Month: June 2007

McKissic resigns as seminary trustee

FORT WORTH?Dwight McKissic has resigned from the trustee board of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, citing “too much mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual energy” spent on his role in a conflict over speaking in tongues and private prayer language at the seminary in the past year.

McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, emphasized his love for the seminary and its president, Paige Patterson, in a lengthy conciliatory letter June 20 to trustee chairman Van McClain and copied to Patterson, SBC President Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman and three trustees.

“Furthermore, I don’t want any possible future relationships or involvements with other missions or ministry opportunities to in anywise be misconstrued as a conflict of interest with my role as a trustee at SWBTS. I do not want my exercise of freedom of speech or freedom of associations in any way to create conflicts of interest or violations of SWBTS policies. Therefore, I must resign,” McKissic wrote.

Patterson issued a statement in response: “My personal relationship with Pastor McKissic has been a long one and overwhelming a happy one. I anticipate that relationship will continue and that Brother McKissic will continue as a faithful supporter of the seminary. It is well known that we have not always agreed but we are brothers in Christ and I love this pastor.”

McKissic caused a stir in a Southwestern chapel sermon last August when he said he speaks in a private prayer language and criticized the International Mission Board’s then-policy on refusing prospective missionaries who speak in tongues.

Subsequently, the seminary refused to post audio of McKissic’s sermon on its website and later the trustees, with McKissic’s sole dissent, voted that Southwestern staff would not advocate private prayer language or charismatic practices nor hire faculty who did.

McKissic said in his resignation letter he was encouraged by the IMB’s changing the tongues policy to a more flexible “guideline,” by the SBC’s decision June 12 to adopt a statement on the Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement as a “sufficient” policy guide for SBC entities, and by a LifeWay Research poll indicating about half of SBC pastors believe private prayer language is a possible spiritual gift.

McKissic said he plans to remain a Southern Baptist “as long as I see hope that the convention is moving in what I consider to be the right direction.”

Although McKissic and McClain’s relationship “got off to a rough and rocky start,” McKissic said he was thankful for “genuine healing and reconciliation.”

“Know that I genuinely and deeply respect, value and appreciate you for who you are and the work that you do,” McKissic wrote to McClain. “I regret whatever pain and frustration that I caused Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from the very beginning of my tenure as a trustee until today.”

McKissic wrote that he and Patterson “have also discussed our mutual misunderstanding(s) and pain related to my actions, and his response, and we also experienced a time of genuine healing and reconciliation. Although as with you, he and I still view some issues quite differently. My love, respect and appreciation for Dr. Patterson remain strong in spite of these differences.

“Know that my love for SWBTS will also remain. I am in part who I am because of the training I received at SWBTS. I shall forever be grateful for the training I received there. Our church has made an annual or biannual contribution to SWBTS for the past ten years and we will continue to do so.”

McKissic said his prayer is that “IMB, NAMB and SWBTS will soon reflect the biblical viewpoint that Dr. Patterson so eloquently articulated in his SWBTS report in San Antonio and that is, restrictions and Pauline regulations with regard to public tongues and freedom and privacy with regard to private tongues.”

McKissic wrote that he believes the IMB’s initial anti-tongues policy prompted much of the past year’s conflict, and that the LifeWay study presents “a truer picture of Southern Baptists as a whole.”

“I shall always be grateful and honored for the opportunity to have served the SBC and SWBTS this past year. As stated above,” McKissic reiterated, “my love and support will remain.”

Disaster relief begins aid to Texas flood victims

HALTOM CITY?Disaster relief volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention on Wednesday continued working amid water-damaged mobile homes in suburban Fort Worth where at least one child died when she was carried away by rushing floodwaters during a rescue attempt.

Throughout North Texas early Monday, flash floods devastated parts of Tarrant, Denton, Cooke and Grayson counties, with damage most severe in Cooke and Grayson counties, from Interstate 35 near Gainesville east to Sherman, about 90 miles north of Dallas.

Damage to mobile homes in a six-square-block area of Haltom City, northeast of Fort Worth, sent dozens of families to seek shelter elsewhere.

As of Thursday, six people were confirmed dead, including 4-year-old Alexandria Collins of Haltom City, whom officials said was whisked away from her mother’s grasp as the two were trying to flee in a neighbor’s boat, and 2-year-old Makalya Marie Mollenhour, whose body was found late Tuesday about two-and-a-half miles south of the Pecan Grove Mobile Home Park in Gainesville, NBC television affiliate KTEN in Denison reported.

KTEN-TV said the mobile home the family lived in was washed off its base and struck a bridge. The young girl’s grandmother, 60-year-old Billie Mollenhour, and her 5-year-old sister, Teresa Arnett, also died in the flooding.

Also among the dead is 74-year-old Reginald Gattis, a member of First Baptist Church of Sherman. The pastor of the church, Michael Lawson, said Gattis is survived by his wife and had been a member there for almost eight years.

“In fact, he joined on the very same day we came there in view of a call?Nov. 14, 1999,” Lawson recalled.

Gattis was returning to Sherman in his pickup truck when the vehicle was overcome by water and he was unable to free himself,Lawson said.

Also, the home of another church member who was away in Colorado was overcome by high water, with the family’s car washed up against the back of the garage.

“They pretty much lost everything,” Lawson said.

The other identified victim is Patricia Beshears, a Denison woman killed Monday morning when her carstalled in floodwaters in Sherman.

Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director, said the effort at the Skyline Mobile Home Park in Haltom City would last possibly a week.

“We are trying to get it as clean as possible in order to dry out so that some of these folks can begin returning to their homes,” Richardson said.

On Wednesday, a handful of SBTC disaster relief volunteers were continuing assessments among several dozen mobile homes in the lowest part of the neighborhood at the bottom of a hill.

Nearby, two trailers sat nearly perpendicular to one another, with each 15-20 feet from where they stood before the waters washed them away. Behind the homes in a creek, one of the homeowners’ pickup truck rested partially submerged.

“What always strikes you is these are very poor folk

SBTC disaster relief team readies to help flood victims

HALTOM CITY?Disaster relief volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were preparing Tuesday to begin clean-up efforts in a flood-ravaged area of suburban Fort Worth where at least one child died when she was carried away by currents during a rescue att1:PersonName w:st=”on”>tempt.

