Month: September 2011

Pastor again refuses to recant as pressure builds on Iran to halt execution

WASHINGTON (BP) — Iran is under increasing pressure from leaders around the world to halt the execution of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who on Wednesday refused for the fourth and final time to recant his faith and could be executed at any time.

In the U.S., Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement urging Iran to spare the pastor’s life and release him. Overseas, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called on Iran to overturn the sentence.

Observers say external pressure could be critical in preventing the Iranian government from performing its first apostasy execution since 1990.

Arrested in 2009, Nadarkhani was told by an Iranian court this year that he would be executed unless he converted to Islam. The court gave him four chances to recant Christianity, and he refused to do so on four consecutive days this week, the final being Wednesday, Compass Direct News reported.

“I’m in contact with Iran,” a source close to Nadarkhani’s family told Compass Direct, “but the news isn’t very good. We’ll see. If they really want to they can kill him, because he hasn’t renounced his faith. It finished today. We have left everything in the hands of God.”

The American Center for Law and Justice reported one of Nadarkhani’s court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” he asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani responded.

Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a friend of Nadarkhani’s and a member of the council of elders for the Church of Iran, said Tuesday that his friend could be executed at any time after he refuses to recant a fourth time.

“We need the prayers of Christians,” Sadegh-Khandjani said on the Jordan Sekulow radio show.

Compass Direct quoted a source close to Nadarkhani as saying it is critical that foreign governments negotiate and engage in diplomacy with Iranian authorities.

“They need to start negotiating,” the source said. “It’s the moment to negotiate, because if they do, the situation could be regulated.”

The source and advocates in the international community fear that authorities may kill Nadarkhani as early as midnight tonight (Sept. 28) or any time in the coming week.

“They probably won’t kill him today, but they can do it whenever they want,” the source told Compass Direct. “They can hang him in the middle of the night or in 10 days. Sometimes in Iran they call the family and deliver the body with the verdict. They have gone outside the borders of law. This is not in the Iranian law, this is sharia. Sometimes they don’t even give the body.”

Sadegh-Khandjani gave details of the incident that led to Nadarkhani’s 2009 arrest.

“He protested to the decision of the government to teach the Quran to his son,” Sadegh-Khandjani said. “He told them, ‘I’m Christian and I would like that my children [to] receive Christian teachings — not Muslim teachings.’ So they arrested him and they condemned him to death for apostasy.”

Earlier this year the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence but ordered a lower court to examine whether Nadarkhani was ever a Muslim — a fact essential to determine whether he left Islam for Christianity. But that lower court in Rasht, Iran, found that although Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim “he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry,” the British-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which monitors religious freedom reported.

Christians have rights under the Iranian constitution but not under Sharia law, which according to the Iranian courts supersedes the constitution, Sadegh-Khandjani said. He called the situation “religion apartheid.”

“The tendency is not to respect the right of minorities,” Sadegh-Khandjani said. “Minorities are not considered as citizens.”

Leonard Leo, chair of the United States Council on International Religious Freedom, criticized the Iranian court system for not following Iranian law or international law.

“Despite the finding that Mr. Nadarkhani did not convert to Christianity as an adult, the court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed,” Leo said. “The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.”

Supporters of the Iranian pastor applauded the statements from Boehner in the U.S. and Hague in Britain.

“Religious freedom is a universal human right,” Boehner’s statement said. “The reports that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani will be sentenced to death by the Iranian government unless he disavows his Christian faith are distressing for people of every country and creed. While Iran’s government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity. I urge Iran’s leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Yousef Nadarkhani’s life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.”

Said Hague, “I deplore reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith. This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”
–30–
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Compass Direct News.

Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD

LONDON (BP) — Religious liberty took another hit in Great Britain when a Christian restaurant owner was threatened with arrest for playing a Bible DVD that included passages critical of homosexuality.

The incident, reported in the Daily Mail newspaper, is but the latest example of what U.K. conservatives say is an abuse of the country’s Public Order Act, which prohibits the use of “insulting” words that can cause “harassment, alarm or distress.”

The restaurant, called the Salt and Light Coffee House, for years has played a DVD version of the New Testament on an overhead TV, with the sound turned down and the words of the Bible appearing on screen. Called “The Watchword Bible,” the entire DVD series spans about 26 hours.

