Month: February 2011

SBTC field strategist Glenn Reece dies in Lubbock

POST?After 54 years of faithful ministry to West Texas churches, Glenn Royce Reece, 71, of Wolfforth died Feb. 26 at a Lubbock hospital. Known to family and friends as “Poppy,” he was born in Roscoe on Nov. 10, 1939 to Arlie and Vesta Reece, called to the ministry at age 17 and two years later married Glenda Sue Tatum in 1959.

Reece’s long-time friend T.C. Melton of Abilene described Reece, most recently a field ministry strategist with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, as a man of impeccable character.

“He was just a great preacher, a great pastor and a real lover of people,” stated Melton, the SBTC’s area coordinator for West Texas. Having appreciated Reece’s habit of mentoring younger pastors, he recommended the SBTC hire the experienced Texas pastor to serve as a field ministry strategist for a region covering nine West Texas associations.

“He was as well known as anyone in the South Plains and Panhandle area as a devout conservative and just a tremendous fellow,” Melton added.

With the exception of his service at Forest Avenue and Liberty Baptist in Sherman and First Baptist in Nocona, it was West Texas where Reece poured out his life, pastoring the people of Immanuel Baptist in Marfa, First Baptist in Imperial, First Baptist in Sundown, 10 years at First Baptist in Post as their longest-tenured pastor, and later 16 years at Fairview Baptist in Levelland.

Reece didn’t stay retired long in 2005 when he began representing the SBTC throughout that region and often serving as an interim pastor.

“Glenn was the elder statesman in the Plains area of Texas,” said SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards. “He mentored many young men, providing wisdom and spiritual direction. Heaven is richer but our lives are poorer in the passing of our dear co-laborer.”

Steve McMeans, a Lubbock pastor who followed Reece at First Baptist Church, Post, was one of those young men that Reece mentored. Within a week of announcing to Reece his call to ministry, McMeans recalled that the elder pastor told him to prepare to preach in the Post church within a week.

James Egan, the current pastor at Post, considered Reece “the dean of preachers,” calling him “my pastor.” Noting that there aren’t many more preachers of Reece’s style who “wave the hankie, kick the leg and say, ‘Glory,'” Egan said, “He’s the last one like him out there. He’s been a part of my journey here since I was interviewed by the search committee and I stood on his shoulders even though there’s 30 years between us.”

Recalling a book titled “They Found the Secret” that chronicles the effectiveness of well-known preachers, Egan said: “Glenn’s secret was that he was a great Christian. That was the power of his preaching, his pastoral ministry and his patriarchy of his family.” Egan added, “It wasn’t his experience, but his authentic Christianity that touched me. He never condemned or criticized. He was never negative though he had plenty of opportunities. We will miss his example and his inspiration.”

Reece attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and did graduate studies at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Throughout his career he received numerous awards for his faithful service.

Staying by his side through 52 years of Reece’s ministry was his wife, Sue. “She was a tremendous asset to his ministry. I can’t remember a time I ever saw Glenn without Sue being there,” Melton remembered.

In addition to his wife, survivors include four children, eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, two sisters, a brother, numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

Services were held March 2 at Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock, where Reece was a member since his retirement. Burial was at Terrace Cemetery in Post. The family requests donations be made to the American Bible Society, P.O. Box 96812, Washington, D.C. 20090-6812 or online at

HOMESCHOOLING: Prosecution is waged abroad; troubling trends abound in US

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?As the practice of homeschooling continues to grow, an expert has
noticed a “marked increase” in the scrutiny that parents and students
can face when they choose to pursue an education at home.

think what we’re seeing is unfortunately a growing trend,” Michael
Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College, told Baptist Press.

of the most severe cases are happening overseas, in countries such as
Germany and Sweden where families are being fined thousands of dollars
for homeschooling their children and government authorities are removing
children from homes.

Religion News Service reported that in
Bavaria, police entered a home and seized a 15-year-old girl, placing
her in a psychiatric facility because they believed the girl had been
brainwashed by her conservative evangelical parents who homeschooled

In the same article, a woman missed a court date to answer
charges of homeschooling her two sons, and the police tracked her down
and took the boys from her custody. Last year, a German family received
political asylum in Tennessee after they were persecuted by the German
government for homeschooling their children.

“In Germany,
home-schooling is a crime so serious that families who ignore the law
have been fined into poverty, and parents have served jail time. Some
families have staged stand-offs against the police, or hid their
children with other families,” RNS said.

Germany is one of a
handful of nations that bans homeschooling, with a Hitler-era law giving
German states the right to take custody of children who don’t attend
school, according to the article.

there are trends there, but the more frightening trends for American
homeschoolers are the trends in the United States,” Farris said.

New Hampshire, the state Supreme Court is expected to rule any day in a
case where divorced parents could not agree on how to educate their
daughter. The father said the mother’s strict Christian homeschool
teachings were isolating the child, and a lower court judge ordered the
child to attend public schools, which the mother considered a violation
of her parental rights.

The father’s attorney argued before the
New Hampshire Supreme Court in January that parents have no
constitutional right to homeschool their children. New Hampshire state
Rep. Jim Parison has introduced a Homeschool Freedom Act, which is
intended to protect parents from needless interference by government
agents when they choose homeschooling.

Farris, who also is
chairman and general counsel of the Home School Legal Defense
Association, said the New Hampshire case “is an incredibly dangerous
development” because the judge who sent the girl to public school was
opposed to the mother teaching a belief system that included absolute

In the cover story for the November-December issue of The
Home School Court Report magazine, Farris details a third wave of
argument that seeks to curtail or crush the homeschooling movement. The
first wave, years ago, he wrote, was to accuse the movement of being
unable to provide an adequate education. The second wave was to
criticize its students for being socially inept. Both were proven wrong,
Farris wrote.

“But there is a third wave coming. And I doubt
that many of you have any idea of the intensity and breadth of the
elitist movement that is taking dead aim at our movement,” Farris wrote.
“… Here is their assertion. Christian homeschooling parents are
effectively transmitting values to their children that the elitists
believe are dangerous to the well-being of both these very children and
society as a whole.

“What are those values? Homosexuality is a
sin. Men should be the leaders of their families. Jesus is the only way
to God. All other religions are false.”

Farris quoted law
professors from Northwestern University, George Washington University
and Emory University who have called for a ban on religious education in
both private and homeschooling contexts.

