February 2004

Interpretation of 'it's time to move on' : Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

February 25 2004 by

Interpretation of 'it's time to move on' : Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

Interpretation of 'it's time to move on'

In the article, "Pastor files complaint against BSC," Jim Royston is quoted as saying, "I have a high regard for Rev. Scarborough and his concern, but believe it is time to move on." I'd just point out that "it's time to move on" is what politicians - and others - say these days when they are embarrassed over a topic, know they have a weak case, and don't want to talk about it.

Roger Bullard

Wilson, N.C.

2/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

A Service for Ash Wednesday: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

February 25 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

A Service for Ash Wednesday: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

A Service for Ash Wednesday

By Tony W. Cartledge
I. Meditation, soft prelude

"Let Me Keep Lent"

Let me keep Lent. Let me not kneel and pray, Forego some trifle every day, Fast -- and take Sacrament -- And then Lend tongue to slander, hold ancient grudge, deny The very Lord whom I would glorify. Let me keep Lent. Let my heart grow in grace. Let thy light shine till my illumined face Shall be a testament Read by all, That hate is buried, self crucified, new-born The Spirit that shall rise on Easter morn.

(St. John's Church, Savannah, Ga., in The Anglican Digest, Lent 1992) II. Hymn - "We Have Come Into His House" III. Lenten/Confessional Meditation The observance of Lent is an ancient tradition that many Christians have found to be meaningful through the years. It begins on "Ash Wednesday" and begins a 40 day period of prayerful preparation for Easter. Some people have used Lent as a time for fasting and prayer. Most observers do not fast for the entire period, but mark the Lenten season by giving up some pleasurable food or activity as an act of service and worship, and as a constant reminder to be prayerful. The primary theme of Lent, and particularly of Ash Wednesday, is repentance. It is a time to reflect on our sins of both omission and commission. It is a time to repent before God, and commit ourselves to making things right with others. Peter wrote "Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and slander of every kind" (1 Peter 2:1). Malice and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy, slander and other sins of speech are just a few of the sins that plague us, a representative sample of the many ways we fall short. We remember that John the Baptist came preaching repentance, as did Jesus. The gospels are quite clear on that. Jesus expects those who follow Him to repent, to turn away from sin and to turn toward Him. The underlying Hebrew word for "repent" literally means "to turn around." Repentance is not just being sorry for our sins; it is turning away from them. IV. Anointing with Ashes Ash Wednesday services often include the imposing of ashes on the forehead, often in the shape of a cross. This harks back to the Old Testament practice of marking repentance by putting dust or ashes on the head. In some traditions, the ashes are made by burning palm leaves used the previous year on Palm Sunday. In just a few moments, we'll have some quiet music ("I Surrender All"), and will pass around bowl of ashes. I invite each person to anoint his or her neighbor with a mark of ashes on the forehead. As we do this, think of those things you need to turn away from this Lenten season. Are there sins that have plagued you this year and come easily to mind? Are there other ways, less obvious, in which you have failed to follow Christ as we are called? V. Prayer for Forgiveness / Cleansing of Ashes It is common for worshipers to leave an Ash Wednesday service with the mark of ashes still evident, but tonight we will do something different. We are aware that Christ forgives us of our sins when we turn to him. As soft music plays, we're going to pass around some towels, and I invite you to cleanse each other's faces of the ashes. As you do so, say to one another "Christ has forgiven you. Live in his grace." VI. Hymn ("Forgiven") VII. Commitment Meditation Peter not only called us to turn away from our sins that are harmful to us, but to turn toward healthy living and the things that promote spiritual vitality. He said, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3). Let us spend a few moments of quiet meditation, and consider positive responses to Christ's claim on us. Ask yourself "What am I hungry for as I prepare my heart for Easter? For what am I thirsty? How can I seek spiritual nourishment in this special season? VIII. Closing Hymn - "Take My Life, Lead Me Lord."
2/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Extreme Discipleship - A Lenten sermon: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

February 25 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Extreme Discipleship - A Lenten sermon: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004

Extreme Discipleship - A Lenten sermon

By Tony W. Cartledge
Mark 8:31-38

Risky Business

Have you noticed the new popularity of "extreme sports"? It's not enough to go biking - you have to go biking up and down the side of a mountain that has real cliffs and no trails. It's not enough to go mountain climbing - you have to do it without a safety rope or pitons. It's not enough to go snowboarding, you have to drop out of a helicopter and "airboard" through the sky before you land on the downslope and snowboard to the bottom. It's not enough to go roller-blading - you have to skate over obstacle courses and down stair rails while turning an occasional flip in the air. Not long ago I watched an entire program on the Discovery Channel. It was devoted to one man's quest to ride his bicycle off of the world's tallest waterfall and then parachute to the bottom. They asked him why he wanted to do such a thing. His response suggested that he never felt more alive than when doing something that scared him to death.