Police entered the restaurant Sept. 19 after getting a complaint. Restaurant owner Jamie Murray said he suspects the complaint came after the passage from Romans 1:26-26 was displayed on screen. The restaurant is located in Blackpool.

The two police officers conducted an “aggressive inquisition,” Murray said.

“I told them that all that appeared on the screen were the words of the New Testament,” Murray told the newspaper. “There is no sound, just the words on the screen and simple images in the background of sheep grazing or candles burning. I thought there might be some mix-up but they said they were here to explain the law to me and how I had broken it.

“I said, ‘Are you really telling me that I am facing arrest for playing the Bible?’ and the [officer] fixed me with a stare and said, ‘If you broadcast material that causes offence under the Public Order Act then we will have to take matters further. You cannot break the law.'”

He then turned off the TV.

“I was worried about being handcuffed and led out of the shop in front of my customers,” Murray said. “It wouldn’t have looked good so I thought it was better to comply. It felt like a betrayal. They left the shop and told me they would continue to monitor if we were displaying inflammatory material. At no stage had they spoken to me like I was a law-abiding citizen trying to earn a living. I felt like a criminal.”

But Murray says he is not going to back down. The Christian Institute, a British-based organization that fights for religious liberty, is representing him.

“I have now checked on my rights and I am not going to be bullied by the police and the PC lobby out of playing the Bible silently in my cafe,” he said. “It’s crazy. Christians have to stand up for what they believe in.”

Murray asked, “What’s next, people coming into churches and saying you can’t say this or that?”

A police spokesman told the Daily Mail that the force is “respectful of all religious views.”

“However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in public,” the spokesman said.

It is not the first time the Public Order Act has been the source of controversy. Last year a Baptist street preacher in the U.K. was arrested for calling homosexuality a sin, and his arrest was based on the 1986 law.

The preacher, Dale Mcalpine, was arrested in April 2010 in the British town of Workington after a police officer — who happened to be homosexual — overheard him telling a woman that 1 Corinthians forbids homosexuality. The officer warned him to be quiet, and when he didn’t, he was arrested. The entire incident was captured on video.

Mcalpine was charged and jailed for seven hours, although charges were dropped.

“England, the U.S. and other Western nations share the same legal, political and religious traditions,” Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute in the U.K., told Baptist Press last year. “If this can happen in England, it can happen where you live. Christians need to be aware that small changes in the law can lead to big changes in the culture. If you want to be free to share the Gospel, you must defend that liberty in the public square. Don’t hide in your churches; get out there and engage in the culture. Do it wisely, graciously, with excellence and with courage.”

What’s different about the New International Version, 2011?

Over 25 years ago, the New International Version of the Bible made a real splash within Southern Baptist churches. I was a youth minister back then and saw many students struggle read the King James Version. Kids would read aloud during our Bible study times, stumble over unfamiliar words and construction, and then be unable to tell me anything about what they’d read. They had a much easier time with the NIV, as did their parents. It was a good piece of work and blessed a broad audience of believers.

Almost a decade ago, the NIV’s publishers produced a revision called Today’s New International Version. This work caused a different kind of stir as reviewers noted the thousands of changes related to the identification of gender in familiar Bible verses. “Son” became “child,” “father” became “parent,” “he” became “they,” and so on. The outcry was such that the TNIV failed to catch hold and was soon off the market. The span of time between the original NIV and the TNIV (15-20 years) was also quite short in terms of the life of a Bible translation (so is 25 years). It made some of us wonder what was so urgent about a new “today’s” version of the popular Bible.

The questions carried over when we learned that there would be a 2011 NIV revision. Has proper English changed so much in less than 30 years? An important piece of the puzzle is revealed when we discover that the 2011 NIV is very much (75 percent by one count) the same as the TNIV. Granted, some of the most controversial changes seen in the TNIV have been reconsidered for 2011, but there is a great similarity.

Among Southern Baptists, the issue came to our annual meeting when a messenger submitted an amendment to the resolutions committee report in 2011 so that a resolution criticizing the new translation was included and approved by an overwhelming majority. It’s rare to see an entire resolution added to the report from the floor. Christianity Today called our resolution “divisive, shortsighted, and something that brings us, and no doubt the majority of the Christian community, profound disappointment.” Were the messengers wrong?

