December 2001

Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ

December 14 2001 by Tom Greene , Matthew 2:13-23

Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ | Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ

By Tom Greene Matthew 2:13-23 Christmas, with its beautiful simplicity, reminds us that everything is interwoven with mystery, penetrated by the sublime. Matthew illustrates this in recounting an old story about three royal astrologers. With innocence and curiosity these mysterious travelers set out on a star trek, to investigate a major disturbance in the sky and to worship a major disturbance in the world. They went out not knowing, befuddled by a star, beckoned by a child, betrayed by a ruler. Their story serves to reawaken our sense of the beyond in our midst. Subtly, at a level where we don't merely understand but feel, we sense the oneness of everything, both physical and spiritual, in God.

Being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the travelers returned home. Joseph goes to bed with his conversations with the wise men on his mind. What should he do? In the night, God speaks through his imagination in the form of an angel (v.13) and the holy family takes their first trip.

Matthew sends Mary and Joseph a long way to make a point, other than getting away from Herod. It is that Jesus is the new Moses (v.15). He also makes us aware that even on their journey to Egypt He was with them.

There are stories in early Christian lore about the journey to Egypt. They idealize and try to smooth out the difficulty of the journey. They tell of palm trees that miraculously bend down to feed the holy family, lions and leopards that wagged their tails in worship.

It's human to idealize.

But Scripture doesn't. The flight to Egypt is a reminder, an anticipation, of the costly and painful price of wholeness for us all. If Jesus is the new Moses, come to deliver us into a new kingdom, he must enter into Egypt where all of us are and bring us out by a dangerous and difficult way.

It is tempting to sit and wait for life to come to us, to forsake the journey and simply subsist. But doing that, we stop living life and squander it. Life will not come to us on our terms. Joseph's dream was a call to enter the full danger of spiritual journey.

Joseph and Mary knew some of the reasons for their journey. Their major motivation was to escape the possibility that Herod would come after Jesus.

This raises the question of suffering. Innocent baby boys are killed for nothing more than political insecurity. The point is not how many died, but why God, who could intervene to save Jesus, did not intervene to save these little innocent babies.

Although Matthew wanted to show that Jesus' life was a fulfillment of the Old Testament and that God is not the author of evil, the problem is not eliminated. Evil is not God's will, but its occurrence is still God's mystery.

Matthew affirms that God was not the author of evil, but he does assert that God has the final word. It is God's way to out-wait evil.

It may seem to us that sometimes our lives are disconnected, or insignificant or full of pain, with no real or obvious meaning. We see no thread running through our lives, no words to make sense of them. We just mutter and hum something that sounds like the right words, hoping we are close. The danger in mumbling is that we lose hope that there really are words for us, for our lives.

But we are a song with all the words. Words that God knows. Start singing it; keep singing it, this holy song that is ours. Knowing that suffering is inescapable in this life, God has the final word. Let us accept Matthew's invitation to hope and not despair in the face of life's realities. When we rejoice in the mystery of God we will experience a change of heart - a new hope.

That hope rests in the knowledge that God is alive.

God is working in our world and in our lives.

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12/14/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Matthew 2:13-23 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Jan. 6: Supper Redefined

December 14 2001 by Steve Zimmerman , 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Formations lesson for Jan. 6: Supper Redefined | Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Formations lesson for Jan. 6: Supper Redefined

By Steve Zimmerman 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 A black family had assembled for their annual reunion. People came from all across the country. Everything was going along fine until a family squabble arose. Before too long, people had their feelings hurt. Many relatives took sides - tension and frustration were running high on this special day.

Things were looking bleak until the matriarch of the family began in a quiet voice to tell the story about her grand- parents escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. In just a few minutes she had beautifully tied them all into her story and reminded them of the important reasons of why they are family. The reunion was saved!

Paul was just like this grandmother in his letters to the Corinthian church. He had to remind them of their spiritual heritage and freedom through Jesus Christ. With all the pressures from their world, these early Christians had forgotten that they were supposed to be a family where Jesus is the head.

