June 2002

Record number attend deaf ministry retreat

June 28 2002 by Derek Hodges , BR Intern

Record number attend deaf ministry retreat | Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, June 28, 2002

Record number attend deaf ministry retreat

By Derek Hodges BR Intern

Providing an opportunity for deaf people and deaf ministry workers to fellowship with their peers is what Donnie Wiltshire says the "Together in Christ" (TIC) conference is all about.

Wiltshire and the Special Ministries team of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) were the coordinators of the annual conference which was held at Caraway Conference Center May 17-19. This year's event saw a record number of attendees, with 215 deaf and hearing from across the state come together to celebrate the theme, "Serving Faithful."

The weekend focused on the passage from 1 Cor. 4:2, in which Paul teaches, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." The passage and theme were both chosen to highlight the conference's special emphasis, which was "Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jerry and Ruth Potter." The Potters have served the deaf in North Carolina through the BSC in official and unofficial roles.

Wiltshire said this year's TIC was "a great success in every way." He also reported that, "There was a great spirit throughout the weekend." Wiltshire added that a great deal of excitement was created by the celebration of the Potters' service.

The TIC, first started in 1968, is a chance for the deaf and hearing in North Carolina to get together for training, fellowship and worship. Wiltshire said the worship is always one of the best parts of the event. He credits the fact that it allows the deaf to worship in an environment where everyone else is "speaking the same language" as the reason the services are always so good.

Jim Royston, executive director/treasurer of the BSC, spoke to the group on Friday. Neal Payton, retired special ministries consultant for the BSC, Jerry Potter, and Wiltshire also spoke during the three-day conference.

According to Wiltshire, one of the most moving moments in this year's TIC came during one of the two professions of faith made during the weekend. On Saturday evening. Lillie Jones, an 89-year-old deaf woman, made a profession of faith in Christ, he said.

During the Saturday evening service the group spent time honoring and thanking the weekend's honorees, Jerry and Ruth Porter. Jerry began his work with the BSC in May 1952, after C.E. Jones left the convention's part time position in deaf ministry.

Potter first became interested in working with the deaf when he was living in Oregon. When he was first brought to North Carolina about 20 churches had a ministry for deaf people. He became very involved with these groups, as well as in ministering to students at the state's two deaf schools in Morganton and Raleigh. By 1954 Potter was ministering to more than 500 deaf youth at the two schools.

It was also in 1954 that Ruth Potter organized the first deaf WMU circle in North Carolina, only the second of its kind in the Southern Baptist Convention. Jerry was quoted as saying, "As we look into the work still undone, it humbles us to know that God has chosen us for such a huge job."

The Potters have been dedicated to tackling that "huge job," however. In their 50 years of service, deaf ministry in North Carolina has grown from 20 Bible studies to more than 70 churches with ministries to the deaf and five deaf congregations.

During that time the Potters also helped to launch a television program for the deaf called "Light Unto My Path." The show aired for nearly 25 years and went from one station broadcasting at its start in 1958, to 20 in 1975, before going off the air in 1983.

Jerry Potter also compiled a book of religious signs, which was later published by the Sunday School Board. Potter also worked with Gardner-Webb University to start a program that enabled deaf students to attend the university. This led to the university's first three deaf graduates in 1982, as well as earning Potter an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Gardner-Webb.

Potter retired from the position of director of deaf ministries in 1994, after 42 years of service in that position. Both Jerry and Ruth remain active in the deaf ministry across the state.

In addition, the weekend of May 17-19, Caraway also played host to the state deaf youth retreat. Since both events were started it has been tradition to hold them at the same place on the same weekend.

This year's youth event was led by camp pastor Chip Pendland, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Of the 102 youth attending, Wiltshire says the majority was from the two residential deaf schools in Morganton and Wilson. Seven youth made professions of faith in Christ.

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6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Derek Hodges , BR Intern | with 0 comments

Dry weather

June 28 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Dry weather | Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, June 28, 2002

Dry weather

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Here's my contribution to "everybody talking about the weather," and an interesting twist on "nobody doing anything about it."

The central part of North Carolina is experiencing its driest period in recent history. The central piedmont is suffering from what the weather gurus call "exceptional drought," surrounded by a substantial area suffering drought conditions ranging from mild to extreme.

It's just plain dry. Even those who can afford the water bill are unable to keep their lawns green in many areas because of town or city enforced water restrictions.

The upside (so long as you don't operate a lawn care service) is that the grass hasn't needed cutting in weeks.

