January 2001

Evangelism Conference a 'mountaintop experience'

January 12 2001 by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent

Evangelism Conference a 'mountaintop experience' | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Evangelism Conference a 'mountaintop experience'

By Craig Bird BR Correspondent ARDEN - Talk about your blended worship services. Southern Baptist icons like evangelism professor Roy Fish and evangelist Junior Hill shared the pulpit with fresh faces like church planter Randy Bonner and "missionary to NASCAR fans" Dennis McGowan.

Trumpet master Phil Driscoll, concert pianist Leah Joy Everette, contemporary musicians To Know, soloist Charles Billingsley, the Kingsmen Quartet, and the Biltmore Baptist Church choir and orchestra (among others) offered holy praise in just about every musical format except hip-hop and heavy metal.

Frederick Sampson Jr. spoke with the dignity and cutting relevancy that are hallmarks of African-American preachers; Richard Jackson shared a fresh, witnessing New Testament and Clyde Billingsley spoke of the spiritual needs of Montana, North Carolina and the world.

United by the theme "Exalting the Savior," the 54th annual N.C. State Evangelism Conference offered something for just about everyone.

Michelle Etterlind, a member of host Biltmore Baptist Church, and the church's pastor, James Walker, join the congregation in singing Amazing Grace.
In the process, the first state evangelism conference to meet in the mountains in a quarter century may have qualified for "landmark" status - just like its predecessor that met in Asheville in 1976, said Milton Hollifield.

"We heard lots of comments comparing this evangelism conference to 1976 - and that meeting is generally considered one of the best ever," said Hollifield, head of the Mission Growth Evangelism section of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina, which planned the event.

Frederick Sampson Sr. and Stephen Olford were featured in 1976 and "people still remember what they said," Hollifield added. "Folks left here saying the same kinds of things, talking about what they heard and experienced has changed them forever."

Fears of snow apparently limited attendance but Hollifield does not regret bringing the meeting back to the mountains. "Even if we had been totally snowed out Monday and Tuesday, the youth rally on Sunday evening (see related story) would have made all the work worthwhile," he said.

Not to worry If attendance fell short of Hollifield's hoped for 1,500 (there was no registration to provide an official count but some sessions apparently attracted just under 1,000), there were still plenty of mountaintop experiences in the mountains.

Billingsley, executive director of Montana Baptist Convention, urged attenders to put more emphasis on evangelism. "A tragedy of our day is that we make soul-winning second rate and put programs ahead of soul wining," he said.

"Witnessing is not a gift, but a given," Billingsley said. "We can all reach somebody - and who knows what God will do with that person."

Attenders received practical help in the form of The Covenant of God's Love, a witnessing New Testament developed by Richard Jackson and distributed free by the BSC to participants.

"Witnessing isn't rocket science," said Jackson, pastor emeritus of North Phoenix (Ariz.) Baptist Church and executive director of the RJ Center for Evangelism and Encouragement in Brownwood, Texas. "It's a lot more important than rocket science but it is not nearly as complicated."

Jackson developed the New Testament as a witnessing aid because he was convinced that church-going Christians long to share their faith "but have somehow been intimidated into thinking they have to know enough about the Bible and Christianity to win a debate with a non-believer."

"If necessary, a man or woman can pick up a copy of The covenant of God's Love from a friend or off a park bench and literally read his or her way to salvation," he said.

Fish, professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on the theme of living waters from Exodus 47. "The real source of spiritual blessings come directly from God," he said, "not from external sources. You draw from the supernatural power of God - God has put a well inside each of us."

"The river of living water comes from the cross," Fish said. "The river of living water brings healing, life and fruit."

Challenges offered Evangelist Hill, from Hartselle, Ala., challenged listeners to "consider the lilies" (Matt. 6:28 and Luke 12:27). "God made us who we are and what we are and we should be content with who and what we are," he said. Lilies don't try to be anything other than what they are, Hill said, and believers should likewise be content with their lives, including where they are located. "Don't move for the wrong reason," he said. "Wrong motives rarely produce a right move."

Speaking to pastors, Hill said "The most dangerous thing for a discouraged preacher is to seek something a little bit better. Don't be content with better, go for the best."

McGowan, who is director of a Concord-based ministry to NASCAR fans called Racing Fan Outreach, said only 20 percent of the 6.3 million NASCAR fans who attend one of 34 races throughout the country are church members. His organization recorded more than 500 professions of faith last year, many in the hard-to-reach group of 40-50-year-old men.

McGowan challenged the audience to become involved in similar types of ministry - to go outside the church where the people are.