Consider first that the NIV represents a significant percentage of pew Bibles and personal Bibles that our church members carry each week and read as often as they read Scripture. It is one of only three versions of the Bible allowed for use in Bible Drill competitions. The publishing of the 2011 NIV means the imminent end of the current, 1984 edition. Those who want to continue reading the NIV will soon be offered new Bibles that bear the same name but are quite a bit different. Some will not know the difference until they have begun reading their new Bibles. This is one reason why the change was of interest to the SBC back in June.

Next, think of the differences between the Bibles available today. Some have a reputation of being as close to literal as is possible and still maintain readability in English. This would include the King James Bible, the New American Standard, and the English Standard Version. They attempt to get as close as possible to what God says, even if contemporary or smooth style must be put in second place. Other popular versions of the Bible like The Message or the New Living Translation include more interpretation. The thoughts or message of the biblical languages are conveyed in these versions, rather than a more “what God has literally said” kind of emphasis. Two Bible versions important to Southern Baptists try to span the gap between these major approaches. The Holman Christian Standard Bible and the New International Version have worked to stay closer to what God literally says than a paraphrased Bible like The Message but also paraphrase when clarity demands it for modern readers. No doubt Bible translators would quibble with my descriptions here but simply, the span runs between very literal, as literal as possible while maintaining easy readability, and paraphrased “what God means” versions that many find most useful for devotional reading.

The thing is, many Christians do understand that a paraphrased version of the Bible includes some interpretive material in the text. I think of it as a Bible version where the translator or reviser has worked his personal margin notes into the text. It’s somewhat subjective but that works if you go into your use of the Bible expecting a bit of commentary. My problem with the 2011 NIV is that the translating committee appears to have changed the category of Bible they’ve produced without changing the name. What we will know as the NIV in the coming years includes quite a bit more paraphrase than the one we’ve formerly known.

Here’s what I mean: passages like Proverbs 15:5 and 1 Samuel 18:2 change the word “father” to “parent” and “family” respectively. Where I might expect the scholars behind my Bible to have asked “is the Hebrew word ‘father’ or something else?” this committee evidently did a bit more interpreting. The result was to miss the fact that the family residence was actually the “father’s house.” He was the head of the household, the householder. Grating as that might sound on the oversensitive modern ear, the actual words of Scripture are part of the message God is conveying. Psalm 8:4 says, in the old NIV, “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” The newer NIV says instead, “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” In addition to freely switching singulars and plurals, the committee changed “son of man” to “human beings,” thereby interpreting out any kind of Messianic understanding of this verse. The translation committee’s interpretation here is defensible, their translation from Hebrew to English less so, unless they mean for us to understand their work to be of a different type than that of the 1984 NIV committee.

The examples of this sort run into the thousands. Some have called it agenda-driven but it needn’t be that to be objectionable. One of several philosophical lines the committee crossed was to decide that the loathsome singular/plural confusion was good English. John 14:23 is an example. The old NIV decided that English grammar needed no revision but the new work says, “Jesus replied, “Anyone (singular) who loves (singular) me will obey my teaching. My father will love them (plural!) and we will come to them (plural) and make our home with them (plural).” This horrible practice has become a part of nearly everyone’s speech pattern but that is no excuse. Authoritative style books, academic standards, most editors, and nearly all English teachers do not accept this as proper usage. It makes the Bible seem less serious, and it is not what the biblical manuscripts say. Gone are the days when reading the Bible will improve our grammar, I suppose.

I personally cannot recommend the 2011 NIV to anyone because the committee has paraphrased the words of Scripture with no apparent compelling reason in most cases. But should our LifeWay stores sell the 2011 NIV? Again, I’d say not. I believe the changes from the TNIV that persist in the 2011 edition make it such a different product that it is mislabeling, confusing to call it “NIV.” I cannot imagine conservative evangelical churches adopting this new version for corporate reading. Bible-believing pastors, a key constituency of LifeWay, will not likely use this for their preaching Bible—it requires too much explanation and back pedaling in too many passages. If it had a different name, a less respected and established name, the content of the new NIV would be less confusing, but neither would it sell much.

I don’t think this is a wicked Bible or a heretical one. The committee is made up of respected conservative scholars and I do not doubt their motives in any of this work. I do disagree with some of the foundational choices they made in translating and revising this version of the NIV. In our culture and in many of our churches, these choices are on the front burner. I can’t see that the significant interpretation into the message of Scripture that the 2011 NIV represents adds more to clarity than it does to confusion. Our denomination’s endorsement of this work, even a mild endorsement like selling the Bible, would not be a benefit to our church members.

