Month: March 2009

Hispanic church helps start Russian church across town

LEWISVILLE?In its eight-year existence, El Companerismo Biblico El Camino of Lewisville has planted and supported churches and ministries around the world. The Spanish-language church’s latest ministry project, a Russian-language church plant, is only 20 miles away in distance but a world away in culture.

The two churches may seem an unlikely tandem. The pastors, though from different cultures and upbringings, share a common commitment to missions and church planting. Their current ministries give immigrants who might otherwise feel disconnected within their new communities a sense of belonging in a fellowship of believers.

“I’ve always had a burden for missions,” said Felix Cornier, pastor of El Camino and an SBTC church planting consultant. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, Cornier did not learn to speak Spanish until he was 21. At El Camino he has worked to create a mission-minded church. The fruit of their faith is reflected in a budget that sets aside 20 percent for missions, including the SBTC and the Cooperative Program missions funding plan.

“That,” Cornier said, “is non-negotiable.”

The Hispanic congregation financially and prayerfully supports Russian Bible Church, an SBTC congregation whose pastor, Josef Lozovyy, is an accomplished violinist. El Camino mission coordinator John McLaughlin said their support has not been with physical help, in part due to logistics. Both congregations are spread throughout the Dallas area. The financial assistance, he said, allows the Russian church to develop as God leads.

“We want to take a backseat and let God lead the Russian church. This was the most effective way of helping,” McLaughlin said.

Lozovyy contacted Cornier in 2007 about supporting the start of a Russian-language church in the Richardson area. He said he contacted the SBTC because the Southern Baptist Convention had been a significant help when his father was involved in church planting in Ohio.

The decision to assist the upstart Russian church was not a difficult one for the small Hispanic church, the majority of whom, Cornier said, are new believers. Launched in 2000, El Camino is a fellowship with a common faith and language but a variety of backgrounds. The congregation of 147 has an average age of 37. They are young couples, day laborers, and professionals. Some are American by birth while others are immigrants from numerous Spanish-language nations?Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, and Puerto Rico.

Although they did not share a common native tongue, they shared a common experience with their Russian brothers and sisters and even if the support funds had to come out of his own salary, Cornier said he was determined to help.

It was not Lozovyy’s first effort to start a Russian-language church in North Texas.

As a seminary student in Dallas in the late 1990s he made three attempts in two years to start a congregation but his efforts bore no fruit. The opportunity for continued education took him from Dallas back to Ohio where his family had first immigrated in 1992 when Lozovyy was 19 years old. His father, Teodoziy, had been a Protestant church planter in Russia and it was in that spiritually bleak land that Lozovyy’s Christian education began.

In Russia before the Glasnost reforms of the 1980s, the Lozovyy family at times found themselves the only confessing Christians they knew of. It was also illegal, he said, for parents to take their children to church.

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Remember what CP makes possible

April 26 is Cooperative Program Day. The Cooperative Program is an awesome tool for God’s churches to accomplish Acts 1:8 missions and ministry in an efficient way. With the economic uncertainty we all face difficult times. Some say the place to cut the budget is with “charitable” or “discretionary” giving. However, to those of us in Jesus Kingdom work, Christian stewardship is not altered during hard times. God is still in control of our world and especially our finances. There is no better time than now to be an example of stewardship by staying faithful in giving.

There are over 10,000 missionaries in North America and around the world. While individual mission trips are important for Southern Baptists, without the foundation of the Cooperative Program there would be no continuous Southern Baptist presence among these gospel-needy people. My friend David Shepherd and his wife, Peggy, just recently went to southern Asia. He is my age. He has been a successful pastor and respected seminary professor. Now he is living in a challenging environment 247 to spread the gospel. He does not visit a week or two and go home. As he told me, “I want to invest the rest of my life there.” Your gifts to the CP make his work possible. Only eternity will show who partnered with David and Peggy through the Cooperative Program to win many to Jesus.

