July 2002

BSU students connect with summer missions

July 5 2002 by Derek Hodges , BR Intern

BSU students connect with summer missions | Friday, July 5, 2002

Friday, July 5, 2002

BSU students connect with summer missions

By Derek Hodges BR Intern

An important tradition in the Baptist Student Union (BSU) network across North Carolina is the funding of summer missionaries by the BSU.

This summer BSU is sponsoring the missions ventures of over 35 students. Students funded by BSU must be students currently enrolled in or having just graduated from a North Carolina college. Students selected for these positions are also active in their school's BSU.

Students who receive funding go through an application and interview process early in the spring semester before they plan to do their work. Students can receive up to $1,200 for a full 10 weeks of work that can take them to places like Honduras, Cuba and Romania.

Lauren Raimer is a BSU summer missionary serving in Romania. She has been working at the House of Hope, an orphanage for girls in the village of Cimpia Turzii. The girls in the House of Hope lived in orphanages until they were 13, at which time the government programs end. House of Hope provides a place to live for those girls who have nowhere else to go.

In a recent e-mail to BSU officials Lauren wrote, "My first few weeks ... have been wonderful. I have really connected with the girls so far."

She reported that she had been very busy, "helping with the supply shipments, a ladies conference in Dej for 300 local women, a weekly evangelical Bible study, and more."

Lauren said she had her reservations prior to arriving in Romania. "I wasn't sure what I was getting into before I got here, but now I know that this is right where God wanted me to be this summer... . It is such an amazing feeling to be in the center of God's will. There is much to do here, and I am loving it."

Unfortunately, Lauren and the people she works with have had to work even harder than usual lately. The government of Romania has been holding their humanitarian supplies until they pay a new 50 percent tax on all imports. Despite the tests, Lauren still relies on her faith to help her continue the work she is doing. "I know that God's will and his timing are perfect, but this country sure makes it difficult to help people," she said

Students don't have to leave the country, or even the state, to find places to serve. Six summer missionaries are serving in North Carolina. One of them, Western Carolina University student Melissa Wilson, is working at the Baptist Children's Homes (BCH) in Thomasville.

"Everything is going extremely well here," Melissa said.

Melissa is working with the children of BCH on a daily basis, visiting a different cottage each day. "I spend all day with them," Melissa said of the children. During that time she said she and the children have begun developing a special bond. "The children are starting to accept me and interact," she said. She said that a few of the children have, "even started to confide in me."

Like the other summer missionaries, Melissa said that she believes she is where she needs to be. "So far I am really enjoying my summer and I truly feel that I am where God would have me," she said.

In addition to working in the state, other summer missionaries are working on projects sponsored by the Baptist State Convention in places like Alaska and New York.

UNC-Charlotte student Greg Matthews is working with Pastor Tom Hoffman and Paul Jones at Fairview Loop Baptist Church in Wasilla, Alaska. "Things are great," Greg reports. "We just finished our first big project here - TNT Week (Truth 'N Teens). It's our big youth week where we go out into the community with the youth doing all sorts of fun events... ."

In addition to the summer missionaries, BSU also funds Youth Corps workers, students who are sent to serve as youth ministers in various N.C. churches. There are 22 students participating in the Youth Corps program this summer, serving churches which, otherwise, would have no youth minister.

Youth Corps workers receive $1,700 to help them through the summer. Since the churches they work for cannot afford to pay someone to serve as youth minister, the money provided by BSU is all the money many Youth Corps workers will receive for their summer.

BSU also sponsors students who are active as bi-vocational missionaries. Bi-vocational missionaries are students who want to be involved in summer missions but cannot devote 10 weeks full-time to the work. They are given a small stipend from BSU to do their work.

This year five members of a band from Eastern Carolina University and Ben Tallcott, a Mars Hill College student serving at Providence Church in Hendersonville, are being funded under this program.

Ben said that, since Providence is a new congregation, his duties have been mainly centered on helping to establish the church. "A large part of my responsibilities is helping with getting the church structured. I am helping with the organizing of the church by creating youth programs and activities to generate a youth group," he said.

He also said that he has been asked to fill other organizational duties, such as helping to recruit people for the church's youth group, leading Wednesday night services, teaching Sunday School and leading the worship service at a local retirement home and helping to begin a choir.

"I love my job so much! It is honestly the best thing I've ever done. The people are terrific and I am learning a great deal," Ben said.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Derek Hodges , BR Intern | with 0 comments

Past CBF leader says it's time to consider new convention

July 5 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Past CBF leader says it's time to consider new convention | Friday, July 5, 2002

Friday, July 5, 2002

Past CBF leader says it's time to consider new convention

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH - Moderates moving away from the Southern Baptist Convention will sooner or later become a new convention and should begin thinking about what form it will take, Cecil Sherman told a gathering of Mainstream Baptists June 27.

