garbage can," I said, "like you and me when God took us back."

    "You'd take him back?" she screamed. I sensed her trying to get under my skin, but I was already there and didn't have room for her.

    "It's not about me," I said with a doleful look. "I don't know if I'd have the grace to take him back, but her love was much like God's love for us the day He took us back at Calvary."

    The room was deathly quiet. An invisible wall rose, leaving me outside. I figured I'd find another shop.

    Need for Reconciliation (Eph. 2:11-12) Robert Frost said, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." Paul reminds the Ephesians that they were once without hope. The dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles was forbidding. No Jew would even help a Gentile in childbirth to avoid aiding another Gentile's entering the world. When a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish family held a funeral, never speaking the child's name again.

    Ephesians weren't atheists; they worshiped many gods, not knowing the true God. They hadn't shared the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 17:1ff), when the sign of the covenant was circumcision, or the covenant God made with Israel on Mt. Sinai (Jer. 31:1-3, Ex. 20), the sign being The Ten Commandments.

    Means and Purpose of Reconciliation (Eph. 2:13-18) Paul earlier contrasted their condition progressing "from death to life" (Eph. 2:1-10). Now he describes their moving "from distance to nearness," as though their orbit changed. Formerly away from God's favor, they now bask near His light.

    God didn't accomplish this by making the Gentile a Jew, or the Jew a Gentile, but by making the two into one new person. Visualize God's melting silver and brass and producing gold. Then at Calvary, Jesus reconciled the new person to God. Now, in Christ, they're one with each other and one with God.

    This idea of oneness suggests a corporate body - the church, and that idea is prominent throughout the rest of the epistle. Paul repeats the word one, emphasizing Christ's unifying work: "made the two one" (v. 14), "one new man" (v. 15), "one body" (v. 16), and "one Spirit" (v. 18).

    He mentions the Trinity (v. 18), stressing that our access to the Father is not a natural privilege, but a relationship of spiritual experience (see Isa. 54:2).

    Results of Reconciliation (Eph. 2:19-22) God always intended to dwell among His people: in the Garden, tabernacle, holy places, temple and finally his church. We need a container to carry the water of life, and our best container is the church - the body of Christ, not the building.

    It's within the body we find direction for working with God, courage for timid hearts, healing for inner wounds and strength for daily tasks. Often we find opportunity for reconciliation.

    Once a sheep didn't come home. The shepherd searched and located it. Unable

    to drive it home, and finding it too heavy to carry, he returned to the fold and brought the whole flock to the lost sheep. The stray followed the flock home. When a member strays, for whatever reason, it's the flock's privilege and obligation to bring it home.

    I experienced this on my return to the beauty shop when I discovered that someone had joined me outside the dividing wall a week earlier.

    "Quick! Tell me what's wrong with my life," she whispered. "I hate myself; my husband won't attend church, and my pastor can't stand me."

    "I can only tell you what was wrong with my life," I said, and described my conversion to Christ. I gave her material to share with her husband. The next week she glowed, describing her new relationship with her Christian husband and reconciliation with her pastor.

    The next week I inquired about her absence. She didn't work there anymore. God had offered me one opportunity to reach for her, and I recalled Jesus' warning: "Night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4b).

    Somewhere a sheep is lost and lonely, and we never know how soon it will be too late. I'll see you at the gate of the sheepfold.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Catherine Painter , Ephesians 2:11-22 | with 0 comments

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