The apostle noticed evidence of this problem in their observance of the Lord's Supper. He described the signs he saw of unhealthy worship. He also gave them some good pointers about what worship should become.

As believers, we can take these ideas to heart and apply them to our worship.

Signs of Sickness in the Family (1 Corinthians 11:17-22) Even the early church had division in its ranks. The new church was struggling with social pressures and how these challenges applied to them. It seemed, though, that their behavior reflected the world around them rather than their new faith in Christ.

People were under the same roof at church, but worlds apart in their actions toward each other. The members who were well-off in society expected the same treatment when they came to church. Those members, however, on the other side of the "tracks" got about the same treatment in church as they did on the outside.

Chaos and too much food and drink were also common in their worship setting. As Baptists we don't struggle as much with the problem of drink in church as we do the other two sicknesses. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, the drinks of jealousy, arrogance and the other vices cloud our vision of who we are to worship at the Lord's table.

Healthy Worship (1 Corinthians 11: 27-34) After painting a beautiful image of what the Lord did in the Last Supper, Paul turns his attention to what these new struggling Christians must do in order to worship. He knew the survival of the early church rested on how they worshipped. Without a clear direction and purpose, these young believers were destined to be spiritually hungry.

The first aspect of healthy worship, Paul described, is a good dose of self-examination. He challenged each member to reflect upon the price Jesus paid at Calvary for spiritual freedom. Today when we take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on our Savior, we, too, can be ready to worship.

Turning our attention away from self-judgment is the second part of Paul's remedy. Our natural tendency, when we have no one but ourselves to be the judge, is to come out better. However, the apostle showed the early Christians that they are now under new management. All of us who call ourselves Christian have been bought with a price and need to come under the Lord's authority and not our own.

Paul points to other signs of healthy worship. Waiting is so hard to do in the fast paced world in which we live. The urgency of living in the now has made us accustomed to expecting the same results at church. In the discipline of slowing down in worship we see that our attention changes from selfish desires to those of our fellow believer's needs and struggles.

The priority of hunger is Paul's final answer. When we worship, we do not need to have substitutes for heavenly manna. True worship can only take place when we are spiritually hungry for God.

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12/14/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve Zimmerman , 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 | with 0 comments

Commission urges attention to religious freedom in war

December 7 2001 by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

Commission urges attention to religious freedom in war | Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Commission urges attention to religious freedom in war

By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press WASHINGTON - Religious freedom shouldn't become a casualty in America's war on terrorism, says a federal commission that monitors religious liberty around the world. Some observers say basic human rights may be already falling by the wayside in Central Asia and the Middle East as the United States focuses on building a strong international coalition against terrorism.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has in recent weeks asked President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to heed religious-freedom concerns in strategies to build both a military coalition and a new government in Afghanistan following U.S. military action.

"The commission believes strongly that the United States needs to be laying the groundwork now for a future Afghanistan that respects the rights of all persons - including the right to freedom of religion and belief - and strengthens elements of religious tolerance," the commission said in a letter to Powell.

The commission later warned both Bush and Powell against becoming too friendly with Uzbekistan, citing the nation's "abysmal treatment of religious exercise." The former Soviet republic, which has been used to support American military operations in nearby Afghanistan, has been documented for severe repression of religious practice.

In a letter, the commission said any non-humanitarian U.S. aid to the Uzbek government should be tied to ending religious repression. That includes the release of Uzbek citizens imprisoned for their faith and dissolving government agencies that regulate religion.

In a Nov. 27 hearing in Washington, the commission heard testimony from experts on religious freedom and the war on terrorism. It was the commission's first hearing since U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. Witnesses cautioned that many U.S. allies in the effort are listed among the world's worst abusers of religious freedom.

Paula Dobriansky, deputy to the Secretary of State for international religious-liberty issues, said the Bush administration hasn't lessened its commitment to religious liberty in the wake of Sept. 11.