Throughout North Texas early Monday, flash flooding ravaged parts of Tarrant, Denton, Cooke and Grayson counties, with damage most severe in Grayson County, from Interstate 35 near Gainesville east to Sherman, about 90 miles north of Dallas. Water reached nearly eight feet in portions of Grayson County, according to news reports.

Damage to mobile homes in a six-square-block area of Haltom City, northeast of Fort Worth, sent dozens of families to shelters.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that five people are confirmed dead, including 4-year-old Alexandria Collins of Haltom City, whom officials said was whisked away from her mother’s grasp as the two were trying to flee in a neighbor’s boat.

Also among the dead is 74-year-old Reginald Gattis, a member of First Baptist Church of Sherman. The pastor of the church, Michael Lawson, said Gattis is survived by his wife and had been a member there for almost eight years.

“In fact, he joined on the very same day we came there in view of a call?Nov. 14, 1999,” Lawson recalled.

Gattis was returning to Sherman in his pickup truck when the vehicle was overcome by water and he was unable to free himself, Gattis said.

Also, the home of another church member who was away in Colorado was overcome by high water, with the family’s car washed up against the back of the garage.

“They pretty much lost everything,” Lawson said.

The other three confirmed dead include a woman and her granddaughter in Gainesville, and a Denison woman who died while driving to work, the Star-Telegram reported.

The newspaper also reported Tuesday that five people remained missing, including a second granddaughter of the woman who died near Gainesville.

Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director, was assessing mobile homes in Haltom City Tuesday and is expecting 10 to 12 volunteers on Wednesday to work about a week cleaning up.

“We are trying to get it as clean as possible in order to dry out so that some of these folks can begin returning to their homes,” Richardson said.

Nearby, one mobile home that stood about four feet off the ground was mostly unharmed, while the one next to it, two feet off the ground, was a total loss, Richardson said.

The SBTC team will be based at First Baptist Church of Fort Worth.

SBC entities report to messengers

LifeWay to ‘build bridges’
SAN ANTONIO?Building bridges, staying focused and concentrating on what really matters are priorities LifeWay will emphasize as it seeks ways to provide Southern Baptists with meaningful and relevant resources, said Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president.

“It isn’t always easy to build bridges,” Rainer said during LifeWay Christian Resources’ June 12 report at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. “And bridges are only as strong as their effective means of support. In the same way, building effective ministry bridges requires the well-known and time-tested principles of our faith. For LifeWay, building on [the foundation of Jesus Christ] is where we begin.”

Any effort to win the lost, disciple the saved and impact the culture will collapse among manmade efforts unless firmly built on the foundation of Christ, Rainer said.

One of LifeWay’s initiatives that has brought focus, Rainer said, is the “Invitation” CD, a compilation of inspirational music interspersed with a gospel presentation. LifeWay has sold the CD at cost in order to make it widely available.

“Through our desire to see people won to Christ, our passion for ministry to people and churches and our determination to be biblically sound and culturally relevant, LifeWay will continue to be a servant to the church, a co-laborer in the harvest and bridge builder to the lost. And our foundation is nothing less than the bedrock of Jesus Christ.”

Lost world waits, Rankin tells SBC
International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told Southern Baptist messengers June 12 the stories of persecuted Christians everywhere serve as evidence of a lost world desperate to hear the gospel.

“Numbers can be overwhelming,” Rankin said, noting that “1.6 billion people have not yet heard the name of Jesus. ? Yet God’s desire is for all the world to know him, and he sent us with the responsibility to be his witnesses.

Rankin reported that in 2006 Southern Baptist missionaries and their partners baptized more than 475,000 new believers, planted some 23,000 churches and discipled more than 500,000 Christians.

Rankin also praised Southern Baptists for enabling God-called missionaries to go by giving the largest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in history, a goal-breaking $150,178,098.

“Because of your faithfulness in giving,” Rankin said, “784 new missionaries were appointed and sent out to the ends of the earth.”

Ethics entity issues call for reformation
Richard Land thanked messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention for approving an “encouraging increase in funding” for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, promising that the SBC entity will continue to be at the forefront in calling Southern Baptists to pray for reformation in America.

During his June 12 report to the convention, Land, president of the ERLC, said the commission is the SBC entity most dependent upon CP receipts since more than 90 percent of its funding comes from the Cooperative Program.

Earlier in the day the convention approved an increase in the ERLC’s share of Cooperative Program funds, from 1.49 percent to 1.65 percent of receipts sent from the states to the convention’s national and international ministries.

“The Baptist Faith and Message affirms a call to involvement with the world,” Land told messengers, reminding that Christians are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.

Those who teach there is a gap between a social gospel and a personal gospel are failing to completely understand the biblical revelation, Land said. “There is only one gospel; it is a whole gospel for a whole people. We live in a society that is desperate to hear an authentic word from God, from God’s people sold out in obedience to him,” he said.

GuideStone reports financial strength
GuideStone Financial Resources enjoyed a banner year, O.S. Hawkins, president of the SBC entity, reported to Southern Baptist Convention June 12 in San Antonio.

GuideStone Funds marked its fifth anniversary in 2006, with Hawkins noting that it has been named
the fourth-largest mutual fund headquartered in Texas and the largest Christian-based socially screened registered mutual fund family in the United States.

For medical plan participants, Hawkins said the transition to a single provider network reaped rewards, as more than 57 percent of Personal Plan participants received no rate increase or reduction in premiums for 2006. “We have a retention rate of 98 percent,” he said, “and we’ve had thousands of new participants over these last few years.”

Hawkins emphasized the need for wellness initiatives to help contain future medical insurance costs and announced new insurance benefits for Southern Baptist seminary students,

Also, Hawkins reported that effective Sept. 30 of this year, GuideStone will relinquish its Cooperative Program allocation. This decision was announced during the SBC Executive Committee’s February meeting.

NAMB introduces new president
The North American Mission Board thanked the messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting for the largest Annie Armstrong Easter Offering ever?$58.5 million?and its new president, Geoff Hammond.

Introducing Hammond and his wife Debbie, NAMB trustee chairman Bill Curtis said NAMB’s president search committee conducted a thorough 10-month search, resulting in the unanimous election of Hammond on March 21.

“This is one of the greatest privileges of my life,” Hammond said. “It’s a long way from a Southern Baptist missions hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria, to the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. I’m here by God’s grace and I’m thankful to Southern Baptists for praying for me as a missionary’s kid, an IMB [International Mission Board] missionary and as a NAMB missionary.”