“The people who are
preaching tolerance are actually opponents of liberty,” Farris told
Baptist Press. “Historically, tolerance and liberty were competing
ideas. The Toleration Acts of William and Mary in 1688 were radically
different than the religious liberty ideas that came from James Madison
and Patrick Henry initially in 1776 in the Virginia Bill of Rights.
Toleration means there is an official position and you’re allowed to
differ from it a little bit. ‘If you differ too much, we won’t tolerate

“That’s exactly what’s happening with this judge in New
Hampshire and with these law professors. Religious liberty means the
government has no jurisdiction over what you believe and the soul is at
liberty,” Farris said. “No one can be punished for what they believe or
don’t believe. We have the historical battle coming back, and the forces
of tolerance are opposing the forces of liberty.”

of the reason for the uptick in scrutiny, Farris said, is the sheer
number of homeschoolers, though he estimates they’re still only about 20
percent of the private school population.

“So we’re
comparatively small, but homeschoolers are disproportionately
representing the best and the brightest. That’s what I think they don’t
like. They don’t like seeing the next generation of top leaders being
taught in a way that effectively transmits a Christian worldview,”
Farris said.

A study released in January by the National Home
Education Research Institute said more than 2 million children in the
United States are homeschooled. The NHERI studied census data to
determine that homeschoolers account for nearly 4 percent of the
school-age population, or 1 in 25 children, and the institute said
homeschooling is rapidly becoming a mainstream education alternative.

Old Schoolhouse magazine, a homeschooling publication, said in January
that homeschoolers score an average of 37 percentile points above the
national average on standardized achievement tests, and such statistics
have caught the eye of college admissions personnel.

The magazine
said colleges are employing a wide variety of strategies aimed at
recruiting homeschoolers, including strong representation at homeschool
conventions, direct mailing campaigns and promotions in publications.
Some institutions have appointed “homeschool liaison and recruitment

“The proof is in the pudding,” Farris said. “The
executive editor of the Harvard Law Review right now was homeschooled.
Homeschoolers that I’ve taught are now on full-ride scholarships at
Pepperdine Law School, George Washington Law School, University of
Virginia Law School and a number of others. Those are ones I personally

“Students that I’ve personally taught have won five
national championships in moot court, which is legal debate. You can’t
do that with kids who weren’t well-educated when they walked in the

Farris noted that when Patrick Henry College faced Oxford
University in the final round of a moot court competition, three of the
four students in the round were American homeschoolers — one from
Oxford and two from Patrick Henry.

But the threat from legal circles is looming, Farris said, and homeschooling families must act.

need to stand up for a permanent protection for parental rights,” he
wrote. “In another 20 years, it will be too late…. Persecution is on
its way. It is in the law reviews today. It will be in the courtrooms


SBC president: Materialism stymies discipleship, mission

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.?Southern Baptists must stop idolizing materialism if they are to return to their first love of Jesus Christ, declared Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright in speaking to the Association of Baptist State Papers Feb. 16. It’s a focus he has shared across the country in calling for biblical stewardship.

“A radical reprioritization of our commitment to the Great Commission begins with the individual,” Wright said, using his own congregation at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., as an example. “The number [of members] that give nothing to the Lord’s work is astounding.”

That shift involves not just giving, but going, he said. As members of his church go on international mission trips through partnerships with evangelical ministries, he said their faith is revitalized.

“People come back home to north Atlanta and get under real conviction as they think about neighbors they have lived with for 10 years and never invited to church.”

He reiterated his desire to see a larger share of funding going to international missions. Through sacrifice at the state convention level, he said “the thought of getting the gospel out to the parts of the world where people have never heard or there is little witness for Christ would galvanize folks in their excitement of giving to the Cooperative Program,” the traditional means of funding both domestic and international mission boards, six theological seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee.

State Baptist newspaper editors pressed Wright to explain his church’s decision to cut its CP contribution in half in order to send the portion saved directly to the International Mission Board through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“What do you say [about not reaching] a state like California with 33 million people that would be about the 35th largest nation in the world,” asked Terry Barone, editor of the California Southern Baptist.

“We are called to reach our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world,” Wright said, referencing Acts 1:8. At his own church where he has pastored for 29 years, the Cooperative Program received 10 percent of the church’s undesignated receipts for about the first 15 years, he explained, noting additional contributions to fund various parachurch organizations like Campus Crusade and Prison Fellowship.

The enthusiasm mission volunteers expressed after returning from overseas service led church leaders to request a study of CP funding. “These are sharp guys who are very excited about the Lord and the church,” Wright said. “When they found out over a majority of the funds were staying in the state of Georgia, they were appalled. It was not anti-reaching our state because some [were involved] in mission projects around the state. But just the thought of 3,000-plus churches with probably another 10,000 evangelical congregations in the state versus places like California or villages in Africa or remote places of China was just hard to grasp. How could a majority stay in the state?”

By giving half of the budget allocation in the traditional manner through the Georgia Baptist Convention where a portion is used for in-state ministry before sending the remainder to SBC causes and designating the other half for the International Mission Board through a designated gift to LMCO, the church’s desire that “a majority of dollars wind up in international missions” was accomplished, though two years of underfunded budgets have necessitated lowering the CP portion, Wright said. “We had to back off of that and are moving back up to the 5 percent level.”

Contrasting the needs in states like California from Bible Belt states “as far as our historical strength in Southern Baptist life,” Wright said, “I realize you could make the argument that 80 percent of Atlanta is lost. That’s why I’m passionate about the local mission field where God has planted us, but there are still a huge number of witness points?lighthouses?seeking to reach Atlanta,” he said.

Returning to his main point, Wright said giving by Southern Baptists has gone down across the board. “If individuals would be faithful to God, giving would be far beyond anything we could imagine, but people are in bondage” to materialism. Referring again to his church, he added, “We would rather give all 10 percent to CP, but would like to see a substantial change in how those funds are used.”

Northwest Baptist Editor Cameron Crabtree asked whether Wright was challenging only some states to change their priorities. “One of the things that puzzles me on your challenge is, for example, if Georgia chooses to send a substantial portion of its budget to California, it’s to reach the masses there, but if California allocates its own resources to do that very same thing, it’s keeping it at home. Why is it good for one, but not the other, when we’re really talking about the same result?” he asked.

