Month: June 2009

Resolutions cover Obama, adoption, biblical sexuality

LOUISVILLE?Southern Baptist Convention messengers passed a short but substantive list of resolutions that included one on the “racial progress signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama” that also exhorted the president to defend biblical views of marriage and human life, and to appoint “strict constructionist,” “original intent” judges.

Other resolutions adopted covered adoption and orphan care, biblical sexuality and public policy, the 150th anniversary of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and appreciation to Louisville-area Baptists and the seminary for their hosting the SBC annual meeting.

The non-binding resolutions passed with little floor discussion except for the Obama resolution, with messengers refusing a proposed floor amendment to include statements citing concern about Obama’s perceived promotion of homosexuality in public schools and lauding SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman’s call for more Christian schools.

Resolutions Committee chairman Daniel Akin told messengers although the committee was sympathetic to the contents of the amendment by T.C. Pinckney of Virginia, it would be more fitting in the context of the a different resolution.

(A more thorough report on resolutions will be posted later.)

Hunt names GCR task force members

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt appointed 18 people to the “Great Commission Resurgence Task Force” June 24 during the morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Messengers to the annual meeting voted the evening before to authorize Hunt’s naming the task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

“I trust you will be encouraged by the balance that will be representing Southern Baptists in their assignment,” Hunt said before he read the list of names.

Appointed to the committee were:

– Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., chairman.
– Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
– Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.
– David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
– Simon Tsoi, trustee of the International Mission Board and retired pastor.
– Donna Gaines, pastor’s wife at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn.
– Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
– J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
– Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay Baptist Association.
– Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
– R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
– John Drummond, a layman at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla.
– Harry Lewis, senior strategist for partnership missions and mobilization at the North American Mission Board.
– Michael Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla.
– Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.
– J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
– Ken Whitten, pastor of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.
– Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

“We promise to represent you well,” Hunt said, “and you pray for us that God would use us to be an impetus that can help us to even do a better job of what we’ve been doing in the area of the Great Commission.”

Hunt told Baptist Press he would “lead the task force, giving them direction, as I promised the convention,” but that Floyd would chair the group in its deliberations.

Baptist apologist among group reportedly accosted at Muslim festival

DEARBORN, Mich — An apologist certified by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board was among a small group of evangelical Christians escorted by Dearborn, Mich., police from the grounds of the American Arab Festival after the group said they were accosted by members of the event’s security detail and several festival attendees.

The official incident report filed with the Dearborn Police Department and first-hand accounts from those involved conflict as to what occurred. Early on June 22, the group filed a formal report with the police department and produced raw video footage of their encounter with the festival security forces.

No one was reported injured in the June 21 encounter.

According to one account filed in the police report, David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi of Acts 17 Apologetics Ministry were being quite vocal with the Muslims attending the event, even telling the people they “were going to hell” for believing Islam.

The police report said the crowd became agitated at the aggressive dialogue. Security was called to the scene and, according to the report, Wood, Qureshi, and Mary Jo Sharp of Friendswood, Texas and a NAMB-certified apologetics instructor, were “escorted” to the security command center and then taken from the grounds by city police.

Sharp told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal the police report is laughable. The caricature of her contingent shouting hell-fire warnings is contrary to their evangelistic methods and antithetical to their goal of sharing the gospel with Muslims in a logical, well-reasoned dialogue, she said, adding she has video documenting the incident and refuting the security guard’s report to the police.

The group was in Dearborn for a debate between Sharp and a Muslim apologist at another site and attended the festival in addition to the scheduled debate.
“We didn’t ever say that. It’s a lie,” said Sharp, also a member of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Women’s Ministry Team. She is scheduled to speak in London in July onapologetics issues. Sharp has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

The Acts 17 Ministry established by Wood and Qureshi seeks to “present evidence for the existence and attributes of God, the inspiration and historical reliability of the Scriptures, and the death, resurrection, and deity of Jesus Christ. We also refute the arguments of those who oppose the True Gospel, most commonly the arguments of Muslims and atheists,” Qureshi stated.