Hammond’s presentation to the convention then focused on the NAMB’s primary objectives: “We have drawn together all of our responsibilities under three main objectives: sharing Christ, starting churches and sending missionaries with our Acts 1:8 partners.”

“It will be a flexible, multifaceted approach that brings local churches, associations and state conventions together with a plan that can be customized for each mission context. The team will continue its work with a view to making this an emphasis at next year’s convention.”

Hammond said starting new churches continues to be a vital part of NAMB’s strategy to evangelize the United States, Canada and the U.S. territories.

“We have church planting missionaries and church planting leaders strategically located for the express purpose of church planting. We need to plant churches in people groups, population segments and geographical areas where there is a need for Bible-believing, evangelistic churches.”

Hammond said NAMB studies show that when a new church is started with the intention of planting another church within the first three years, that original church grows faster.

“God blesses the church that gives and we need to see a great movement in North America of churches planting churches, planting churches planting churches?” Hammond said.

Seminaries report successes, challenges

GOLDEN GATE
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said in his June 12 report to messengers that the seminary serves as both a reminder and an extender of the national identity and diversity of Southern Baptists.

“We have a distinctly West Coast, and western U.S., cultural feel?a reminder that Southern Baptists are a national denomination with a growing national identity. But you should also know that we are all, from whatever backgrounds, committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom.”

CROSSOVER: Effort yields converted souls, emboldens participants

SAN ANTONIO?Southern Baptists from as far away as Florida and from closer places such as Dallas ventured to San Antonio to help local churches on June 9 during Crossover, the annual effort to evangelize in the host city prior to the SBC annual meeting.

Out-of-town Crossover San Antonio participants from Anglo and Hispanic churches in North Texas, for example, traveled to south San Antonio to help with the block party of Iglesia Bautista Theo Avenue.

The SBC reported June 12 that nearly 1,000 salvation decisions were recorded during the outreach.

For Benny Gonzales of Dallas-area Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, it was “a chance to share the gospel with the lost.” He and five other members of the church mingled with those attending the outdoor activities, including a brief concert featuring recording artist Aaron Greenway of the Garland church.

More than a dozen teenagers and adults from Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie staffed the booths at the block party, offering face painting, games and food. After plans for a mission trip to Ohio fell through, staff leaders quickly redirected their travel to serve the San Antonio neighborhood in response to the Crossover appeal.

Thirty years ago the keys to the church facilities of Theo Avenue Baptist Church were handed to Efraim Diaz, then a layman who had begun teaching a Bible study in Spanish at what had been an Anglo church from its founding in 1923.

In the early years, Inglesia Bautista Theo Avenue was the only Hispanic Baptist congregation in Texas that recorded more than 100 baptisms a year, ranking alongside Trinity Baptist, First Baptist and Castle Hills of San Antonio.

“What gave us the real growth was witnessing person to person,” Diaz said. “Most of these people are from a Catholic background and when the Lord saved them, he saved them!”

“Years ago the Anglos moved out and Hispanics moved in,” explained Joel Noriega, a member of the church for the past 10 years. “Pastor Diaz preaches bilingually, doing English as fast as he speaks in Spanish,” he told the TEXAN. “He goes by the book,” Noriega insisted. “It’s straight from the Bible,” he added, describing his commitment to Bible exposition as a priority he appreciates.

Ted Hofius of Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., was on hand also to help in the set-up for the block party while his wife attended the Woman’s Missionary Union meeting downtown.
“I lived in this neighborhood 40 years ago,” he explained, appreciative for the opportunity to be of service to the church He and his wife have participated in six Katrina-related disaster relief efforts as well as traveling to Indonesia and Mexico following a tsunami and earthquake, respectively.

“I think this is great getting people to come to the church who wouldn’t normally come,” he shared regarding the Crossover strategy. “It’s real rewarding to get to know the people as you work among them,” he added, describing the many mission opportunities where he served.

Welch works with new church
In another south San Antonio neighborhood, about 20 members of a newly planted congregation, Genesis Bible Baptist Church, along with former SBC president and retired Florida pastor Bobby Welch and Florida Baptist Convention evangelism director David Burton, shared the gospel door to door, introducing themselves as new neighbors in the community.

When the teams of two and three reported back later in the morning, at least 22 professions of faith had been made, numerous contacts were established and prayers were offered for the sick, with one team laying hands on a bedridden woman through an open window.

“The last profession of faith?we couldn’t have planned it,” marveled Beltran, who was Welch’s partner as they went house to house. “The young man was 16 years old and it wasn’t even his home. We talked to him about the gospel and he said that he was ready. Once he confessed Christ and prayed with us and we gave him a Bible, his aunt and uncle showed up and didn’t want anything to do with us. So we were able to lead him to Christ just in time to shake the dust off our sandals.”

Beltran’s grandmother, who raised him, along with his aunt and wife, were among those who canvassed the neighborhood.

Ray Ybarra and his Crossover partner planned on visiting a specific person, but when those plans failed, they came upon a 22-year-old man and subsequently led him to faith in Christ.

“He opened his heart to the Lord, even though he wasn’t the person we set out to see,” Ybarra said.

April Rodriguez helped lead a woman and three of her children to salvation. She reported to those present at the church afterward about the woman: “After we prayed, I could tell she was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was crying and her face was red and she was asking about where church was and when it starts.”

Welch exhorted the church members afterward, “You established today that you care about this community. Now, you’ve got to follow up and visit the rest of the neighborhood.”

A few minutes into the Crossover effort at Genesis Church, a group of a dozen or so Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up on the same street. After about 10 to 15 minutes, they left the neighborhood.

Pastors asked: Is idolatry blocking God’s work?

SAN ANTONIO?Idolatry may be the obstacle to Holy Spirit power in the lives of Southern Baptist Christians, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear told the SBC Pastors’ Conference in its closing session June 11.

The pastor at Summit Church in Durham, N.C. preached from James 4:1-10, a passage that warns of asking God for blessings from selfish motives.

Like those James was writing to, believers often ask wrongly because “you want to spend it on your passions.”

Taking it further, Greear added, “Maybe what hinders some of our cries for revival is idolatry,” not the “bowing-down” kind of idolatry, but “when we look to something else to make us happy, we become idolators,” Greear explained.

He told how God convicted him of placing the acceptance of people above God, noting that God “was upset at me because I didn’t want to be happy in him.”