"Many have raised concerns that we are partnering for the sake of our counter-terrorism objectives with some countries with less-than-stellar human rights records," she told the commission.

"We have not, however, suppressed our objections to their human-rights violations because of this increased cooperation."

Other experts testifying before the commission, meanwhile, said promoting religious liberty in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia would ultimately serve the long-term interests of U.S. national security.

"The widening of religious freedom must be a cornerstone of this effort (the war on terrorism)," said Amy Hawthorne, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "This is not merely a humanitarian objective - it is essential to the promotion of U.S. interests in a stable, productive, peaceful Middle East."

The repression of fundamentalist religious groups in order to prevent terrorism in nations such as Pakistan, ironically, generally results in resentment and even more extremist religious sentiment, Hawthorne said. Interaction among faith groups in a religiously free society, meanwhile, tends to promote general tolerance and respect.

"Extremists like the al-Qaida network live in a symbiotic relationship with authoritarianism and disrespect for human dignity," she said.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
12/7/2001 12:00:00 AM by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Indigenous believers struggle to share faith

December 7 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Indigenous believers struggle to share faith | Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Indigenous believers struggle to share faith

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor In a bright corner room of a high-rise office building in a modern city of Southeast Asia, a slim, dark-skinned man speaks with a sense of urgency. His name is Jonathan. He is a Christian in a Muslim land, and he expresses a deep burden for his Islamic countrymen. The populations of the two countries where he works are about 60 percent Muslim, roughly equivalent to the number of people in the predominant ethnic group. To be true to one's heritage is to be Muslim. Most of the other residents, and the vast majority of Christians, are descended from families who immigrated from China and India.

In this part of the world - where there are more Muslims than in the Middle East - evangelizing Muslims is illegal, and it is likewise illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. In some cases, those wishing to convert face a mandatory period of "rehabilitation" designed to coerce the new believer back into the Islamic fold. Reports suggest that the experience is not pleasant.

It is dangerous, then, for a Christian to proclaim the gospel to Muslims, and it is dangerous for a Muslim to believe.

But Jonathan perseveres. He was shamed into it, he said, by an American missionary. "He had come to my country at great personal sacrifice to do what I should do," Jonathan says. "As God sent out Gentile Christians to make the Jews jealous, he sent an American to make me jealous."

Jonathan realized that the people of his church mixed only with other Christians, most of them Chinese or Indian. He, like his fellow church members, had not included Muslims in his witnessing efforts.

But God changed all that. Several years ago, he sensed God's call to organize a group of about 25 people who were interested in a ministry to the major ethnic group. A larger network in several cities has grown from that initial meeting, he says, of people working in their own way to share Christ with their Muslim neighbors.

In witnessing, Jonathan stresses the importance of learning the local language, of making friends, of entering the worldview of Muslims and learning to think as they think. He does not come "head on" with a Bible in hand, but uses texts from the Qur'an that speak of Nabi Isa (the prophet Jesus) to lead them to a fuller understanding of Jesus.

People of this ethnic group who come to Christ often do so as the result of a miracle, a dream, or a vision, Jonathan says - more often than from direct evangelistic efforts.

Jonathan's strategy encourages new Christ-followers to remain in the mosque, where they have many contacts, and work quietly to lead others to saving faith in Christ. The most effective witness is an insider, he says.

Others think that strategy is heretical at worst or syncretistic at best, and encourage new believers to leave the mosque altogether and unite publicly with a church.

Imad is one who prefers the "coming out" strategy. He speaks to the same group of visitors, in the same room.

Imad left a successful professional career to focus on evangelism among the Muslim peoples in his country. Much of his current work is with international students in a large city - he recently baptized several people from the Middle East, he says. He knows most converts will remain "quiet believers," but he encourages them to participate in cell groups with other Christians and to use their personal influence to lead others to Christ.