You turn on the TV and tune in to the "Extreme Olympics." You watch people doing absolutely insane things to their bodies and taking incredible risks while they are at it, and you might say "Those are crazy people. I wouldn't do that in a million years. I have too much respect for my body and my family to get involved in mountain biking or hot dog skiing. I'm no fool! I'm not that crazy. I don't take risks like that."

But think for just a minute. Those crazy people practicing their extreme sports are keeping their bodies in incredibly good shape, their on-the-edge activity keeps their day-to-day stress levels low, and they have more of those good-feeling and health-producing endorphins flowing in one weekend than most of us will see in a year.

While we pronounce how crazy these athletes are, we do so from the depths of our Lazy-boy recliners as we participate in the "armchair Olympics," vying for the title of "Couch Potato Champion." While we criticize those crazy risk-takers, our blood pressure rises, our cholesterol builds, our arteries clog, our internal stress levels increase, our lungs grow weak from lack of challenge, and our muscle tone turns to jello. Now, who is really taking the biggest risk?

You may be thinking "Well I didn't come here for a lecture on my health: if I want that I can watch Richard Simmons or an exercise program on Cable TV. What does any of this have to do with church?"

I'll tell you what - it has to do with attitude. Too many churches and too many church people are sitting around taking an armchair attitude toward life when Jesus Christ called us to an extreme and risky kind of discipleship that goes far beyond the safety and comfort and inspiration of Sunday morning worship. We are called, in short, to become "Extreme Disciples."

Risky Faith (vv. 31-34)

The first part of Jesus' ministry - the part described in Mark 1:1-8:30 - was quite exciting, but also fairly safe. He spent most of that time wandering the hills and valleys of Galilee, visiting villages and healing people and teaching his disciples a new way of living. With this text, though, Jesus turns away from safety and toward extremity: he points his feet toward Jerusalem and turns his mind toward suffering and sacrifice that his disciples cannot begin to comprehend. As such, this is a most appropriate text for the early days of the Lenten season, as we, like Jesus, turn our hearts toward Holy Week.

[31] Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] He said all this quite openly.

Imagine how the disciples would react to something like that! "You never said anything about suffering! You never said anything about dying! This isn't what a Messiah does! Don't you think you're being a little extreme?"

Peter spoke for the other disciples in criticizing Jesus for such a crazy plan. So, when Jesus returned Peter's rebuke, he also spoke to the other disciples when he said: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

We must understand that when Jesus said "Get behind me," he was not saying "Get out of here," or "Get lost," but "Get back where you belong - behind me, following me." Jesus dared to call Peter by the name "Satan" for the simple reason that Peter was tempting him to choose human desires over God's way, even as Satan had done so. There is something significant about that: Jesus is saying, in effect, that human thought without divine influence will always run the danger of becoming satanic. To focus on one's self as a part of the world rather than as a part of God's kingdom is to play into the hands of the devil himself.

Peter's problem, in part, is that he knew enough to put two and two together. He knew that if the master must suffer and die, then the disciples must follow him. Jesus confirmed that conclusion when he turned to all who were present and said "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

It is popular in today's world to tell people that following Jesus will solve all their problems, but it is also wrong. It is popular to think that the way of the cross is lined with peace and prosperity, but that claim is not in the gospels. Jesus wanted his followers to understand that the Messiah's way would not be the way of power as the world knows it, but the way of service.

It would not be the way of success, but of suffering.

It would not be the way of self-gratification, but of self-denial.

Mel Gibson's much-touted movie, "The Passion of the Christ," reminds us of the extent to which Christ suffered for us. It reminds us of the extreme lengths He was willing to go to, that we might be saved.

That is not the way most of us would choose. We prefer to play it safe. We prefer to avoid unnecessary risks. "Just keep me comfortable. Just accept my presence at church every now and then. Just be happy with my occasional prayers, God, I really do love you. Don't ask me to get involved in any risky business."

Risky Living (vv. 35-36)

Jesus knew our penchant for wanting to take the safe way. That's why he addressed that idea head on, and with no comfort in his words: "[35] For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

Jesus calls us to deny our selfishness and to follow in the way of the cross, even if it leads to death. That's extreme. That's also the way it is. Bearing the cross for Jesus is not just dealing with the everyday difficulties that come to everyone. Bearing the cross is about accepting challenges and risks and dangers that come precisely because you choose to be a Christian. Precisely because you choose to live and to love as Jesus lived and loved - even though you know that to truly follow Jesus is a risky way of living.

Is there anything you are willing to die for? Martin Luther King, Jr. said "If a man hasn't discovered something that he would die for, he isn't fit to live."

Ray Brown reminds us that this isn't about dying, though, so much as it is about living with the right attitude about dying. A professor at Southeastern Seminary many years ago, Brown said "Taking up the cross meant not only to die for Jesus but to live for Jesus in the way that Jesus died and lived - lovingly and in obedience to the will of God. His way was not only a way to die but a way to live. Life is to be lived out in terms of the cross."

