BAYTOWN, Texas–The pastor of a church removed from membership in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and two Baptist associations said his relationship to a homosexual-affirming ministry does not constitute an endorsement of homosexuality.
In a unanimous vote on Jan. 23, San Jacinto Baptist Association joined South Texas Baptist Association and SBTC in cutting ties with Faith Harbour of Baytown, the association’s director of missions, L. Lee Walker, stated in an e-mail to SBTC.
On the church’s Internet “blog” Jan. 22, after meeting with Walker, Faith Harbour Pastor Randy Haney wrote, “I understand the position the Association is taking” regarding Haney’s and Faith Harbour’s connection with Eklektos community—a ministry that launched in December and held its first meeting at Faith Harbour’s leased facility.
Faith Harbour also had allowed promotion of Eklektos on its blog, something San Jacinto Association cited in its reasons for judging Faith Harbour’s participation with Eklektos, in effect, an affirmation of homosexuality.
In comments to the Southern Baptist Texan and in published reports in the Baytown Sun and the Associated Press, Haney said he believes homosexuality is sinful–a stance contrary to the leader of Eklektos, ordained Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister Wendy Bailey.
Bailey told the Baytown Sun Jan. 19: “This ministry is willing to leave in that tension (concerning homosexuality). Our perspective is we want to create a place where people can come to Scripture and can discover truth for themselves without any prejudged sense of what that is.”
Bailey is the associate general presbyter for Evangelism, Renewal and New Church Development of the New Covenant Presbytery based in Houston, the presbytery’s staff listings show.
Eklektos held its first meeting in December in a storefront space Faith Harbour leases and has a link on Faith Harbour’s blog, although Haney told the Texan he doesn’t believe that constitutes affirmation or endorsement of homosexuality.
Further, Haney said Eklektos is not a church, contrary to what the Texan reported earlier, and Bailey, on the Eklektos blog, said Eklektos “is not a ‘church’ in any official capacity.”
“Number one, I do not affirm the homosexual lifestyle,” Haney told the Texan. “Homosexuality is part of the sinful nature. It is listed, as are many other sins that are acts of the sinful nature. However, I do not hate people who are in that lifestyle. I have friends who are in that lifestyle and they know my stance.”
He added, “Wendy (Bailey) and I differ on that.”
In its correspondence to the SBTC, San Jacinto Association stated its board “removed from our association roll (Faith Harbour) due to Baker Road Baptist Church, Baytown, withdrawing sponsorship of Faith Harbour and because of their embracing the Eklektos ministry which affirms the homosexual lifestyle.”
In an action completed Jan. 12, the SBTC Executive Board voted unanimously to disaffiliate Faith Harbour after the convention’s credentials committee, meeting with Haney Dec. 20, failed to persuade Haney to disavow involvement with Eklektos.
The SBTC bylaws state, “… Among churches not in cooperation with Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Rix Tillman, pastor of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso and a credentials committee member, said Haney unconvincingly tried to argue to the committee that because Eklektos—a Greek word meaning “chosen” or “elect”—is not technically a church, no constitutional problem existed.
“The sticking point was that he was allowing a homosexual-affirming fellowship to meet in his building,” Tillman said.
“Right there on their website they said we are an enabling or affirming (fellowship). It’s OK to say you welcome homosexuals, but they were saying we not only welcome them but we also go along to affirm them. That was open and shut as far as our (SBTC) constitution goes.”
Baker Road Baptist Church of Baytown, the sponsor of Faith Harbour for the last four years, voted Jan. 8 to cut ties with the congregation. Faith Harbour was a member of San Jacinto Association by virtue of its sponsorship through Baker Road, Walker said.
“One cannot be presenting the life-changing gospel to homosexuals and the same time affirm the lifestyle,” SBTC board chairman Joe Stewart said after the SBTC action last month. “When we sign an agreement to be a part of the SBTC, we have those theological parameters that we live and abide through that is part of what makes us unique and distinct.”
“The door is still open for (Faith Harbor) to reconcile if they will just agree to abide by the theological parameters of SBTC. Although we want to reach out to people caught in sin, at the same time we can’t affirm the lifestyle.”