Some new believers find themselves in a quandary, he says. If they want to get married in a Christian ceremony or attend a Bible school, they need a baptismal certificate to prove they are Christians. Yet, some churches won't baptize former Muslims for fear of reprisals. Sometimes, Imad baptizes new Christians in the sea.

In a mountainous province of another country, local believers struggle with similar issues. Their country alone is home to more Muslims than any other, more than all Middle Eastern countries combined.

There is great resistance to Christian evangelism, especially among certain tribal groups that are particularly hostile to the gospel. Violence, murder, and church burnings are not uncommon in some areas.

In a modest hotel room on a hillside street of a bustling city, two nervous young men talk to a group of visitors about their faith. An arrow painted on the ceiling of the room points toward Mecca so guests who observe daily prayers of the Islamic faith can orient themselves correctly.

Rahim and Khalid live within the Muslim community. Their national ID cards still indicate "Muslim" as their religious preference. Yet, they are followers of Christ.

They remain within their religious community and pray at the appointed times, but pray to God through Christ. They continue to recite the Muslim creed, they say, because it emphasizes the oneness of God and ultimately pointed them to Jesus.

The Qur'an speaks of Isa al Masih (Jesus the messiah) as a prophet who was born of a virgin and untouched by sin, Rahim says, passages that provide an opening for him to share additional truth about Jesus. Other passages say Jesus is the word of God, and that He will show the way.

Both men say they have led many family members to faith in Christ, people they believe they could not have reached if they had come out of the Muslim community. Miracles and answered prayer are often instrumental in leading Muslims to Christ, they say.

Khalid cites Paul's advice in 1 Cor. 7:17-34 as a basis for his decision to remain within the Muslim faith community: "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him" (v. 17). The text speaks of new believers who are circumcised or uncircumcised, slaves or free, married or unmarried, suggesting that they remain as they are. Khalid believes the text can apply to those born in the Muslim community, as well.

Others see it differently.

On the opposite side of the same city, five men and a woman stand before the same group of visitors, gathered inside a small church. The heat is stifling, but one of the men wears a heavy jacket, zipped to the throat. They sing hymns for the visitors in the national language and in their ethnic dialect.

And then they speak, each in turn, as an American missionary translates. They have come from surrounding villages, led to Christ and/or recruited to leadership by Susi, an indefatigable woman whose husband is pastor of the church. They believe that those who follow Christ should come out of the Muslim community and openly declare their faith.

It isn't easy, for their people are proud of their Muslim heritage.

When Susi introduces the woman, she tells of her personal devotion, how she rises at 3:00 a.m. every morning to pray and read scripture. She was shy at first, the woman says, but has grown strong in her faith and learned to be a leader. About 25 other villagers, many of them new believers, meet with her regularly.

A man with upswept hair describes how he employs his people's deep love of music in his efforts to gain the trust of village leaders. He has helped them to understand that Christians and Muslims can co-exist, "so they no longer look at Christians as a cat pouncing on a mouse."

Another man describes his conversion in 1982, after he was given a tract containing the third chapter of John's gospel. Six of his family members now believe, he says. He reported happily that believers in his village have procured a building in which to worship. Someone tried to burn it but was unsuccessful. He praises God for protection.

The man in the coat is only middle-aged, but his face is deeply lined, as with care or hard toil. He speaks of how his own son persuaded some "troublemakers" to attempt to strong-arm him into recanting his faith.

"Last February they pushed me into a truck," he says, "and took me to a remote place, and began to threaten me."

He pauses, remembering. "I said to them, 'I know you can kill me, but I have the Lord Jesus, and you can't kill my soul.'" The men returned him to his home, and his son recently asked for forgiveness, he says, and he smiles.

Susi expresses gratitude for the church and American missionaries for supporting her work in the villages. "Many believe we cannot evangelize Muslims because it is too hard," she says. "But I believe they can be reached if there are Christians who are committed and willing to give all of themselves for this work."