The downside is just about everything else. Crops are dying in the fields, produce is puny, the woods are a tinderbox and dust is everywhere.

I'm sure many folks are praying for rain, and I wondered why those prayers haven't had some result by now.

Then I found out that some visiting Baptists who came to Raleigh for a World Changers mission project had prayed that it wouldn't rain so they could finish roofing a house (see story, page 1). There must be some powerful prayer warriors in that group.

I hope, on their way out of town, they'll remember to cancel that request.

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6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

What's wrong with a few strong words?

June 28 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

What's wrong with a few strong words? | Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, June 28, 2002

What's wrong with a few strong words?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The 2002 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention included a video visit from the president, high-profile reports from mission boards, the introduction of new initiatives on the family and the Kingdom of God, and the annual protest by Soulforce, a group that promotes religious acceptance of homosexuality.

But historians will likely remember the convention as the year Jerry Vines took on Mohammed, with worldwide repercussions.

Vines, a former SBC president, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. While arguing for the superiority of Christianity to Islam during the annual Pastors' Conference, Vines called Mohammed, who founded the religion practiced by one-fifth of the world's population, "a demon-possessed pedophile."

"Allah is not Jehovah, either," he added, and "Jehovah is not going to turn anyone into a terrorist that will try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people."

Vines later defended his statements by pointing to some of Islam's own writings, quoted in the recently published Unveiling Islam, by Emil and Ergun Caner. Some Islamic sources suggest that Mohammed believed demons were tormenting him until one of his wives convinced him his visions came from Allah, and that another of his dozen or so wives and concubines was only nine years old when the marriage was consummated.

One could point to the cultural setting of 7th century Arabia and question whether those statements make Mohammed "a demon-possessed pedophile," since there is no evidence that he was unnaturally attracted to children in general.

But let's assume, for the sake of the argument, that Vines' statements have some historical grounding.

What's wrong with a few strong words when you're standing up for the truth?

While spokespeople for Muslims, Jews, interfaith groups, the White House, and a whole gaggle of others (including some Baptists) have either condemned or distanced themselves from Vines' comments, SBC leaders have circled the wagons to defend him.

Past and current presidents of the SBC, convention officials and several seminary presidents have gone on the record to support the accuracy of Vines' statements and the propriety of his speaking the truth. Their statements, reported by Baptist Press, generally endorse Vines' comments as a simple effort to hold high the cross and the exclusive claim of salvation through Christ.

Vines himself has steadfastly refused to back down from the comments or their manner of presentation. In a statement to his church, he said he has a 20-year track record of being a loving pastor who loves Muslims and wants them to be saved, and that he's too busy to talk about it any more.

So what's wrong with a few strong words?

Here are a few things I believe to be wrong with those strong words.

First, even if one regards the statements as historically accurate, they did not come across as being couched in love or gentleness of speech, which the Bible demands of Christians. Proclaiming the truth does not oblige one to call names. One does not build relationships with Muslims or any other religious group by besmirching their revered founder.

Surely Vines would not use such language in personal conversations with Muslim people. The SBC Pastors' Conference is such a public forum that one must assume that the entire world is listening, and the same kind of tact is required. Vines' comments came across like one boy on the playground saying "yo' mama" to another boy, which inevitably starts a fight.

A second thing wrong with such strong words is that they could easily damage mission efforts to Muslim peoples. Baptists will be branded as people who hold Muslims in low esteem, adding to the enmity many Eastern Muslims already feel toward Western Christians. Suspicions will increase, bridges carefully built across time may be broken, and doing missions will become increasingly difficult.

A third problem with those strong words is that they are likely to endanger the lives of other Baptists, some of whom are already working in very tenuous and dangerous situations.

The next time an extremist group that uses Islam as a pretext for violence decides to attack American civilians, Baptist gatherings could become targets. When the next SBC meeting is held in Phoenix, increased security will be needed for more reasons than to keep Soulforce members out of the convention hall.

The next time terrorists in the Philippines or in Philadelphia decide to conduct a high profile kidnapping, they may be more inclined to target Baptists. As Dwight Moody noted, Vines' speech "is more likely to result in the burial of a Baptist than the baptism of a Muslim."

So what's wrong with a few kind words?

Like, "I'm sorry to have caused offense. I still believe Mohammed was mistaken and that salvation is through Christ alone, but I should have spoken more carefully."

Is that so hard?