Over 15,000 seminary students in six SBC seminaries get a portion of their education paid through the Cooperative Program. A 20-something friend of mine, Nate, told me last Sunday he is concerned that his children may not have the opportunity to get the kind of seminary education he is receiving at a reduced expense. He wants another generation to enjoy the benefits of our Cooperative Program giving. Through the Cooperative Program you invest in the lives of our future pastors, missionaries, church planters and staff ministers like Nate.

A small amount of CP goes to fund the strong stance Southern Baptists take on social and moral issues through the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is not for us to win every contest or engage every issue. We are called upon to be prophets to the culture about God’s truth. One of my closest friends, Harold, serves the Lord through a role at the ERLC speaking to Southern Baptists and speaking for Southern Baptists. He works to please the Lord, pouring his life into others. Your CP giving enables Harold to fulfill his calling.

Christian and Jake are high school seniors. They told me that God has called them to the ministry. They applied for enrollment at Criswell College. Through the Cooperative Program they will receive some tuition assistance. These fine young men are committing their lives to serve our Lord Jesus in leadership roles. Your CP gifts support them in their journey.

Joel planted a church in a Texas metro area last year. He is reaching people who need the Lord Jesus. Because of Cooperative Program support, Joel has been able to have a strong start with phenomenal attendance and numbers of people coming to Christ. Through the CP you are a part of every soul.

Space does not allow for all the testimonies I could give. God is moving in the lives of literally millions because of the Cooperative Program. You can help tell the story.

Within a couple of weeks materials will arrive at your church highlighting this powerful channel of blessing. Please consider showing the DVD, using bulletin inserts, bringing a lesson or message. If April 26 does not work for you, please consider another day. CP giving begins with the believer and his stewardship through the local church. Everyone can give something. Every family can tithe. Every church can participate through the Cooperative Program.

Bless your church by telling about this exciting partnership through the Cooperative Program. It is important that everyone in our SBTC family knows that the Cooperative Program works. Thank you for the privilege of serving you because of the Cooperative Program.

SBTC student ministry unveils strategies to equip parents, encourage students

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is drawn from several student ministry articles featured in the current issue of Texas Baptist Crossroads magazine. The more detailed articles in Crossroads deal with a shift in how churches disciple and minister to students and offer advice for churches transitioning to a home-based student ministry.

The statistics are stunning: Southern Baptists are baptizing a steadily decreasing number of students, and droves of them?about 60 percent?are leaving the church after graduating from high school.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention staff isn’t letting the numbers numb them; they’ve been busy writing curricula, planning events and organizing think tanks to equip parents and youth ministers with biblical strategies and responses to the alarming mass departure.

Morevover, the SBTC is offering resources redefining the youth minister’s role, tapping parents as partners in student ministry, and even mobilizing other students to reach their communities and peers for Christ.

Intersecting the Christian home and youth ministry, SBTC staffers developed the “Home-Based Student Ministry” (HBSM) curriculum, which has two key components:

?Engage parents as primary Bible teachers for their children.

?Release student ministers to provide service and leadership opportunities for students.

Bookending the HBSM is a five-session, DVD-based discipleship study course for parents titled “Inheritance: Passing Down a Legacy of Faith to Our Children.” The study entails four video teaching sessions complete with printable PDF documents, a leader’s guide, home Bible study materials, and other resources for a complete, user-friendly package. Retailing at $69.95, Inheritance materials may be ordered at SBTC-affiliated churches receive a 20 percent discount.

Anticipating young adults’ transition to college and career?when they are most prone to drop out of church life?the SBTC staff is forming a web-based resource enabling parents and young adults to find viable churches and other ministries the young adults can plug into upon arriving in their new locales. SBTC Church Ministries Associate Ken Lasater will gather insights at the upcoming Student Leaders’ Escape, Oct 5-7, at the Highland Lakes Center in Spicewood.

The SL Escape is a think-tank laboratory meeting, combining ideas and information to develop workable strategies to strengthen the church-student connection.

“There’ll be no keynote speakers to give us education from their viewpoint,” said Lasater, who invites all interested parties to attend. See for additional information or to register.

Training new church leaders

Another disturbing statistic is the amount of time churches invest each week in training students for church leadership roles?on average fewer than 15 minutes.