Ron Murray, pastor of East Charlotte Community Church, used John 12:32 as a text, speaking of how God draws people to Himself. "Our part is to exalt, glorify and lift up God - His part is to draw all men unto Him," he said. "We get the 'parts' mixed up and we try to draw people with our buildings, music and programs." He said, "The power of Jesus calls all men of all cultures, all walks of life."

Murray, who is African-American, said, "If you're going to reach the masses, you can't discriminate. People are hungry for the living word.

"We are to exalt Jesus by living for Jesus - we are to give the world an 'audio and video demonstration' of Jesus through our lives - point men to Jesus, not to us," he said.

Gene Garrison, who recently relocated to Cary after retiring as pastor of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, spoke of how the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing affected his church. Although no members were killed or seriously hurt, many members had friends who were victims. A lady in his congregation came for counseling after the bombing and asked, "Why didn't God stop the bombing?"

"People are tempted to abandon their faith in the power of God in order to maintain their faith in the love of God," Garrison said. "What is power?" he asked. It is the ability to achieve a purpose. "You can never separate power from purpose," he said.

"God's purpose is to establish His kingdom," Garrison said. "In working toward the kingdom, God has self-imposed temporary limitations on Himself. People will only be part of His kingdom voluntarily through their free will. God has ruled out all means of force, coercion, manipulation, and trickery in order to get people into His kingdom. God only loves people into His kingdom.

"Our task is to lift God up, to exalt God. The cross represents the love of God that will never let you go. You give life up to Christ and God will draw people until Himself. You can't bully people into love," Garrison said.

Sampson, a substitute for his father who is suffering from a recurrence of cancer, was the closing speaker both nights. He called on pastors during dark and troubling times to remember that God then "works on the left side" (Job 23:9) where we can't see Him - but He is still working. It is biblical, he said, to consider that bad things happen to God's people when they are following His will.

"It is true that many of the uncomfortable beds we (lie) down in we made," he explained, "but we also get attacked when we are out as sheep among wolves."

People may enjoy living in "right-handed situations" where everything is wonderful, Sampson said, "but we live much of our lives in left-handed circumstances where the wolves of Satan run us to exhaustion, nip at our heels and - if we give up - eat us alive. No wonder the laborers are few!"

He assured those in the audience, "we will never see Jesus as the shepherd until we see ourselves as the sheep - as sheep in need of a shepherd, sheep guaranteed a loving shepherd."

The 54th evangelism conference offered something for everybody, said Gayle Brown, retired director of missions for Buncombe Baptist Association (Asheville) and honorary chairman of the conference.

"It brought back memories of evangelism conferences long ago, a feeling of togetherness, singleness of purpose, friendly and warm fellowship and absence of controversy and fighting," he said. "Those who didn't come missed a mountaintop experience with the Lord."

(EDITOR'S NOTE-Bill Boatwright, BSC communications director, contributed to this story.)

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments

Hunger fund benefits from 'Souper Bowl'

January 12 2001 by Todd Starnes , Baptist Press

Hunger fund benefits from 'Souper Bowl' | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Hunger fund benefits from 'Souper Bowl'

By Todd Starnes Baptist Press NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On Super Bowl Sunday (Jan. 28), churches across the nation will raise money for the poor by participating in the "Souper Bowl of Caring," and Southern Baptists will have an additional opportunity to raise money for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Southern Baptists are being urged to place $1 in large soup pots as they leave church on Super Bowl Sunday, said Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and a staff member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Churches can also choose to donate the money to local hunger ministries.

All of the money raised and sent to the SBC will go directly to the World Hunger Fund which supports ministry evangelism initiatives across the nation and world led by Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteers.

"We want to specifically challenge youth groups and churches to take part in this Souper Bowl of Caring emphasis," Nelson said.

The Souper Bowl of Caring is a nondenominational grassroots effort to raise awareness and funding for hunger ministries across the nation. The ministry was founded in 1990 by Presbyterian minister Brad Smith. Since then, more than 8,600 congregations have participated in the annual event, 800 of them Baptist.

On Souper Bowl Sunday 2000, 156 N.C. Baptist churches participated in the event and, with more than 11,000 churches nationwide, raised $3.1 million for soup kitchens and food banks.

Funds raised on Souper Bowl Sunday do not go to the Souper Bowl organization, Nelson said. Instead, individual congregations determine where to use the money for ministry.

"The cash gifts go directly to the mission field to be used 100 percent for hunger ministry, with nothing taken out for administration or promotion," Nelson said. "I can think of no greater stewardship than that."

The Souper Bowl ministry's lone request is for participating churches to call its office with the results of their efforts.