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6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 14: God Wants Me to be Faithful

June 28 2002 by James Baldwin , Genesis 6:5-9,12-14,22; 7:1-3,5; 8:1; Hebrews 11:7

Family Bible Study lesson for July 14: God Wants Me to be Faithful | Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, June 28, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for July 14: God Wants Me to be Faithful

By James Baldwin Genesis 6:5-9,12-14,22; 7:1-3,5; 8:1; Hebrews 11:7

C.S. Lewis wrote a book comprised of fictional letters between a veteran devil named Screwtape, and his young demonic nephew named Wormwood.

Referring to God as the "Enemy," Screwtape warned his nephew of the power of faithful living. "He wanted them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Surely there were times when Noah looked around and saw no evidence of God's hand. Still he was faithful and obedient.

Chosen (Genesis 6:5-9) One thing I love about the Bible is its honesty. The Bible never tries to sugarcoat sin or whitewash the terrible effects it has on creation.

By the third chapter of Genesis we see that sin had already broken the relationship between humans and God. By the fourth chapter sin had brought about the death of an individual. By chapter six God was sorry He had ever created humans.

As He considered destroying all mankind and starting over, God remembered Noah. Noah is described as "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God."

We live in times of evil and sin much like the time of Noah. We should live our lives in a manner that sets us apart from the rest of society - a peculiar people, chosen by God (1 Peter 2:9).

Tested (Genesis 6:12-14,22) Comedian Bill Cosby performed a classic skit about Noah when he first began doing comedy.

God calls to Noah and tells him "I want you to build an ark."

Naturally, Noah asks, "Who is this?"

When God identifies Himself and repeats His command to build an ark, Noah replies, "Right! What's an ark?"

We can only imagine the laughter Noah caused as he began to build a giant boat in the middle of the desert. How could he explain that he was building the boat to house two of every kind of animal, because God was preparing to flood the earth?

Besides dealing daily with the ridicule of family and friends, Noah had to battle his own doubts about the sanity of this project. Yet the scripture testifies that "Noah did everything just as God commanded him." That is faithfulness.

Preserved (Genesis 7:1-3,5; 8:1) Because Noah was obedient to God, God protected him from the promised destruction.

When we are willing to believe God, and are willing to accept by faith His way of salvation, we place ourselves in a place where He can save us.

Scripture makes clear the connection between Noah's experience and our own.

"God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Rewarded (Hebrews 11:7) Noah is listed in the "faith hall of fame" in Hebrews 11. He is recognized for his obedience to God in spite of the lack of physical evidence to verify his actions.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 11:1).

Noah had no Weather Channel predicting massive rains due to "El Nino" in the South Pacific. All he had to go by was the word of God that spoke to his spirit.

God is still looking for people who are willing to act on faith. He desires to use individuals who will obey in spite of the taunts of others and their own insecurities.

"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him" (2 Chr. 16:9).

When the Lord sees you, what does He see?

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Genesis 6:5-9,12-14,22; 7:1-3,5; 8:1; Hebrews 11:7 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 21: God Wants Me to be Humble

June 28 2002 by James Baldwin , Exodus 18:14-24; Numbers 12:3; Hebrews 11:24-26

Family Bible Study lesson for July 21: God Wants Me to be Humble | Friday, June 28, 2002
  • The mom who is used to thinking through homework, lunch, household chores, allowances, grocery shopping and carpool arrangements may have trouble letting go of some of those responsibilities.
  • The dependable office employee who somehow ends up finishing tasks left undone by other workers may have to learn to say "No" in order to preserve his or her own mental or physical health.
  • The pastor who goes to the railroad tracks every day to watch the train go by, feeling, "This is the only thing that I know of that moves without my having to push it!" will have to arrive at a time admitting that he cannot do it all.

    Wise Counsel (Exodus 18:19-24; Numbers 12:3) When Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, came to visit his daughter and grandchildren, he offered words of affirmation to Moses. He praised God for working through His people, and especially through Moses.

    Still it could have been difficult for Moses to swallow advice from his wife's father. "What you are doing is not good... The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."

    A lesser man would have defended his track record and worked even harder to prove himself capable. Moses had enough ego-strength to hear Jethro's advice, discern its wisdom and respond accordingly.

    Humility is an indication of confidence, not weakness.

    Arrogance and defensiveness often serve as a cover for insecurity.

    Courageous Choice (Hebrews 11:24-26) The writer of Hebrews removes any lingering doubts as to whether Moses' humility came from strength or weakness.

    Moses had already taken a courageous stand by identifying himself with the people of Israel rather than the people of Egypt. Because of his adoption by Pharaoh's daughter (Ex. 2:1-10), Moses could have lived life in luxury and ease. Instead he chose to follow God's call to deliver the Israelites from slavery.