Qureshi became a born-again Christian out of Islam and Wood is a former atheist. In their testimonies, both men attribute their salvation, in part, to the very means by which they seek to testify about the Gospel — by seeking to prove through reasoned debates the veracity of Scripture and its supporting documents.
Sharp was in Dearborn with Wood and Qureshi as part of the “Great Debate Series: Michigan” facilitated by The Center for Religious Debate, a subsidiary of the Acts 17 Ministry. Outside of the debates the group spent time at the American Arab Festival trying to engage the religious leaders in discussions of Christianity and Islam. Dearborn, Mich., has the highest concentration of Muslim immigrants in the United States.

Regarding the encounter as reported by festival security, Qureshi was also adamant in his denial of being confrontational.

“We said nothing of the sort,” he argued. Qureshi said he and Wood were trying to engage in conversation a Muslim booth attendant with the banner reading “Islam: Got questions? Get answers.” The attendant initially did not want to answer Qureshi’s questions as Sharp videotaped. But as Qureshi turned to leave, the Muslim acquiesced. Security guards soon approached the booth and tried to stop the exchange and told Sharp to turn off the camera. A female security guard slapped at the camera, closing the view finder in an effort to stop taping.

Sharp said the three left the booth “to regroup.” They contacted a police officer who assured them the video camera in a public place was legal. Qureshi said he wanted to return to the booth and complete the interview to be posted on the ministry’s website.

This time they had a fourth person with them and three video cameras. Sharp stood at a distance as Wood filmed at the booth next to Qureshi. A different attendant was at the booth and he too was hesitant before agreeing to dialogue. It was no long, Sharp said, before someone grabbed the front of Wood’s camera and pulled it down, demanding an end to the recording.

As the group left the tent, a confrontation with festival security personnel who were not associated with Dearborn police ensued, according to Sharp.

They said they witnessed security guards speaking with two teenage boys. One of the boys approached Qureshi and using abrasive language, began asking him why he was there. As the teen was speaking the second teen approached Qureshi and “snatched” a pamphlet from his hand and gave it to a security guard. The pamphlet was a pro-Islam brochure.

Four security guards then approached the Christian group and told them they could not preach on the streets or hand out literature—neither of which the group said they were doing.

Sharp said she believes security mistook her and her friends for representatives of the Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP), an organization based in California that seeks to reach American Muslims with the gospel.

Qureshi said there were 13 instances in which a camera or persons were struck by security.

Qureshi and Wood continued to tape the aggressive behavior of security guards. At one point, Qureshi is heard calling out loudly, “This is the United States of America!” To which someone in the crowd responded, “No way!”

Qureshi said he and Wood were tripped and kicked as they retreated.

The American Arabic Chamber of Commerce, which host the festival, did not return phone calls requesting comment on the actions of the security firm hired for the event by press time.

Hunt tells pastors ‘there’s gold in them there pews’

LOUISVILLE– “Getting serious doesn’t mean you adopt something,” Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt told the audience gathered in Louisville, Ky., for the opening session of the annual meeting June 24. Anticipating discussion on his call for a task force to study how Southern Baptists can more effectively serve Christ through the Great Commission, Hunt asked pastors to recognize “there’s gold in them there pews,” and to gain a vision for what God’s people can do if yielded to Him.

“Talk is cheap. So we’re not here to get anything adopted,” he insisted. Instead, he said, “It’s about all of us starting with the local church, taking a look to see if we’re doing the best we’ve ever done in our lifetime to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Hunt expressed gratitude to God for “men of wisdom” who offered advice following his April 27 release of a Great Commission Resurgence document. “I take to heart so much you shared with me,” he said, referring to input from seminary presidents, the SBC Executive Committee president, state convention executive directors and leading pastors.

“When it comes right down to it, you have to get on your face before almighty God and ask, ‘What in the world am I doing in attempting to lead this convention for such a time as this? Is there an assignment from heaven that God has placed me here [for]?'” Hunt said.

With that mandate in mind, Hunt delivered an exposition of 2 Chronicles 7, weaving into the president’s address key questions pastors and laymen should ask themselves about their ministries and mission. Hunt pled for a Great Commission Resurgence that begins in the pulpits of over 43,000 local Southern Baptist churches and filters through local associations, state conventions and national entities to reach the world for Christ.