After sharing his excitement over his church’s involvement in partnering with 13 other SBC churches to plant a church in California’s Silicon Valley, Wright responded. “It’s much healthier if those conventions in our Bible Belt states are giving more outside their states to the work of missions in light of all the witness points in those states.”

He reiterated his belief that such an approach would lead to a groundswell of support, especially with younger pastors. “Giving to the Cooperative Program would be enhanced in the process. It’s speculation. I don’t have proof of that, but we would be more excited at Johnson Ferry.”

Wright recognized that state conventions have to make tough decisions about their budgets in order to operate more efficiently, just as local churches like his own have sought to do.

“The good news is every ministry area had to be evaluated to ask what is primary, what do we need to focus on. That’s what will happen in state conventions if there’s a willingness,” he said.

Referring to a decline in CP giving, Alabama Baptist Editor Bob Terry asked Wright whether he saw the cause as being the love of money or a less effective denomination. “I think we not only live in a post-Christian age but a post-denominational age,” Wright said while also acknowledging that statistics show no increase in giving by Christians.

“Johnson Ferry has decided to be a part of a denomination. I feel we can do more together with other churches than alone, but in the mindset of the culture it is a post-denominational age.”

And yet Wright sees that as an exciting challenge. “It means you’ve got to have something of substance to offer people or they aren’t going to pay attention to you. If we have something to offer them such as the finest church planting ministry in America, don’t you know these young guys would be excited about that?”

While seminary students in his day were anxious to pastor churches in county seat towns, Wright said, “With these young guys it’s not even on their radar. They want to plant a church. We can moan and grown about people not being denominationally loyal, but it’s the world we live in so let’s think about how we can do ministry in the most Christlike, spiritually impactful way.”

Wright’s appeal for a focus on missions will be evident at the annual SBC meeting in Phoenix June 14-15 as mission board reports take center stage each afternoon when crowds are stronger. In planning the schedule with the Committee on Order of Business, Wright anticipates holding appointment services for both the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board during Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons with worship sessions reflecting contemporary and traditional styles of music.


Exec. Committee back in ‘fiscally responsible position,’ Page says

WILLIAMSBURG?”We are now back in a fiscally responsible position,” Frank Page, Southern Baptists’ Executive Committee president, told state Baptist paper editors on Feb. 16 during the group’s annual gathering.

Page, who assumed the job last fall, was referring to a 19-percent reduction in personnel and a proposed budget of $1.25 million that is lower than the amount budgeted two years ago. Responding to questions from the editors, Page said no further staff cuts are anticipated.

“I am also taking the primary role of being the greatest Cooperative Program promoter you’ll ever find,” Page said in regard to the decision to move CP promotion into the president’s office. All of the vice presidents have accepted greater responsibility in working with individual states, associations and local churches as partners in promotion.

“The truth is, the strategies we’ve been trying haven’t worked well,” said Page, quick to add he can’t judge where the SBC would be were it not for those efforts. “I do believe the Cooperative Program is going to continue to be the glue that’s going to help hold us together to fund missions and ministries. We’re not going to tell you to support CP because that’s what it takes to be a good Baptist, but give us a chance to show you its value and I believe we will be able to convince you of its worth.”

Success is dependent on two factors, he said?Christlike selflessness and a high level of trust. “When there is selfishness and a self-promoting agenda, CP will fail, but where there is Christlike selflessness what you’re doing matters and the Cooperative Program will flourish.”

Page said he expects to travel to nearly every state this year in order to build relationships that lead to trust.

“I accept all church invitations, first come, first served. I want every church to know how much we appreciate them and how much we need them in this process so we can rebuild a Christlike selflessness and a covenant of trust.”

Asked whether pastors of megachurches are receiving that message, Page pointed to the examples of churches pastored by Ronnie Floyd in northwest Arkansas and Johnny Hunt near Atlanta where there have been dramatic changes to increase CP giving. Page said he told both men, “‘If what you are doing is sustainable and heartfelt, that is going to change support for missions and ministries more than any Great Commission Resurgence.'”

“GCR things come and go, but there are so many who will follow them,” he added, referring to the examples Floyd and Hunt provided in raising CP giving.

Similarly, he said state convention executive directors are struggling with how their conventions can become more efficient and more effective in order to send more money beyond their states.

Repeating a pledge he made when the operations of news and public relations were combined, Page said there would be no micromanaging of the work of Baptist Press by the EC Convention Relations and Communications vice president, Roger “Sing” Oldham, nor himself.

“Honestly, it was an economic move to pull together two divisions. It was not done because of a philosophical shift. It was not done so that I or anyone else under me would have a more intrusive kind of manipulation of the news.”

Instead, Baptist Press may become more involved in investigative journalism. “We want to be responsible and responsive to the needs of God’s people to know what’s going on and to be responsible in that reporting.”

In a separate report Baptist Press Editor Art Toalston said, “The cornerstone of what I believe and who I would want to be is that our effort has to be to do news well.” While feature articles have a place, he said BP would have no credibility if it is filled with features or fluff.

Asked whether BP would include reports from entities without adding the Executive Committee’s spin, Toalston said that editors should judge BP’s work on a case-by-case basis. “Our publisher is the Executive Committee and our command is to do news in a cooperative venture with all of the entities and state [Baptist] papers.”

Toalston said he hopes any person or entity who is in a disagreement with the EC would feel their material was treated fairly. Even in articles such as those relating to pro-life issues, BP includes a statement by a pro-choice spokesman, he said, so that readers will know there is another point of view. “My hope is that anybody that’s been written about in BP will see that it was fair.”

Page confirmed that there has been no change in policy allowing the media access to Executive Committee meetings. Remarks made in plenary sessions are on the record while workgroup and subcommittee meetings are open to the media under background rules which prevent direct quotation or attribution of discussion.

Asked by one editor to identify both the greatest surprise and the greatest challenge since beginning his job last fall, Page said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of Executive Committee members who had not previously supported him, but had since become friends and supporters.

Regarding the greatest challenge, he said the divisions among Southern Baptists are more complicated than in years past when the differences related to being conservative or moderate. “We could talk about doctrinal differences, methodological differences, and some that are simply philosophical. Sometimes there are age differences, stylistic differences, but we’ve got to find something that will pull us together.”