You may think that kind of extreme discipleship sounds idealistic. I suppose it is. Maybe that is why so few people adopt it as their lifestyle. G. K. Chesterson said "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried."

How we live makes a difference! We can go for the safe way of life and lose our life - or we can be willing to risk our lives for Jesus, and gain new life. The Greek word for "life" in this text is the root of our word "psychology." Jesus was not just talking about our physical life, but about our inner being, about our true self. In this text, to lose one's life is not just to die, for sooner or later everybody dies. Rather, it is to miss out on the true life that God wants for us - a life that can only be known through the risky relationship of following Jesus in the way of the cross.

Risky dying (vv. 36-38)

We can work all our lives to gain happiness and security - that is, to "save our lives" - then get to the end of the road and realize we have missed out on what God intends our earthly life to be. Not only that, but the end of the road will be the end of the road.

When we reach that point, we would give every dime in every mutual fund we have for one more chance, but it will be too late. Jesus concluded this great lesson on discipleship with these words:

"[36] For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? [37] Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? [38] Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Those words sound hard. They also sound true. If we are too ashamed to follow Jesus now, how can we expect anything other than for him to be ashamed to claim us later? The truth is, we learn in this life either to deny self, or to deny Christ. The concept of self-denial is hard to buy, though. It's hard for us to even distinguish anymore between wants and needs, much less consider giving up either one. Our American culture has a basic philosophy that would be unheard of in most of the world. In our thinking, we say "I want it; therefore I need it."

Whether it is a bigger TV, or a place at the beach, or more days of vacation, or a nicer house, or a newer car, we have a way of turning our "wants" into "needs."

The story is told of a family who moved into a new house that had been built next door to the humble home of a Quaker family. The simplicity-minded Quakers watched in amazement as two large truckloads of furnishings, appliances, toys and tools were unloaded and packed into the house and a workshop behind it. After all had been unloaded, the old Quaker walked over to greet the new family. "We welcome thee neighbors," he said. "And if thee ever need anything, come over to see me, and I will teach thee how to get along without it." I suspect that many of us would do well to learn from his example.

The more we try to "save our life" by following this world's idea of what life is about, the more we will lose track of what real life is all about. But, the more we learn to surrender self-will to God's will, the more we learn to say "no" to self and "yes" to Jesus, the more we learn to give ourselves in loving service to others, the more we will come to appreciate the true glory and meaning of the abundant and eternal life that God has in store for us.

You see, there is no risk we can take for God that will separate us from the love of God or the hope of God's eternity. The biggest risk we can take is the risk of playing it safe, for those who try to save their lives will lose them, but those who surrender themselves to Christ will find their lives not only restored, but amplified with abundance.

It's not easy to choose the risky way of the cross. We fear that we will not be strong enough to follow, or courageous enough to face what may come if we pledge ourselves to extreme discipleship. But I believe you can do it.

Let's close with an ancient motto, spoken often and in a variety of languages. In Hebrew, the words are hazak v'ematz. Repeat that after me: hazak v'ematz.

Good! In Latin, the words are sursum corda. Will you repeat that? Sursum corda.

In the King James English, the words are "Be strong and of good courage." Will you repeat that? "Be strong and of good courage."

You can. You know you can. Together, we can be strong. Together, we can have the courage we need to get up off of our couches and let the Spirit of God flush out the detritus that clogs our spiritual arteries. Together, we can be strong and courageous enough to answer God's call to extreme discipleship. The question before us, then, is not whether we can, but whether we will. [Homiletical insights for this sermon were gained from Will Willimon, "The Way of the Cross," in Pulpit Resource (Jan-Mar 1997), and from Leonard I. Sweet, "Is Your God Big Enough?" in Homiletics (Jan-Mar 1997).]


2/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

SBC decision brings 'great sorrow' : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

February 24 2004 by Denton Lotz

SBC decision brings 'great sorrow' : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

SBC decision brings 'great sorrow'

By Denton Lotz
Baptist World Alliance General Secretary

May the Peace, Joy and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your household! Greetings from your brothers and sisters around the world in Jesus' name!

It is with great sorrow that we announce to you that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee on Tuesday afternoon, February 17 at 4:50 p.m. in the afternoon, voted 62 to 10 to recommend to the SBC Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana next June 2004, to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). It is a very sad day for all of us, particularly since one of our founding members, and the largest Baptist world body, by withdrawing from the BWA is de facto, in spite of denials to the contrary, symbolizing their withdrawal of fellowship from the 210 other member bodies.

We are sad because, as we have stated previously, this brings schism to our world fellowship of Baptists. Schism has been defined as "a sin against love." With the Apostle Paul we lament disunity in the Church and ask: Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. ... Has Christ been divided?" (I Corinthians 1: 10f.)