“You see, God created the human heart to worship. To worship something means you delight in it. To worship something means that without that one thing there’s no way you could be happy.”

Unfortunately, many believers seek comfort, approval, success, fame, money or pleasure in exchange for delighting in God alone.

“You see, from the very beginning, our very first parents, Adam and Eve, we have said, ‘No, I need something more. I need something besides God, his love and his approval, to have a happy and fulfilled life?. Idols for us become functional gods.”

Greear said that for some people, stage one of idolatry would be a hell on earth that usually is portrayed in the mind as our greatest fear?for some people the fear of being unsuccessful, for example.

“Stage two is you turn to a savior to save you from that hell,” he said. If loneliness is your hell, then relationships become your savior.

“If you obsess over being poor, then money becomes your savior.”

Stage three is reached, Greear said, when “obtaining this idol god becomes the driving force in one’s life” and is detectable “when something we should be finding in God we are finding in something or someone else.”

Greear said such idolatry is apparent as “the reason I am devastated when I preach a bad message.”
“Because, you see, the ministry is a great place for guys with the idol of success to hide.”

Furthermore, some people get mad when someone cuts them off in traffic not because they are fearful of losing time but because someone has disrespected them?a sign of idolatrous pride.

“Are what point in your life are you the happiest?” Greear asked. “What do you worry about the most? What troubles you late at night? Or what has made you bitter in life? What got taken away from you that you deserved?”

“Where do you turn for comfort when things aren’t going right? ? The answer is usually your idol.”
Greear said for pastors, “money, power and the praise of men” are subtly seductive snares, noting Karl Marx’s statement that religious zeal and lust for power go hand in hand and John Calvin’s quote that “the human heart is an idol factory.”

“These are the reasons often we want to grow big churches ? There is a fine and but eternally distinct line between ‘thy kingdom come’ and ‘my kingdom come.’ It’s why we are more interested usually in things that grow church attendance and budgets rather than things that grow disciples. It might be why we rarely do anything about church discipline.”

Greear said the acid test of a pure heart is one that can rejoice when the church of a friend across town is the one God makes more prominent and visible.

“For many of us it’s not about the kingdom of God?it’s about us.”

Chuck Colson
Christians are facing two major threats to their belief system?Islam in the East and Western society’s abandonment of a belief in absolute truth, Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, told the conference.

“I can’t imagine any time in history when you would look around as a Christian and see a world that is filled with more danger than the world in which we live today.”

While Colson touched on the threat posed by Islam?a belief system he described as using conquest in advancing its cause?he focused his address on the culture war that American Christians face at home.

Colson cited statistics indicating that two-thirds of Americans believe there is no such thing as moral truth. Such a belief manifests itself in moral decay and anarchy, which Colson said is happening in the United States.

While atheists in years past were content to disbelieve in God privately, Colson said a new breed of intellectual atheists has emerged to promote the lie that Christianity is dangerous to society and should be restrained by the government.

“We’re up against a vicious attack by neo-atheists,” Colson said, citing the immense popularity of such recent books as “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. “This is a virulent strain of atheism that seeks to destroy our belief system.”

To engage the culture and counter the prevailing belief that truth is relative, Colson said Christians must do better at explaining, in a winsome way, what they believe and why they believe it. To start, Christians must understand that Christianity is more than simply a personal relationship with Jesus, Colson argued.

“We have to understand that Christianity is a worldview,” Colson said. “Christianity is a way of seeing all of life and all of reality. It’s the way of understanding ultimate truth.”

Christians’ purpose, therefore, is to restore fallen culture to the glory of God and bring Christianity to bear in every single area of life, Colson said. But beyond understanding Christianity in its entirety, he said Christians must be faithful to pass their beliefs to their children.

“What is wrong with us when kids are being raised to believe there is no such thing as truth?” Colson asked. “That’s the end of the Christian gospel if we can’t make a truth claim in our culture today.”

Too many young evangelicals think the gospel is dull, Colson said, because churches haven’t taught it adequately. He lamented any tendency within the contemporary emerging church movement toward “abandoning a belief in truth” for “conversations in coffee shops” in which people share their various spiritual journeys.

The Christian faith is not dry, dusty doctrine, Colson said, but a compelling story of Jesus Christ, the God-man, coming to the world to redeem sinful people.

Testimonies
Colleyville’s James T. Draper Jr., president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources in Dallas, shared personal testimonies about Christ’s victory in different challenges of their lives.

Al Mohler
Mohler told how on multiple occasions he has faced live-threatening health crises and come out of them with an “assurance of God’s sovereignty and his providential love.”

Noting that others suffer daily on a more acute level, Mohler said his message was one applicable to all people.

Despite questions about pain and God’s loving nature, Mohler said it is imperative people understand that in a fallen world pain has a purpose in God’s plan.

“Pain is absolutely necessary to health because pain is often an early warning system” for serious health issues, Mohler said, quoting the late Christian physician and author Paul Brand.

“The main issue in our lives is not how to avoid but what to learn from it,” Mohler said.

Despite suffering a life-threatening blood clot last winter, Mohler said he emerged from the illness?what he described as “intense, unspeakable, unprecedented pain”?thankful for it.

Through pain, Mohler said God teaches:
?His sovereign

SBC elects Texan Jim Richards 1st VP

SAN ANTONIO?The Southern Baptist Convention during its annual meeting June 12-13 in San Antonio elected Jim Richards, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s executive director and a member of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, as its first vice president.

Richards defeated David Rogers, an International Mission Board missionary to Madrid, Spain, by a margin of 2,177 votes (68.7 percent) to 966 votes (30.5 percent).

“Jim Richards, who is executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is one of us,” said Donald M. (Mac) Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., in his nominating speech. “As leader of the SBTC, he has led that convention in eight years to grow from 120 churches to 1,895. He’s not a bureaucrat; he’s one of us.”

Richards became the executive director of the SBTC after it was constituted as a convention in 1998 with 120 churches.

Since its founding, the SBTC has grown to more than 1,890 churches and has helped plant more than 350 new congregations?a major emphasis of the convention and the largest line item in the SBTC’s budget.

Richards has served as chairman of the SBC Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) and the SBC Committee on Order of Business, and in other roles on the associational, state and national levels. A Louisiana native, Richards earned degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I think it’s one of the greatest things that we could ever do [as a convention],” Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rockwall and SBTC president said of Richards’ election. “I think he is able and capable and will be a great face for the convention. I think he will hold the course steady.”