“We will have to give an account for what we have done with what God has given us,” Hunt said in laying out the challenge for each Christian, each pastor and all spiritual leaders.

Hunt began with the reminder of God’s promise to hear the prayers of believers, noted in verse 12, and appealed for perception that moves Christian believers to compassion.

“God uses external events to bring His own dear people to the point of humility and remind us that He has sovereign control over our lives,” Hunt added, citing verse 13 as an example of that possibility.

Convinced that God can use economic turmoil to get the attention of Christians, Hunt asked, “Have the financial surpluses of yesteryear caused us to act unfaithfully? Has the declining health in America become an indication that we have lost self-control and that we have been given over to greed and gluttony?”

Hunt recounted God’s provision when believers humble themselves and call upon His name. “Do we have a tender and responsive heart?”

Acknowledging that he must keep in check a God-given capacity to be quick with words, he added, “I flat need Jesus, every hour, every moment. The only thing worse than pride is being prideful, and not knowing it,” he explained.

Citing the 13-year-old who won the National Spelling Bee when given the word “Laodicean,” Hunt said much of America could not define a word drawn from the biblical context of Revelation 3:15 to describe someone who is lukewarm and indifferent. “America has not heard of the word Laodicean, but I’m afraid the church has not perceived it. There’s a vision problem.”

When asked how First Baptist Woodstock is doing, Hunt said he might be tempted to compare his church to others in the association. “That’s not the standard. How’s the SBC? Well, compared to other denominations ‘we’re rich, we have increase, we have need of nothing,'” he answered, parroting the excuse of Laodiceans cited in Revelation 3:17.<o:p

Got Pure Religion? A challenge to show love

It’s right there in James 1:27a: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after widows in their distress?” Need some fresh ideas for demonstrating pure religion by ministering to widows in your church?

Share a tissue: Small acts of Christian kindness can make a difference during grief.

• Take Twelve. For a new widow, make a notation on your personal calendar to remember the one-month anniversary of the death for 12 months. Personally contact her monthly with a simple phone call, a stop to visit, an encouragement note, an invitation to dinner, or an invitation for a cup of coffee.

• Notice her. Seek her out at church. Talk with her. Show love. Sit by her during worship. If she’s not there, call to check on her.

• Listen. Don’t avoid conversation about her late husband. Whether she is a recent widow or has been alone for decades, let her share memories of her husband.

• Church ideas: Provide a grief recovery class or grief support group. Assign a deacon or a family to a new widow in your church to help her through the grief process.

• Pray. Every time God brings her to mind, pray. Take the time to voice a prayer when you visit.

Offer friendship: Demonstrate God’s love through friendship (Proverbs 17:17.

• Be a friend. Laugh together. Cry together. Shop together. Carpool. Telephone. Text. Begin a new tradition with her: Invite her for a holiday, call her each Sunday afternoon, plant flower bulbs each fall or take her to lunch on her birthday.

• Include her. Help her meet Christians with similar interests or life circumstances. Include widows on your guest list when you entertain. Ask her along for a family adventure, such as watching July 4thfireworks, a day trip, or dinner. Invite her to join your Bunco club, book club, Bible study group, computer class or community club.

• Think of the kids. When your ministry involves younger widows, be aware of her need for childcare to be provided. Consider adopting a young family that first Christmas after the death of the father and husband, helping out with the purchase of presents.

• Share ministry. Discover her interests and talents, and carefully watch for ways she might enjoy serving at your church. For example, if you teach a Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, invite her to help with records, greeting or substitute teaching.

• Church ideas: A church might form a group for widows. They could plan fellowships, prayer team or Bible studies. The group could go on outings together, do ministry projects, take short trips for vacation or missions or share holiday gatherings. Find ways to include widowers in many of your gatherings. One younger widow advises avoiding the appearance of a dating service.

Show Honor: 1 Timothy 5:3-10 instructs us to honor widows who are widows indeed.

• Personally deliver a holiday fruit basket, a birthday balloon or a single Gerber daisy.