Transcript of remarks: IMB trustee meeting

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are the remarks of SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards upon presenting an oversized check symbolizing a $1 million gift from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention surplus funds for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions. The presentation occurred on Sept. 14 in Orlando, Fla.

Dr. Elliff, staff, trustees, and guests, it is my privilege to stand before you today and represent the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. On Aug. 9 the Executive Board of the SBTC took several historic actions. Two that relate to your ministry are extremely significant.

The first statement was a unanimous and enthusiastic vote to challenge all Southern Baptist churches in Texas to embrace 1,000 of the more than 3,800 unengaged people groups. Everything possible will be done to mobilize local churches to go.

The second unanimous, enthusiastic vote was to give from reserves one million dollars to the International Mission Board through the Lottie Moon Offering for missionary deployment.

Let me explain where this money came from: The SBTC has no money. It all belongs to the Lord. The churches gave the money through the Cooperative Program. It is a unified, undesignated giving plan that provides a synergistic powerhouse of collective ministry.

The Cooperative Program provides for Vacation Bible School clinics, multi-ethnic youth camps, funded church planters and over one hundred other ministries in Texas. This network enables state conventions to assist churches in doing the work of the ministry. Out of many of these collaborative efforts come our missionaries who go to the unengaged people groups.

This one million dollars comes from First Baptist Church, Euless and First Baptist Church, Rockwall. It also comes from Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen and First Baptist Church, Buna, Texas. Some say we are in a post-denominational age. Some make snarky comments about our work together. I want to encourage you to encourage others to stay together, go together and continue to give together. Second Corinthians 8:15 says, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left and whoever gathered little had no lack.” Let’s tell the world about Jesus, together!

Burned by arsonists, Athens church celebrates new worship space, offices

ATHENS—In the early morning of Jan. 12, 2010, Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, about 65 miles southeast of Dallas, was one of two churches in that town to burn by the hand of arsonists. The week before that, another church near Athens was torched.

Twenty months later, Lake Athens has new offices, a new auditorium and new education space, all rebuilt on the old slabs.

It is debt free, thanks to insurance, faithful giving of church members, and volunteer builders from numerous churches, Pastor John Green said.

Church attendance is up after Lake Athens held its first services in the new digs on Labor Day weekend. After the fire, the church met in the gym, which survived the fire.

“Our children’s department has grown 400 percent in the last six months. The Lord’s just opened doors,” Green said.

On Sept. 25, Lake Athens was scheduled to hold dedication services and an open house. A dedication theme of “To God Be the Glory” was chosen.

“We are expecting 300-400 people for our dedication service,” Green said on Sept. 21. “We want to dedicate this as a house of worship and prayer to God.”

On Jan. 10 of this year, the arsonists—Jason Robert Bourque, 20, of Lindale, and Daniel George McAllister, 22, of Ben Wheeler—were given life sentences and additional 20-year sentences after pleading guilty in connection with 10 church arsons in early 2010.

Four of the burned churches were Southern Baptist: Lake Athens Baptist Church, Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton, Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler and Dover Baptist Church in rural Smith County.

SBTC 2011: ‘Praying + Going’

IRVING—The missionary zeal of the early church is inspiration for this year’s annual meeting and Bible Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, scheduled for the Irving Convention Center, Nov. 13-15.

The theme for the annual business session of messengers, Monday and Tuesday of that week, is “Praying + Going” and comes from Acts 13:2-3: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

The theme is closely tied to last year’s theme, “Praying & Listening,” which was followed by numerous prayer and listening sessions across the state earlier this year.

The SBTC Bible Conference immediately precedes the annual meeting, and will feature regional and national speakers and pastors (See related story page 8).

“‘Praying + Going’ is more than a theme,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards wrote in a column for Texas Baptist Crossroads. “It is a lifestyle for the Jesus follower. As we seek the Father’s face we will hear the Spirit’s voice telling us where we should go to share the Good News about the Son. God has a people in your community, state, nation, and the world for you to embrace. Jesus is coming. It could be today. Let’s get going before he returns.”

Each session of the annual meeting will focus on a different area of missionary engagement, from pockets of lostness in rapidly changing Texas to unreached peoples halfway across the world.  