Yet, statistics show that less than one percent of all gifts to missions support the difficult and sometimes dangerous work among those who are most in need of the gospel - where local believers are responding to the challenge to "give all of themselves for this work."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - For security reasons, names throughout this story have been changed. The author visited Southeast Asia on a missions study tour last August.)

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
12/7/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Pastors raid Internet to preach others' sermons

December 7 2001 by G. Jeffrey Macdonald , Religion News Service

Pastors raid Internet to preach others' sermons | Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Pastors raid Internet to preach others' sermons

By G. Jeffrey Macdonald Religion News Service When churchgoers in Bluffton, Ind., attend Fellowship Baptist Church to hear Lenny Stringer preach, they might hear a sermon he wrote himself. Or they might hear one somebody else gave years ago to another congregation.

"I know and trust the men that have submitted sermons on the page" at, Stringer said. "I have even preached a few. I would love to see more sermons added on a regular basis."

Stringer is one of thousands of preachers who consult pre-printed sermons and outlines when preparing their Sunday messages. He's also among an untold number who go one step beyond consultation, into a realm some consider plagiarism, by sometimes proclaiming a message that someone else composed.

Dozens of enterprises make pre-made sermons easy to get. Busy pastors have learned to tap the Internet, especially when they're in a pinch.

According to founder Shelton Cole, the site gets most of its 500,000 hits per month during the wee hours of Saturday night. But not everyone is singing the praises of the sermon marketing industry or of those who depend on it.

David Bartlett, Lantz Professor of Preaching and Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School, says the practice of preaching "anonymously inspirational stuff as if it were your own" amounts to plagiarism and betrays the pastoral responsibility to the flock.

"A sermon needs to go to the particular needs of a particular congregation on a particular day," Bartlett said. "If you're too busy to do the job right, then get another job."

Apparently quite a few pastors find themselves too busy to generate a fresh word each week. Craig Baugh of Fredericksburg, Va., a part-time pastor, praised one sermon-supply site for helping him deliver on Sundays.

"I have been preaching here for over six years now while holding a full-time job with the federal government," Baugh wrote. "Sometimes the demands are just too much to prepare a sermon from scratch. Your site has been a real blessing."

Those who furnish sermons, outlines and illustrations have no misgivings about the endeavor. As long as users either treat the material as a springboard for their own ideas or give credit where it's due, Cole said, everybody benefits.

"They're there for people to use as they see fit," Cole said, noting that he doesn't allow copyrighted material to be posted on his site. "If God gave (a sermon or outline) to me, why couldn't God use it for someone else?"

Cole's point illuminates a reason why pastors often don't see the sermon-borrowing practice as plagiarism. Pastors have traditionally understood the preached word to be a gift of the Holy Spirit, not merely of human hand. To take credit for a sermon is to commit the sin of pride by depriving the Spirit its due. Hence, pastors are often willing to share - and borrow - sermons and outlines with few restrictions, since they do not consider any man or woman to be the true author.

"To be honest, most times when I preach an online sermon I preach it as a word of God" rather than as another person's work, said Stringer, who works 50 hours per week outside the church at a secular job. "God blesses His word as it is preached with clarity no matter who it is that came up with the outline."

"Sometimes you know what subject you want to preach on, or what verses have touched your heart, but you are having trouble getting a handle on just how to proceed," said Dennis McKinley, pastor of Landmark Baptist Church in Carlsbad, N.M. "You can then go to a site like and see what other men have done with the same subject or text. I have even taken another preacher's outline and written it to fit what the Lord is leading me to do."

All 10,000 members of Cole's site are told that the intent is for materials to serve as a catalyst for ideas. They are "not designed to replace anything in the way of study materials."

Nevertheless, he concedes, "you can't stop somebody from plagiarizing." He once found one of his sermons, titled "Three Things From Hell You Should Find in Every Baptist Church," posted on another pastor's Web site where the pastor was taking credit as the author.

"I wrote him a note saying, 'Nice sermon,'" Cole said. "He was embarrassed and took it down."