    The right choice is usually not the easy choice.

    The Christian rock group, "dc talk," has written a book titled Jesus Freaks. Their book is a collection of stories about Christian martyrs - people who have been willing to die for their faith. Each story is a moving testimony to the power of courage, as believers remained humble in the face of persecution.

    One of these martyrs, named Vanya, wrote his parents in Russia just before his death: "My dear parents, the Lord has showed the way to me... and I have decided to follow... I will now have more severe and bigger battles than I have had till now. But I do not fear them. He goes before me. Do not grieve for me, my dear parents. It is because I love Jesus more than myself."

  • Friday, June 28, 2002

    Family Bible Study lesson for July 21: God Wants Me to be Humble

    By James Baldwin Exodus 18:14-24; Numbers 12:3; Hebrews 11:24-26

    Years ago I heard a Christian comedian who grew up dreaming of playing football against Baylor University, "the largest Baptist university in the world!"

    When the big game finally arrived, he found himself lined up against a fellow by the name of Rayfield. The scouting reports described him as mean and aggressive. When he was ordained as a preacher he had two black eyes.

    Sure enough, Rayfield was wreaking havoc on the defense and this particular lineman was told to stop him. The next play, as he went after the preaching football player, Rayfield stiff-armed him and smashed his face in the ground, leaving him with a mouth full of dirt.

    When he challenged Rayfield about his dirty tactics, the preacher pointed a long, bony finger in his face and said, "The meek shall inherit the earth!"

    Such is the attitude of most of the world - only the strong and aggressive get ahead in life. Humility is not regarded as a sign of success.

    Moses turned that idea upside down.

    Impossible Task (Exodus 18:14-18) Moses obviously possessed leadership qualities. In spite of his objections when God called him to lead the people of Israel (Ex. 3 and 4), people recognized his wisdom and came to him for guidance.

    Moses was willing to offer advice and counsel to the people, although it must have taken a toll on his personal and family life. Moses had to come to terms with the fact that he was not able to do all the work himself.

    That is often a hard lesson for type-A personalities to learn.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Exodus 18:14-24; Numbers 12:3; Hebrews 11:24-26 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for July 14: Beginning Where I Am

    June 28 2002 by Haven Parrott , Matthew 9:35-10:20

    Formations lesson for July 14: Beginning Where I Am | Friday, June 28, 2002

    Friday, June 28, 2002

    Formations lesson for July 14: Beginning Where I Am

    By Haven Parrott Matthew 9:35-10:20

    Hurricane Floyd left the community of Tickbite painfully swollen with despair and destruction. Tickbite is not much of a place ... just one of many eastern North Carolina addresses not far from the Tar River where people quietly make their home, their living, their lives. That is until Floyd's visit replaced refuge with refuse, order with chaos and sanity with sediment. Cleaning up was a matter of ripping out walls, tearing up floors, throwing out furniture and hauling memories to the dump.

    Many residents, like the elderly man at whose ruined home I worked, were too paralyzed by the shock to do much more than watch and mumble as compassionate strangers tried to make a 6'-by-8' tool shed inhabitable for him and his wife until the government came through with money to replace their home. The look on the man's face was one of utter hopelessness ... he looked as much like a sheep without a shepherd as I have ever seen.

    As I worked on the tool shed, the Spirit worked on me.

    How tragically ironic it would be, I thought, if this man had been delivered from the hell of a hurricane only to die and spend eternity in a hell infinitely more horrible. I looked at him and wondered about his weeping: did his tears flow from the realization that he had built his life on as flimsy a foundation as the one on which his trailer had been resting, or did he know the "rock of ages"? Did he have the assurance of a home beyond the one we were preparing for him? He certainly didn't need to be told about the capricious nature of health, wealth, security and control ... but was it possible that he needed to hear about the One who never changes?

    Oftentimes, circumstances become the catalyst where conviction takes root: the soul softens and becomes ripe unto harvest. Maybe a reaper was needed here; someone to swing the sickle of the word and bring in the sheaves.

    It occurred to me that, though I had made the trip to provide whatever tangible assistance I could, my primary mission in Tickbite was not to clean and paint. God had arranged an appointment for me to share the old story with this old man.

    I started to protest to the Spirit that I didn't know what to say, but He reminded me of the master's model: start with the physical and build a bridge to the spiritual.

    The disciples in Matthew 10 were given the supernatural ability to meet physical needs for the purpose of proclaiming the kingdom.