Sherman, former coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was keynote speaker at a banquet in Fort Worth, Texas, sponsored by the Mainstream Baptist Network. The banquet was held in conjunction with the CBF General Assembly, although Mainstream is not directly affiliated with CBF.

"There is an opening for our kind of people, a window of opportunity," Sherman said.

The CBF's current coordinator, Daniel Vestal, however, disagreed with his predecessor. Asked in a breakout session if he believed a new convention is around the corner, Vestal said, "It ain't gonna happen."

"You don't just form a convention by announcing it," Vestal said. "I don't think churches are going to join a new convention."

Sherman compared the condition of moderate Baptists to the children of Israel leaving bondage in Egypt. "We are out of Egypt, but we are not in the Promised Land." he said.

Moderate Baptists formed the CBF in 1991 over differences with conservatives that gained control of the SBC in the 1980s and '90s. The new organization's leadership has insisted, however, that the group is a fellowship, and not a precursor to a denomination.

The CBF rejected a motion to form a new convention in 1995. Leaders said at the time there wasn't enough interest in formally separating from the SBC, and that taking the step would be divisive in local churches. After a study of the question, however, the CBF did vote to start appointing chaplains, a function normally done by denominational bodies, in 1997.

Meanwhile, other groupings of moderate Baptists have grown up alongside the CBF over the years, including the Mainstream Baptist Network, the Alliance of Baptists and other state-focused groups.

Sherman called the current landscape of moderate Baptist affinities "an ill-formed cluster of clusters."

He discounted the much-talked-about notion of post-denominationalism, arguing that denominations may change but will not go away. "Denominations are going to stay alive," he said.

To reinforce the point, he quoted a former Southern Baptist pastor who started a new church without the support of a denomination: "People who wonder about the future of denominations should try living without one."

Despite protestations to the contrary, moderate Baptists will end up with a convention or denomination, Sherman said. "We have been building a new denomination for 10 years."

This is not a clear-cut process, however, he added. "Getting out of Egypt doesn't solve all problems."

Among challenges he listed were "negative self-definitions," odd personalities and the obsession of some with going back to Egypt.

"We've got to get beyond negative self-definitions," he said. "What we are against will get us out of Egypt but not much farther."

Further, Sherman said, "Some of the people who came out of Egypt with us are nuts. They are fruitcakes."

Because a journey through the wilderness may not always be pleasant, "fainthearted people look back," he said. "The bigness of Egypt calls them."

For moderate Baptists to move beyond the wilderness into a Promised Land will require serious thought and intentional action by people younger than Sherman, who is 68.

"Folks like me don't have a lot of business at the table," he said. "We've had our turn."

The four people most likely to guide this process, he said, are Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia; David Currie, executive director of Texas Baptists Committed; and Vestal.

Sherman said some sort of cohesive convention structure is possible, because although moderate Baptists are not all alike, "We're more alike than we'd like to admit."

But he said that cohesion will be limited, unless the fringes see the value of promoting the center.

Sherman warned against "elitist groups" that "characterize themselves but not us." Such groups, he said, are "not very smart" in advancing the Baptist cause.

"Baptists are conservative people," he said. "If we don't present ourselves in ways that make us sound like we're like them, they're not going to join us." Sherman urged moderate Baptists to "make your case from the text," the Bible. "You can be for causes if they are truly biblical causes," he said.

Sherman recalled discussions in the early 1990s about merging the CBF with the Alliance of Baptists. In an initial meeting, an Alliance representative insisted that for a merger to work, "Every church in CBF should hold our position on the women's issue," Sherman said.

"Then we'll never merge," Sherman responded.

He said he sees no difference between that type of demand and the SBC leadership's demand for conformity on biblical inerrancy. That's not to say some issues aren't essential, Sherman said. "Some ideas are very important."

The one vital issue, he said, is "who is Jesus?"

"Christianity is about Jesus," he said. "It's looking at God through Jesus. That's the big idea. All the rest, I can talk to you, work with you."

Unless moderates make that message clear, they will not gain the trust of many Baptists, Sherman said. "A lot of people don't like the actions of the SBC, but they're not sure they want to join us."

He recalled a comment made several years ago by someone in a church where he visited representing CBF: "I don't like them (SBC), but I don't trust you (CBF)."

Though Sherman opposed the CBF forming a new convention when he led the organization in 1995, he said at the time he believed it was a question of timing. "I would be surprised if this group votes to do that next year, but I'd be a lot surprised if this group hasn't done that within 20 years," he told a reporter.