Cole operates his sermon material clearinghouse from his home in Sheffield, Mass., where he is an independent Baptist church planter.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
12/7/2001 12:00:00 AM by G. Jeffrey Macdonald , Religion News Service | with 0 comments

SBC leaders join call for prayer for Muslims

December 7 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

SBC leaders join call for prayer for Muslims | Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

SBC leaders join call for prayer for Muslims

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press RICHMOND, Va. - Six Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) agency heads have joined the denomination's president in calling for a day of prayer for Muslims Dec. 16.

Top executives of the SBC Executive Committee, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Woman's Missionary Union joined president James Merritt in a Nov. 30 letter asking Christians to pray that God would "reveal himself" to Muslims at the end of Ramadan, Islam's holy month.

"Right now, Muslims are observing their holy month of Ramadan, and many Christians have been praying that God would speak to Muslims about his love for them and their need for his forgiveness," the letter says.

The letter urges Baptists to pray that devout Muslims will "come to Christ" as they spend an entire night in prayer asking God to speak to them.

In the past, Southern Baptists have been criticized for coordinating similar evangelistic prayers with Jewish and Hindu holy days.

A spokesman for the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly National Conference of Christians and Jews) told Associated Baptist Press it is insensitive to evangelize among other faiths during their high holidays.

"Clearly, the SBC has every right to its beliefs, and the NCCJ does not disparage the faith beliefs of others unless they become highly divisive or disrespectful of others," said Brian Ross, NCCJ executive vice president.

"We continue to believe that it is disrespectful to target faith groups for conversion during their holy seasons," he said. "This is particularly of concern during this time of global instability, when many Muslims in the U.S. have been targeted with hate messages and hate crimes."

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12/7/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

State convention meetings reflect harmony and rancor

December 7 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

State convention meetings reflect harmony and rancor | Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

Friday, Dec. 7, 2001

State convention meetings reflect harmony and rancor

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Rancor between moderates and conservatives was noticeably absent in some of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) state and regional meetings this fall. In others, however, it reached new heights.

Nowhere was the rancor clearer than in Missouri. Conservatives controlling the Missouri Baptist Convention, angered by the defection of several moderate-led agencies to move to self-perpetuating trustee boards in the last year, voted to hold in escrow $2 million earmarked for five entities and prepared to go to court, if necessary, to recover their control.

In separate action on Oct. 30-31, Missouri Baptists unseated messengers from Second Baptist Church in Liberty because the church voted to leave the SBC. A credentials committee said the state convention constitution requires member churches to also belong to the SBC. Critics disputed the committee's interpretation.

While some moderate-led state conventions have said churches may relate to them without supporting the SBC, Missouri becomes the first major state convention to formally require loyalty to the SBC.

The Alaska and Utah-Idaho state conventions reaffirmed SBC ties and endorsed recent revisions to the "Baptist Faith and Message."

Highlights from other Baptist state conventions include:

Arkansas - The Arkansas Baptist State Convention, meeting on Nov. 6-7, passed a resolution denouncing Harry Potter, saying the popular children's book series promotes pagan beliefs and practices. The resolution states in part: "We will firmly denounce and speak out against any books or materials that promote witchcraft, sorcery and the casting of spells and the making of charms and specifically the Harry Potter book series and subsequent materials."

In other business, the convention elected conservatives to three convention offices and took the first of two votes to establish the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message" as the convention's doctrinal guide.

California - California Southern Baptists focused on unity and worship in their Nov. 13-14 gathering. Business items included a record budget and the re-election of convention officers by acclamation.

Florida - The Florida Baptist State Convention changed its constitution to allow the president to serve a second one-year term. They elected Dwayne Mercer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oviedo, as president. He was unopposed.

Georgia - The Georgia Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for a ban on human cloning for any reason. The statement, adopted at the Nov. 12-13 meeting, called for limiting stem-cell research to "ethically responsible sources," such as adult stem cells.

Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, easily won the convention presidency in a meeting characterized as harmonious.