Nelson estimates that if every Southern Baptist gives just $1 per month to the World Hunger Fund, hunger gifts would multiply by 18-fold.

He said Souper Bowl is a perfect opportunity to promote the SBC's World Hunger Fund.

"I want to encourage each church to embrace this opportunity to support the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund in addition to local hunger ministries," Nelson said. "Hunger exists everywhere though we are often unaware of it in our own communities. A few canned goods that we will never miss can mean the difference for a child between a good meal and going hungry."

This past year, the domestic portion of hunger funds was depleted, he said.

"It is time for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to occupy a place of prominence in Southern Baptist life," Nelson said. "We cannot hope to see the world reached if we fail to demonstrate Christ's love while we speak of his love."

To participate in the Souper Bowl Sunday event, call (800) 358-SOUP or call Nelson at (615) 244-2495.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Todd Starnes , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains

January 12 2001 by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent

Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains

By Craig Bird BR Correspondent ARDEN - It turned out to be a quiet explosion. Powerfully quiet. Most of the evening the crowd at Youth Explosion in the Mountains on Jan. 7 gloried in its youthful image - loud music (complete with some "spiritual" head banging), lots of laughing and cheering, swirling psychedelic light shows.
A teen-ager is part of the overflow crowd in the choir loft behind the speaker's platform at Youth Explosion in the Mountains. Later, he was one of hundreds who responded to the altar call.
But at the end there was mostly silence. All that could be heard were the voice of evangelist Jay Strack softly explaining the spiritual options and soft footsteps as hundreds of people made their way to the front.

Members of Solomon's Wish, the Nashville-based Christian rock band that revved up the crowd two hours before, laid aside their guitars and drum sticks to kneel and pray - along with an estimated 2,400 other people who filled Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden to overflowing.

"And to think we almost didn't even have this event," said Milton Hollifield, executive team leader for the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Mission Growth Evangelism group. "I just don't plan youth rallies in the middle of winter - especially in the mountains."

But barely six weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving, Hollifield decided God wanted a youth event prior to the BSC's annual state evangelism conference that was meeting at Biltmore Jan. 8 and 9. Even then, he anticipated a turnout of no more than 1,500.

Instead, teen-agers and their sponsors poured into the Asheville suburb from 123 churches as far away as Murphy (2 1/2 hour drive), Salisbury, Lenoir, Spruce Pine and points in between.

Approximately 150 young people responded to Strack's urging to "make a public commitment of your life to Jesus Christ" after he unexpectedly felt led to ask for no music during the time of invitation. Over the next 25 minutes, the group of 150 swelled to perhaps 300 as other youth rededicated their lives and adult sponsors came forward to counsel. The response overwhelmed plans to have counseling sessions in separate rooms.

"God did this, all of this," said Alan Scroggs, the lead organizer of the event. "He truly showed up here tonight."

But Scroggs, youth minister at Berea Baptist Church in Asheville, had expected God might show up.

"This all just fell together, God was behind it," he said. "Milton called me after Thanksgiving and my three first choices (for leaders) were all available! Solomon's Wish had a Friday night concert in Winston-Salem and was coming through Asheville anyway going home."

Strack was preaching Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla. (although he arrived barely in time to speak after his flight was canceled and a replacement flight was delayed); former Charlotte Panthers defensive back Derwin Gray also had an open date.

After an opening set by the Biltmore Praise Band, Solomon's Wish presented a mini-concert of high energy songs that climaxed with the crowd joining in an a cappella medley including "Sanctuary," "Holiness" and "I Love You Lord."

Gray, a two-time collegiate All-American at Brigham Young University and a six-year starter in the National Football League, shared his journey from the poor side of San Antonio, Texas, to athletic acclaim and wealth.

"My family put the 'P' in poor," he said.

"I was living my dream covering Emmit Smith and Jerry Rice, I fulfilled my major goal of sending money back to my family - lots of money," he said.

But partying and womanizing still left him empty.

In 1997, Grey realized that "Jesus loved me! And He loved me enough not to leave me in the same situation He found me in."

Strack shared his personal testimony of childhood abuse, a broken home, drug addiction and jail, only to find his way through to a personal commitment to Christ.

He spoke of three types of people - the victim, the villain and the victor - and how young people have a choice in which of these roles they can play.

"I hope the adults who come to the evangelism conference can keep up to what the kids had tonight," Hollifield said.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments

Childhood fire doesn't scar student's faith

January 5 2001 by Irma Duke , Campbell Divinity School

Childhood fire doesn't scar student's faith | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Childhood fire doesn't scar student's faith

By Irma Duke Campbell Divinity School BUIES CREEK - Forty-four years after he was burned beyond recognition, Frank Hensley is still asking why. But the Campbell University Divinity School student's questioning is not why that happened to him, but why God chose to use him and how he can glorify God. And he would rather talk about his spiritual journey than his pain and struggles. He says if his scars get in the way of a person seeing God in his life, his witness has failed.