The Eklektos website states: “This community of Christians is especially called to welcome and affirm people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. We are a diverse group of disciples—diverse in age, race, gender, ideology and sexual orientation. We are united in Christ and in the affirmation that all people are loved and called by Christ to be His disciples and to be a part of His healing/reconciling work in the world.”
CARBON, Texas?Some Texans had a disastrous start to the New Year as wildfires raged across the state, damaging towns such as Nocona, Ringgold, Cross Plains and Carbon.
Since Dec. 26, aircraft have flown numerous missions and dropped thousands of pounds of fire retardant in potentially hazardous areas. There have been more than 400 fires since the day after Christmas, burning over 250,000 acres and destroying 339 homes.
One of those demolished homes belonged to Jody Forbus, pastor of an SBTC church, Carbon
Community Baptist in Carbon, about 140 miles southwest of Fort Worth in Eastland County.
Forbus told the TEXAN the members of Carbon Community stepped outside after their Sunday church service Jan. 1 to find a billow of smoke swirling up toward the sky in the distance. But they weren’t taken completely by surprise, because the town of Carbon had been on alert after hearing about the wildfire destruction of nearby Cross Plains.
“We had some friends coming over after church,” Forbus said. “But we decided to go and check on some of our members first. The local fire department told us this was a monstrous fire and it had already taken a couple of homes. So we began to help unload some things from our member’s home.”
The Forbus family headed back to their own home briefly to water the yard and grab a few articles of clothing and some pictures hanging in the hallway, but didn’t think they were in the path of danger yet.
They ventured back out to help friends and neighbors remove their belongings so they could flee, but Forbus soon realized that he and his family were in trouble. Unfortunately, the wind shifted and when they arrived at their house (after taking the long way around), it was too late. Their house was in flames.
“We had just finished an extensive remodel of our home,” Forbus said. “The devastation came from the memories that we lost?the small things you don’t think of?the things our children made us and stuff like that.”
Nevertheless, Forbus said his hope lies in the Lord. “I really think the big thing the Lord has taught me is humility. I am so used to being a pastor by responding to others’ needs and a servant ? that it’s hard to be on the receiving end of that. This has really been a humbling experience for (my family).”
Forbus, his wife, and three children have received gifts, food, clothes, money and furniture from their church, the local community, people across Texas, and the SBTC. “Everyone has been so gracious and we are very blessed,” Forbus said.
Just a week after he lost his home and all his belongings, this small-town pastor stood in the pulpit and preached hope.
“I tried to answer their one question?’Why?’ I brought a message on how alone Jesus felt on the cross and just as he asked ‘Why?’ it’s OK for us to ask ‘why?’ as long as we don’t live in despair,” Forbus said.
Out of the 45 homes destroyed in Carbon, six of those families were members of Carbon Community Baptist Church. And each family from the church has been ministered to tremendously, Forbus said.
Local and state authorities, as well as Southern Baptists across Texas are helping the victims of this tragedy.
Deron Biles, Minister/Church Relations Director, said, “I am aware of several areas where the SBTC has been able to assist churches that have been affected by the wildfires.”
Also, Biles said several people have been helped with funds and have been ministered to by the SBTC.
“Also ? T.C. Melton (SBTC West Texas area director) and Robby Partain (SBTC missions director) met with some of the leaders of Cross Timbers Association and were able to secure hay for the cattle from many areas across the state and a number of deep freezers to store food,” he said.
An outpouring of help has come from various sources. Al Ritson, the director of Salvation Army disaster relief in Texas, sent supplies to areas most damaged by the wildfires.
“What we’ve done to help Baptists ? is simply supply what they’ve needed?water, food, clothing, and other things,” Ritson said. “We sent in a 53-foot tractor trailer. Basically ? if they ask for it, we’ll send it. We want to help.”
In addition, Joe Woods, SBTC Cowboy Church coordinator, rounded up help from cowboy churches all across Texas.
“I got on the phone and started calling up cowboy churches in our network,” Woods said. “All these guys just started jumping in and we’re putting the word out that these people need help.”