He identified “the massive individualism we see in the 20th century” as one of the most powerful factors to address. “Everyone seems to think they really know better than everyone else how to do what we do. It’s impacting our work denominationally.”

In answer to a question about his role among other SBC entity leaders, Page said he sees himself as a partner in ministry seeking to enable them to do their work. “I’m the biggest cheerleader,” he said in describing efforts to help them get the money they need to accomplish the work God has called them to do. “I have a great relationship with all of our entity execs.”

Ezell: Priority is evangelistic church planting

WILLIAMSBURG?Outlining plans for a renewed emphasis on church planting, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell told state Baptist newspaper editors, “We’re not just doing things to do things. We want believers to connect with churches?existing churches or a new church plant. Everything has to be driven to the church.”

Preferring to refer to that priority as evangelistic church planting, Ezell said the combination of terms better communicates their purpose.

Primary attention will be given to areas of the greatest population with the idea that “water runs down hill” to influence other areas, Ezell explained. Unlike earlier efforts focused on major cities, he said, “We want to go there to stay and to help plant as many churches as we possibly can, and do it together” with other churches, associations and state conventions.

Ezell expressed regret at having heard church planters say they preferred to raise their own money than “to mess with Southern Baptists.” Asking them why they go to other networks for relationship building, strategy and equipping, Ezell questioned, “Why are we the nerd at the party?”

After a significant downsizing, NAMB’s administration will include regional vice presidents who operate from the field “with a laptop and administrative assistant” and have direct access to the president.

“I like more people around the table” instead of “one person that I’m working through,” Ezell said, adding that he never had an executive pastor because it didn’t fit his style of leadership. “I want to make sure there’s not a filter of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Convinced that NAMB can accomplish “more with less,” Ezell said, “You cannot judge the success of an entity by the size of its headquarters.” He intends to utilize pastors and laymen who want to partner with an evangelistic church planting effort instead of hiring “everyone to come to Alpharetta to be a specialist in every area.”

Putting it more bluntly, he stated, “We’re not looking to build little ‘NAMBies’ all over North America. We’ll start small, not glamorous, and move from there.”

As state conventions are asked to make do with less NAMB funding, they will have a say in deciding where the reallocated money is invested. In addition to working with the state conventions that relate geographically to a particular region, NAMB will involve the state conventions that choose to invest in that region as well, forming an advisory board that develops an appropriate church planting strategy.

“We want to have a comprehensive national strategy that is implemented through the regions,” Ezell said. A standardized application process will be developed locally to fit the needs of each region. “We’re missing out on a lot of great church planters because they don’t want to jump through all of our hoops.”

While church planters can expect a faster track to start new work, Ezell also promised greater accountability, making sure all of the partners are “using the same dictionary” when defining what constitutes a church, a church plant, and a missionary.

He spoke of churches that have been affiliated with Southern Baptists for 30 to 40 years that were on the church plant list and Bible studies in campgrounds that were considered church plants. Upon further study, Ezell said he found “a lot of smoke and mirrors when they reported the numbers.”

By centralizing internal controls, he hopes to make sure “there’s no skin in the game to make the numbers look better than they really are.” Local partners will conduct evaluations of all jointly funded missionaries twice a year as well as accounting for all church planting in the state.

Ezell declined to estimate the number of missionaries that will be jointly funded with state conventions and associations, but expects a greater reduction among southern states where mission efforts are more established. “We want to mobilize Southern Baptists,” he said, referring to partnering churches, “so we want to have as many [missionaries] as we possibly need to help us do that, but want them to focus on what we want them doing.”

State conventions will be given plenty of time to absorb the cost of ministries previously funded by NAMB that no longer match the priority of evangelistic church planting, Ezell explained. He said new agreements between state conventions and NAMB should be finalized by the end of March.

Having put “all of my cards on the table,” Ezell said he greatly appreciates state convention executive directors, calling them “incredibly helpful” as he sought to outline a new strategy.

“There were greater challenges than I anticipated, but there is also greater potential than I ever imagined,” Ezell told the editors. “One was alarming; the other is very exciting.”

Responding to one editor’s praise for the transparency of NAMB since Ezell took office, he added, “I want to make sure you guys know something. There is no red phone in my office where I get daily phone calls from anybody. There’s no smoke-filled room.”

He restated his approach to developing a new strategy for the domestic missions entity, adding, “We started with a blank legal pad when we put this together.”

While under pressure to release details of their plan, Ezell said he appreciated those who had been patient through the process.

“We just started from scratch. It would have been much easier if someone had had a game plan,” he said, describing the attempt to honor the requests of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force approved last year by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention. “We hope this will be consistent with most of it.”

Rainer: ‘Reader discernment tags’ scuttled; efforts to increase Bible literacy prioritized

WILLIAMSBURG?Information urging the purchasers of some books sold by LifeWay Christian Resources to read those books “with discernment” will no longer be distributed in the company’s books stores, according to President Thom Rainer. The practice began two years ago and facilitated the stocking of controversial titles such as “The Shack.” LifeWay will continue selling such books.

Speaking to the annual gathering of the Association of State Baptist Papers, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer said, “The bottom line is there was hardly any interest in [the discernment tags]. We had very few customers asking for further information and at times it was a little confusing.”

Authored by William P. Young and released in 2007, the bestseller was removed from LifeWay’s shelves in 2008 to allow for further review after it received criticism. When it was re-introduced, Texas pastor Randy White of First Baptist Church of Katy urged LifeWay trustees to reconsider.

Among White’s concerns were a perceived “mocking of the complete nature of Scripture,” the incarnation of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as women, a flippant attitude toward the role of the Holy Spirit, crude language attributed to the persons of God, and an unbiblical explanation of Christ’s incarnation and sin sacrifice.

At that time, LifeWay officials defended their decision, telling the TEXAN, “The overwhelming number of Southern Baptists like the book and expect us to carry it in our stores.”

As fiction, LifeWay’s communication director said the book should be evaluated by different standards than a doctrinal or theological work, an argument to which Rainer alluded in his Feb. 16 report to editors.

Previously, readers received “informational bookmarks” anecdotally referred to as “read with discernment” tags. They advised using “extra discernment” because of The Shack’s “thought-provoking nature,” and directed customers to a book on the Trinity and a basic introduction to Christian doctrine for further study.