At the SBC Executive Committee discussion on withdrawal it was very moving that the Women's Missionary Union of the SBC gave a strong defense of the BWA and notice of their intention to remain in the BWA and work with their sisters worldwide! We have received hundreds of letters of support from many conventions, churches and individuals. Indeed, we are moved by the strong support that we continue to receive daily. Yes! We do belong together, because we belong to Christ!

The Apostle Peter reminds us not to be intimidated "but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you..." (I Peter 3: 15)

Unfortunately, there has been so much misunderstanding, so many generalizations and actually false accusations that I feel it is necessary to write to you and give a clear defense of the sincere faith in the Lord Jesus Christ of our Baptist World Alliance conventions and unions.

In addition to the recommendation of the SBC/BWA Study Committee Report, the further information given to the SBC Executive Committee, on which their decision to withdraw from the BWA was based, was a Baptist Press release dated February 4th, written by Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Hinkle gave three basic reasons for SBC withdrawal from the BWA: 1.) The perceived Anti-Americanism of the BWA, 2.) Theological Concerns, and 3.) The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. At our BWA Executive Committee in March, BWA delegates will be able to respond in an open forum to these charges. Let me briefly make some comments but first say that the accusations, it appears to me, are laced with generalizations, second hand information, guilt by association, and a misinterpretation of the facts of what actually happened. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Hinkle nor a number of the members of the SBC Study Commission, have ever attended a BWA meeting and thus the accusations are hearsay and prejudicial.

1. Anti-Americanism: I am very sorry to hear such a statement. The other 10 conventions from North America of the BWA have never felt this way. We are a global organization representing 211 Baptist conventions and unions all over the world, in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America. By its very nature the BWA represents Baptists all over the world. As Irmgard Claas of Germany wrote, "We are not anti-American. It's just that we are not Americans!"

The BWA is accused of anti-Americanism because of statements made by Archbishop Tutu, not at a BWA meeting, but on other occasions. Tutu spoke to the BWA at the invitation of the South African Baptist Convention. He was not "wooed" by the BWA as the accusation states. He was invited to speak because of the great leadership he had given to fighting the sin of apartheid which had destroyed the lives of millions for decades. His later views on human sexuality were not part of any BWA discussion, rather he was invited to speak because of his stand for human dignity in the face of a state-sponsored racist and tyrannical system.

Another example of so-called Anti-Americanism was contained in a sermon by the outstanding African American pastor of Washington, D.C., H. Beecher Hicks. At the BWA Congress in Australia, Hicks was preaching prophetically of the tragedy of many poor workers in the sweatshops of the Pacific Rim countries who were underpaid and not treated properly. Hicks spoke of the materialism and greed of American capitalism. And thus Hicks was accused in this SBC report of being anti-American. It was an example of the "blame America" crowd. The question we must ask is whether or not it is anti-American to state facts gleaned from one's own country's congressional hearings? Certainly the prophets of Israel such as Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah railed against the sins of their own country. Are we to muzzle our preachers and the Sprit of the Lord? Are we to take one sentence out of a sermon and condemn the whole BWA? This was a prophetic pastor's sermon and not a BWA statement or resolution!

The BWA General Secretary was accused of being cozy with Castro. On the contrary, our visits to Cuba were to affirm the Cuban Baptists. We rejoice that since our visits Bibles are now readily available and that in the past ten years the Baptist community has grown from 40,000 to 200,000. We rejoice that whereas five years ago house churches were not permitted, today there are 2,500 house churches and 1,500 churches and missions! We rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Cuba and oppose all tyranny and subjection of religious freedom! One of the responsibilities of the BWA is to defend religious freedom all over the world. That we have done in the former USSR and Eastern bloc countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America! Conversations with political leaders, no matter their ideology, are many times helpful for guaranteeing religious freedom!

2. Theological Concerns: a.) Salvation through Christ alone: The BWA is accused of not wanting to affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Yet, in the Baptist World magazine which appeared before these accusations, we stated very clearly, "Our message is Jesus Christ!" This is a false accusation that arose out of an incident at the General Council meeting in Rio. Actually the original press release about this was written by someone who was not in the General Council meeting room at the time and who was told later by a former SBC executive that his report was erroneous and should not be printed. But this slanderous report became the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

What really happened? I was leading a panel discussion reviewing the Swanwick Summit on Mission in the 21st Century dealing with mission methodology in the 21st century. The panel was in the midst of explaining the Swanwick Declaration when we were interrupted with a question from a young pastor from North Carolina, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation?" I responded very clearly, "Of course we affirm that Jesus is the only way of salvation! Why else would we have a 'Summit on Mission in the 21st Century' if we did not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation? However, the purpose of this panel discussion was one of mission methodology and not one to discuss theological questions or to make a Statement of Faith." Others on the panel agreed. Out of this context the young pastor questioned the orthodoxy of the general secretary and panel members. Many general council members objected in an audible gasp of frustration at the arrogance and false insinuations of the question. There was no vocal mocking! 200 General Council attendees would attest to that! Unfortunately, this incident became the basis of the false accusation that we did not believe in the necessity of a conscious decision to receive Christ! (At the BWA Executive Committee in March a White Paper will give further background and quotations from panel members!)