• Deacons sponsored an annual banquet for widows in our church. They provided transportation, served the meal, prayed for each widow at his table, and made her feel like a queen for the evening. Alternate: allow deacons to escort widows to be first in line at the annual church potluck dinner.

• A Christmas open house for widows could be planned at a church member’s home.

• The church youth group could sponsor a “cupcakes and coffee fellowship” for widows, serving homemade goodies. Assign teens to visit with and serve a widow, and use nametags to help them know one another.

• Some churches honor widows annually during a worship service. Mail widows a printed invitation, make them special nametags, and give them a corsage as they arrive. Create a pre-service slideshow to spotlight them. Ask them to stand and invite church members to surround them and offer a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing.

• Assign a church group or class to Christmas carol at each widow’s door. Take a group photo with her in the middle and mail or deliver it to her with a Christmas card signed by the entire group.

• Assign a children’s or youth class a widow. They can send cards, deliver candies, help with small home projects, and get to know her.

• The young married women’s class could sponsor an annual “Hats Required Tea” just for widows in the church. Draw names to pair young women with a widow to provide transportation, serve her, and maybe even borrow one of her hats to wear! Ask ladies to be prepared to share a favorite Bible verse.

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Criswell student commissioned to W. Africa

DALLAS?When Angela Baker walked the aisle during a revival service of First Baptist Church of Dallas, she felt a need to confess her disobedience of failing to follow through with a desire to attend Bible college. The 45-year-old mother of two grown children was given a verse to consider by a member of the singles department.

“She said the Lord put on her heart three times for me the verse in Joel 2:25,” Baker recalled. God’s promise to restore “the years the locusts have eaten” seemed like a mysterious hope. She committed to enrolling at Criswell College the following fall semester in 2000. Now that she’s completed her M.A. in theology, she’ll be traveling to West Africa to prepare for her assignment as an apprentice missionary to an unreached people group.

At the age of 18, Baker had no thought of pursuing biblical studies, much less a life in service to God. “I took a hiatus from church that lasted about nine years. I pursued excessive social pleasures and a college education,” she explained. Realizing now that she was not emotionally ready for college, Baker recalls a time of “questioning everything?my worth, God, life, my country.”

She set out for Germany to study abroad during her sophomore year. A local man whom she had begun dating soon proposed marriage. Hesitant to marry, she traveled to London to obtain an abortion after learning she was pregnant. “God intervened and I returned to the states to live with my sister and brother-in-law in Colorado,” she shared. “I saw my son for three days and then gave him up for adoption.”

She worked her way through school at a local college and met a man with whom she became emotionally and physically involved. Their relationship deteriorated after she gave birth to a daughter. Baker returned to the home of her parents, hoping to get her life back on track while raising her daughter.

At her sister’s urging, Baker began attending church again and over the course of the next 10 years became an active leader. She wanted to attend Bible college, but was encouraged to finish her MBA. “That made practical sense, so I finished the degree.”

She and her daughter relocated once more to Nebraska where her daughter graduated from high school. The prospect of living in a warmer climate prompted Baker to take a job in Dallas in 1998 where she visited First Baptist and eventually enrolled in studies at Criswell College.

An assignment for a personal evangelism course troubled Baker as she read from Matthew 7:21-23. “I realized I could not identify a point of salvation and I began to come under conviction of sin,” she explained. After hearing Professor Alan Street preach a sermon titled ‘You Must Be Born Again,” Baker sought his counsel for the doubt she was experiencing. “I took his advice and began a period of prayer.”

In the midst of battling an illness, Baker devoted herself to prayer, crying out to God for mercy and salvation. “At age 48, God invaded my life and gave me the second birth; I was radically saved” she declared. “Since then my life has changed dramatically. Prior to being saved I had not led one person to the Lord. Now I have seen many respond to the gospel. My prayer life has been transformed into communion. I now have a passion for the lost,” she said, pleased at the opportunity to minister as chaplain for women at a local homeless shelter.

“She is one of the most consistent soul-winners I have ever seen,” noted James Bryant, senior professor of pastoral theology.