One focus sure to be addressed in sermons and in ministry reports is the challenge from the SBTC Executive Board for Southern Baptists in Texas to adopt 1,000 of the approximately 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups worldwide. That challenge came after the SBTC board in August granted $1 million in surplus funds through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.

Closer to home, “The Christian culture that once provided a framework for our nation is fading” and “Texas is no longer only belt buckles and cowboy boots,” Richards remarked.

“There are 200,000 Asian Indians, thousands of Bhutanese refugees and an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Texas. The mega-cities are rapidly becoming gospel-free zones by default. We have our work cut out for us,” he added.

SBTC President and Odessa pastor Byron McWilliams will preach his message to the convention on Monday night, Nov. 14. Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, will preach the convention sermon on Tuesday morning, Nov. 15.

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and the founder of 9Marks Ministries, is the guest preacher during the closing session on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Tickets to luncheons Nov. 14-15 are available for purchase online at sbtexas.com/am11 or by calling the SBTC office toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC).

Deadline to submit resolutions to the SBTC Resolutions Committee is close of business Nov. 4. Members of SBTC-affiliated churches may submit resolutions by email to lrice@sbtexas.com or by mail to Lane Rice, 4500 SH 360, Grapevine, TX 76051. Resolutions must be accompanied by the author’s contact information and church membership.

Childcare will be available by reservation only for birth through age 9. Shuttle service will be offered between the convention hotel and the Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Blvd., in Irving.  

For additional information on the annual meeting and messenger registration, visit www.sbtexas.com/am11/.

With central Texas fires mostly contained, disaster relief volunteers press on

BASTROP—Nearly three weeks after wildfires scorched 35,000 acres near the central Texas town of Bastrop, east of Austin, disaster relief volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were facing weeks more in clean up work.

In Bastrop County alone, 1,554 homes burned. By Sept. 21, the fire was 95 percent contained, the Texas Forest Service said, partly thanks to some much-needed rain and cooler temperatures.

“Right now, we have more than 100 work orders for clean-up crews to come in and help property owners in the Bastrop area,” SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said. “And it will grow as more people seek help with their homes. There is a lot of work to be done.”

After the fires started over Labor Day weekend, SBTC DR volunteers spent 10 days preparing more than 5,500 meals for emergency responders and evacuees. The teams also set up shower and laundry units for emergency workers from their base at First Baptist Church of Bastrop.

By Sept. 19, they had transitioned to clean-up ministry—something Richardson said would take weeks.

Statewide, 250 of 254 Texas counties remained under burn bans.

About 50 additional disaster relief workers were helping in the aftermath of fires in Magnolia, north of Houston, and in Atlanta, in northeast Texas. The volunteers were working out of First Baptist Church of Magnolia and Westside Baptist Church in Atlanta.

“I have never seen such widespread destruction in all the disaster relief that I have done,” said Scottie Stice, a veteran disaster relief volunteer and an SBTC field ministry associate. “Everywhere you drive, it’s not just damage. In many cases the home is gone. It’s just a pile of ash.

“In the zones where the fires were most active, it is nearly every house on the street.”

If past DR deployments are an indication, ministry opportunities will present themselves as the work goes on—this time for weeks, Stice said.

“Some of [the victims] are already in recovery mode looking to rebuild,” Stice said. “Some of them are still in shock.”

“We are ministering to people. We’re finding folks who don’t know the Lord and were spared from losing everything and asking some questions. The Christian folks are leaning hard on the Lord and just looking for help, looking for peace.”

FIRE CHANGED SERMON PLANS
One week after the central Texas fires began, Raymond Edge, pastor of FBC Bastrop, said he had planned to preach on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks from Psalm 46:1-7—a refuge passage. But the ferocious wildfires the previous week left his church feeling far removed from 9/11 remembrances.

“That had become so far away because right now this is what we are living,” Edge told the TEXAN. Several dozen church members lost homes, he said.

Instead, he was able to draw some of his Sunday message from the original passage but turned his focus on the church and community. Psalm 31:1-4 became the source of the sermon title, “In you, oh Lord, I put my trust”—a passage in which the Lord is a “rock of refuge.”

Adam Espurvoa, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel in Bastrop, spoke from his own experience and God’s provision. He quoted Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.”