Further accusations implying BWA theological liberalism were again statements questioning Archbishop Tutu's orthodoxy. The South African Baptist Convention recommended that the archbishop address the BWA General Council because of his working with Nelson Mandela for the defense of the dignity of all people and his fight against the tragic and oppressive system of white supremacy known as apartheid. There was excitement in the air with the fall of apartheid and a new beginning in South Africa. African Baptists and Baptists from around the world who had fought so long for an end to racism were pleased to hear this Nobel Peace Prize winner tell of the new South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation process! It is a stretch to accuse the BWA of liberalism because we hear an outstanding world figure report on reconciliation and the end of racism!

Another example cited concerning perceived BWA liberalism occurred at the council meeting in Seville, Spain. Samson Chowdhury, President of the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship, expressed his concerns about the mission methodology of the IMB. Of course we are an open forum and when BWA President Billy Kim called on him he had no idea of what he was going to say. We do not control people's statements. But, we are Baptists and do believe in freedom of speech. We do not encourage, but rather discourage, anyone to speak ill of another member body. There are occasions, however, when frustration from the Two-thirds world is expressed about many Western missionary policies. Is that theological liberalism?

Other examples of BWA's so-called liberalism were the reported personal views of George Younger, BWA representative to the United Nations in New York. Dr. Younger has since died and cannot defend himself. Needless to say his personal views, nor those of any delegate, did not or do not represent those of the BWA nor of the church or convention from which he or others come. Younger represented the BWA at the United Nations on religious freedom issues and received much gratitude from Two-thirds world Baptists for the defense of freedom he made to hostile governments!

The BWA is criticized for the report on the Baptist-Anglican conversations. The BWA constitution encourages that the BWA hold conversations with other Christian communions. The effect of such conversations over the years has decreased religious hostility in countries where Baptists are a minority. We are Baptists and defend our theological and evangelical views. Is speaking with other Christians and discovering our agreement on historical Christian beliefs such as the trinity and the divinity of Christ liberalism? The Anglican Consultative Council is not the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire and repudiates the actions of that body as do the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide!

3. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: The report to the SBC Executive Committee by the chair of their BWA Study Commission stated "that much has been made about the inclusion of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) into the BWA as having been the cause of our present recommendation to withdraw from the organization. One soaked by a rain need not blame the last rain drop." On the other hand, the Baptist Press's analytical report of why the SBC favors withdrawal states very clearly that in fact the issue of CBF membership is the central reason for withdrawal. Hinkle states "...CBF leaders have been reluctant to publicly announce a split from the SBC, and that is important because it is at the heart of the disagreement between the SBC and the BWA."

In 2001 in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and in 2002 in Seville, Spain the BWA Membership Committee twice rejected CBF's application for membership. The BWA membership committee under the leadership of veteran missionary leader of Australia, Ian Hawley, stated in Seville, Spain that the CBF would be eligible for membership only if they stated that they had separated from the SBC and were a distinct and separate Baptist body. In October 2003 the CBF announced their independence from the SBC and gave 21 reasons. On the basis of this decision the membership committee then recommended CBF membership in July 2003 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The General Council by a vote of 75 to 28 accepted CBF. Immediately after the vote, SBC leaders came to us and said very clearly, "If they are in, we are out."

The international leadership of the BWA may not have completely understood the implications of accepting CBF but understood that as Baptists there are divisions and that we must recognize a small dissident group that has become a separate member if it met the criteria of membership. Much has been written by SBC leaders that CBF did not meet the BWA constitutional or bylaw requirements. Who interprets the BWA constitution and bylaws? The final authority is the General Council. Obviously the General Council felt very strongly that in fact CBF did meet the criteria.

It needs to be said very clearly that this was a democratic decision and was not at all staff oriented. No BWA staff was involved at all in this decision. In fact, BWA President Billy Kim wanted the staff not to be part of this decision to protect us from precisely the attacks that are presently being made! It is a part of Baptist history and ecclesiology that often Baptist conventions split. It is also true that these conventions then often become members of the BWA as separate entities. The list of Baptist conventions worldwide that have split and are now full members of the BWA are manifold and include: The Baptist Convention of South Africa, a break off of the Baptist Union of South Africa; The Brotherhood of Independent Baptist Churches of the Ukraine, a break off of the Baptist Union of the Ukraine; The National Baptist Convention of the USA, Inc., a break off group of the National Baptist Convention of America; The Fraternidad of Baptist Churches of Cuba, a break off of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba; and the list goes on! It is a fact of Baptist life that sometimes we grow by division instead of multiplication!