“That was put in those books in which good Southern Baptists are in disagreement on both sides of the argument about whether we should carry the book,” Rainer told editors meeting in Williamsburg. “We thought that would be a helpful way to say these are the issues out there,” he explained, adding that the insert directed them to information about the pros and cons of the book.

“At times it was a little confusing,” Rainer said, adding that readers assumed they should be discerning about all books. “Because of the lack of interest we said we’re going to discontinue” the policy.

Asked by TEXAN Editor Gary Ledbetter whether the decision meant LifeWay would no longer carry books like “The Shack,” Rainer said, “No sir, just no ‘read with discernment.’ If you read the top 100 Christian books you’ll see a lot of books we don’t carry; some of those that would be of a more controversial nature.” He restated his point by saying, “So removing the RWD doesn’t mean that book is no longer carried.”

Georgia Christian Index Managing Editor Joe Westbury asked if LifeWay has a litmus test for print materials, novels, books and Bible studies, whether it be the beliefs of average Southern Baptists or the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement.

“We will not go contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message,” Rainer said, while adding that stores might include books written by authors of a different denomination, such as a Presbyterian who would hold to a different view of baptism.

“The only exceptions are academic and reference [materials], and some would say fiction books if you would hold fiction to that as well. But as a rule the Baptist Faith and Message represents the broad parameters.”

Asked whether LifeWay has a minimal standard for fiction, Rainer said, “Since books go under individual review it would be hard for me to come up with the guidelines. We are looking at books that are acceptable by broader evangelical doctrine, not contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message. That would include fiction books, but there would be some who would differ on whether that book does or not.

Rainer was asked by one editor to describe how LifeWay fulfills its assignment as a church health provider. “I don’t want to get the method ultimately confused with the goal,” he said. “The goal is to make disciples and provide resources to make disciples.”

Citing a study called “The Shape of Faith to Come,” Rainer said researcher Brad Waggoner, now the executive vice president, found one stream running through spiritual maturation, disciple-making and seeing people become more like Christ?the regular reading of the Word of God.

“That was an affirmation of what we do, so the issue is how are we going to provide the Bible study materials that are the best resources to accompany the really best resource which is the Word of God?”

Rainer said it involves “more digital and less paper,” a variety of choices in Bible reading plans, and a greater emphasis on personal Bible study in addition to group study. The newly launched “Read the Bible for Life,” a whole-church approach to greater biblical literacy, is a step in that direction, he said.

Written by George Guthrie, the nine-week study “equips individuals and churches to better understand the Bible by introducing readers to its history, genres, interpretation, and proper application to transform lives through reading and studying God’s Word,” according to promotional material. DVD interviews feature noted Bible scholars Clint Arnold, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, Michael Card, Scott Duvall, Daniel Hays, David Howard, Andreas Kostenberger, Douglas Moo, Gary Smith, Mark Strauss and Bruce Waltke.

“We’re encouraging churches to have their people in group studies and individually?whatever we can do to get people to lean into the Word of God,” Rainer said.

He also expressed enthusiasm for “Courageous,” the next movie from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., to be released Sept. 30. While it focuses on fatherhood, it also is “a family movie [relaying] a clear gospel presentation,” said Rainer, noting that LifeWay’s ties with the Sherwood movie will include two trade books as well as curriculum resources.

Another new partnership is with David Platt of Birmingham, Ala., whose book, “Radical,” reached bestseller status. An inaugural simulcast of “Secret Church” open to churches as well as home groups is scheduled for Good Friday, April 22. The pastor of the Church at Brook Hills typically teaches the in-depth Bible study and a focus on the persecuted church in various regions of the world, attracting an audience of 4,000 from 6 p.m. to midnight on some Fridays.

Asked about “brand loyalty” among Southern Baptists for LifeWay’s Holman Christian Standard Bible and the newly released HCSB Study Bible, Rainer said, “We are encouraged, but still challenged” with HCHB’s share of the Bible market at about 5 percent.

“It’s still a relatively small share. However, the good news is that market penetration has been pretty quick for a newer translation,” Rainer added. Response to the study Bible is meeting or slightly exceeding expectations, he said.

With declining denominational loyalty, Rainer acknowledged, “We can count on only a small percentage of [Southern Baptist] churches to purchase [LifeWay products] just because we are LifeWay,” he said.

One positive result of the decline in brand loyalty, Rainer noted, is that it can “help make us better” by forcing new efforts to strengthen its product line, such as a yet-to-be-released curriculum to provide added depth in Bible study.

Rainer said LifeWay’s Transformational Churc

A call to prayer: Former Muslim, others plead with Christians to pray for Egypt

GARLAND?”We need to pray that God will influence the process of delegating the power of government in Egypt away from the military and into the people’s hands so they can elect a civilian government,” said Abdul, an Egyptian Christian now ministering to Muslims in the United States, and whose identity is protected in this story. “We’re talking about big stuff here,” he said. “This is very important.”

“Many American and European friends have told me they are praying for Egypt and the Mideast. They have been praying for an open door, and that door is now open. The walls of resistance are collapsing. God is moving in Egypt,” Abdul told the TEXAN during a visit to Texas Feb. 14-15 for a conference on missions to North Africa hosted by New Life Baptist Church in Garland.

Since Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, Egypt’s constitution that once restricted freedom of religion and evangelism is now void, Abdul said.

“All Christians should pray that the new constitution will offer complete freedom of religion without harassment, and that the people can experience real democracy,” he said.

Though Egyptians previously enjoyed limited religious freedoms, they have faced severe persecution from the country’s secret police force, which is now in custody, Abdul said.

Abdul also estimated the number of Egyptian converts from Islam to Christianity at 100,000, but noted that number is difficult to know because thousands of converts remain underground for fear of persecution in a culture that deems abandonment of one’s traditional religion as treason, or worse.

John, a Christian aid worker who once lived in Egypt and whose identity is also protected, told the TEXAN that quantifying the number of Muslims-turned-Christians is exceedingly difficult because of the “broad seed-sowing of the gospel” that dates from Presbyterian efforts in the 1800s to the variety of current, out-of-country media efforts by numerous Christian ministries still proclaiming the gospel. John also underscored that, though Egypt does have some religious freedoms, the cultural pressures are such that converts from Islam must either go underground or face possible severe harassment, and sometimes, deadly persecution.