Hensley was burned on Feb. 22, 1957, in a fire at his elementary school in Mt. Airy. The school burned to the ground.

Hensley was the last person to leave his fourth-grade classroom because he wanted to get his brother's jean jacket hanging in the back. As he entered the hallway, he was overcome by the smoke and intense heat.

When he came to, he tried to open the door of another classroom, but it exploded when he edged it open, throwing him back across the hall and into a wall, where once again he passed out.

He remembers waking up out in the schoolyard and running toward home. "God had to be the one that carried me outside," he says. A high school student corralled him and other injured students and led them toward the adjacent high school where emergency workers loaded him in an ambulance. Five badly burned students, including Hensley, were taken to a clinic in nearby Dobson. It wasn't until he was there in a room alone that he saw himself in a mirror and then saw a "figure dressed in white who said, 'You will be all right.'"

With third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body, the 10-year-old faced eight months of treatment at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, three weeks of that in a coma, and dozens of surgeries. He had skin grafts all over his body. When he had no more skin to graft, his father volunteered to donate skin from his thighs to his ankles on both of his legs in order to provide what his son needed.

Hensley remembers his own pain, but tears come to his eyes when he talks about what his parents went through.

"The pain and itching that my father experienced had to be almost unbearable," he says as he wipes away tears.

During his hospital stay, his mother only missed visiting one day. She and another burned child's parent wore out a car, so the community purchased another for them.

When Hensley first came home from the hospital, he wanted to die. His sister screamed in shock when she saw him the first time. Others stared at him. He felt helpless.

He was able to wear street clothes but he couldn't buckle his belt or tie his shoes. A banner welcomed him home, but he didn't want to be there. If his 52-pound body had had the strength to pull the trigger on his father's gun, he says he would have done it.

Just days later, he said, the Lord turned him around. "God said you can't do that. You've got to do something about your life."

On his 11th birthday, just 10 days out of the hospital, Hensley joined the Boy Scouts. He passed every requirement for Eagle Scout except the swimming merit badge.

At age 12, he started going door-to-door selling Fuller Brushes with an older gentleman. In high school, he was a member of the Student Council, the Spanish Club and the Key Club. He also drove a school bus for two years and worked at a service station. He was determined to be all that God wanted him to be.

"I had to get myself out in public."

During this time, life still wasn't easy.

He endured blood transfusions.

He had a tube in his throat for four years to help with breathing.

He and his family created therapy machines for stretching his elbows and fingers, which had drawn up in the healing process.

He put together model cars with intricate details such as spark plugs to push his fine motor skills.

His surgeries continued four or five times a year until after his freshman year in college when he refused to have anymore. The doctors had done all that they could do to help him functionally.

"At least, I never had to worry about 'zits,'" he says with a chuckle.

After graduating from Campbell University with a degree in business administration, Hensley married his high school sweetheart whom he met on his school bus route. They moved to Salisbury where she completed her nursing degree. He worked nine years in vocational rehabilitation.

While in Salisbury and starting to raise their family of two girls and two boys, the Hensleys attended Stallings Memorial Baptist Church. That is where they became involved in preschool work. One day, the pastor "sat me down and told me that we were going to Ridgecrest (Conference Center) for training, and we did," Hensley said.

There was some sense of a calling at that time, and the couple accepted volunteer positions as co-directors of the church's pre-school program.

But Hensley turned aside any other sense of calling. His fear was always that people would see his scars, not the work of God in his life. He held a variety of secular jobs, all the while realizing "God was continuing to work on me."

Frank Hensley is pictured with children in the pre-school department at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point.
In 1980, the family moved to High Point for Hensley to manage a tire store. They began attending Green Street Baptist Church and, again, were drawn into a pre-school department. Under Hensley's direction, the department grew from 80 to 350 preschoolers and from 12 to 45 teachers.

Still he sensed the tugs. And "every time I tried to run, something was there to put the skids on it."

Hensley finally decided to put the calling to rest, returning to his alma mater, which now had established a divinity school. Surely, he thought, such a visit would negate any calling he might have heard. But every question was answered and every objection dismissed.

He gave up and "decided to make something of myself."

Hensley will graduate from Campbell's divinity school in May. For the past year, he's been working full-time as interim minister of education at Green Street Church and attending classes full time.