In addition to Richards and second-term president Frank Page of South Carolina, messengers elected as second vice president Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md.
Redmond was elected with a vote of 1,765 (61.69 percent) to 1,077 (37.64 percent) over evangelist Bill Britt of Gallatin, Tenn.

“First of all, Eric Redmond is a family man,” said Doyle Chauncey, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention, in his nomination speech. “Eric Redmond is a pastor and a scholar. Eric Redmond is an evangelistic pastor, attempting to reach the 20,000 people who live within a mile of his church. Eric Redmond is a church planting pastor. In 2006 Eric Redmond led his church in planting a new church in College Park, Md., in cooperation with the SBCV and the North American Mission Board?a church which continues to thrive.”

Redmond serves as a trustee for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an executive board member of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC. He is an adjunct professor of hermeneutics at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Md. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Messengers also re-elected John L. Yeats, interim pastor of Ridge Avenue Baptist Church in West Monroe, La., as recording secretary and Jim Wells, director of missions for the Tri-County Baptist Association in southwest Missouri, as registration secretary. Both men ran unopposed.

Yeats, who has served in ministry for 36 years, has been the SBC recording secretary since 1996 and is also the director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Wells, registration secretary for the SBC since 2002, is a member of Hopedale Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo.

?Compiled from staff reports and Baptist Press

BF&M ‘sufficient’ as ‘guide’ for trustees; CP missions defined

SAN ANTONIO–Although more than 8,600 messengers were registered at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in San Antonio, the largest number voting for any balloted measure was 3,713 when the only debated motion passed by a 58-42 percent margin to declare the Baptist Faith & Message “sufficient” as a policy guide though neither a creed nor “a complete statement of our faith.”

Offered by former Texan Rick Garner, now an Ohio pastor, the motion called for adoption of a statement the SBC Executive Committee drafted last February in response to a motion Texan Boyd Luter of New Braunfels made last year.

The approved statement calls the BF&M the “only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the SBC and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.”

Luter sought stronger language to require a vote by the full convention on any “doctrinal position or practical policy” adopted by an SBC entity “which goes beyond, or seeks to explain the explicit wording of the duly constituted authoritative language” of the BF&M as approved in 2000.

Some Southern Baptists saw the approval of the motion as a response to SBC entities that have passed policies or guidelines in the past year addressing matters not specifically referenced in the BF&M.

Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board dealt with the views of prospective faculty or missionaries regarding private prayer language, with further scrutiny of missionary candidates on believer’s baptism as a testimony of the security of a believer, as well as limiting theology faculty to pastor-qualified men.

(The June 11 issue of the TEXAN analyzed this perception of the Executive Committee statement in an article on “Limiting SBC policies to BF&M parameters,” accessible at texanonline.net.)

As he opened the floor to entertain motions SBC President Frank Page insisted on respectful deliberation.

“We will act and behave as believers in the Lord Jesus,” Page said.

Page added that God’s rules were more important than Roberts’ Rules of Order, adding, “If someone says something you find objectionable, be kind. If someone says something that is absolutely stupid, be kind and we will be kind to you.”

Garner said a vote for his motion would indicate the doctrinal statement’s sufficiency to guide entities, while a negative vote would render the BF&M “anemic to accomplish its purposes.”

Robin Hadaway of Kansas City opposed the motion, asking, “Speaking in tongues is not mentioned in the BF&M, but do you want a seminary professor who practices glossolalia?”

Hadaway cited other issues absent from the BF&M such as alcohol and tobacco use, private prayer languages, gambling and divorce.

“Guide does not mean an exhaustive list,” he argued.

Arlington pastor Dwight McKissic countered: “When I give my church a doctrinal statement, all of our leaders are asked to read it and believe it. We buy into the convention based on that document. Then when agencies circumvent the document it leaves the church I pastor in a quandary.”

Bob Cleveland of Pelham, Ala., told of reading Herschel Hobbs’ commentary on the 1963 BF&M where he discovered “soul competency” as “the most responsible doctrine I’ve ever seen because it says it’s me and God. I’m responsible for what I believe. I cannot blame it on somebody else.”

Cleveland said if he wanted to change what Baptists believe he would never attack the BF&M but rather change the requirements for missionaries and professors.

“That would send out pastors into churches that believed just what I wanted them to believe. I’d never have to touch the Baptist Faith and Message,” he explained, urging passage of the motion.

Warning against the motion, Jeremy Green of First Baptist Church in Joshua said, “Baptist polity and our trustee system both necessitate that each individual trustee board maintain the right and responsibility to employ other doctrinal parameters as needed.”

After messengers voted to shut off further debate, the measure passed by a count of 2,137 to 1,565.

Cooperative Program defined

Messengers quickly dispensed with most Executive Committee recommendations, but slowed down when debating a definition of the Cooperative Program after 11 messengers raised questions.

The definition described the CP as “Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.”

“There has been no approved definition of the Cooperative Program through these years,” explained Executive Committee President Morris Chapman, who insisted no current policies or practices would be affected.

Austin pastor and Executive Committee member Michael Lewis presented the recommendation, answering a question from Mark Dever of Washington, D.C., who was concerned at how a current requirement that a church give at least $250 to the work of the convention would be affected.

“It is toward convention causes and would have no bearing on that,” Lewis answered.

Church contributions to one of the mission offerings and undesignated gifts channeled around state conventions can count toward the minimal level required for credentials, Lewis added.

He explained that such designations are not computed as CP giving, a point the definition addresses by encouraging churches to give a portion of receipts to Southern Baptist causes by channeling them through the state conventions where state messengers decide the portion advanced to the SBC.

But Ron Wilson of California urged delay of the action, citing fear of a “connectionalism not meant in the beginning,” and arguing that churches in state conventions that refuse to give more generously to the SBC “are penalized in CP giving if we designate” around the state convention. “This is very dangerous,” he concluded.

“States determine how much money is forwarded to the national office,” stated Bob Rogers, Executive Committee vice president for CP and stewardship. “That’s not dictated. We would encourage a split, but the messengers to those states vote on that percentage.”

Messengers overwhelmingly approved the CP recommendation.

New Orleans: 2012

The afternoon session served as a forum for courteous disagreement at the SBC’s refusal last year to head to New Orleans for the 2008 annual meeting to provide a more rapid infusion of spiritual and financial help to the Katrina-affected area.