“Any time you are among a small minority in a sea of change, it’s a scary place to be,” John said. “So, Christians in that situation are facing a lot of uncertainty and they don’t have a particularly loud voice at the table. While the world jumps up and down with glee that Mubarak is gone, the Christians don’t know how to feel.”

Abdul added: “Those Muslims who came to Christ are still underground. Please pray that they will come on stage in Egypt as disciples of Jesus Christ because that would lead to an incredible movement for Christianity and God in Egypt.”

According to Abdul, Coptic Orthodox Christians and members of the Evangelical Church in Egypt are, as business owners, responsible for approximately 40 percent of Egypt’s economy. As such, they can wield significant political power, he said.

“If they would, they could have a huge influence in the process of gaining more democratic rights for all Egyptians. Pray that they will stand up and make their voices heard,” he said. “They need to stand for themselves for the sake of citizens’ rights and for the sake of the gospel so Christians can be free to evangelize without fear.”
Abdul also asks for Christians to pray for the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has a political agenda in that they want to turn Egypt to radical Islam,” Abdul said. “I want Americans to pray that will never happen.”

“Contrary to media reports that tout the Muslim Brotherhood as sweet, loving people, they have a definite agenda to radicalize Egypt,” said John, who suspects the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat. “They were Islamists, however, who killed Sadat,” he added.

“I want to challenge Christians not to take media at face value, but determine what recent changes in Egypt mean for the gospel and for Muslims who are prevented from hearing the clear gospel by their culture and, to some extent, the government.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood is already telling the international media that they are for rights for everyone. But they are lying,” Abdul said. “They do this so they don’t have to answer questions about Islam.”

In a Muslim nation the only religious freedom one has is to be a Muslim, he added.

“Pray that God will keep the Muslim Brotherhood from influencing the political process in my home country,” Abdul said. “But also pray that God will influence the Muslim Brotherhood so they can see him at work. I want to see God touch the Muslim Brotherhood so they are influenced by what God has done and is doing in the lives of others.”

Abdul also asks for prayers for his parents still in Egypt, who, despite declining physical health, participated in recent protests there.

“To Christians around the world, I ask them to pray that God will move in Egypt in a mighty way, and that my people will not only find political freedom,” Abdul said, “but will be free from the spiritual darkness of Islam.”

Regarding Christians who see such events in the Middle East more from a perspective of the biblical End Times, John said: “I don’t claim to know the hour of Jesus’ return, but I don’t think it’s that soon, really. Jesus said he’d return when the gospel had been preached to all peoples, and we haven’t done that yet.” Instead of focusing on eschatology, he said, Christians should “get on with the task of taking the gospel to those who have yet to hear.”

Redemptive History
“From a biblical perspective, Egypt has always played a big role under God’s sovereignty in redemptive history,” said Tony Maalouf, associate professor of missions and director of the Islamic studies program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

“‘Out of Egypt I called my Son’ (Hosea 11:1) means that Messiah’s salvation has a universal outlook, and Egypt is highlighted as a primary beneficiary of this universality,” he said. “If we keep this end-time purpose of God for Egypt in mind, we cannot but be optimistic as history unfolds in that country and freedom is appropriated once again by the people.”

Maalouf told the TEXAN he is “optimistic that some sort of democracy will take place in the country of Egypt. The success of the revolution of the people is only the beginning of the process. It will be a long process of reform on many levels.”

“From a Christian perspective, I hope and pray that this will eventually affect positively religious freedom as well,” said Maalouf, author of the book, “Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Prophetic Plan for Ishmael’s Line.”

Regarding evangelistic opportunities related to the revolt, Maalouf said many Egyptians living in America have family ties in Egypt.

“Therefore, whatever affects their family members overseas will eventually have an impact on them as well,” Maalouf said. “A potential turning to the Lord of family members in Egypt will mean a greater witness and influence on Egyptian-Americans here. A freer church life in Egypt and a bolder church witness will for sure impact Egyptians in the U.S.A. as well.”

Focusing our North American Mission

In the short time that Kevin Ezell has led the North American Mission Board he has skidded Southern Baptists’ largest bureaucracy into a turn few thought it could make. I’m optimistic that the organizational changes and priorities he has staked out will give our denomination a mission board that makes a difference in North America.

For instance, we can discern some of the board’s priorities as we look at the five regions. Four of the five regional directors will be directed toward areas with relatively few Southern Baptists. It’s more than symbolic. Three of the four directors working the United States will focus on regions that contain the largest population centers in our country. All of those three regions contain population groups and cities that are 90 percent or more unreached with the gospel. By any reasonable estimation, a population is that is more than 90 percent lost should go on the urgent list. NAMB has placed them there.

I also affirm the plan to send less money back to states of relative strength. So long as Texas or Arkansas or Georgia have a strong state convention and churches able to resource missions in their state, these state conventions need to be mission senders and not mission receivers. Until our southern states become like New England, lost and unable to help themselves, our priority should be to give.

Efforts to establish a standard definition of what constitutes a “church start” will doubtless lower our numbers in some locations but is a step toward greater integrity. I have little doubt that some will give NAMB greater credibility for this effort.

I don’t take lightly the challenges that remain. Our state conventions will be a big part of the changes, and they’ll need to have visions for their ministry that are at least compatible with NAMB’s strategy if this is going to be all it should. Neither am I naēve regarding the difference between organizing for change and actually implementing change successfully. Others have written reams about the challenges of what NAMB is trying to do. The challenges are noted. No one really knows how anything is going to turn out until it does. For the first time, though, the North American Mission Board seems to have a focused plan to reach North America. They won’t do everything, and shouldn’t, but they will do more than they have previously, I’m expecting.

There is urgency in the North American mission. I know that “urgency” is most often applied to international missions, and appropriately, but large populations within our own country are also pagan and foreign to biblical Christianity. No legislation, no election, no revolution will do what evangelistic churches can do for our nation. Without those churches, our nation will be less and less a resource for world evangelism. The anchor for our international mission is set in a crumbling rock, not a crumbling denominational rock, but an increasingly Christ-less American culture. It is a culture that permeates our families and churches and parachurch denominational institutions. The answer to our denominational problems does not lie within; it will be found when our people and churches are empowered and obedient to reach America for Christ.