As we began, so we end. We are very sorry that a schism has occurred. The BWA loves the SBC and wishes that we could stay together and to that end are still contemplating conversations with SBC leadership. We are pleased that part of the recommendation presented to the SBC Executive does accept the BWA vice presidents call for conversations of January 22. Even though it was stated at the SBC Executive Committee that the chances of reconciliation were slim, "unless lightning strikes!" Let us pray that the lightning of the Holy Spirit will move in all of our hearts.

The first of Martin Luther's 95 theses states that the call of Christ is a call to daily repentance. Let us pray that all of us in the BWA and SBC will be open to that repentance that will bring reconciliation and unity in Christ.

Meanwhile, whatever the decision made by the SBC convention meeting in Indianapolis this June, we want our Southern Baptist friends to know that they will always be welcome to our conferences and congresses! Come celebrate with us our centennial! Come celebrate with 210 Baptist conventions and unions worldwide that indeed "Jesus Christ is the Living Water!" Come pray and fellowship with your friends around the world, July 27-31, 2005!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ of the General Council, Committees and Commissions, God has blessed us with a world fellowship that endured many conflicts over these past 100 years. Many of you have written very kind and generous letters of support indicating that indeed you intend to remain faithful and loyal to the BWA. We are grateful for the many letters of encouragement and support. We are grateful for the many prayers for reconciliation. We remain open to the movement of the Spirit and will continue to pray for reconciliation!

Meanwhile, the work of the Baptist World Alliance and our 211 member bodies continues. Do not be discouraged! God has yet great things He wants to do through you and the BWA working together in Christ! Some of you are suffering economic hardship, others are suffering from oppressive governments, and others experience daily restrictions on movement and lack of religious freedom. This is indeed a fellowship of love to which we belong. The 211 member bodies of the BWA struggle with you for freedom, justice, peace and unity. Let us continue to work with one another for Christ and His Kingdom! Let us seek that unity for which Christ prayed in John 17...so that the world might believe!

From July 26-31, 2004 in Seoul, Korea the General Council will meet and we will nominate our new BWA President to be elected in Birmingham, England in July 2005. Our BWA President, Billy Kim, has extended a cordial welcome to all of you to come to Korea! Let's make a concerted effort to come to Korea and celebrate that unity we have in Christ! Let's pledge to one another that we will pray for each other! Pray that He who began a good work in us will complete it! Pray for workers in the vineyard...for the fields are white unto harvest! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This article was adapted from a letter Lotz wrote to BWA supporters.)
2/24/2004 12:00:00 AM by Denton Lotz | with 0 comments

Define identity and agenda from Holy Scriptures : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

February 24 2004 by

Define identity and agenda from Holy Scriptures : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

Define identity and agenda from Holy Scriptures

There is much talk in the Baptist State Convention (BSC) about unity for the sake of each other, cooperation and missions. Yet there seems to be little talk about identity, unity, (or division), from the Holy Scriptures. Our doctrine from the scriptures is (or should be) the determining factor for identity, unity, cooperation and missions in the BSC. There are two camps within the BSC divided over identity and agenda.

One camp values the Holy Scriptures as given by God as the authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice. The Holy Scriptures, not the culture, determines its identity and agenda.

The other camp gauges truth by cultural relevance and not the Holy Scriptures. Since the culture is constantly changing, this camp finds it hard, if not impossible, to define its identity and agenda. In essence this camp wants to identify itself, but it can't because it doesn't want to exclude anyone. When it comes to doctrine, this camp prefers "disclaimers."

The BSC's current identity and agenda problem reveals that God had a reason for saying, Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together (Deut. 22:10). The BSC's existing "plow-package" will never plow in harmony. C.H. Spurgeon stated it best concerning the "unity" problem in the Baptist Union in his day: "We cannot hold the inspiration of the Word, and yet reject it; we cannot believe in the atonement and deny it; we cannot hold the doctrine of the fall and yet talk of the evolution of spiritual life from human nature; we cannot recognize the punishment of the impenitent and yet indulge the 'larger hope.'"

One way or the other we must go. Decision is the virtue of the hour. Neither when we have chosen our way can we keep company with those who go the other way."

Chadwick Ivester

Clarkton, N.C.

2/24/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Supports constitutional amendment defining marriage : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

February 24 2004 by

Supports constitutional amendment defining marriage : Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004

Supports constitutional amendment defining marriage

As a Christian and an American, I'd like to go on the record stating my support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as "the unity of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime." I have a few reasons for supporting such an amendment. Two are from the Bible and two are observations from nature.

First, from the Bible. When God created mankind, He created Adam (the man) first. Later, He created Eve (the woman) for the man. And Genesis 2:24 specifically states that God's plan is for a man to be joined to a woman (his wife) in what we would call "marriage." As someone has aptly put it, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Many references in the Bible condemn homosexuality as sinful, unnatural and incompatible with God's plan for life. See Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:26-27.