Earlier in the meeting Steve Mooneyham of Gulfport, Miss., thanked Southern Baptists for their ministry to Katrina-devastated areas.

“On August 30, 2005, our Father unleashed his tidal wave of grace and mercy in the persons of you, our brothers and sisters,” he said, calling it a sensitive response to the hurricane’s fury.

Louisiana pastor Jay Adkins of Westwego recalled the action of the first Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 1845 to promote “a strong and vibrant Baptist identity in the city of New Orleans,” expressing gratitude that a seminary was built there.

“Although New Orleans doesn’t have a Magic Kingdom where we can come and play,” Adkins said he favored the SBC coming to New Orleans so residents could learn of a greater kingdom.

The Executive Committee Business and Finance vice president, Jack Wilkerson, explained the convention arrangement committee’s concern that the Superdome still lacks necessary adjoined facilities, as well as their reluctance to pull out of upcoming convention sites in Indianapolis or Louisville where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid in contracts.

“When we go to a city, we have an integrity issue that we stand behind that unless there’s a serious emergency that would cause us to change,” Wilkerson said.

But Shannon Davis of Oxford, Miss., countered, “There is no greater time that now to realty shape that into a Christian city.”

Instead, messengers overwhelmingly approved the recommendation to go to New Orleans in 2012 with Orlando approved for 2010 and Phoenix for 2011. The 2008 convention is scheduled for Indianapolis, with 2009 in Louisville, Ky.

LifeWay Research Assignments
LifeWay’s ministry statement was amended to include a research assignment. Messengers asked the entity to compile additional statistics relating to Calvinism, the emberging church movement, elder leadership and other topics of interest among Southern Baptists in light of future trends and effects on churches.

CP Budget
The 2007-2008 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $200.6 million approved by messengers includes a change in allocation for the .75 percent previously given to GuideStone that will be reallocated, resulting in a net increase of $320,962 for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, an additional $160,480 for the Executive Committee-directed stewardship ministry, and a one-time distribution of $347,710 to each of the convention’s three smallest seminaries: Southeastern, Midwestern and Golden Gate.

GuideStone previously utilized its CP share for retiree relief benefits and will now depend on continued designated gifts from individuals and churches.

Questioned by Ken Cranes of Southcrest Baptist in Lubbock as to why GuideStone would no longer need the CP dollars for the retiree relief program, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins answered, “We believe God is blessing us so much that we’re able to raise that much money and get more of them in it, and still have the money to do it. As partners in the harvest, our trustees felt this was what we ought to do,” he added, explaining the refusal of CP missions funding.

The ministry statement of GuideStone Financial Resources was amended to remove a requirement that the facilitating ministry execute a cooperative agreement with the Southern Baptist Foundation prior to offering financial services to SBC entities.

Also in SBC business:
>The SBC Constitution was amended to require a two-year waiting period between trustee service terms on entity boards and the Executive Committee, the second of two required approvals. The by-law companion to the constitutional amendment on trustee service was similarly amended.
>A calendar change moves the church-planting emphasis in 2008 to March 30 to avoid a conflict with Easter Sunday. Messengers adopted the 2011-2012 calendar of activities.

Of the dozen motions presented, only the one relating to the BF&M was placed on the floor of the convention while five were referred solely to the Executive Committee, two were assigned for study by the Executive Committee and all SBC entities, one was sent to LifeWay and the North American Mission Board, and one the Committee on Order of Business. Three were ruled out of order.

This year’s body operated with a few new rules—requiring two-thirds vote of the convention to allow a messenger to speak for more than three minutes during a time of debate and also preventing any messenger from introducing a second motion during a business session as long as any other messenger who has not made a motion is seeking the floor.

Motions referred to the Executive Committee asked:
>That the Executive Committee “conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist clergy and staff who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches,” submitted by Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla.
>That the SBC president appoint a task force that would “develop a workable solution to the difficulties that have arisen as a result of policies adopted by trustee boards concerning the practice of the spiritual gift of tongues generally and as a private prayer language specifically [and] develop a policy that is consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” submitted by Lee Saunders, minister of church development at Garden Oaks Baptist Church in Houston.
>That the Executive Committee cover reasonable travel, housing and meal expenses for convention officers during the annual meeting, submitted by Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif., who served as second vice president the past year.
>That SBC Bylaw 15-J, which specifies that the Committee on Nominations report be release no later than 45 days prior to the annual meeting, be amended to publicize “any disagreements various nominees may have concerning the BR&M 2000,” submitted by Tim Rogers of Statesville, N.C.
>That “serious consideration” be given to cities as future sites for the annual meeting that have not hosed the SBC during the past 20 years, submitted by Bob Lilly of Baltimore, Md.

All SBC entities and the Executive Committee were asked to study the following motions:
>That “each convention entity study the feasibility of providing regular reports of the voting and attendance records of all trustees of all Southern Baptist Convention agencies and institutions on all matters on which voting occurs and that these people be available in a timely matter both online and offline,” submitted by Leslie Puryear of Lewisville, N.C.
>That “the Southern Baptist Convention implement more ministries for handicapped people,” submitted by Graham Jones of North Charleston, S.C.

Other referred motions included:
>A request by Dennis Piercy of Kiowa, Okla., that a task force be established “to find ways to help build up small churches with programs and books that are designed for one-staff churches.” It was referred to LifeWay Chritian Resources and the North American Mission Board.
>A proposal by Beauford Smith of Colfax, N.C. “that an honor guard representing five branches of the military present the American flag at the call to order of the SBC annual meeting,” which was referred to the 2008 Committee on the Order of Business.

A fourth of the motions were ruled out of order because they sought to have the convention exercise authority over an SBC entity’s board internal matters.

Dismissed were:
>A motion that LifeWay Christian Resources reconsider its policies allowing “promotions and distribution of fables and allegories such as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’” which Oklahoma pastor Bob Green of Broken Arrow said “the Word of God specifically forbids.”
>A motion that SBC entities and staff avoid supporting the doctrines, leaders, publications or other resources of “the emerging church,” offered by Steve Fox of Riverton, Utah.
>A motion by Bart Barber of Farmersville asking that an ad hoc committee be created to study the salaries of Southern Baptist seminary professors in comparison with other members of the Association of Theological Schools.

Barber appealed the decision of the Committee on Order of Business chairman Allan Blume, stating, “Respectfully, the motion did not really usurp any authority of the trustees.”