    Well, I had no miracles up my sleeve, but I had rolled up my sleeves to help ... maybe that was enough of a pulpit. At any rate, it was a place to begin. I stopped stalling and gave in to the Spirit's leading.

    I think I said something really profound, like, "You just never know what's around the corner, do you?"

    He nodded in silent agreement.

    "What was it like?" I asked.

    He looked past me and said nothing for a moment. Then he told me about the night the river came to his door. He choked back sobs as he remembered how a neighbor had helped him and his wife get to safety. "I still can't believe we lived through it," he finished.

    "Would you have gone to heaven if things had turned out differently that night?" I asked.

    "Don't know," he said. "I hope so, but I'm not sure."

    "You can be sure," I said quietly. "Want to know how?"

    He nodded and I told him.

    "I've heard that before. Never really gave it a lot of thought, though." He looked down at the mud. "Maybe it's time to think about it."

    Sometimes the circumstances of life arrange themselves in such a way that folks are ripe to receive and respond to some really good news: the gospel of grace, the hope of a home that can never be flooded, of seeing again their loved ones who have been taken away.

    Mitch visited Honduras; Osama visited New York City; disease and death visit families around us every day. Reapers are needed. Begin where you are.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Matthew 9:35-10:20 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for July 21: Working Together

    June 28 2002 by Haven Parrott , 1 Corinthians 3:1-11; 1 Peter 4:7b-11

    Formations lesson for July 21: Working Together | Friday, June 28, 2002

    Friday, June 28, 2002

    Formations lesson for July 21: Working Together

    By Haven Parrott 1 Corinthians 3:1-11; 1 Peter 4:7b-11

    Those of us who live mostly in the cocoon of a local church culture don't often get an opportunity to see the body of Christ at work in the world. We're just too close.

    Good stewards of the manifold grace of God Thanks to some folks at Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, I got a glimpse of what an incredibly glorious witness of her "groom the bride" is when her members employ their individual gifts in service to one another - as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

    Watts Street is where my brother goes to church. I've never worshiped there but I can testify that there are folks in that community of faith who know how to do church.

    My brother's wife died of cancer last year. She suffered awfully and struggled gallantly before winning the ultimate victory.

    During that struggle, the body of Christ cooked, cleaned, taxied, babysat, gave cash, encouraged, wept, sang, prayed, visited and continuously ministered to my brother and his family in such a tremendously generous way that the nurses and neighbors wondered aloud, "Who are those people?"

    I'm not sure if the name of the church was ever mentioned but I know the name and nature of her founder was proclaimed loud and clear ... and sometimes even with words.

    Those folks will never know the reach of their unified ministry or the depth of a little sister's gratitude.

    We are God's fellow workers Sometimes we need to be reminded that the world tends to give more thought to the church's message when her members work less at finding fault and more at showing the love which covers a multitude of sins. We have differences within our denomination, to be sure ... but shouldn't those differences serve to clue us in to how much we need one another rather than drive us to dissension?

    While kneecaps and shoulder blades have different perspectives and functions, both belong to the same body, over whom only the head is Lord.

    The church is God's building The Spirit inspired Paul to call the church "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9). The building's architect is God, its blueprint and foundation is Christ, and its interior designer, decorator, landscaper and labor supervisor is the Spirit. Construction began at Pentecost and will continue until the rapture.

    Folks, that's a big building. There's plenty of room in Christ for different verses of the same song; different scraps of the same quilt; different shades of the same color; different textures in the same collage.

    Our job as builders is not to supervise the work of other laborers, but to make sure we do the job we've been assigned and gifted to perform in such a way that the giver, not the gift-bearer, is honored and showcased.

    Paul reminded the Corinthians that jealousy and squabbling are hallmarks of spiritual immaturity. Jesus said the unity of believers would be how the world would know that God loves them (John. 17:23).

    If we want others to come into our Father's house, we'd do well to focus on being hospitable without complaint to those who already live there, "so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4:11).

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , 1 Corinthians 3:1-11; 1 Peter 4:7b-11 | with 0 comments

    Ex-missionary confesses to "sinful acts"

    June 21 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Ex-missionary confesses to "sinful acts" | Friday, June 21, 2002

    Friday, June 21, 2002

    Ex-missionary confesses to "sinful acts"

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    In a June 17 letter to fellow church members, family and friends, William N. (Mac) McElrath confessed to several incidents of child abuse early in his missionary career. McElrath and his wife, Betty, served as missionaries to Indonesia through the International Mission Board (IMB, formerly the Foreign Mission Board) from 1964 until 1995, and now live in Raleigh. The incidents occurred between 1967 and 1973.