“That means we’re in great need of developing the right kind of leaders for the future: those who are skilled, prepared and committed for the long haul,” Lasater noted.

The SBTC’s answer is two-fold: Summer Worship University (SWU)?focusing on developing worship skills?and Student Leadership Training (SLT) covering other areas of church leadership. SWU classes include vocal and instrumental music, creative arts, and technical media. SLT classes offer training in student ministry, missions, public speaking, teaching, preaching, general church leadership and church recreation and fellowship.

Registrations for the July 13-18 SWU and SLT camps at Schreiner University in Kerrville received by May 1, $235; and after May 1, $265. Fees include all materials, a learner’s syllabus, a shirt, meals, lodging and conferences and all fees

Texas follows national trend among states attempting to strengthen marriages through public policy

Texas joins a long line of states introducing legislation to save families by strengthening marriages. And although only three states have enacted marriage covenant laws?Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona?the last two decades have seen both federal and state legislators initiating public policies to restore marriage to its once-honored position.

“Men and women who are married have been shown to be happier and healthier. Marriage also provides for increased financial viability, and children fare better in two-parent households. Children of married parents are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, abuse drugs and alcohol, become pregnant out of wedlock, or experience emotional and psychological troubles.

Based on research proving the ordinance of marriage to benefit adults, children, and society in general, legislation targeting this public institution is not new.

According to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, “marriages exist in a social and cultural ecology that support or work against them.” The Administration’s website claims that “both directly and indirectly, public policy is crafted to support?or unintentionally weaken?marriage.” Because healthy marriages begat healthy communities, “marriage is a defensible target of public policy.”

Defending the notion of legislation as a viable form of policy intervention for failing marriages, the Administration believes “well-designed legislation intervention” can impact numerous lives in positive ways.

Any timeline for a public policy approach to strengthening marriages begins against the backdrop of legislation in the 1960s and 70s. During this time, family law was characterized by leniency?both the advent of contraception and no-fault divorces.

But beginning in the 1990s, a movement evolved dedicated to strengthening marriage. Its impact can be seen in the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Additionally, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) gave states the latitude to tailor welfare programs to their own specific problems and needs.

With their newfound freedom in regulating welfare funds, many states began to reduce welfare incentives to couples who remained unmarried. Prior to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, single-parent families qualified for welfare with little funds directed to two-parent families.

But it was with the election of George W. Bush in 2000 that the federal government gave concerted effort to rebuilding the institution of marriage. In 2002, federal funding was slated to support marriage promotion programs such as the Healthy Marriage Initiative within the Administration for Children and Families, which was designed to help couples obtain marriage education and to sustain healthy marriages. Additionally, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 allocated $150 million each year until 2011 for healthy marriage promotion and responsible fatherhood programs.

Today, most states have enacted legislation to encourage marriage and strengthen the family. In many states, high schools now offer marriage and family education curricula. And with the rise of faith-based organizations came the introduction of community marriage-promotion programs. Marriage Savers, a marriage preservation organization, has helped 183 cities in over 40 states reduce their divorce rate, their website claims. Other public initiatives include reenactment of fault-based systems for divorce and restrictions on unilateral no-fault divorce.

In Texas, House Joint Resolution 6 serves as a recent example of public policy targeting marriages on the state level. The resolution, a product of the Texas Conservative Coalition, amended the Texas Constitution to define marriage as consisting solely of the union between one man and one woman.

Despite the push on the state level to reaffirm traditional family values, only three states have gone as far to enact covenant marriage legislation (Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona). While most of 20th century family law legislation sought to liberalize restrictions on di

In Austin, 230 renew vows at Baptist church

AUSTIN?While Texas lawmakers wrangle over the appropriate direction for family law reform in the legislature, one church is already hard at work building a foundation to strengthen marriages in the heart of the state’s capital.

At Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, the covenant nature of marital and family relationships was the subject of a fall emphasis. Pastor Michael Lewis led the congregation through a sermon series focusing on the subject, a 40-day love dare in which church members lived out the covenant love of Christ with friends and family, and a vow renewal service.