Baker has developed a desire for reaching Muslim people after years of conversations with a Muslim co-worker. “She and I talked about faith all the time. I met with her and family members for Bible discussions.” That experience prompted her to study Arabic during an extended visit to her hometown. She sought out an Arabic-speaking congregation upon returning to Texas in order to hear and retain the language.

Listening through a translator, she sensed God speaking to her through the preacher as he repeatedly asked the Fort Worth congregation, “‘Will you be a missionary?'”

Baker took that to heart and joined a group traveling to North Africa.

“I wanted a trip that was all evangelism to a place where the gospel had not been,” she explained. “God gave me two Scripture passages, Romans 15:20-21 and Isaiah 61:1-3. I later learned that the Lord had given two trip leaders each of one of those same two passages. We were amazed and glorified God.” Two new churches were planted as the team of eight people saw 256 people respond in faith.

Street recalled Baker’s journey toward missionary appointment.

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An Obama resolution I could support

The thought of celebrating anything about last November’s presidential election, which sent the man with the most liberal voting record in the Senate to the White House, does not excite most Southern Baptists, conservative as we are politically and theologically.

But there is one thing about it that Southern Baptists would do well to mark this year, and it has nothing to do with President Obama’s abortion record, or his enthusiasm for Gay Pride Month or overreaching big government endeavors.

Pastor Dwight McKissic of Arlington has submitted a resolution to the SBC’s Resolutions Committee for consideration at the convention June 23-24 in Louisville titled “On Racial Reconciliation and the Election of Barack Hussein Obama.”

Here’s hoping the Resolutions Committee takes notice and offers something similar.

McKissic, an African American and an outspoken champion of traditional marriage, observes something that all Southern Baptists?red, yellow, black, brown and white?should see and appreciate even amid the gaping worldview chasm that exists between most Southern Baptists and the president:

The election last November transcended Barack Obama; it is a milestone on the American landscape?a black man lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, placed there by the very system that prevented many African Americans from freely voting early in our president’s lifetime. When Obama was still in diapers in the 1960s, many public schools were still segregated and many Southern Baptist pulpits were yet silent.

We have not yet arrived at Martin Luther King’s dream of people being judged by their character, not their skin color. But the last election was confirmation that we are a step closer.

As followers of Jesus, the one who created every ethnicity “from one blood,” as Paul told the Athenian philosophers, such a milestone is not merely noteworthy, it is momentous.

The resolution calls on SBC messengers to celebrate “the historic nature of the election … as a significant contribution to the ongoing cause of racial reconciliation,” that Baptists would pray that Obama would “promote liberty and justice for all people, including the unborn,” and “that we will join hands with President Obama and his administration to advance causes of racial justice insofar as those efforts are consistent with biblical principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It commends the inclusion of former SBC president Frank Page on a White House faith advisory council despite President Obama “pursuing numerous social, political and economic policies that are in fundamental opposition to the values for which our convention and our churches have stood.”

It also notes the SBC’s 1995 resolution on racial reconciliation that “recognized the failures of some Southern Baptists to affirm the dignity, worth, and equal rights of African Americans, apologized and sought forgiveness for these injustices and purposed to ‘eradicate [racism] in all its forms,'” as well as SBC repudiations of racism dating back to 1937.

As the resolution observes, most Southern Baptists are poles apart from the president on issues such as abortion, which Obama has unwaveringly supported as a legal right through all nine months of pregnancy.

McKissic’s mention of values differences and the life issue are critical to the document; I suspect the Resolutions Committee would be even more specific, pleading with the president to seek divine guidance on not only the life issue but also homosexual marriage and a host of social and economic challenges facing the nation.

Such a Southern Baptist resolution would say to non-white Southern Baptists, especially African Americans, and to everyone else that our faith allows us to see what Jesus sees, to sympathize when empathizing is not possible.

Al Mohler aptly wrote on election night, “Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who?for the first time?now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy. Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as president.”

Such a “buy-in” by every American can only benefit the advancement of the gospel, not to mention the welfare of the nation.

Richard Land told U.S. News & World Report there is something else about the president we should applaud: “his example as a model father and husband.”