Espurvoa and his congregation mostly live in rural Bastrop County on acreages surrounded by pine trees. All of the 300 pines on his lot burned as the fire circled his house.
“I can touch the wall of my house and touch the ground where the fire stopped,” Espurvoa said.

River Valley Christian Fellowship pastor Cody Whitfill, who lost his house in the fire, said 16 families in his church of 400 lost their homes.

“My thoughts are to emphasize that our hope is Christ,” Whitfill said prior to Sept. 11 services.

In addition to a disaster relief team from the SBTC preparing meals for emergency responders and evacuees, members of River Valley also began feeding people the day after the fires began.

Initally, 5,000 people were displaced, with many of those returning to their neighborhoods as the fires were contained.

Most of the congregation of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel was sleeping in the church building because roads to their homes were blocked by police each night due to looting, Espurvoa said. The area also was without electricity.

The pastor, his wife Eva and eight senior members of the church left Bastrop Sept. 12 for the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in central Texas to participate in an already scheduled senior retreat. Espurvoa, 73, considered staying behind but church members encouraged him to go for some much-needed rest.

Espurvoa was able to find some humor in the somber atmosphere as he noted, “I’ve been preaching for 49 years. This is the first time I’ve preached in blue jeans and tennis shoes. All my suits are smoked up.”

Edge, meanwhile, said FBC Bastrop spent their usual Sunday School hour in a time of fellowship and prayer. Just having the chance to talk and cry together meant a great a deal to them, he said.

The pastors said some of their families were away from home when the evacuation alert was given. Others barely escaped.

Edge told of a man from his church who was taking a Sunday afternoon nap when his son, who lived next door, came to the house to get him out. The man looked out the window to see a wall of fire heading directly toward his home. The two families had only time enough to get in their cars and drive away as flames leapt up on both sides of the road to safety.

Edge has pastored at FBC Bastrop for 15 years and drawn close to the families he has watched grow up in the church. The first week of the fires he cried for and with his congregation. Then, he added, God would renew his strength so he could continue to minister to so many who were hurting.

“More than anything else I have asked God to let me help with spiritual needs,” he said.

Espurvoa said he wants to ensure his congregation is cared for so they can help others too. The Austin Baptist Association delivered water and groceries to the Bastrop churches. He said some of the donations collected by his church members have then been given to their own relatives and neighbors. As his members graciously share their provisions with others, Espurvoa said they will be a witness of the grace and mercy of Jesus.

Jason Bray, a staff member of River Valley Christian Fellowship, who coordinated the church’s meal ministry, said Texas-owned H.E.B grocery chain donated substantially to feeding evacuees.

The SBTC feeding unit at FBC Bastrop prepared hot meals that were then delivered via Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) to people in a shelter in Paige, Texas, and to some people sifting through remains of their homes.

Ethnic churches take lead as Crossover 2011 approaches

IRVING—Ethnic churches in the Irving area, as well as Criswell College in Dallas and First Baptist Church of Euless, will host evangelistic block parties on Saturday, Nov. 12, as a part of the SBTC’s Crossover 2011 evangelistic effort preceding the state convention meeting the following week.

Volunteers from area churches and messengers attending the annual meeting are encouraged to participate.

“Block parties are still a great way to get the community to visit a church,” explained SBTC evangelism associate Jack Harris. Some block parties are held at non-church locations while others utilize the church’s parking lot, he added. “Good block parties have free food, jump houses, community involvement from representatives of the fire, police or perhaps a hospital, live music and a unique gospel presentation.”

Hispanic churches planning to participate include Primera Iglesia Bautista and Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Irving as well as Primera Bautista in Grand Prairie, and two Irving Korean congregations, Crossroad Church and Yullin Global Mission Church. First Baptist Church of Euless will be assisting in the effort with leadership from Ed Kho, minister to Asian communities.

Also, Criswell College is sponsoring a block party outreach near the campus, 4010 Gaston Ave. in Dallas.

“These events continue to be great opportunities to reach the local community,” Harris added. “While folks are enjoying themselves, you can share the gospel in a very relaxed setting.” Contact Harris at 817-614-4453 to volunteer at one of these events.

Churches interested in planning a block party for fall events may be interested in renting one of the tents available for SBTC churches to use.

The 60’ x 80’ tent can seat from 400 to 600 people and is available for a rental fee of $300. The 40’ x 60’ tent can seat approximately 250 to 375 people with a rental fee of $150.