After previewing a screening of the “Fireproof” movie starring Kirk Cameron and produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., Lewis said he felt convicted to provide his church with practical and biblical teaching on the covenant nature of God and its implications in the lives of believers.

“We’ve seen marriage and family disintegrate in today’s culture with no values and no stability,” Lewis said. “We sensed a great desire to convey to believers and to our church today the stability found in a covenant relationship?found with God first of all and then found in covenant marriage relationships and even in covenant relationships with family.”

Although Lewis believes covenant marriage legislation can only strengthen families, he said it is the church’s responsibility to provide real remedies for the spiritual problem of failing marriages.

As a kick-off to the marriage emphasis GHBC rented five theaters on “Fireproof’s” opening weekend, and over 1,000 church members viewed the movie with family and friends. Additionally, 1,200 members of GHBC participated in a 40-day love dare intended to strengthen all forms of relationships. As seen in the “Fireproof” movie, the “40-Day Love Dare” is a devotional guide produced by Sherwood pastors and “Fireproof” creators Alex and Stephen Kendrick. The book provides daily challenges or “dares” to demonstrate love to a spouse.

“It was a challenge each day to exhibit Christ-like love in those covenant relationships,” Lewis said. “We had our members demonstrate practical ways of being patient and kind with each other on a daily basis. Each love dare gave them a biblical teaching and then gave them a life application of how to experience that love.

Lewis said the church saw families and marriages greatly influenced by the love of Christ.

“We saw growing marriages strengthened. We have experienced several marriages that had no hope experience new hope in Christ,” Lewis said, adding that one couple was reconciled after being divorced for two years. “The husband had recently accepted Christ in our congregation and the wife wasn’t going to church anywhere, but she began to see life change in his heart and life. She began to watch us on TV while I was teaching about covenant marriage, and she came to church and now they are remarried and going through biblical counseling.”

Other examples that highlight the eternal impact of the 40-day love dare included increased communication between spouses.

“Couples that have never prayed together now pray together,” Lewis added. “Some couples that had faint hearts about their marriage?one considering divorce?when they understood their marriage was a covenant and not just a contract to be broken, they re-affirmed their vows to each other.”

The marriage emphasis culminated in a vow renewal service for 230 couples on Oct. 26. The candlelight service gave members an opportunity to remind themselves of the covenant nature of marriage. After the ceremony, a church-wide celebration included a reception and wedding pictures.

But it was Lewis’ introductory sermon on covenant marriage that provided a springboard for the Great Hills marriage emphasis. The Sept. 7 sermon identified three key principles regarding covenants and their modern-day implications for daily life.

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First Person: How understanding covenant restored our marriage commitment

Riddle me this: A divorced man and a divorced woman, Christians, get married while understanding for the first time the biblical definition of covenant marriage. It’s a second marriage for each of them, but neither has been married to anyone else. Who did they marry the second time? Well, the same person they married the first time — each other.

In a nutshell, this is the story of my marriage. After nearly eight years of separation and then divorce, God renewed our marriage. During that time and before, I was running from God’s call upon my life to full-time Christian vocation. My marriage became one of the many victims in the rearview mirror of my life. But God got my attention one day as I was looking out the windshield of the oilfield truck I was driving alone down Wolf Creek Pass on the Denver side of the Rocky Mountains.

The engine quit. No reason. Just quit. This is dangerous as big rigs require their engines to supply power to their air brakes. Without power, no brakes?at least to a point. Actually, the emergency brake will set when a big rig loses air pressure, and I was losing pressure at every hairpin turn down the steep grades, and wasn’t looking forward to the brakes locking up.

I tried all I knew to restart the truck — even pushed the start button. Dead. Slowing enough to stop, I turned onto a shoulder area and began sliding straight off the mountain in about a foot of slick mud as it was spring melt-off time.

Ready to bail out at the last second, the truck turned back onto the highway. I have no other explanation for this than God’s hand came from heaven and steered the truck aright much as a boy in a sandbox does with his Tonkas.

Again, I reached for the start button. Ignition!