Several pastors of SBTC cowboy churches have even gone so far as going to local radio stations to inform the public of the fire victims’ needs. Woods and his crew are focusing on providing hay to farmers who have either lost their entire farms or their crops, which is their livelihood.
“My worry is that because there is shortage of hay, these (farmers) are going to be forced to sell their cattle,” Woods said. “We’re doing all we can for them. We’re even looking outside of Texas to provide them with hay. It’s a tough time right now.”
Forbus said his family plans to rebuild and hopes fellow believers continue praying for fire victims. For now, they are simply trying to clean up and dispose of the debris on their property.
Forbus said, “We’re taking it one step at a time. God is in control and he still has us in Carbon. We’re going to stay here until he says otherwise.”
For information on wildfire relief, visit www.sbtexas.com. Charitable contributions denoting “wildfire relief” may be mailed to the SBTC’s disaster relief ministry at SBTC, PO Box 1988, Grapevine, TX 76099. All money donated will be used to assist the needs of fire victims.
BAYTOWN, Texas?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board has acted unanimously todisaffiliate a church for violating the convention’s constitutional provisionregarding churches that “affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
The SBTC Credentials Committee and two SBTC staff members met Dec. 20 for one hour and 45 minutes with the pastor of Faith Harbour of Baytown,previously an SBTC congregation, with a redemptive aim, SBTC Minister-Church Relations Director Deron Biles wrote in a summary of the meeting.
The committee, Biles said in his summary, hoped to clarify Faith Harbour’s stance toward a congregation it is helping sponsor and allowing to meet in its facilities which bills itself on its website as welcoming and affirming of homosexual, bisexual and trangendered people. Additionally, the new church, Eklektos, has a female senior pastor.
Biles said the committee and the Faith Harbour pastor, Randy Haney, were unable to resolve their differences over Faith Harbour’s involvement with Eklektos.
SBTC board chairman Joe Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church of Littlefield, said the board followed the biblical guidelines of Matthew 18 in confronting an erring brother with hopes of restoration.
“The credentials committee went through that process and sat down and talked with the pastor about what constitutes a church that they are hosting in their building which has a female pastor and basically affirms the homosexual lifestyle. One cannot be presenting the life-changing gospel to homosexuals and at the same time affirm the lifestyle. When we sign an agreement to be a part of the SBTC, we have those theological parameters that we live and abide through and that is part of what makes us unique and distinct,” Stewart said.
“The door is still open for them to reconcile if they will just agree to abide by the theological parameters of the SBTC,” Stewart added. “Although we want to reach out to people caught in sin, at the same time we can’t affirm the lifestyle.”
Article III of the SBTC’s constitution states: “? Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
South Texas Baptist Association, of which Faith Harbour was a member, presented the church a letter notifying them of the association’s intent to disaffiliate them the same day the SBTC credentials committee met with Haney.
Haney did not respond to an e-mail inquiry by press time Jan. 14, but Haney appeared to allude to the situation on the church’s Internet blog Jan. 10.
“It always amazes me how much people hate those who try to get out of the box and take the message of Jesus Christ to those who are considered unclean,” Haney wrote. “Now that I think about it, that was part of what the Jews hated about Jesus. How dare we defile the sanctuary by inviting sinners to come and be a part of hearing the message of Christ! Doesn’t the Bible make it plain and clear that we are all sinners? Isn’t our righteousness only found in Christ and Him alone?”
The Eklektos website states: “This community of Christians is especially called to welcome and affirm people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. We are a diverse group of disciples?diverse in age, race, gender, ideology and sexual orientation. We are united in Christ and in the affirmation that all people are loved and called by Christ to be His disciples and to be a part of His healing/reconciling work in the world.”
The SBTC consists of more than 1,700 churches in a confessional fellowship with one another?a unique arrangement among the 41 state and regional Baptist conventions that cooperate as Southern Baptists.