Call Karissa Muilenburg at 1-877-953-7282 or email kmuilenburg@sbtexas.com to see if the tent is available. Once the date is confirmed and a deposit secured, the tent may be picked up two days before the event and must be returned no later than two days afterward.

Mesquite pastor to be nominated for president

Terry Turner of Mesquite will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention during the annual meeting Nov. 14-15 in Irving.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced his intention to nominate Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, in a statement released to the TEXAN.

“After considerable thought and prayer, I have asked Pastor Terry Turner for the privilege of placing his name in nomination for president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has graciously acquiesced. My conviction is that Pastor Turner’s loyalty and faithfulness to the SBTC, his doctrinal commitment to the doctrines of the New Testament, and his modeling of the work of the shepherd in a great congregation of believers all qualify him to serve in this office. And, he is not ashamed of the Baptist name! If Pastor Turner is elected, the SBTC will achieve yet another significant milestone in the choice of great leaders.”

Meanwhile, Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, has announced he will nominate for SBTC recording secretary James Nickell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Quitman.

“James Nickell will make a great contribution to our convention. He is well aware of who we are and fully on board with our direction. I am pleased to be able to recommend him as recording secretary for the SBTC.”

Nickell became pastor of First Baptist Church of Quitman in 2008, leading the church to affiliate with the SBTC.

Southwestern Seminary conf. examines Biblical Gender roles

FORT WORTH—Marriage is designed to be a living picture of the gospel that God embedded in the creation from the very beginning, stated Russell Moore, dean of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a Sept. 13 sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Emphasizing the importance of following God’s pattern for marriage, Moore said, “If you get this wrong, what you are getting wrong is not just the order of the home, not just a sense of who you are. You are getting wrong the gospel itself.”

The day-long Conference on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood examined definitions and distinctions of gender roles with Moore speaking to a chapel audience and as part of a panel that evening for the College at Southwestern. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) co-sponsored the event.

“God has designed womanhood in such a way that when a wife honors the leadership of her husband and receives the protection of her husband and follows the direction of a godly husband, she is signifying and pointing to something that is true about the church itself,” Moore explained.

In a culture where women were often viewed as inferior to men, Moore noted that the apostle Paul spoke of them as sisters who were joint heirs with Christ. However, instead of embracing God’s plan for a wife to follow the leadership of a godly husband, women in today’s society are encouraged to be submissive to all men, he said, causing an entire generation of girls and young women to see their value dependent upon their sexual attractiveness and availability to men.

Moore said Paul did not tell women to submit themselves to men, but for wives to submit themselves to their own husbands as to the Lord. 

“The twisting and removing of this understanding of the man and the woman leads to men who prey upon women through physical strength and in various other ways with a devilish kind of tracking down,” he lamented as he worked through the instruction of Ephesians 5:15-33.

Girls in today’s society are being raised up to submit themselves to men in general, he added, citing the practices of pornography and abortion. “Even before you get to that point, you have an entire generation of girls and young women seeing their values, dignity and worth dependent upon their sexual attractiveness and availability to guys,” Moore said.

“That’s not only the case out there in the mall displays, lurking out there in the hidden dregs of pornography. That is the case even in our own Christian literature in which we present to our girls a cultural understanding of what beauty is and what a body type ought to be,” he said, describing an ideal that motivates girls to starve themselves in order to meet the cultural expectations of men in general. “The act of submission is by definition a decision to be unsubmissive in other areas.”

Instead, he encouraged congregations to teach young girls that they are beautiful, glorious, created with dignity and a hidden and quiet beauty.

“She is being raised up to submit herself not to men, but to one man whose face and name she may not know right now, but in the meantime she refuses to submit herself to all of the other men around her who are demanding such submission,” Moore explained.

Moore recalled the need for both Paul and Peter to remind women in the churches that they should not define their beauty on the basis of external adornment, but in “that hidden and quiet beauty and dignity of the heart which in God’s sight is precious.”

“He says, ‘Wives, when you submit yourselves, when you follow the leadership of your own husbands, you are picturing the beauty of that church,’” Moore said, underscoring his main point.

Furthermore, a husband’s self-sacrificial leadership illustrates Christ’s love for the church and should remind men to avoid the extremes of passivity and tyranny, Moore said. “You care for her just as Jesus cared for the church.”