As soon as the truck restarted, I heard a voice so startlingly real that I turned to see who was in the passenger seat. I liken this to the late Adrian Rogers quip about the voice of God: “It wasn’t an audible voice; it was louder than that.” However, it was audible to me. The voice said, “Norman, go home.” I knew exactly what that meant.

That fall I enrolled in Criswell College, and in the months preceding had re-established only a slightly more friendly relationship with Cynthia, the woman I divorced, mother of our two children. By running off to Bible college, however, I was sacrificing, not obeying. This I realized in Old Testament survey class when I came across the prophet Samuel’s confrontation with King Saul, who had kept forbidden spoils from a battle with the Amalekites. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” Samuel said. Ouch!

The more I sat under the tutelage of Criswell College professors, and the more I learned about the God who saved me, spared me, and whom I purported to love, the more I realized that the marital covenant is no less binding than the covenants God made with all the Old Testament luminaries. That, coupled with the fellowship of godly professors and fellow students at the school made me face the truth of how God truly feels about divorce. He hates it, says the Bible.

I wanted to come back to God on my own terms. But the One who put my truck back on the road also had a life map for me to follow, and he wasn’t allowing me much comfort in my detours. God let me drive in misery to a fork in my spiritual road: complain or comply.

I called my father, the late Eldridge Miller, who was pastor of First Baptist Church, Sallisaw, Okla., to see if he planned to attend the annual “School of the Prophets” in Dallas. Having been numerous times before, he said no?that is until I told him I had plans to propose (again) to Cynthia if he and Mom would bring her. “What were those dates again?” he asked.

Anybody for a lesson in how not to propose? After explaining how God was working in my life, I said to Cynthia: “The only love I have for you is as a sister in Christ. But I’m willing to try again if you are.” As romantic as it is convincing, eh? Well, it must’ve been the half-carat solitaire and not my half-baked soliloquy because she said: “I still love you, and I’m willing to try.”

Baucham challenges fathers to recover role in preparing children for marriage

Taking a marriage covenant seriously begins long before vows are exchanged. In his new book “What He Must Be,” author Voddie Baucham observes: “Little thought is given to preparing our sons to be husbands. Thus, they meander through life without the skills or mind-set necessary to play this most important role until one day, having met ‘the one,’ they pop the question, set a date, and?in the rarest of cases?go to the pastor to learn everything they need to know about being the priest, prophet, provider, and protector of a household in four one-hour sessions. In the words of that great theologian Dr. Phil, ‘How’s that workin’ for ya?'”

Never one to mince words, Baucham challenges parents to plant seeds in the lives of their children that will grow and bear much fruit in generations to come, coming to grips with sinful patterns and tendencies. “We must stop preparing them for lives of selfishness, immediate gratification, and perpetual adolescence if we ever expect to turn the tide.”

Baucham recognizes his responsibility to protect his daughter from men who view marriage as a temporary arrangement as opposed to a lifelong covenant. “I must also see to it that I do not allow such thinking in my sons,” he adds. “A young man who is worthy of a wife will have a clear understanding of the covenantal nature of marriage. He will also have a healthy apprehension when he thinks about the magnitude of his responsibility should he assume the role of a husband and father. He must know the weight he is taking on his shoulders and be willing to accept it. He must be a man who is wiling to endure hardship for the sake of his family should he be called upon to do so.”

While this Texas pastor has no intention of picking his daughter’s husband, both he and she know he intends to play an active role in the process of finding and evaluating potential suitors. Unfortunately, he writes, the more common practice is for casual dating to turn into a long-term relationship; a long-term relationship turns into a foregone conclusion; and eventually the foregone conclusion turns into a marriage.

“We must help our daughters turn their affections away from cultural conditioning and toward biblical truth.”

Other resources for parents, engaged couples and married couples seeking to renew their commitment, include:

?God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation by Andreas Kostenberger, Crossway.

?From Boy to Man: The Marks of Manhood, Part II by R. Albert Mohler, available on blog dated April 22, 2005 at

?Five Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney, B&H.

?Covenant Marriage: Building Communication and Intimacy by Gary Chapman, B&H.