The 54-year-old admits he probably should have been in ministry 20 to 30 years ago. But that nagging fear of what others would see always got him.

He remembers as a 12-year-old boy catching himself staring at a person in a wheelchair.

"I've got to help them look past my scars and see Christ in me," he says.

Part of the reason that he says he resisted the ministry so long was that "the devil constantly made me question my motives. Did I just want to draw attention to myself?"

He believes he will have failed Christ if all people see is Frank Hensley.

Today, however, "One of my passions in life is putting people at ease with me."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Irma Duke , Campbell Divinity School | with 0 comments

Christmas bombings kill 15 worshipers

January 5 2001 by Art Toalston , Baptist Press

Christmas bombings kill 15 worshipers | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Christmas bombings kill 15 worshipers

By Art Toalston Baptist Press JAKARTA - Christmas Eve bombings targeting Christian churches across Indonesia killed at least 15 people and injured scores of others in Jakarta and eight other cities and towns. National Police spokesman Saleh Saaf said the TNT-powered bombs exploded within minutes of each other in what appears to be a coordinated assault, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Indonesia has weathered a firestorm of political, religious and ethnic turmoil since the fall of the Suharto regime in May 1998. Since the beginning of 1999, more than 4,000 people have been killed in Christian-Muslim clashes and more than a million left homeless.

Many thousands have been forcibly converted to Islam, according to Western groups monitoring the situation in a country where Christians comprise less than 5 percent of the 210 million population.

Most of the trouble since has centered on Ambon and other Maluku (Moluccas) islands, the one part of the country to have had a sizable Christian community. Self-declared jihad warriors from a paramilitary group called Laskar Jihad were shipped in from other parts of Indonesia, and by mid-2000 Christian leaders were begging the international community to send in peacekeepers - an option rejected by the government in Jakarta.

The Barnabas Fund, a United Kingdom-based Christian charity which monitors the Indonesian situation through daily contact with sources in the troubled areas, especially the Malukus, noted that the islands now are "almost exclusively in Muslim hands because Laskar Jihad warriors have either butchered or driven out all Christians."

The Barnabas Fund also reported that Pakistanis, Afghans, Libyans, Saudi Arabians, Arabs and Filipinos had been identified among the Muslim militants, as well as members of the Indonesian armed forces.

"The militants have promised to 'Turn off the candles in December' and that no church bells will ring in Ambon this Christmas. The candle is the symbol of Ambon," the organization stated.

The Christmas Eve bombings coincided with the final days of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month devoted to fasting from sunrise to sunset. The militants promised that the closing days of Ramadan in the Malukus would bring greatly increased violence, the Barnabas Fund said.

A statement issued by the Muslim paramilitary group, however, condemned the bombings as "immoral and politically motivated," the AP reported.

The blast in Jakarta, outside the city's Roman Catholic cathedral, near the presidential palace and the city's main mosque, was ignited as prayer services were about to start Sunday night, the AP reported.

Most of the bombs were planted in cars parked outside targeted churches. Clergymen received others wrapped as gifts, the news service reported, and police defused 13 unexploded devices.

The nation's president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a respected Muslim leader and advocate of religious tolerance, on Dec. 25 condemned the bombings as aimed at "destabilizing the government and creating fear and panic so that the government cannot work."

"There is an effort to use the name of Islam to destroy Christians or to use the name of Christianity to destroy Muslims," Wahid said. "This is the last breath of those who fear that if the government can remain stable we will enter a new era, an era of economic awakening and democracy."

Wahid also pledged harsh action against the bombers, Radio Australia reported. The Jakarta Post noted that Wahid visited some of the victims of the Christmas Eve bombings at a Jakarta hospital. "The security people should have anticipated this," the president was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "This is a lesson for us."

Police reported making two arrests in one city, according to one news report, while the AP reported that 48 people were being questioned nationally by police, including 16 men in relation to a possible bomb factory in the city of Bandung in west Java.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Art Toalston , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000

January 5 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000 | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Editors of Baptist state papers ranked last summer's revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) the year's top national news story. Coming in a close second in the editors' ranking was an autumn vote by the Baptist General Convention of Texas to reduce funding to seminaries and selected other programs of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by more than $5 million.

The two stories were related. Texas Baptist leaders pointed to the first major rewrite of Southern Baptists' official belief statement since 1963 as a rationale for re-evaluating the state convention's historic relationship with the denomination.

A committee appointed last year by the SBC president recommended changes to the BF&M in June, aimed in part at tightening loopholes in the previous edition that conservatives say once allowed moderates and liberals to infiltrate teaching and other denominational-leadership posts.