Second, from nature. Procreation demands that there be a man providing the sperm and a woman providing the egg in order to produce a baby. Adam and Steve can't naturally have a baby (no egg). Eve and Evie can't have a baby naturally either (no sperm).

In at least 9 out of 10 gay couples I've observed, one appears more effeminate, emulating the female role, and the other is more masculine.

My point is that if you don't care what the Bible says about homosexuality, at least understand from nature that it isn't normal because it takes a male and a female to procreate, and most gay couples reflect the necessity for a masculine and effeminate personality in their relationships.

David B. Roberts

Lenoir, N.C.

2/24/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

A giggle a day ... : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

February 20 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

A giggle a day ... : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004
Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

A giggle a day ...

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

For years we've heard that laughter can be good for your health, and I believe it. Patch Adams gained fame by occasionally donning a clown nose for his patients, and other doctors have prescribed daily doses of humor, but results have been mostly anecdotal.

Now, however, Stanford University researchers have compiled scientific evidence to support the therapeutic value of laughter. Using a hi-tech "functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging" device, neurologists peered into the brains of volunteers as they viewed funny (and unfunny) cartoons.

The researchers discovered that, when stimulated by something funny, multiple parts of the brain go into action, including a spot called the "nucleus accumbens." The more you laugh, the more active it becomes.

Not surprisingly, that same part of the brain also lights up when you get an unexpected bonus, a passionate kiss or a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.

And when that part of your brain gets tickled, all kinds of pleasure-inducing, pain-relieving endorphins gush into your bloodstream, and disease-fighting substances juice up your immune system.

Medically speaking, then, a good belly laugh is both palliative and preventative.

In layman's terms, a giggle a day keeps the doctor away.

I thought the funniest thing about the study was the authors' abstruse writing style. An abstract for the article, which was published in a journal called Neuron, said its purpose was "to elucidate the neurobiological substrate that subserves the reward components of humor," resulting in "new evidence that humor engages a network of subcortical regions including the nucleus accumbens, a key component of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system," thus demonstrating "new insight into the neural basis of salutary aspects of humor."

Try reading that aloud with a straight face.

So, if you're concerned about your health, don't rely entirely on your Fatkins diet, but contemplate with your friends great mysteries of the universe, like why cat food doesn't come in mouse or canary flavors.

Who would have thought trading e-mail jokes and watching The Three Stooges could be good for your health?

If you've never thanked God for your nucleus accumbens, this could be a good time.
2/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

What are you giving up for Lent? : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

February 20 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

What are you giving up for Lent? : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004
Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

What are you giving up for Lent?

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

This is the season of Lent, though many Baptists remain oblivious to one of the more meaningful traditions of the Christian church.

Lent is designed as a prayerful period that begins with Ash Wednesday and extends to Easter Sunday.

Traditionally, Lent is a time of penitence in which Christians reflect on their relationship with Christ, repent of their sins, and demonstrate their penitence through giving up some special pleasure during the pre-Easter season. Things like chocolate and soft drinks are popular choices, though there's always the comedian who says he's giving up the water in his scotch and water.

Unfortunately, some folks use the prelude to the penitential period as an excuse to sin profoundly before repentance sets in, giving rise to celebrations such as Mardi Gras. The day before Ash Wednesday is sometimes called "Fat Tuesday," because many observe it as a day of ribald excess when revelers let it all hang out before dragging their hungover selves to church the next day to mark their repentance with a cross of ashy paste on the forehead.

There's nothing Christian about people who claim the name of Christ engaging in such shenanigans.

Fortunately, most folks I know don't go in for such New Orleans-style religion, and those who do practice Lent do so sincerely.

The one thing that has always bothered me about Lent is that many use it to focus on negatives, while I prefer to consider more positive aspects of the observance.

Instead of just being sorry for my past sins, I'd like to think positively about a more disciplined life in the future.

And, rather than "giving up" something for Lent, I prefer to think about what I can give. Even when it involves doing without something like watching TV or eating meat, I think of it as a personal sacrifice that is given to Christ, rather than given up for no reason.

It occurred to me that life in the family of God would be much more pleasant if we would offer Christ several "giving up" gifts.

What if we gave up grouchiness? Life is too short to spend it being crabby, declaring a daily dissatisfaction with everyone around us. Could we give up our cranky, surly, grumpy moods as a gift to the ever-patient One who loves us despite our ugliness?

On a related note, what if we gave up our grudges? Grumpiness sometimes arises from grudginess. Few loads are heavier to bear than a grudge, and Jesus knew it. In the Lord's prayer and elsewhere, Jesus clearly taught the simple truth that those who are unwilling to forgive are incapable of being forgiven. He called us to give up our grudges by giving grace to those who have offended us. When that happens, a load is removed from both persons: a genuine "win-win" situation.