Parliamentarian Barry McCarty was asked by Page for a response and stated, “We came to this conclusion together,” referring to legal counsel and other parliamentarians.

Robin foster of Perkins, Okla., disagreed with the ruling, stating: “State conventions do salary checks for pastors of other denominations and that hasn’t forced any church to pay a certain salary. I think that it is good to have the knowledge and understanding of what is common among other seminary schools,” he added, insisting the motion did not force the convention or any entities to take a certain action.

Messengers, however, sustained the ruling that the motion was not in order.

Page later sought to encourage those who made motions that were then referred for study by an SBC entity or committee, explaining, “When a motion is referred as in appropriate accordance to our bylaws, that does not mean those motions are killed.”

Connie Saffle of Shalom Adonai Messianic Fellowship of Wichita, Kan., asked what had become of a motion offered two years ago seeking recognition of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. Page directed the Committee on Order of Business to chase down the answer, later reporting that a response was included in last year’s Book of Reports.

“The entities take seriously what Southern Baptists mention,” Page told messengers in San Antonio.

He spoke of the deliberations he observed in various SBC entity meetings during his yearlong tenure, noting, “I’ve heard them deal with sincerity and integrity the motions of concern of Southern Baptists.”

Barber, the Farmersville pastor, and Gary Dyer of Midland served on this year’s Committee on Committees appointed and tasked last year by SBC President Bobby Welch to “work hard and don’t mess up.” That group named Texans James T. Egan of Post and Spencer Dobbs of Odessa to serve on the 2007-2008 Committee on Nominations.

The following Texans were approved by messengers in the report of this year’s Committee on Nominations to serve on SBC entities:
>Bud Jones of First Baptist, Woodway and David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist, Tyler, to the Executive Committee;
>Ron D. Murff of Prestonwood Baptist, Plano, to GuideStone Financial Resources;
>Marshall D. Johnson of MacArthur Blvd. Baptist, Irving, to a second term along with Jay T. Gross of West Conroe Baptist in Conroe;
>William S. Moody of First Baptist, Silsbee to the North American Mission Baord;
>Mark Estep of Spring Baptist, Spring, to a second term at LefeWay Christian Resources; Mike Mericle of Great Hills Baptist in Austin to Southern Seminary;
>Lash Banks of Parkside Baptist in Denison to Southwestern Seminary along with second terms for Gary W. Loveless of Second Baptist, Houston, and Jack S. Smith of First Baptist, Dallas;
>K. Wayne Lee of First Baptist, Euless, to Midwestern Seminary;
>Gene Kendrick of Mims Baptist in Conroe to a second term on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and
>Domingo Ozuma of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie to the Committee on Order of Business.

Next year’s annual meeting in Indianapolis will be held June 10-11. Housing information will be available in October at sbc.net.

SBC elects Page to second term, approves global warming resolution

SAN ANTONIO?Southern Baptists meeting in San Antonio June 12-13 elected by acclamation South Carolina pastor Frank Page for a second term as president and passed a motion declaring the SBC’s doctrinal confession, the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), a “sufficient” policy guide for convention agencies.

The BF&M motion on June 12 fueled the longest floor debate of the meeting and prompted further discussion in hallways and from the podium during SBC entity reports the next day over how entities should apply the motion.

The convention approved eight resolutions on topics ranging from global warming to child abuse, while refusing a resolution offered from the floor on integrity in church membership (See related stories, page 10).

Messengers also approved an operating budget of $200.6 million for the next fiscal year, which funds the SBC’s six seminaries, its two mission boards, its ethics agency, and the administrative operations of the convention, which claims more than 16 million members.

Bush addresses SBC
President Bush addressed messengers during the morning session June 13, praising Southern Baptists for their work in disaster relief and the alleviation of world hunger and poverty, AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, and, the president added, “you’ve spread the gospel.”

Bush acknowledged a previous meeting with Page, during which the two prayed together, Bush recalled.

Bush thanked Southern Baptists for supporting his judicial appointments, “and I will continue to nominate good judges who will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.” Southern Baptists are committed to a culture of life, Bush said, noting his refusal to fund abortions with tax dollars and promising to veto “any bill that Congress sends me that violates the sanctity of human life.”

Lauding Southern Baptists’ human rights efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan, Bush said, “For too long the people of Darfur have suffered” by a government guilty of rape, murder and genocide. He added, “You’re rising to meet the challenge of broken souls in a broken world” with compassion.

Bush also praised the True Love Waits abstinence program, started by Southern Baptists and used in Ugandan schools. Bush noted that six more African nations will begin using the program soon.

Page re-elected unopposed
Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., was elected unopposed to a customary second one-year term, calling on messengers in his presidential address to take responsibility for personal sins.
Preaching from Psalm 51, David’s prayer for restoration after committing adultery and murder, Page said the SBC is at an “irrecoverable moment ? in which the Lord wants to speak to our hearts.”

But because of a lack of heart integrity, Page said: “We find faults in everyone else and we develop a pattern of dishonesty and we will not deal with what the problem is.”

Page compared the SBC’s unfounded confidence in itself to France’s “Maginot Line,” a system of forts and defense points the French wrongly thought for years was impenetrable until the Germans marched through it in 1940, taking the entire country captive in one month.

Page said he feared “we have built our own Maginot Line.”

Praising those who fought for doctrinal correction in the SBC two decades ago, Page said churches would be empty if equal passion is not given toward God and others, especially the lost.

“The early church had little influence but much power,” Page reminded. “The modern church?much influence but little power.”

The following day, messengers unanimously passed a resolution calling on Southern Baptists to “humble ourselves in individual and corporate repentance” and urging the denomination “to embrace a spirit of repentance, pursue face-to-face reconciliation where necessary, and enter into a time of fasting and prayer for the lost.”

BF&M motion stirs debate
Seven years after convention messengers adopted a revised Baptist Faith and Message, the confessional statement that was criticized by theological moderates for alleged “bibliotry” was prominent in San Antonio, where messengers affirmed the confession as “sufficient” and a “guide” for SBC entities.

From entity reports to informal discussions in the convention center lobby the following day, messengers were debating the implications of the motion by Rick Garner, pastor of Liberty Heights Church in Liberty Township, Ohio: Does the BF&M 2000 represent a set of maximal parameters for trustee boards, or does the confessional statement represent a minimal baseline from which trustee boards may begin in implementing policies?