    The public statement came in the wake of pressure from five former missionary children, now adults, who say they were abused by McElrath. Along with a small group of supporters, they met June 14 with IMB president Jerry Rankin and other officials of the mission board. The IMB responded with a press release affirming support for a resolution on "the sexual integrity of ministers," approved June 12 at the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting.

    In the IMB statement, distributed June 18 by Baptist Press, Rankin said, "Sadly, our record in this area is not without blemish and we are not immune from such problems, though our policies and current stance on sexual misconduct are very strong." Internal policies were strengthened in the area of sexual misconduct a decade ago and reflect zero tolerance on sexual offenses, Rankin said.

    The statement said the IMB "is taking initiatives to provide additional counseling for these men and women," and quoted Rankin as saying, "We are firmly committed to reaching out to victims and dealing decisively with violators. We are engaged in an ongoing review of our policies regarding sexual misconduct, and we are committed to continuous training of our personnel in awareness and prevention of sexual misconduct."

    The release named McElrath as an example of "isolated cases of sexual abuse in the past," and cited McElrath's letter of the previous day.

    IMB spokeswoman Wendy Norvelle told the Religion News Service there were two or three other cases involving abuse of children in the past nine years, but said she could not provide details. "If there is misconduct, termination is the result," she said.

    A complaint was made against McElrath in 1973, accusing him of fondling two children of missionaries in Indonesia. The accusation was reviewed by field administrators, parents of the children and the McElraths, and "was resolved among the parties," according to the IMB statement

    McElrath said in his letter that none of the incidents involved sexual intercourse. "My sinful acts involved touching, tickling, cuddling, fondling that went too far," he wrote. McElrath said he was discouraged, following conventional wisdom of the day, from talking with any of the involved persons.

    In January of 1995, a group of victims came forward as adults and contacted IMB officials with information about other incidents that occurred between 1967 and 1973. In the course of an investigation, McElrath admitted to additional charges and was terminated by the mission board. His wife was allowed to take early retirement.

    Because the incidents had taken place more than 20 years previously and in another country, no legal charges were filed.

    At that time, McElrath wrote personal letters "to each person whom I thought I may have harmed, including grownup missionary children and their parents," he said. There were 12 or 13 letters, he said, involving six missionary families. "I confessed my sin, apologized for my actions, and begged forgiveness," he said. "Thank God, people blew the whistle on me 29 years ago," said McElrath, who insists there has been no additional misconduct since 1973.

    Some victims and their advocates, however, say McElrath is minimizing the seriousness of the issue and understating the number of children involved.

    Eddy Ruble, the brother of one victim and a spokesman for the group, told the Recorder that he believed McElrath's failure to remove himself from all contact with children indicates a lack of true remorse and concern for the safety of children.

    The Rubles cited research suggesting pedophilia is generally considered a permanent condition.

    According to a fact sheet on pedophilia published by the American Psychiatric Association, "the outlook for successful treatment and rehabilitation of individuals is guarded," leading most treatment programs to emphasize a relapse-prevention model designed to preclude contact with children.

    Upon leaving the IMB, the McElraths moved to Raleigh and joined Forest Hills Baptist Church. McElrath said in his letter that he told senior pastor Larry Harper in confidence about his termination prior to joining Forest Hills, and he pledged not to accept any ongoing leadership responsibilities involving children or youth.

    He and Betty did accept periodic requests "to share with children or youth at church, based on our experiences in music and missions," McElrath said, but always in public settings, with other adults present.

    One concerned church member who does not want to be identified disputed that account, telling the Recorder that McElrath had spent unsupervised time with her children, though she was confident that nothing untoward happened.

    In a March 21 letter intended for distribution to ministerial staff and lay leaders at Forest Hills, Ruble wrote to express concern that McElrath's quiet departure from the IMB "allowed him to maintain his fa�ade of being an upstanding member of the clergy - simply retired."

    McElrath should not be recognized as a "former" or "retired" missionary, he wrote, but publicly known as a "terminated missionary."

    "I have taken it on as my cause to try to put a stop to Mac's endangerment of children by informing those in supervisory roles in places and institutions where Mac McElrath places himself in contact with children," he wrote.

    Leaders at the church mailed a letter to church members on June 17 indicating a policy agreement in which McElrath "will not participate, lead, accept or be involved in any trust position with children or youth within the church." The church arranged a forum to allow members to address concerns and released a public statement on June 21.