The ability of state conventions to continue their ministries without millions of dollars that Kevin Ezell plans to send to population centers mostly outside the Bible Belt will depend on their focus, and on the Great Commission commitment of the churches that make up those conventions. There is no way that the money will be there until church members stop robbing God and Southern churches of all sizes devote less money and staffing to nest feathering. The same is true of our desire to send more to reach other nations. We’re just shifting a finite number of workers and amount of funding until newly devoted Baptists, and churches newly devoted to God’s work beyond their own control and area code, join in our cooperative mission.

Your church and mine can be missionaries to North America on our own, I know. NAMB’s part in this is like that of our state convention and the International Mission Board, each within their own realms. The job of missionary entities is strategic, to ensure that not only are we sending and going but that we’re sending and going to the priority places?eventually every place. We won’t and mostly can’t do that on our own. That’s why we need NAMB, and why we really need NAMB to succeed. Join me in praying that they will succeed in what seems to be a worthy and God-honoring strategy.

Please consider how you or your church can enthusiastically support our Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions this March. You’ll find other stories and information on the offering on page 10.

2011 could be defining moment for ‘gay marriage’

BALTIMORE, Md.–In what is shaping up as a pivotal moment for the future of “gay marriage” in America, a dozen or so state legislatures are expected to debate the issue this year, with two or three potentially legalizing it and at least seven states moving in the opposite direction by possibly protecting the traditional definition in their constitutions.

It likely will be the busiest year since 2004, when Massachusetts’ “gay marriage” law went into effect and 13 states passed marriage amendments. It is legal only in five states and the District of Columbia.

Traditionalists are eyeing victories in Indiana, Minnesota, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, all of which now have legislatures controlled by Republicans, who have generally been friendlier to conservative arguments on marriage. Each of those states could see legislation passed placing constitutional amendments on the ballot defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Elsewhere, New Hampshire’s legislature might consider a bill that would reverse its “gay marriage” law, while in Iowa–where “gay marriage” also is legal–conservatives will continue to pressure the Democratic-controlled senate to take up a marriage amendment that already passed the GOP house there.

Other states, though, are going in the opposite direction.

Homosexual groups are hoping for gains and are pushing for passage of a civil unions bill in Hawaii–it likely is headed to the governor soon–and “gay marriage” bills in Maryland, Rhode Island and New York. Just last month, Illinois’ governor signed a bill legalizing civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the state legal benefits of marriage minus the name.

For the moment, though, the spotlight is on Maryland and Rhode Island, two states where homosexual groups are hopeful that “gay marriage” bills will advance in the coming weeks and make those states the sixth and seventh ones nationally to redefine marriage to include homosexuals. Democrats control the legislatures in each state, and each state has as a governor who supports “gay marriage.” Opponents warn that passage of the bills could impact the tax-exempt status of religious organizations, the religious liberty of private businesses, and the curriculum in elementary schools.

The votes figure to be tight. A Rhode Island house committee heard testimony on a bill Feb. 9, a day after a Maryland senate committee heard testimony on that state’s bill. Neither committee has voted yet.

Despite what some supporters say, passage in either state is far from inevitable, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an organization that played a crucial role in defeating “gay marriage” in Maine, California and New York. NOM has launched TV and radio ads in Rhode Island, criticizing independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee and urging legislators to let citizens decide the issue.

“We’re going to have a big fight in Rhode Island, and I think that is a top priority for proponents of same-sex marriage. In Maryland, it’s also going to be a tough fight,” Brown told Baptist Press. “… What they’re trying to do is to pass these things as quickly as possible so that they can avoid having all their constituents call them and tell them, ‘We don’t want you to pass same-sex marriage.’ That’s clearly the attempt in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island is of primary concern for Brown and other traditionalists because, unlike initiative states such as California–where voters can gather signatures to place items on the ballot–citizens would have no direct recourse if the legislature passes the bill. Even if Maryland’s legislature passes its, citizens there would be able to collect signatures to place the issue on the ballot in 2012 and potentially overturn the law, similar to what happened in Maine in 2009.

“Lincoln Chaffee is seemingly staging his governorship on this issue in making it priority No. 1 and that is definitely a very serious fight ahead,” Brown said.

In Maryland, traditionalists are hoping to defeat the bill in the senate, but it may already have the bare minimum–24 votes–needed to pass. It also will need 29 votes to prevent a filibuster. Some of the bill’s supporters–such as Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, the lone GOP supporter–have called it a civil rights issue. Kittleman released a statement noting that his father “joined with others in fighting racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s” and that, similarly, he is joining with supporters of “gay marriage.”

Many, though, say linking the issue to civil rights is wrong. Among those is Robert Anderson Jr., pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md.

“We didn’t choose to be born black. To be black or African American is not sin,” Anderson told Baptist Press. “The fact that we fought for civil rights, we were just fighting for justice for any man, any woman–regardless of their skin color.

To be black is not sinful, but to be homosexual is sinful. Therein lies the difference. To try to create a system and special laws for a group of citizens that are living in immorality and wanting to force all of us to embrace that as if it is morally equivalent, that is wrong.

Anderson added, “Jesus still saves. Homosexuality, lesbianism–you can still be delivered from it. It’s sin, and there’s an answer to sin.”

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he plans on making a major push this year for passage of a “gay marriage” bill in his state, although it’s unclear if he’ll get his way, being that Republicans took control of the state senate after the November elections. Such a bill was defeated in 2009 in the then-Democratic-controlled senate, 38-24.

Approval of a civil unions bill in Hawaii would be a major victory for homosexual groups, less than a year after then-Republican Gov. Linda Lingle–who was term-limited–vetoed such a bill. She was replaced by Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who won in November and is a civil unions supporter. Different versions of the bill have passed the House and Senate.

Rick Lazor, pastor of OlaNui Church, a Southern Baptist congregation, said if the bill becomes law, then the next related political or legal battle likely will be “gay marriage.” He opposes civil unions.

“I think it will be, but I think these guys may be smart enough to not throw that at us immediately,” Lazor told Baptist Press. “The other side could sue and complain that civil unions make gays a lower class in the state. In most other states that now have marriage, it was almost to a name the very people who fought for civil unions then came back and demanded marriage from the same legislators.”