Though approved by a wide margin by overwhelmingly conservative messengers at the June 13-14 convention in Orlando, Fla., the revised statement drew critics who said it weakened Southern Baptists' historic commitments including priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the local church.

While secular media focused on the statement's declaration that the Bible disqualifies women from serving as pastors, religious leaders, such as those in Texas, centered on the removal of a phrase that specified Jesus Christ as the criterion for interpreting the Bible. Defenders of the change said that language has been misunderstood and abused, while opponents said the revision goes too far by elevating Scripture to an object of worship.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest of the autonomous state and regional conventions that cooperate voluntarily with the nation's largest Protestant faith group, has leaders with more moderate theological views than the conservatives who have controlled the SBC since 1990.

While Texas Baptists have taken steps to declare greater independence from the SBC for several years, last year's revisions to the state's unified budget marked the most dramatic denominational realignment to date.

Meeting in late October in El Paso, Texas Baptists reduced funding to six SBC seminaries by about 80 percent, earmarking the money instead for three theology schools in the state. They also cut funding to the SBC Executive Committee, the convention's central planning committee, to a token level and defunded the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission outright.

In an unscientific survey done annually by Associated Baptist Press, all of the 13 Baptist journalists responding to this year's poll ranked either changes to the BF&M or the Texas defunding as first or second in the year's top 10 stories.

Nine rated the BF&M revisions No. 1, while four picked the Texas action as the year's top story.

The other top stories, as ranked by a majority of editors, include:

3. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship adopts a value statement that leaders describe as "welcoming, but not affirming, of gays." The policy says the moderate group will no longer provide direct financial support to organizations that promote homosexual behavior, such as schools that include sexual orientation in their open-admissions policies. It stops short, however, of denying membership to churches that welcome gays.

4. "Mainstream Baptists" form a nationwide network, followed by several similar groups in states, in an effort to mobilize moderates to defend their state conventions against conservative dominance like that in the SBC.

5. Baptist Homes for Children, an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, defends itself against a lawsuit by a former worker who was fired because she is a lesbian.

6. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who achieved a high profile as a Southern Baptist after describing himself as "born again" during his 1976 campaign, announces he no longer regards himself a Southern Baptist. He cites differences with conservative views espoused by the denomination.

7. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that public prayers at high-school football games in Texas violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

8. Religious violence escalates in Indonesia.

9. The Supreme Court rules that the Boy Scouts of America are not required to accept homosexuals as scout leaders.

10. Albert Mohler, the conservative president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, makes comments critical of E.Y. Mullins, who shaped Southern Baptist thought as primary author of the denomination's first doctrinal statement, the BF&M, in 1925.

Mohler, who served on the committee proposing a new BF&M last summer, charged that Mullins gave too much credence to religious experience, ultimately contributing to a loss of confidence in biblical authority among Southern Baptists.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Missouri Baptists facing mass turnover

January 5 2001 by Shawn Hendricks and Bill Webb , Associated Baptist Press

Missouri Baptists facing mass turnover | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Missouri Baptists facing mass turnover

By Shawn Hendricks and Bill Webb Associated Baptist Press JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is experiencing what is believed to be the largest staff turnover in its history. A total of 28 employees are leaving their positions after accepting severance options expected to cost the convention nearly $770,000. The state convention has 101 staff positions. The large response to the severance offer is expected to be felt across the organization.

"To my knowledge, there has never been this much turnover at one time in the history of the MBC," said Jim Hill, the state convention's executive director. "We have a lot more staff leaving than I had anticipated."

The state convention offered an across-the-board severance package to employees in anticipation of a major staff restructuring this year.

Hill said employees taking the offer cited several reasons, but more than half indicated political conflict between moderates and conservatives was a contributing factor. Conservatives won officer elections for the third year in a row this fall and now control the process for nominating convention committees and boards of trustees.

Other reasons included difficulty with transition in the New Directions restructuring plan and the desire to take early retirement or move toward a new career or ministry opportunity.

Hill said the amount of experience leaving the Jefferson City offices adds up to 417 years. "That's a loss, because there is so much history," he said.

Hill said that although he did not expect so many people to accept a severance deal, offering it was the right thing to do.

Some areas of the day-to-day operation of the convention staff will be affected, he said.

"Any time there are this many vacancies in an operation, there will be a lull in the work," he said. "There will be a period when we won't be able to do an event, or there will be something we can't staff, or a request we can't respond to."

Hill said he hopes to fill many of the vacancies by Feb. 1.

"I think our organization will experience some grief over this - there is always a grieving process," he said. "And that is healthy and natural. I think, so far, they have been handling it well and are looking to the future. We're going to survive it."