With out-of-wedlock births a vicious cycle in the black community and rising to 40 percent across all demographic groups according to government figures released last month, Land’s comments are even more apropos.

It bears repeating: Such a resolution is not a blanket endorsement of the man or his views; it is an endorsement of the milestone reached and the American credo realized that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights?”

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Bible-phobia, entirely justified

Thomas Cook of Philadelphia believes that the reading of Bible verses in an elementary school classroom could “proselytize” the students to a particular religious viewpoint, according to the Associated Press. Cook is principal at a school where parents were invited to come in for a session to celebrate their children. One mom wanted to read from the Bible as part of her presentation.

According to a Dallas TV station, Plano mom Debbie Lutz agrees; in her case the mere presence of free Bibles on an unmanned table offended her. “Religion should be out of schools,” she opined.

One Dallas Morning News reader considers the presence of a Ten Commandments tablet on the lawn of the Oklahoma capitol to be a violation of the First Amendment ban on establishing a state church.

Finally, I offer this explanation from an article that noted the trend of stylish boutique hotels that offer condoms or other adult products to patrons, but are deleting the free Bibles from the night stands. “Society evolves.”

There is a lot of confusion out there about the relationship between the presence of the Bible and the establishment of a particular religion. I hear a lot of fear also. They act as though the Bible is powerful, and threatening. It’s an accurate assumption. The Bible is powerful and it does threaten our own view of reality. Depending on where a person stands, that’s good news or really bad news for these reasons:

The Bible, as the Word of God and the words of God, has power to change lives. If children or their teachers or their parents hear the Word of God, they may indeed be converted?not to a religion but to a right relationship with the God who made them. Most of us think we’re in control, although we can’t really brag about how that whole thing is working out. Still, we hate to give up the delusion.

Those who have been transformed (proselytized?) by the gospel contained in Scripture make us feel judged. They have changed their minds about the things their neighbors still love. It’s more comfortable, for now, to not know how we’re doing.

The Scriptures are divisive. Yes they are. Consider the narrow and wide gates, the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh, life or death, blessing or cursing, and so on. Everything is not the same in essence or even significance any more. God has distinguished between things. Of course the most divisive teaching in the Bible is that Jesus is the only way to God, the only way to Heaven, the only way to avoid Hell. These definite, stark either/or statements are offensive to the way we men naturally think?and they’re in the Bible.

The Bible is definite, certain about many things that discomfit us. No, we don’t understand it all but some things, the Ten Commandments come to mind, are pretty easy to grasp. But some fear that certainty and blame it for everything from the Iraq war to the murder of George Tiller. They have to make it sound bad because the unmistakable things the Bible says can make them feel bad, for good reasons.

Christian moderates find themselves uncomfortable with the Bible for most of the same reasons. Inerrancy is called by some Baptists a lower view of inspiration because it holds the Bible to a higher standard than a “mere book” composed by fallible men can ever meet. Others suggest that the doctrine of inerrancy does more harm than good. For still others who yet bear the name “Baptist,” the teaching of the exclusivity of Christ is hate speech toward unbelieving Jews or Moslems. They prefer to discuss things with lost people rather than ever share the gospel. Our moderate friends also believe that plain biblical morality, mercy, and justice ties us too closely to the Republican Party. They instead emphasize the “complexity” of moral questions.

Can some of the brethren really believe that a belief in inerrancy has caused some of our churches to fail in evangelism and decline generally? That belief must be based on the stellar denominational growth posture we were in prior to 1979. Perhaps it’s based on how the old SBC, reborn in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has lit the hills ablaze with evangelistic fervor. They are surely seeing something I don’t.

The Bible, taught as merely true, is a scandal to many, then. It threatens worldviews we all find attractive.

But where can we turn when we come to the end of our parenting skills, when our kids have broken our hearts? Maybe that little green New Testament they brought home from school. Some people will come to know they need something more important than a condom in the bottom drawer of a hotel night stand. What Bible will we use when a grieving family asks hard questions about eternal matters? The true one, the one that doesn’t require a PhD to tell us what it doesn’t say. When debates are ended, when our cynicism fails, we might look for something that is truly a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. A message from our God.