Dare we consider giving up our pride? I am convinced that one of the great sins commonly committed by Baptists is the sin of pride. It is the sin of thinking that we alone have the right answers, that all others are wrong, and that God has made us judge. It is a far cry from the humility that Jesus taught and that Paul underscored in Philippians 2. If we could surrender our pride long enough to listen to others, we might discover that Baptists don't have a lock on wisdom.

Might we consider giving up our indifference? That would take some effort. I live in a subdivision made mostly of lots no bigger than one-fifth of an acre. Our houses are close. Yet, when a house up the street from us caught fire while the homeowner was away, firemen had a difficult time finding a neighbor who knew who he was or how to contact him.

Trading apathy for empathy requires an effort on our part.

Jesus taught some fairly clear lessons about what it means to love our neighbors. A good place to begin is getting to know our neighbors, not just on the street where we live, but in the other churches of our community.

Any of us could add to the list of negative attributes or attitudes we could give up as gifts to Christ - not only for the 40 days of Lent, but for the rest of our lives.

Just think of it as bringing Christmas to Easter, offering gifts that we seal in a box and leave unwrapped - right where they belong.
2/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

A legacy of cooperation : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

February 20 2004 by David Webb

A legacy of cooperation : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004
Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

A legacy of cooperation

By David Webb

Hundreds of Baptist churches, associations, institutions, agencies and mission causes are aided by caring people who occupy pews in Baptist churches across our state. Thousands of church members are making a difference each week, as evidenced by the stories they shared at associational meetings across western North Carolina last fall.

Each associational meeting is similar and yet very different. Messengers at these meetings represent churches of all sizes and types. Yet, with all the differences, there appears to be a clear call to spread the gospel. While the methods and approaches may vary, the goal is the same - to win people to Jesus Christ.

Churches and associations are working together to reach out in various ways to touch people where they live. In addition to supporting state, home and international missions through prayer, volunteer service and giving, many associations are developing new local social ministries.

An example of churches working together was the unanimous approval at the Greater Gaston Baptist Association's annual meeting to create the "The Greater Gaston Baptist Association Social Ministries Endowment Fund." The purpose of the endowment is to fund ministries that will be a witness for Christ by meeting social, economic and ministry needs in the greater Gaston area.

The N.C. Baptist Foundation will manage this endowment fund and will conduct seminars in many churches, along with associational leaders, on Christian principles of estate planning. The goal of the seminars will be to promote the endowment and show individuals and families how they can support their local church, association and other Baptist causes through wise estate planning.

The Greater Gaston Association and the N.C. Baptist Foundation's joint efforts are a good example of how kingdom causes can be advanced by cooperatively working together. The association identified the cause, and the foundation will help educate individuals and families on how they can support this work, their church and other Baptist causes forever, enabling them to enjoy Christian stewardship in its fullest sense - even after death.

As western area manager for the foundation, I am privileged to learn of people's dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future. Many N.C. Baptists are working individually and collectively to write legacies that will live on because of the sacrificial giving of their time, talents, energy and financial resources for kingdom causes.

Call the Baptist Foundation office at (919) 380-7334 or (800) 521-7334 if you would like to take part in leaving a legacy in Christ's name.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Webb is western area manager for the N.C. Baptist Foundation, Inc.)

2/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by David Webb | with 0 comments

Why the Baptist World Alliance is important to N.C. Baptists : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

February 20 2004 by Richard Brunson

Why the Baptist World Alliance is important to N.C. Baptists : Friday, Feb. 20, 2004
Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

Why the Baptist World Alliance is important to N.C. Baptists

By Richard Brunson
Director, N.C. Baptist Men

I have been involved with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) for many years. I have served on the Baptist World Aid committee for the past 8 years and have personally seen the great work of the BWA.

The BWA is very important to North Carolina Baptists. It was through the BWA that NC Baptist Men got a request to help Polish Baptists with an agricultural project back in 1985. That project directly led to our partnership with Polish Baptists.

Our partnership with Polish Baptists led to our partnership with Ukrainian Baptists and other partnerships. Because of the Baptist World Alliance, North Carolina Baptists have had mission projects with Baptists in Russia (Bibles for Russia), Croatia, Bosnia, Mozambique and other places.

Last month I traveled to Cuba with Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, to explore some possible mission projects with Cuban Baptists. We met with all four Cuban Baptist Conventions.

All four Cuba Baptist Convention Presidents and general secretaries were in the same room talking about missions, evangelism and church growth in Cuba. They were excited as they were sharing with each other what God is doing in Cuba. There was a spirit of unity, cooperation and friendship among them as they shared with us.

Denton asked the leaders when the last time was that they had been together. They told us that the last time that they were together was the last BWA meeting two years ago.

We do belong together because we do belong to Christ. Thank you Baptist World Alliance for your great work and witness for Jesus Christ.

2/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Richard Brunson | with 0 comments

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