The state convention's executive board met Dec. 11-12 and approved a plan for funding severance payouts ranging from two months salary to 12 months of salary and benefits, depending on tenure.

Nine of the 28 staff vacancies won't be refilled.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Shawn Hendricks and Bill Webb , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iron Christians?

January 5 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Iron Christians? | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Iron Christians?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor There is little that really interests me on TV these days aside from the news and an occasional ACC basketball game. The lone program that keeps me tuning in weekly is Food Network's "Iron Chef," which I find entertaining for several reasons: It contains enough camp humor to be hilarious, it features a fast-paced cooking competition that produces staggering culinary creations, and it's Japanese. I've been fascinated with Japan since I learned about the country in Royal Ambassadors and wrote the Foreign Mission Board to volunteer. The premise of "Iron Chef" is that a wealthy medieval noble (with loads of modern kitchen appliances) has run out of fun things to do, so he fashions a weekly gourmet cooking competition to explore new gastronomic frontiers. He recruits the four best chefs in Japan to serve as his knights, doing battle against challengers from around the world.

The competition takes place in plush "Kitchen Stadium," putative home of Takeshi Kaga, who plays the role of an eccentric millionaire with flamboyant relish.

Favorite challengers uphold traditional Japanese cuisine, while the Iron Chefs are known for nouveau, creative cooking. The challenger always enters first (usually clad in traditional white, sometimes with a kamikaze headband), and the Iron Chefs ascend theatrically on hydraulic lifts. Iron Chef French (Hiroyuki Sakai) wears a red satin uniform and holds a pear, while Iron Chef Chinese (Chen Kenichi) is clad in shining yellow and grips a meat cleaver. Masaharu Morimoto, the heroic Iron Chef Japanese, wears silver togs with bright red epaulettes and a trademark scowl. Italian cuisine is covered by Masahiko Kobe, the most recent addition. He wears a colorful uniform of red, white and green, with a tall, horizontally striped hat that seems inspired by Dr. Seuss.

Kaga begins each program by striding into the stadium in glitzy garments that would make Liberace jealous and a hairstyle that James Brown would envy. "The Chairman," as he is called, then chomps into a large, yellow bell pepper that apparently sends him to heights of ecstasy.

After introducing the challenger, Kaga allows him or her to choose an Iron Chef to battle. Kaga then dramatically snaps up a heavy drape and stage smoke boils from a table containing the week's secret theme ingredient, which may be anything from hermaphroditic salmon to suckling pigs, from scallions to noodles.

The two chefs have one hour to prepare four or five creative dishes, each one featuring the theme ingredient. Hand-held cameras follow the frenetic action while a commentator named Fukui, a color analyst (called "Doc") and a floor reporter named Otah explain what is happening.

Fast-talking Otah is constantly breaking into the commentator's patter. "Fukui-san! The Iron Chef has just added sea urchin brains to the mixture of soy sauce, Chinese herbs and angler fish liver, and he is pouring it into the ice cream machine!"

"Fukui-san! The challenger is stewing the split fish heads in bonito broth with red chili peppers, scallions and bean curd!"

A panel including Kaga and four judges tastes the artistic dishes. The celebrity judges generally include two men, usually photographers, politicians or actors. A pretty, young actress or singer inevitably sits second from the left, and the fourth seat usually rotates between two older women, a food critic and a fortune teller.

The judges marvel at the subtle flavors, attractive presentations and the sheer genius of the chefs. Their comments almost always include the phrase "enhances the natural flavor of the" pig snout, bok choy, cod roe or whatever the theme ingredient happens to be.

The whole affair is a setup, of course. Kaga is a popular Japanese stage star known for playing Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." Kitchen Stadium is a $400,000 set in Fuji-TV's largest studio.

Still, the chefs are real, their enthusiasm is infectious and the imaginative results of their frantic efforts are astonishing. Chen Kenichi can make a pig's ear look more desirable than filet mignon. Masahiko Kobe can do things with tomatoes I never dreamed of. I would try flounder foie gras sorbet with squid sucker sprinkles if Masaharu Morimoto worked his magic on it.

"Chairman" Kaga is no Jesus (though he played the role in the first Japanese version of "Jesus Christ Superstar") and the colorful Iron Chefs are no disciples, but Christians could learn something from their passion, their creativity and their appealing results.

"Fukui-san! The Iron Christian has just mixed fresh compassion with seasoned courage from the pressure cooker and is taking it to the street!"