    "The leadership of Forest Hills Baptist Church is not aware of any recurrence of

    William McElrath's indiscreet behavior from the years of 1967-1973 at any time

    since Mr. McElrath has been a member of Forest Hills Baptist Church," the statement said. "The church is also not aware of any allegations of any recurrence of such behavior. The church leadership is responding to the present situation with concern for our children, our parents, the church-at-large, as well as with grace and compassion for the McElrath family."

    McElrath has published more than 60 books, about half in Indonesian and half in English. Many of the books, such as A Bible Dictionary for Young Readers, were marketed to children and youth. A 1997 title, Ways We Worship, introduced

    young readers to world religions. McElrath also wrote Sunday School lesson commentaries for the Biblical Recorder for four months beginning in January 2001. The Recorder staff was unaware of the incidents of abuse at that time.

    McElrath's record became public through efforts by the Rubles, the five victims and other supporters, which led to the June 14 meeting with Rankin, several top IMB officials, and two lawyers. The IMB arranged the meeting and paid the expenses for all participants, including three persons who traveled from Europe and the Middle East, Ruble said.

    Victims and their advocates asked the IMB to make a public statement about McElrath's termination, to provide counseling services for victims, to actively seek other victims of abuse and make counseling available to them, and to tighten internal policies to discourage future acts of abuse.

    "The only way to protect children is to break the silence," Ruble's wife, Cindy, told the Recorder, "to expose perpetrators at such a level that they can no longer be in a situation that could endanger children."

    The Rubles said IMB officials promised to release a statement "within one or two weeks" of the Friday meeting, after clearing it with victims and their supporters. But, the IMB statement released the following Tuesday included no input from the victims and played down their concerns about McElrath, Ruble said.

    Three of the victims are seeking financial restitution. They held a second meeting with IMB officials and legal counsel on June 14. No details of the meeting have been released, though an IMB official cited legal ramifications growing from that meeting for the decision not to consult victims before issuing the mission board's press release.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/21/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    High court strikes down door-to-door canvassing regulation

    June 21 2002 by Tom Strode , Baptist Press

    High court strikes down door-to-door canvassing regulation | Friday, June 21, 2002

    Friday, June 21, 2002

    High court strikes down door-to-door canvassing regulation

    By Tom Strode Baptist Press

    WASHINGTON - An Ohio town ordinance that regulates door-to-door canvassing violates the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 17.

    The decision is considered a victory not only for Jehovah's Witnesses, the religious group that brought the suit, but also for Christians and others who do unsolicited visitations to homes.

    The Supreme Court voted 8-1 to reverse a lower court opinion that had upheld a measure adopted in the village of Stratton, Ohio, that required a permit before a person could go on private property to advocate a cause, sell a product or promote an organization. The ordinance affected religious adherents, political candidates, community groups and salespeople.

    The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, a corporation that coordinates the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses, brought suit against Stratton after the ordinance was adopted. Jehovah's Witnesses often go door-to-door distributing their publications.

    The Stratton ordinance requires an individual to register with the mayor's office and to explain the cause and reason for the home visitation.

    "I am delighted that the Supreme Court has chosen to affirm religious liberty and freedom of speech," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Conventnion's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). "Any other decision would have been a disaster for First Amendment freedoms in America."

    The ruling "is good news ... real good news," Land said. "Hopefully, the 8-1 decision portends more good news to come from this court in the immediate future."

    Americans United (AU) for Separation of Church and State, which often clashes with the ERLC and other religious freedom organizations, also welcomed the ruling.

    "People who want to talk about their views with others shouldn't have to ask the government for permission first," AU executive director Barry Lynn said in a written statement. "People who are bothered by door-to-door evangelism can always say, 'No, thanks,' and shut the door or post a 'No soliciting' sign. Heavy-handed government regulations on speech stifle our basic freedoms."

    In the majority opinion, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens said the ordinance had a "pernicious effect."

    "It is offensive - not only to the values protected by the First Amendment, but to the very notion of a free society - that in the context of everyday discourse a citizen must first inform the government of their desire to speak to their neighbors and then obtain a permit to do so," Stevens wrote. "Even if the issuance of permits by the mayor's office is a ministerial task that is performed promptly and at no cost to the applicant, a law requiring a permit to engage in such speech constitutes a dramatic departure from our national heritage and constitutional tradition."