?Siete pilares para una familia del reino (Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family) by Tom Elliff, B&H.

?Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome, How to Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage by Nancy C. Anderson, Kregel.

?Contact Family Life ministry at 1-800-358-6329 for information on marriage covenant certificates for use in a wedding ceremony or visit

?Visit to order Certificate of Marriage Covenant Renewal.

Authority to define marriage rests with church, prof says

WAKE FOREST, N.C.?Mindful of proposed Texas legislation that seeks to strengthen marriage, Christian ethicist David Jones urges Southern Baptists to employ a biblical understanding of marriage prior to supporting family law reform. Expectations that the state is able to provide lasting solutions to the spiritual problem of martial decay are based on false hope, said Jones, associate professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

“Generally speaking, I think the Southern Baptist Convention should support it,” Jones said, referring to covenant marriage laws, which would require marriage license applicants to choose between a standard marriage and a covenant marriage.

“However, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that the state has the ability to define marriage, nor should we view external laws as the only (or even proper) way to fix the moral erosion of the institution of marriage.”

Noting that covenant marriage legislation possesses potential to curb divorce rates, Jones believes the best way to “fix the estate of marriage is to internally understand the nature and purpose of the institution.”

What is a marriage covenant?

Marriage covenant laws imply a covenantal union is one of two marital categories, of which one is a standard version and the other a more stringent, binding commitment.

However, Jones points out that marriage is by definition a covenant. “Whether you are a Christian or not, it is impossible to have a marriage that is not a covenant marriage,” said Jones, a contributor to the 2004 book “God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation” by Andreas Kostenberger. “The institution of marriage is, by divine design, constitutionally covenantal.”

In short, a proper definition of covenant marriage must include permanence of the union and recognition that “three parties” are rooted in the agreement?God, husband, and wife. Although secular marital laws seek a return to traditional values, the legislation only speaks to spousal relationships. The laws also include caveats for dissolution of marital unions.

Among the ethics courses Jones teaches at Southeastern, his class “Marriage and Family: Foundations” underscores the differences between prominent views of marriage. Class notes describe the covenantal model of marriage as a creation ordinance rooted in divine law, which creates a permanent bond between a man, a woman and God. This God-centered model for understanding marriage was the prevailing model in the church from the cross until the 16th century when a sacramental model of marriage was introduced at the Roman Catholic Council of Trent.

However, modern views of marriage stem from Enlightenment-era thinkers who hailed matrimony as “a bilateral contract that is voluntarily formed, maintained, and dissolved by two individuals.”

A contractual view of marriage is inherently man-centered, Jones said. Today, marriage is no longer conceptualized as an “institution in which two individuals participate,” but rather a contract created by two parties. This relatively new understanding of marriage did not become widespread until the 19th century, Jones said.

Who has the authority to marry?

In distinguishing between a covenantal and contractual view of marriage, questions of authority inevitably arise. In a contractual view of marriage, authority to marry rests squarely in the hands of the state as it dispenses marriage licenses and grants divorces. Although couples are free to marry in a church, officiating ministers perform wedding ceremonies “by the authority vested by the state.”

“The minister basically becomes a civil authority in order to legally marry you,” Jones told students in his marriage and family class. “So, you can see, a church wedding is really window dressing. The minister only has the authority to marry you based on the authority of the state?not the church.”

While the state has been entrusted by God with maintaining order in society, Jones said it is the body of Christ that should bear the responsibility of defining and defendi

Mission groups consider new locations away from Mexico

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention encourages churches and mission groups to exercise discernment when traveling to Mexico. According to the travel alert from the United States State Department, people traveling to Mexico, especially communities along the U.S. border, need to be aware of certain dangers. These State Department updates are accessible at the following website:

This year, the outbreak of kidnappings for ransom, increased homicides, thefts, rapes and street crime related to the Mexican government’s war against the drug cartels has created in many locations in Mexico a significantly unsafe location for mission projects. The outbreak of violent activity has precipitated unprecedented re-routing of mission projects from Mexico to domestic locations. It is difficult for the SBTC to know which areas may be safe and which areas give significant exposure to potential violence.