Texas Life Connections names Parton as director

Texas Life Connections, a ministry partner of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has hired Julie Parton of Garland to be its executive director.

Parton returned to Texas in 2005 after directing the pregnancy resource ministry of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., from 1998-2005.

Parton was the founding director of the Prestonwood Crisis Pregnancy Center, which opened in 1991 through Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

She holds a master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in Christian counseling from Andrew Jackson University.

Parton said her role will be to help create relationships between local churches and life-affirming ministries including pregnancy resource centers, abstinence-education programs, and foster care organizations.

A volunteer training seminar called “Lifesaving 201” is planned for July 18 at First Baptist Church of Euless. Visit the Texas Life Connections website, texaslifeconnections.org, for more information.

Criswell takes first step toward independence

 

DALLAS?After months of negotiations, the trustees of Criswell College in Dallas took a first step on June 5 toward separating the school from its founding body, First Baptist Church of Dallas.

The unanimous vote sends the separation proposal, the terms of which were undisclosed and discussed by trustees in executive session, to the church for final approval. A change in ownership of the school and its radio station, KCBI-FM, would also require approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the school’s accrediting agency.

Trustee Chairman Michael Deahl, a Dallas attorney and a First Baptist member, said the proposed separation agreement would go to the church’s deacon body for a vote during a regularly scheduled meeting on June 16, then likely on to the church for a final vote near the end of June.

“I am pleased at the unanimous vote of our trustees in approving the basic terms for our change in governance,” said Criswell Interim President Lamar Cooper. “This governance change must also be approved by First Baptist Church of Dallas, and I am optimistic they will endorse it as well. This change will allow our administration to take the college to another level of success. I also am pleased that we have been able to accomplish this amicably, and trust that the college and church will continue to serve our Lord in a spirit of cooperation.”

Stating he strongly favors a separation, First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress said the separation agreement, though tentative, “allows for both the college and the church to pursue their unique ministry callings without unnecessary entanglements,” according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.

Deahl appointed a six-member transition committee to report back by Aug. 31 with proposed bylaw changes if the church approves the separation this summer. The team includes trustees Curtis Baker, chairman, Jack Brady, Jack Pogue, Paul Pressler, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, and Cooper. Deahl will serve ex-officio on the transition committee at the behest of Baker. The trustees would then vote on the recommendations in their next scheduled meeting on Sept. 25.

A five-member ad hoc committee of the Criswell College trustees began studying the school’s relationship with the church late last year following disagreement among trustees over the school’s governance and the ownership of KCBI-FM.

Beginning in December, church and school leaders began negotiating the terms of a proposed separation.

The church launched the college in 1969 when founding chancellor W.A. Criswell announced his vision for an institution that would provide biblical training for Sunday School teachers, other laymen and pastors who had not completed college-level ministerial training. The first classes were held in 1970. Today, nearly 400 students attend undergraduate and master’s-level courses.

On May 22 of last year, the board resolved “not to take any action to separate the College and KCBI from the Church at this time,” while not prohibiting designated representatives from further discussions.

Last summer about 40 alumni gathered prior to a trustee meeting and discussed their concern for the school’s future after Jerry Johnson resigned as the school’s president, citing philosophical differences with the chancellor and the trustee board.

An alumni association resolution encouraged the board to promote and advance the school’s independence, describing their support of the trustees as contingent on having “at the forefront the best interests of the Criswell College.”

The notion of the SBTC having a more prominent role was introduced by the state convention’s executive board last Aug. 12 with the passage of a resolution expressing a desire to be part of the solution to ongoing discussion about the school’s future. Criswell College is the only four-year college affiliated with the SBTC. Criswell received $312,977 in the 2008 budget, the largest line item in the SBTC’s allocations to facilitating ministries in Texas. The convention has a non-budgeted ministry partnership with Houston Baptist University.

“Today was an important first step in Criswell College’s future ministry,” said Richards, the SBTC executive director. “I’m grateful that we were able to take this step in a way that was mutually agreeable to all parties. I look forward to continued ministry alongside this great and significant educational institution.”