Garner’s motion, approved by 57.7 percent of voting messengers, called for adoption of an Executive Committee statement pronouncing the BF&M as “sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the convention” and the convention’s “only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs.”

Although the motion did not specifically direct SBC agencies and trustee boards, floor debate centered over the motion’s intent. Many suspected the motion to put undue pressure on the internal work of SBC entities, and some entity heads utilized time during their convention reports to address these purported implications.

The sharpest contrast came from Executive Committee President Morris Chapman, who urged adherence to the BF&M for SBC policies, and Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who seemingly responded to Chapman and to messengers the following day, emphasizing the statement’s exhortation to guide entities such as Southern, not restricting them.

Before the motion passed, Chapman in his report to messengers June 12 said any practice an SBC entity institutes that has the “force of doctrine” should be in accordance with Baptists’ confessional statement.

Policies enacted by trustee boards “should not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said.

“If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession,” he said.

Chapman insisted such a procedure would not infringe on trustees’ responsibility to govern entities, nor the allegiance of students enrolled in SBC seminaries.

Acknowledging the division surrounding the BF&M motion, Chapman called on Southern Baptists to unite over core beliefs and the common task of world evangelization, calling disputes over what he term “secondary and tertiary” doctrines as “destructive distractions.”

Page made similar statements at his press conference, stating his preference that entities not exceed the faith statement in defining doctrinal parameters.

But not all SBC leaders agreed.

“We gladly receive that advisement,” Mohler said of the vote affirming the BF&M as a sufficient guide, adding that messengers surely did not intend for schools to be restricted from inquiring of potential staff “on what they believe on every conceivable issue.”

Noting that 38 years passed between the 1925 BF&M and its 1963 revision, and another 37 years between the 1963 and 2000 revision, Mohler said trustees must make calls on a host of doctrinal issues not explicitly covered in the BF&M.

To insist that no board may exceed the BF&M?what Mohler called a “summary of things believed”?”makes no sense whatsoever if you are hiring a seminary professor.”


Midwestern Seminary President Phil

Pastors’ wives hear stories of strength

SAN ANTONIO?After Kathy Ferguson’s husband died four years ago in a car accident, her 26-year role as a pastor’s wife changed dramatically.

Struggling to overcome an empty nest as well as an empty home, Ferguson told the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Wives Conference June 11 that she had come to appreciate the Puritan proverb: “Life would be a little less sweet and death a little less bitter.”

Recalling the difficult time in her life, Ferguson shared the platform with other pastors’ wives to talk about “Strength for the Journey.”

“Psalm 84:5-7 became the single most resource passage of help for me in my life and journey as a widow,” said Ferguson, now women’s ministry leader at the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark. She first noticed the Scripture reference in a book on loneliness by author Elisabeth Elliot whose missionary husband was martyred at the hands of Ecuadorian tribesmen in 1956.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs,” she read, explaining the reference to Baca as a place of tears.

Convinced God had told her the psalm would have great meaning for her life, Ferguson said she focused on the phrase “go from strength to strength,” assuming it was a message that would help her navigate the isolation that minister’s wives often experience in local church ministry.

“On that Saturday night … I was just four days away from the greatest place of tears I would ever know,” Ferguson said. “How does the death of the love of your life become a fertile place?

“If we studied life in tsunamis, hurricanes, car accidents or unexpected medical reports, we may not conclude that God is good,” she said. “The essence of our faith is to trust God and believe He can, even if He doesn’t.”

That attitude becomes more difficult in times of hardship, she acknowledged, reminding women of the motive behind ministry.

“I love people and have rich resources of godly friends, but no one has been my greatest companion and touched the deepest place in my heart like my heavenly Father,” Ferguson said. “While I miss my husband at some level nearly every day, I do not miss my old heart.”

Diane Nix of New Orleans told of God’s sufficiency after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina only days after moving to New Orleans where her husband was to begin serving as a preaching professor. Beginning with her testimony of bowing to God’s authority, Nix reminded the women to maintain a vital prayer life by staying connected to the vine and having courage during times of tribulation.

“I decided a long time ago, no matter what, I was going to serve Jesus,” Nix said.

Noticing how God transforms believers from the baggage of dysfunctional relationships, Nix praised God for teaching her to see “with spirit eyes” the woundedness of people, helping her to love even the unlovable.

“Without forgiveness and release, we stop the flow in our lives and stifle the Holy Spirit’s work in us and through us,” she said.

Nix also encouraged pastors’ wives to be who God created them to be, exercising their spiritual giftedness instead of trying to do everything. Then, she said, they will leave the spiritual legacy God intends, “called to life to share life and to be life.”

Susie Hawkins of Dallas led a panel of pastors’ wives on issues relating to personal friendships and how God can use them to provide strength in facing the unique challenges of a tough journey.

“My friends keep me grounded,” Angela Kilby of Ada, Okla., said. “There are many times when I need to just get away. I come back refreshed, ready to do that next task in our church.”

Becky Graves, who is in transition from recent church plants in New Hampshire and Ohio, said their next move is to San Diego. Referring to a close friend she’s known more than 25 years who also is in ministry, Graves said, “It’s nice to have someone who can relate to that type of atmosphere. My faith grows as I walk through trials and blessing with such friends.”

As the wife of a minister who has served churches for 36 years, Karolyn Chapman of Winston Salem, N.C., encouraged the women to follow the advice she received years ago from an 85-year-old woman.

“Remember always that you need older women as good friends in your life?not just what you consider mentors, but friends,” Chapman said. Developing friendships with those who are college-aged and younger is also important, she said, reminding women not to limit their friendships to their peers.

Wives were encouraged to creatively maintain and develop friendships in spite of distance, utilizing e-mail to keep in touch as well as accessing a newly launched website for Southern Baptist ministers’ wives at contagiousjoy4him.com.

Dale Page of Taylors, S.C., described the whirlwind life she and her husband Frank have experienced in the year following his election as SBC president. At the same time, they have experienced the birth of their first grandchild and learned their oldest daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.

“Our lives have been pulled in many different directions, but I can testify to the fact that God’s strength is real looking back and seeing the journey He has brought us on,” Page said.

Humorist Anita Renfroe of Ackworth, Ga., in her lively talk, described “life in the pastorium?the Latin word that means non-marketable real estate. When we were poor we were happy. I don’t know why those things go together, but some of you are just ecstatic,” she said.