Jan. 8 marked the 50h anniversary of the martyrdom of five missionaries on a beachfront in the jungles of Ecuador. On that date in 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully were killed by Indian spears as they attempted to establish missionary work among the native peoples. Inside the LIFE magazine issue that followed, a 10-page story informed the nation of the missionaries’ death, beginning with the simple, dramatic headline, “‘Go Ye and Preach the Gospel’: Five Do and Die.”
On Jan. 20 a feature film, “End of the Spear,” was released nationwide, retelling the story for a generation that may be unfamiliar with the tragedy and the wives who followed them in reaching the savage tribe.
Every Tribe Entertainment,the production company behind “End of the Spear,” is headed by Mart Green, founder of Mardel Christian and Educational Supply and son of Hobby Lobby founder David Green.
Though Green was familiar with the original story, he knew little of what had happened to the tribe since the 1950s, he explained to the TEXAN in a phone interview.
But at a missions conference in 1997, he heard Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, relate the continued story of God’s work among the Waodani tribe. Telling the story with Saint was Mincaye, one of the Waodani men who had murdered Steve’s father and later followed Christ.
Green remembers one quote from Mincaye that particularly affected him.
“We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God’s carvings,” said Mincaye, describing his tribe before the arrival of missionaries. “Now we walk his (God’s) trail.”
Thus, “End of the Spear” contains elements that shed a new light on this story, even for Christians who are familiar with the celebrated tale of the martyrs. For instance, the movie reveals reasons why, after initially having friendly encounters with the missionaries, the tribe soon attacked and brutally killed them.
Green recalled that he wanted to depict the story of how God changed the lives of these vicious tribesmen. “What happened to the six guys who killed the five?” is, he noted, a key question to display the Bible’s power.
Known to anthropologists as one of the fiercest known people groups ever, about 60 percent of the adult deaths among the Waodani were due to homicide in the generations before missionaries arrived.
While the Waodani tribe was initially hesitant to aid in the creation of “End of the Spear,” Green said, reflection on the good their story could produce helped to change their minds. After the filmmakers related the tragic events that took place among students at Columbine High School, only months before, tribe members agreed to tell their story.
Several established actors have roles in the film, including Chad Allen, who plays both Nate Saint and, later, an adult Steve Saint. Allen is well-known for parts in several TV shows, including a major role in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” The other main role in “End of the Spear,” that of Mincayani, is played by stage actor Louie Leonardo, originally from the Dominican Republic.
Notably, many of the other Waodani tribespeople are played by actual Central American Indians.
While Green recognizes that the core audience for “End of the Spear” will be Christians, his broader vision for “End of the Spear” is “to engage our culture with entertainment that creates a hunger to go deeper into the truth of the story.”
“I don’t just want to preach to the choir,” Green said, comparing this movie-making approach to the parables that Jesus told to followers and non-followers alike. He hopes “End of the Spear” will attract a diverse audience?and be an example of good filmmaking as well.
You football addicts out there may have seen a brief ad for the Southern Baptist Convention during the Fiesta Bowl broadcast Jan. 2. The thirty-second video ran in six cities during various bowl games this year and was meant to convey the benevolent ministries enabled by the SBC Cooperative Program funding mechanism.
I’m all for it. The CP paid for most of my seminary training, some continuing education, training for my church staff, and support to start most of the churches I’ve served or joined. It’s a wonder and the best imaginable way to address the full span of Great Commission ministries.
The ad prompted scorn from some quarters, though. In brief, the video focused on the meals provided during Katrina relief, houses started through World Changers, a prison ministry of New Orleans Seminary, and AIDS relief through our missionaries in Africa. Necessarily, the Executive Committee chose a very few of many ministries they might have mentioned. The response was harsh criticism by some outside the convention.
Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News wrote a story that fairly described the ad as well as providing a generous forum for the convention’s detractors. In essence, the article described the ad as an apparent effort to redeem the public image of our convention by showing our softer, compassionate side.
Tedious SBC critic Robert Parham (Baptist Center for Ethics) called the effort a “bait and switch,” misdirecting views from the true priorities of the convention. His claim is that a very small percentage of SBC money goes to social ministries. Our deception is apparently saying we care when we don’t do as much as Mr. Parham would do if he were in charge.