Hawaii - Hawaii Baptists defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to change the convention statement of faith from the "Baptist Faith and Message, 1963 version" to "any version that has been adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention." An alternate amendment to change the wording to "The Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention" was tabled.

Illinois - Anticipating a polarized convention, the Illinois Baptist State Convention backed off confrontations over several items at its Nov. 7-8 meeting. Some disagreement erupted during discussion of a motion to affirm six statements of faith - the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925 and its three revisions in 1963, 1998 and 2000 as well as two earlier confessions of faith. The motion passed overwhelmingly.

A constitution-and-bylaws committee pulled the first reading of an amendment making the "2000 Baptist Faith and Message" the official statement of faith of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The committee said it needed more time to study the matter in light of the previous action.

A resolutions committee also agreed to withdraw a proposed statement on unity, which some found more divisive than unifying.

Indiana - Meeting for the first time in the northeast part of the state, the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, on Oct. 30-31, honored executive director Charles Sullivan for his 10 years of service.

Kentucky - Avoiding an up-or-down vote on controversial doctrines in the 2000 edition of the "Baptist Faith and Message," Kentucky Baptists overwhelmingly approved a report, during its Nov. 13-14 meeting, acknowledging "value" of faith statements while terming the Bible "the basis for all our faith and practice."

The report followed a yearlong study by a committee charged with recommending how the Kentucky Baptist Convention "can best relate" to the "Baptist Faith and Message" as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000.

Louisiana - Louisiana Baptists underscored support of the SBC Cooperative Program and affirmed biblical inerrancy in resolutions adopted during their Nov. 12-13 annual meeting.

The resolution concerning the Bible noted that Baptists have always believed the Bible to be the "holy, inspired, written Word of God." It declared "that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, true, trustworthy, without mixture of error and that, singularly or together, these words mean that every statement and word of the Scripture is absolutely accurate concerning every field of knowledge it discusses."

Mississippi - Mississippi Baptists on Oct. 30-31 elected veteran pastor and former seminary president Frank Pollard as president.

Oklahoma - The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma conducted routine business, including adoption of a resolution reaffirming ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the state convention, commended Oklahoma Baptists for their unity: "Our pattern in Oklahoma is to pray for the Lord's leadership, rather than politicking for our person or party."

South Carolina - South Carolina Baptists approved resolutions urging prayers for America, opposing a state lottery and embryonic stem-cell research, supporting public displays of the Ten Commandments and affirming the Southern Baptist Convention and its 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

Meeting Nov. 13-14, the only debate surrounded a resolution endorsing the "Baptist Faith and Message," as messengers defeated a motion to defer the matter until next year for additional study.

Tennessee - Tennessee Baptists voted to extend for a second year a committee studying whether to increase powers of the president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Tennessee is the only Southern Baptist state convention not giving its president authority to make appointments to key leadership posts.

In a setback to conservatives, however, an amendment passed expanding the current committee to include all former state convention presidents still living in Tennessee. Some of those former presidents have publicly opposed increasing the office's power.

Texas - In a meeting marked with little dissent, the Baptist General Convention of Texas declined to affirm the 2000 version of the "Baptist Faith and Message." The Oct. 29-30 convention attracted the smallest crowd since 1979.

Meeting nearby, a rival state convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, marked its third year by reporting rapid growth. Registration topped 1,000 for the first time, and the number of affiliated churches reached 900.

Virginia - The Baptist General Association of Virginia elected a new executive director John Upton, who takes over March 1 when Reginald McDonough retires after 15 years.

An alternative conservative Virginia Baptist convention, meanwhile, celebrated its fifth anniversary by reporting steady growth with a total of 334 churches. "We are but one or two generations from returning Virginia to its conservative biblical roots," said Doyle Chauncey, the executive director/treasurer of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

West Virginia - The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists were introduced to a new executive director elected just prior to their Nov. 2-3 annual meeting. Terry Harper, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va., assumed the post on Dec. 1.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
12/7/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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