Now, that would be a popular program.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Less is more

January 5 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Less is more | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Less is more

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor It started with a lack of self-discipline, one that manifested itself in more hamburgers with fries and fewer low-fat sub sandwiches. I eat on the road a lot. No, it's more accurate to say that I eat a lot, and often on the road. Several years ago, I joined a weight-loss support group. With the encouragement of the group, lots of exercise and the guidance of a healthful eating plan, I lost 50 pounds and felt better than I had in years.

Woe is me, for I have backslidden. I have used travel and children and work as excuses for less exercise and more calories, and about 30 of those pounds came back. I can see them when I look in the direction of my less-visible feet. I can feel them, even when I'm not doing anything physically stressful like trying to button my pants.

When I'm closer to an ideal weight and in good physical shape, I feel better, sleep better (by snoring less) and think better - not to mention being a better steward of the body God gave me. So, I think it's about time to head in that direction again.

My erratic travel schedule prohibits regular attendance at a weight-loss support group, so I've decided to impose on our readers by announcing my plan here, knowing that I've got better than 50,000 people to keep me accountable. As of this writing, I weigh 223 pounds. My goal is 195 or lower, and I hope to get there before summer.

Just to make it more fun, I invite readers to guess when (or if) I'll reach the goal. Just call, write or e-mail the Biblical Recorder with your guess by the end of January. The person whose guess is closest will win a nice denim shirt with the Recorder logo embroidered over the pocket (a new one, not the one I hope to ditch for a smaller size).

You can call (919) 847-2127, send e-mail to editor@biblicalrecorder.org or write to me at P. O. Box 18808, Raleigh, N.C. 27619-8808.

I'll provide periodic updates, probably punctuated by complaints about life without second helpings.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Don't let excuses prevent you from making a will

January 5 2001 by M. Clay Warf , Executive Director, N.C. Baptist Foundation

Don't let excuses prevent you from making a will | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Don't let excuses prevent you from making a will

By M. Clay Warf Executive Director, N.C. Baptist Foundation Nobody likes excuses, but everybody makes them at one time or another. I had a friend once who ran a construction company who would tell his people, "I get excuses at home, I don't need them at work." James W. Moore has written a book entitled, "Yes, Lord, I have Sinned, but I have Several Excellent Excuses."

Excuses have been around for a long time. Edward Martin of Los Angeles has said, "Excuses are warning signs that something is wrong in our life that needs to be changed." This is also the clear message of the parable told by Jesus in Luke 14:12-24. The point of the parable is that people who acted as though they were interested in the kingdom of God began to make excuses when it came to doing something about it. Unfortunately, we see that same pattern when it comes to estate planning and preparing a Last Will and Testament.

National statistics consistently reflect that seven out of 10 adults never take the time to prepare a Last Will and Testament and, therefore, die without exercising specific legal rights. Through inaction, they give up the right to make many important decisions that have the potential of saving family from pain and difficulty. Why are people willing to neglect making important, yet basic estate planning decisions? Many reasons are given; here are a few common ones:

"My estate's not big enough."

Many people feel they have to be rich to need or worry about having a will. On the contrary, Christian stewardship principles found in the Bible teach us a lot about being good stewards with what God has entrusted to us. Consider the parable of the talents. By making important decisions in the will (distributions to family and friends, gifts to charity, guardians for minor children, etc.), we are taking personal responsibility in a way that will be pleasing to our Lord.

"Attorneys cost too much."

The average cost for a simple will is typically far less than most think and is well worth the peace of mind it can bring. Think about it as purchasing inexpensive insurance that will protect and provide for loved ones. Unlike car and health insurance, the "premium" is paid once and may not need to be paid again for many years.

"I do not like to think about death and dying."

No one likes to think about death and dying, and it is not healthy to dwell on these things. Yet, it is also important that we not neglect our responsibilities just because we do not want to think about unpleasant things. Instead, we can focus on the positive benefits of the will. Also, when our place is secure with our Lord, death need not bring us great fear.

"Tomorrow, I'll get 'around to it' tomorrow."

Probably the biggest reason that so many people do not have a will is procrastination. Most know of the importance of the will, and it's not really the price or the negative element associated with dying that stops most people from getting "around to it." People today have busy lives; thinking about having a will is easy, but getting it done takes effort and time. Your family is worth it.

In our ministry at the N.C. Baptist Foundation, it is our privilege not only to encourage estate planning as a matter of good Christian stewardship, but also to help N.C. Baptists understand how they can use good estate planning to support their church and other Baptist causes beyond their lifetimes on earth. We are eager to serve N.C. Baptist churches as well as individuals. Please give us that opportunity in the days ahead. All excuses aside, we want to help people realize that there is no time like the present to do good estate planning.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by M. Clay Warf , Executive Director, N.C. Baptist Foundation | with 0 comments

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