Vestal, in his breakout session at this year's General Assembly, said CBF's emphasis on partnerships with ministry groups that share common values is more appealing to contemporary church leaders than a centralized denominational body.

He predicted that currently existing denominations would in the future come to resemble CBF's "denomination-like" approach. Because of that, he said that the CBF is uniquely poised to serve churches in an era termed by many as "post-denominational."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Baptists Today Editor John Pierce contributed to this story.)

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Vestal casts vision for CBF

July 5 2002 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Vestal casts vision for CBF | Friday, July 5, 2002

Friday, July 5, 2002

Vestal casts vision for CBF

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH - The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) held its annual General Assembly June 27-29 in Fort Worth, Texas. At the meeting the issue of what CBF is and what it will become was discussed several times.

CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said his vision for CBF is the same as his vision for the church, to represent Christ in the world.

"The mission given by God to every Christian and every church is to be an embodiment of Christ, an extension of Christ," Vestal said. "We are to be what Christ was while he was on this earth.

"We are to be Christ in the world, the body of Christ, the mystical presence of Christ, the representative of Christ. Our mission is to live as Christ, to act as Christ and, if necessary, to suffer as Christ."

Vestal said the future of CBF lies in serving and equipping "incarnational" churches. Such churches, he said, will be both "prophetic" in their message and "priestly" in service to others.

"The church that incarnates the life and ministry of Jesus will love sinners," Vestal said. "Because it loves sinners, it will serve them."

Rather than casting stones at non-Christians, Vestal said such churches "will make sinners feel welcome because they are welcome."

But turning to relationships within the church, Vestal asked, "How can we love sinners outside the church if we don't love sinners inside the church, that is if we don't love one another?"

"Moderate Baptists are critical of one another," Vestal said. "Cynical and caustic, instead of compassionate and kind. If I were asked to name the single one ingredient of what characterizes the incarnational church, it would be this one: it serves. And because it loves it will be both prophetic and priestly."

Jim Baucom, pastor of Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. and former CBF moderator, gave both an introduction and response to Vestal's message. Baucom said he believes Cooperative Baptist churches "are among the true heirs" of the church's mission of incarnating Christ's spirit.

"I submit to you that CBF is Christ's body fulfilled for the 21st century," he said. "We are the Baptist incarnation of God's love in our world today. That is what defines us. That is what tells us who we are." Baucom completed his one-year term as CBF moderator, a non-paid leadership position, at the close of the General Assembly. He stays another year on the Coordinating Council and leadership team in his capacity as past-moderator.

Delegates at the General Assembly elected a Missouri lay woman as moderator-elect this year. Cynthia Holmes of Clayton, Mo., is a St. Louis-area attorney and a member of Overland Baptist Church. She has served several years on the CBF's Coordinating Council, currently as an at-large member and chairperson of the council's legal committee.

Holmes will serve next year as moderator-elect before becoming the Fellowship's top elected leader in 2003-2004. Phill Martin of Richardson, Texas, elected last year as moderator-elect, takes over as moderator this year from Virginia pastor Jim Baucom.

Holmes will be the sixth woman to assume leadership in the CBF since it organized in 1991. The 1,800-church Fellowship formed out of a split with the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, which in recent years has sparked controversy with stances against the ordination of women in Baptist churches and that wives should submit to their husbands in the home.

At a pre-General Assembly meeting of the Coordinating Council, the CBF's top-paid administrator said he believes his organization provides a good model for churches in including people of both sexes in leadership roles.

"We are a laboratory of shared leadership between men and women," CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said. "It's in our DNA to have leadership that is shared by men and women."

"We don't have to argue about that," Vestal said. "It is in us. I don't mean to say we're perfect there, but I really do believe we have as one of our core values ... a commitment to leadership that is shared by male and female."

As moderator, Martin, a clergyman who directs the National Association of Church Business Administrators, will preside over next year's General Assembly, as well as at meetings of the Coordinating Council during the next year.

Paul Kenley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lampasas, Texas, was elected to a third term as recorder.

In a business session, CBF registrants approved a $19.2 million budget for 2002-2003. Fifty-eight percent of that amount, $11.2 million, is earmarked for global missions. The budget anticipates $10.1 million in undesignated gifts and a $6.1 million goal for the CBF's global-missions offering. Twenty-four new missionaries were commissioned during the meeting.

Other expenditures include $1.2 million in institutional support for 11 theology schools and partial support for several other "partner" organizations, including the Baptist Joint Committee, Associated Baptist Press, Baptists Today, the Baptist Center for Ethics, the Center for Christian Ethics and Passport, a youth camping ministry.

About $7 million in the budget supports CBF strategic initiatives -- broad program categories of faith formation, building community and networking and leadership development -- plus communications and marketing, General Assembly expenses and administration.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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