Sociologist Nancy Ammerman of Boston College has followed the SBC for years and she thinks the SBC’s attempt to clean up its image is pretty thin. She says a couple of mouse clicks would lead you to “the SBC most people think of” (referring to testimonies of former homosexuals and converted Muslims). Let’s look at Dr. Ammerman’s mouse clicks and Mr. Parham’s “bait and switch” comment for a minute.
While I have no guilt that a couple of clicks into sbc.net shows you an example of people set free from self-destructive sin or false religion, another click demonstrates that our commitment to the whole needs of people is true and constant. That third click took me to a story about the $16 million Southern Baptists gave (during the same year as Katrina) to Indonesian tsunami relief. Go back to start and three clicks will tell you of thousands of meals, temporary housing, medical care, and clean water projects that have been provided by Southern Baptists who both send and go in response to the earthquakes in Pakistan. This, again, happened during the same year as Katrina.
Invest a couple of additional clicks and you’ll see that our World Changers projects are not just a piddling effort from the past. Ninety-three are scheduled for 2006 and thousands of people are already signed up to help with various building and relief ministries.
Educational and moral programs like “True Love Waits” have saved many lives in AIDS-ravaged Africa. It’s not a sideshow to those nations that have taken the social ramifications of spiritual truth seriously.
Compare this with the money we spend on fighting the things we’re “against” (destruction of unborn people, homosexual behavior, alcohol abuse, abuse of women and children in pornography, etc.) Our Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission admittedly gets a lot of press but is the least of our 12 national institutions in CP funding. On the state and local level, spending on moral issues is paltry compared to other ministries. We are known for those things because they are among the few things that non-evangelical reporters can comprehend when they read our releases or attend our meetings. They can’t help it but neither should they pretend to understand the reality of our ministry.
What is the Southern Baptist Convention? It’s over 40,000 churches, most of them also grouped more locally in associations and state conventions. These churches have their own community ministries, they feed their neighbors, they house evacuees, they furnish apartments for those whose possessions are buried in the sludge of New Orleans’ lower Ninth Ward, they give their time and money to girls with crisis pregnancies?all of this is “off the books” when newspaper articles assess the compassion of their denomination. Associations and state fellowships of churches also do these ministries in their own spheres of influence.
Another difficulty faced by those who can only comprehend the humanistic efforts of religious groups is that our convention spends far more time offering training (one click from most Baptist websites), recruiting for future ministry (one or two clicks), soliciting funds for current ministry needs (no more than two clicks) than we do crowing about past effectiveness. There is too much to do and too many things we’ve committed to for us to put it aside so we can convince the inconvincible.
Our “singular focus on proselytizing” is also a stumbling block to outsiders. We might think of this as missions and evangelism. We believe that people are precious to God, made in his image, eternal beings who need salvation in Christ alone. What hypocrisy it is to give them a bowl of beans or a blanket and leave them in their sin because it’s politically incorrect witness to homosexuals or Muslims, (or pagan stockbrokers for that matter).
Disagree with us if you like (you’re welcome), but don’t be so scandalized that we believe the eternal souls of people are more important than their temporary pain. We profess to live by the Book and face a storm of derision when one of us is perceived to fall short of that standard. Look at the very broad coverage given to an Oklahoma pastor arrested for “lewd behavior” recently. No one has spared the mouse clicks in chasing down that story.
Certainly, we should be held to the standard we uplift. Stop the whining then when we do try to live by it. If it’s OK for us to love our brother by feeding and clothing him, it should be OK for us to tell him the truth about sin and salvation. If it’s allowable for us to honor God in our worship, it is just as biblical when we honor him in our families, careers, and citizenship.
Is it a bait-and-switch scam when we say that we have demonstrated our love for God and people in 2005? It has been said, ad nauseam, that we are evangelistic and moralistic as a denomination. It probably wouldn’t occur to any denominational leader that people will think we’re abandoning these convictions simply because we also feed, house, and clothe the needy. No deceit intended or accomplished. Mr.