“Husbands, if your wives are refusing to follow after your leadership, it is probably because your wife has seen and observed in your life a kind of leadership that is either absent or self-focused, and what she is saying to you is, ‘I don’t know where you are taking us. I don’t know if I can trust you at all.’”

Speaking to men preparing for ministry, Moore continued, “For some of you in this room, in your rebellion, in your self-serving, in your addiction to pornography, you are showing her she has no reason to trust your leadership because you cannot even exercise headship over your own appetites, much less the family that God has given to you through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

When marriages in local churches are ripped apart through divorce, Moore said a false gospel is being preached. “When we shift, twist it or turn to something else, we have a different gospel and different mystery.”

In another session, CBMW President Randy Stinson, dean of the school of church ministries at Southern Seminary, amplified the importance of godly leadership in the home, reminding the audience that a husband’s effectiveness is stymied when he fails to live with his wife “in an understanding way.”

Citing 1 Peter 3:7, Stinson said, “The warning is when God turns a deaf ear toward you there is a removal of a level of his presence in your life—his protection. You could be under the discipline of God because you are not living with your wife in an understanding way, showing her honor or treating her as an equal.”

Instead of blaming a “mean old professor” or a “difficult boss,” Stinson encouraged men to consider that “maybe God is bringing your world down around you because you are not treating your wife the way you ought to.” He encouraged every husband to become “a student of his wife” in order to gain understanding. “You can’t coast and make this happen.”

The work of discipling boys to become godly men requires the leadership of fathers and other male leaders in a local church community, Southwestern Seminary ethics professor Evan Lenow said.

Lenow encouraged churches to utilize men as Sunday School teachers of boys by the time they are 10. Expressing appreciation to his own father for having taught that age of boys for over 35 years, Lenow said, “These are young men moving into manhood and they need men in their lives mentoring them,” he said, appealing to the biblical model of older men teaching younger men.

“We’re losing boys because they think this whole thing is about glitter and cotton balls,” Stinson added, describing teaching methods that appeal to girls.

While clearly grateful for women who devote themselves to training children in local churches, Moore affirmed the value of recognizing a difference in how boys and girls are taught.

“It begins with not seeing boys as a problem to be solved. Sin is the problem to be solved,” Moore said.

“Often we equate femininity with holiness in the context of those early years of raising boys and girls,” he added. “Boys are often seen to be bad when in fact they’re not. They’re just boys. They’re just masculine.”

Just as older men have a biblical mandate to teach younger boys, conference leaders noted that women have the distinct assignment of training a younger generation of women. 

“If you don’t have within your church women who are capable of teaching women in that congregation and discipling the next generation of women, you don’t have a biblically functioning church,” Moore said.

During a panel discussion on the roles of a wife and mother in the home, ministry to women in the church and biblically permissible roles of women in the church, Karen Yarnell encouraged ministry in the home as a wife serves as a helper to her husband and nurtures her own children.

The wife of a Southwestern Seminary professor, Yarnell encouraged women to recognize the various seasons in life as they determine how best to serve beyond their family.
“When the children are older you’re released to do more ministry outside the home,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be unique to how God wants to glorify himself in you and in your marriage.”

Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs, said, “Biblical womanhood is not a box I take off the shelf to apply.” Instead, she advised women’s ministry leaders to start with theological truth out of which practical application will flow. “Instead of trying to fit women into boxes, teach them the biblical principles,” she said, describing the process of discipleship. “We are taking the Word of God and moving it from the head to the heart.”

Other speakers dealt with the biblical foundations for gender roles as defined in Genesis, the rejection through homosexuality of the complementary natures of sex, gender, marriage and the Christ/Church relationship, and the debate over gender roles within the Southern Baptist Convention. Audio files are available at swbts.edu/CBMWaudio/.

In his closing message on the future of the gender debate, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson paid tribute to his own parents for teaching and modeling biblical truth in their home.

“Because I could observe how closely my mother and father walked with God,” Patterson said, “because they knew God, sought his love and submitted to his ways and purposes, I grew up to understand what other adults in any setting could never have successfully communicated to me.”

While appreciative of the influence of the local church, Patterson said the teaching of spiritual disciplines is the responsibility of parents.

“They are God’s chosen prophets to inculcate the knowledge of God’s person, purposes and ways of life for the child. Failure to do so, in most cases, shortchanges the child for life, and maybe for eternity.”