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/21/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tom Strode , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

    Terrorism, Middle East, sexual integrity of ministers topics of SBC resolutions

    June 21 2002 by Bill Neal , Christian Index

    Terrorism, Middle East, sexual integrity of ministers topics of SBC resolutions | Friday, June 21, 2002

    Friday, June 21, 2002

    Terrorism, Middle East, sexual integrity of ministers topics of SBC resolutions

    By Bill Neal Christian Index

    ST. LOUIS--Resolutions adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention during

    their June 11-12 annual meeting spoke to contemporary issues such as the

    war on terrorism, peace in the Middle East, the sexual integrity of

    ministers and opposition to partial-birth abortion.

    Most of the adopted resolutions were reported out from the convention's

    resolutions committee, chaired by Frank Harber, pastor of First Baptist

    Church in Colleyville, Texas. The committee had not proposed a

    resolution on partial-birth abortion, however, since the convention

    spoke on that issue previously.

    But Rick Reeder, a messenger from Princeton, Ky., made a motion from the

    floor that the convention go on record this year encouraging the

    president and congress to make the ban on partial-birth abortion a high

    priority. He noted that a presidential veto was unlikely from George

    Bush, making the passage of such legislation timely.

    A two-thirds majority was required for consideration of resolutions

    proposed directly from the floor outside the committeeproces - a rarity

    at SBC meetings - but this one easily passed with an overwhelmingly

    affirmative vote.

    The resolution on terrorism states that Southern Baptists

    "wholeheartedly support the actions of the United States government, its

    intelligence agencies and its military in the just war against the

    terrorist networks."

    Meanwhile, a related resolution supports continuing prayer for peace in

    the Middle East. Specifically, it supports the right of Israel to exist

    as a sovereign state, denounces revenge and holds Israel accountable to

    the same standards of national righteousness as any other nation. It

    calls on the Palestinian people to repudiate terrorism and encourages

    both the Israeli and Palestinian people to promote genuine religious

    liberty and peace between themselves and their neighbors.

    All spiritual leaders are urged to hold one another accountable to the

    highest standards of Christian moral practice, according to another

    resolution. It urges all religious bodies and local churches to rid

    their ranks of predatory ministers and discipline those guilty of any

    sexual abuse.

    The convention went on record as being unable to commend the Today's New

    International Version of the Bible, published recently by Zondervan. The

    resolution says the TNIV "has gone beyond acceptable translation

    standards" by altering "the meaning of hundreds of verses, most

    significantly by erasing gender-specific details that appear in the

    original language."

    The resolution requests agencies, boards and publishing arms of the SBC

    to refrain from using this translation. An amendment passed from the

    floor specifically directed LifeWay Christian Resources not to carry the

    TNIV in its book stores, something President Jimmy Draper already had


    A resolution concerning the sufficiency of Scripture in a therapeutic

    culture states: "We affirm that there arereal conditions that warrant

    legitimate medical treatment, but we reject the assumptions of the

    therapeutic culture that offer a pharmacological solution for every

    human problem. ... We call on Southern Baptists to reclaim practical

    biblical wisdom, Christ-centered counseling and the restorative ministry

    of the care and cure of souls."

    The high vacancy rate of judges in the federal system was addressed in a

    resolution calling on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to give a fair

    hearing and timely decisions on nominees presented by the president. The

    resolution "recognizes that a judicial vacancy crisis exists," noting a

    nearly 20 percent vacancy rate on the U.S. court of appeals.

    Local security personnel in St. Louis were commended in one resolution

    for the way they handled potentially disruptive demonstrators at the

    convention, most notably members of Soulforce, who were protesting

    Southern Baptist teachings against homosexuality. A number

    of those demonstrators were arrested, but no violent incidents occurred.

    The martyrdom of New Tribes missionary Martin Burnham was addressed in a

    resolution that "grieved the loss of our brother in Christ" and extended

    deepest sympathies for his widow, Gracia, their children and family.

    Southern Baptists were encouraged to redouble their commitment to pray

    for Southern Baptist missionaries "who daily offer their lives in

    service to God and his Son, Jesus Christ."

    Messengers rejected a motion from the floor to consider an additional

    resolution in condemnation of Freemasonry as an organization opposed to

    Christianity. The resolutions committee said this subject had been

    addressed previously and the wording of the proposed resolution was


    On the first day of the convention, messengers approved revisions to the

    procedures used by the resolutions committee. In the future, resolutions

    must be submitted no later than 15 days prior to the annual meeting. The

    new procedures will broaden the usually narrow time frame former

    resolutions committees had to receive, consider and report resolutions

    back to messengers.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    6/21/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bill Neal , Christian Index | with 0 comments

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