The SBTC urges you, as an autonomous church, to carefully evaluate any trips to Mexico. Because of the potential for extreme violence, the SBTC recommends that you consider re-routing any Mexico mission projects to another location.

For information about other options for re-routing mission projects, please contact Tiffany Smith: Phone: 877-953-7282 (SBTC); E-mail:

Decision on Fort Worth church postponed by SBC Exec. Committee

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted unanimously without discussion to continue to study whether the convention should remain affiliated with Broadway Baptist Church, a historic Fort Worth congregation that was involved last year in a controversy over whether homosexual couples should be pictured in a church directory.

The Executive Committee began studying the church’s affiliation last year after a messenger at the SBC annual meeting in June made a motion that the convention declare Broadway Baptist not to be “in friendly cooperation” with the denomination. Article III of the SBC Constitution states that churches “which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” are not in friendly cooperation.

The church last February decided in a 294-182 vote to publish a directory without family portraits but with candid shots of members involved in various ministries and activities. Additionally, the pastor who had presided over the controversy?Brett Younger?resigned from the church in June to take a position at McAfee School of Theology in Georgia after a vote to oust him failed, 68-32 percent.

Church members, though, said the desire by some to remove Younger had less to do with the issue of homosexuality and more to do with a host of other issues, including his leadership and his support of a project that allowed homeless people to stay at the church at night.

The Executive Committee agreed Feb. 17 that the study should continue and that “further inquiries and continued communications with the church be made,” with the goal of “arriving at an appropriate report” to the convention at the June annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

The church has about 1,400 members with 400 to 500 attendees on Sunday mornings.

Three people from the church?interim pastor Charles Johnson, minister of congregation care Jorene Taylor Swift and denominational relations committee member Lyn Robbins?voluntarily appeared and asked members of the Bylaws Workgroup and the Administration Subcommittee, both of which considered the matter, not to recommend breaking the relationship.

Two representatives of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, with whom Broadway Baptist is affiliated, also addressed the subcommittee as well as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson from whom Broadway’s interim pastor had sought counsel.

Much of the discussion during the workgroup and the subcommittee meetings focused on a Jan. 27 letter the church sent to the Executive Committee, which stated in part: “Broadway has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so.” It further stated, “While we extend Christian hospitality to everyone?including homosexuals?we do not endorse, approve, or affirm homosexual behavior.”

The letter also said the church chose a directory without family portraits because it believed such an action would avoid sending the message the church endorsed homosexuality. The letter was approved by the church’s deacons and presented to the church with no objections.

Some members of the workgroup and subcommittee said they would welcome a stronger statement from the church on homosexuality so as to further disassociate itself from the church directory controversy. The church is autonomous and must decide the matter on its own.

“The committee has asked us to sort of strengthen our statement on the matter of homosexuality,” Johnson, the interim pastor, told Baptist Press. “We receive that challenge … and we’re going to take it very seriously and prayerfully and go back to our congregation and follow the light and leadership of the spirit of God.”

Johnson said he was “very heartened” and “encouraged” by discussions with committee members throughout the day. The Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Subcommittee meetings each went past their scheduled end times, with members asking Johnson and the other two church representatives pointed questions about the church’s position on homosexuality.

Johnson, who began serving in his role in July, told Baptist Press he came to the committee meeting in order to tell members the church does not endorse homosexuality and to urge them not to act while the church “is healing” from losing not only its pastor but some of its members following last year’s controversies.

“Everyone has been gracious to us. We have felt a sensitivity from the committee toward our congregational situation, and we’ve received the wisdom of the committee,” he said. “We feel that we’ve taken a step of constructive engagement with the denomination. This is our denominational family. Instead of a step away, we’ve kind of stepped toward each other.”

The church’s letter to the Executive Committee acknowledged that not every member of Broadway is “in agreement about the propriety of homosexual behavior or the language regarding homosexuality in Article XV of the current Baptist Faith and Message.” Regarding that issue, the Baptist Faith and Message says “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, incl