But a host of states are moving to prevent marriage from being redefined. State legislatures in North Carolina, Minnesota and Wyoming could place a constitutional marriage amendment on the 2012 ballot, while the Indiana and Pennsylvania legislatures–it’s a lengthier procedure in those two states–could take the first step toward placing an amendment on the 2014 ballot. Already, 29 states protect the traditional definition of marriage in their constitutions.
“Many of these states would already have passed them had they had direct initiative and referenda,” Brown said. “The remaining states have to go through the legislature, which is often a much more difficult task.”

Supporters of traditional marriage, he believes, have reason to be optimistic.

“One of the things that proponents of same-sex marriage do is promote this myth of inevitability, and they do this both long-term and short-term, and they do it in every state,” he said. “What they try to do is to say, ‘This is a done deal, so if you’re on the fence you might as well side with us.’ That is an attempt to make a myth the reality.”

Brown points to the 2009 defeat of a “gay marriage” bill in New York as an example.

“The lead sponsor of the bill said he had votes to pass it, and the day of the vote he lost 38-24,” Brown said.

The movements on the state level came as a handful of key legal cases, including the high-profile one related to California Prop 8–wind their way through the federal courts toward a potential landmark hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.

June Richards Scholarship to benefit women at SWBTS

In a gentle voice true to her northern Louisiana upbringing, June Richards said she was humbled by and grateful for the establishment of a scholarship that will bear her name at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The seed money for the June Richards Endowed Scholarship came from Dorothy Patterson, who wanted to honor Richards for her commitment to the Lord’s work as exemplified in her life as wife, mother and selfless partner in the work of her husband, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.

“I am so grateful. I just teared up,” Richards said when she recalled Patterson privately telling her of plans for the scholarship during the 2010 SBTC Annual Meeting last November.

Somewhat taken aback by the recognition, Richards asked, “Who am I?”

But Patterson, professor of theology in women’s studies and wife of SWBTS President Paige Patterson, already had an answer. She was at the SBTC meeting to address the annual women’s luncheon. Knowing her audience was filled with pastors’ wives and women serving their churches and communities, Patterson seized the opportunity to encourage them by recognizing their often behind-the-scenes work?as typified by June Richards.

In a January letter addressed to Jim Richards, Patterson expounded upon her reasons for singling out his wife.

“She is the epitome of what I am trying to teach in my student wives class. ? I have attempted to prepare young women to be helpers and partners with their ministry husbands in the work of the Lord. Your June has certainly done that.”

Paige Patterson concurred: “June Richards embodies all those qualities that the Bible features as the classic understanding of biblical womanhood. As a consistent support and encouragement to her husband, a magnificent mother and a woman who walks close to the Lord, June Richards’ exemplary lifestyle is one that we honor here at Southwestern. Indeed, Mrs. Patterson has so profited from June’s life and witness that she really felt that we needed to honor June and help students in this way. Hopefully, Southwestern will graduate an army of young women who will follow in June Richards’ steps.”

The role of wife, encourager and prayer partner is a life Richards seemed to seamlessly assume after a “whirlwind” romance that began her first day of school at Baptist Christian College (now Louisiana Baptist University). That was the day she met Jim Richards. And, after just three dates, she accepted his proposal of marriage.

It was during those early days of marriage, school and childrearing that June said she would have appreciated the financial support of scholarships like the one being offered in her name. Especially gratifying is knowing the scholarship will help women called to ministry or wives of pastors, she said.

As her husband worked toward his advanced degrees, pastored for 21 years in Louisiana, preached revivals, and traveled to all 50 states and 19 countries, Richards readily took on a variety of roles to support and enhance those ministries.

She recalled serving as pianist, children’s director, bus captain (“When we had such things,” she said.), and Sunday School teacher?all while raising their three children and maintaining their home. Richards set aside her career as a grade school teacher to commit to full-time work as a mother and the wife of a pastor.

The role is not one that can be planned like a career after college.

Richards said if women “focus and die to self” they can discern the will of God. “I’m not trying to be pious or super spiritual. She will be able to say, ‘Yes, Lord’ and prepare herself. [She] will have such a servant’s heart,” she said.

Two women who most influenced and encouraged Richards were her mother, Ruth Swain, and mother-in-law, Betty Richards.

It was her mother who showed her, through example, how to be a lady and how to take her petitions to the Lord.
“She would speak out loud to the Lord,” Richards recalled.

As her mother was her spiritual mentor, Richards’ mother-in-law instructed her in the more practical matters of how to run a house and home. With the foundation of prayer and the framework of organization, Richards established a home that is a “haven from the rest of the world.”

Though she cannot speak individually to all those who will be recipients of the scholarship, Richards wanted to convey the very crucial nature of the role a woman accepts when she marries a pastor.

“A woman can make or break a man,” she said. Richards has had to keep many things private, especially any criticism she might have of her husband. Being publically critical of a pastor-husband can harm not only the marriage relationship but the husband’s relationship with his congregation. Even in private, Richards urged wives and wives-to-be to temper their criticism with kindness.

More often than not, Richards said, taking her concerns to the Lord in prayer first solved an issue before it became a problem.

For children brought up in a pastor’s home, Richards said, prayer cannot be overemphasized. Citing Job’s prayers and offerings to the Lord on behalf of his children, Richards said she prays God will protect her three adult children, her two sons-in-law, and her grandchildren from the distractions of this world.

It is through prayer that Richards most simply and dramatically assists in the ministries of her husband?ministries that she has made her own. Jim Richards has been the SBTC executive director since the inception of the convention in 1998. And though not a staff member, June Richards has taken on the job of praying for every convention staff member by name. She prays through each department, calling for God’s provision as they seek to do his work.

Knowing it will be wives and single women who will benefit from the June Richards Endowed Scholarship, Richards entreated all to seek God’s face, submitting their lives to him and the role God would have them play in the lives of others.

Mike Hughes, SWBTS vice president for institutional advancement, said in an e-mail statement: “The formulation of the June Richards Endowed Scholarship, as in many of our scholarships for women, is a unique way to honor the life and influence of the women in our lives while at the same time investing in the lives of tomorrow’s women who will continue that legacy.”

Once the endowed fund reaches $10,000, the scholarship will be awarded to women studying within Southwestern’s biblical homemaking program. If there is not a qualified applicant in that track any given year, the scholarship will be awarded to a woman studying in any other field at SWBTS.

Southwestern, Hughes said, welcomes all contributions to this endowed scholarship or the creation of new scholarships in an effort to honor the lives and legacies of others.