Parham has forgotten an awful lot if he doesn’t know this.
We should embrace the fact that thousands of people have also found life in Jesus Christ even as they experience the generosity of Southern Baptist Christians. We should not apologize for doing our best at the thing that makes us distinct from governmental or secular relief agencies.
Southern Baptists don’t do these things to brag or to be accepted by others. Our mission is global and thorough because that’s the only biblical way to do it. We have an audience of one, you might say. I think it’s allowable for us to correct the record when our good works are used to lift us up for ridicule, though.
EULESS, Texas?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Evangelism Director, Don Cass, is praying the Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 6-8 at First Baptist Church of Euless will result in droves more people trusting Christ for salvation.
“This conference could be the means God uses to ‘fan the flame’ of evangelism into a blazing fire in the hearts of Texas Southern Baptists,” Cass said. “Don’t miss one session of this Empower Evangelism Conference. God is up to something wonderful in Texas and I believe he will use the Evangelism Conference to allow us to get in on the blessings and the power of a movement of God in the churches within this state.”
The conference theme, “The Harvest Is Plentiful,” is based on Matthew 9:37-38, which reads: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'” (HCSB).
Guests will include best-selling author Tim LaHaye, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch, sports broadcaster Pat Summerall and more.
For more information visit www.sbtexas.com or call the SBTC evangelism office toll free at 877-953-7282.
Most mornings find Angela Thomas balancing the roles most moms know only too well . . . breakfast provider, pre-carpool cheerleader, and business woman with e-mails and deadlines waiting. It’s a daily balancing act she is learning to master as the single mother of four, author, speaker, and most important to her?a woman in pursuit of God.
But what happens in those ordinary days is the essence of Thomas’ books. Whether she’s writing about the awkward days of her teenage years, lunch with a group of women from church, or hiding in her walk-in closet just to get a few minutes of prayer away from the demands of life, Thomas is, above all things, real to the women who hear her speak and read her books.
Change of Plans
Thomas said she tries to speak with transparency about the struggles many women face. Those struggles are rooted in the very experiences that launched her career.
After graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thomas began a full-time job in transportation and served as part-time youth director. Back then, she said, her knowledge of God was what she’d learned in church and at FCA meetings during college. But through serving her small church as a youth leader, she discovered a passion for teaching God’s Word that couldn’t be quenched. She was hungry for ways to learn more about the Bible and to become a better teacher.
“This was back in the day when the big books at the time were all by Charles Swindoll,” Thomas said. “I read everything he’d written.” Knowing that Swindoll had attended Dallas Theological Seminary, it seemed like a natural next step for her to study there as well. “I thought to myself, ‘If they teach you to communicate Bible truths like him, then that’s where I want to go.’ I had no idea he had a gift.”
After finishing her master’s degree, Thomas moved back to her home state of North Carolina to become a minister to senior high girls. The next few years brought marriage and four children: Taylor, Grayson, William and Anna Grace.
On the outside, she seemed to be living the life every woman dreams of having. But on the inside, Thomas was keeping all the balls in the air and going through the motions, eventually pretending and becoming what she calls “a church lady.” Then the thing she thought would never happen did?her marriage ended in divorce.
By her own admission, it was a time of sitting in the darkness and asking the hard questions of God. Did he still love her? Could he use her in ministry? In time, the answer came. “Yes, I love you. Yes, I can use you.”
God knew even before she did that this would not be the end of Thomas’ story, but the beginning of a new chapter.
God’s Best in Brokenness
“One of the best things I take into my future is my brokenness,” Thomas said. “You learn how to love people when you’re broken.” In fact, her brokenness during that time has helped her minister to women with an even greater passion and understanding.
“So many women out there are ‘just living.’ They’re keeping the schedules, running their homes, keeping up with work loads, and going through the motions, but deep inside there’s a nagging emptiness. They think, ‘If I had a different job, lived in a different place, or just get home in time to make dinner, then it would be okay?I wouldn’t feel this way.'”
Called to Dance
But the believer’s prince, the one who finds us breathtaking, has something different in mind. He longs for e