Month: June 2012

150 evangelicals, left and right, call for comprehensive immigration reform

WASHINGTON—Southern Baptist leaders, including two current Texans, have joined in the strongest effort to date by evangelical Christians to bring about comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Richard Land, head of the SBC’s ethics entity, were among more than 20 Southern Baptist denominational leaders, academics and pastors who endorsed an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.” The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a new coalition, released the statement signed by 150 evangelicals at a Capitol Hill news conference on June 12.

Signers also included Daniel Sanchez, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston.

In the statement, the signers call for government leaders to work with the American people for a “bipartisan solution” on the controversial issue that:

  • “Respects the God-given dignity of every person;
  • “Protects the unity of the immediate family;
  • “Respects the rule of law;
  • “Guarantees secure national borders;
  • “Ensures fairness to taxpayers;
  • “Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”

The signers acknowledge efforts to repair what many of them describe as a broken system that has resulted in polarization and a misrepresentation of “each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.”

While Land and other leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table have been promoting comprehensive reform for several years, the statement marks a significant expansion of evangelical endorsers in a cooperative effort. Notably, Focus on the Family took a stance on the issue for the first time when its president, Jim Daly, signed the statement. The coalition includes evangelicals from both the left and right.

The EIT “is diverse in its formation, but it is unified in its biblically mandated vision to help create a better life for immigrants” based on its stated principles, Land said at the news conference. Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Sojourners President Jim Wallis, known for his left-leaning politics, pointed to the agreement between his organization and more conservative groups such as the SBC, Focus on the Family and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Wallis told reporters. “An effort for immigration reform of this size and this diverse has never been attempted in the evangelical community.”

It appears there will be no attempt to move immigration reform in Congress this year. The political will does not seem to exist at either the White House or Capitol to pursue action on such a controversial issue before the November election. Yet, EIT members said it is time to promote reform.

“There may not be a vote on immigration reform in the Congress before November, but there are going to be a lot of votes in November,” NAE President Leith Anderson said at the news conference.

The positions of incumbents and challengers on immigration reform could impact the election, Land pointed out. He cited a Pew Forum survey that showed 70 percent of Americans said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backs comprehensive reform.

“That tells me that it’s time for the politicians to understand that the country has changed on this issue, and they believe it’s well past time for the government to get its act together and to pass immigration reform that is in line with these principles,” Land said. “And we as evangelicals are here to say to both parties, ‘Get with it.’

“We are absolutely convinced that the country is ahead of its elected leaders on this issue—in both parties,” he said.

The pastor of a Southern Baptist church told reporters that immigration reform is “an urgent moral issue” for pastors and churches. About 30 percent of the congregation of Champion Forest Baptist Church, on the northwest side of Houston, is Hispanic, said senior pastor David Fleming.

“In churches across America, we deal with the challenges and the failures of our current immigration policy on a regular basis,” Fleming said. “The people most affected by the current policy are not anonymous to us. We know their names and their faces, their hopes and dreams, their gifts and their skills. We recognize their inherent value and their great potential as human beings.”

Sometimes, it is impossible to help those in the church who are caught in an immigration system that does not account for changes in their circumstances, Fleming said.

The EIT’s statement does not propose precise policies, and one speaker at the news conference acknowledged, “Much, much work remains to be done on the specifics.”

Tom Minnery, a senior vice president for Focus on the Family, said, “As difficult as it was getting all these signers together, the next step—getting politicians together—is a much greater task.”

The EIT heads—which include Land, Anderson, Wallis and six others—met with White House officials and congressional members June 12 and 13. It also is sponsoring radio ads in Colorado and Florida.
The June 12 news conference capped more than a year of preparation.

In addition to Wright, Land and Fleming, the Southern Baptists signing the EIT statement included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; former SBC President James Merritt; Durham, N.C., pastor J.D. Greear; Robin Hadaway, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Daniel Sanchez, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The statement and the signers may be accessed online at

Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials secure the borders, and with secure borders, establish “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

Land has consistently called for comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship that would consist of such requirements as paying fines, undergoing a criminal background check, learning English, pledging allegiance to the American government, accepting a probationary period and going to the back of the line behind those seeking to enter the country legally.

Church reaches Lamar students through SBTC intern program

VIDOR—When it comes to college ministry, the SBTC has broken the traditional campus-based mold, opting instead to base its efforts in local churches that are strategically positioned near college and university campuses.

A key part of the strategy is an internship program that helps place college ministers in churches, paying a portion of their salaries for up to one year and providing them with resources and training. Last year, First Baptist Church in Vidor hired Tony Romero as director of collegiate ministry through this program. And the internship yielded eternal dividends.

Already a member of the congregation, Romero traveled to Grapevine for an initial one-day training session then began a revitalization of the church’s ministry to students at nearby Lamar University in Beaumont. Over the year of his internship, First Baptist’s college ministry increased from eight to 30 students, with marked spiritual growth alongside the numerical increase.

Though campus-based college ministries can be helpful, “the SBTC is committed to helping places like First Baptist Vidor be the spiritual presence on the college campus,” Romero, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Havard School of Theological Studies in Houston, told the TEXAN. “… They want to see churches take it upon themselves to reach college students.”

The internship program began nine years ago and funds work at around five churches each year. In addition to providing interns with initial training, the SBTC provides ongoing ministry help throughout the program and holds interns accountable through regular progress reports.

“Tony has a heartbeat for [college ministry] and God is using him at Lamar to begin to do some things,” Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministries associate, said.

As director of collegiate ministries, Romero helped students engage Scripture by breaking them into small discussion groups during Bible studies. He also changed the format of prayer times, putting students in groups of two or three and having them pray for one another in personal, focused ways.

During the academic year, he visited the Lamar campus two days per week to promote upcoming activities and meet with students who attended Wednesday night Bible study. His evangelistic ministry utilized cards with pictures to help start conversations and encourage lost people to express their feelings about spiritual matters.

“A core group of students developed,” Romero said. “Now they know how to engage the [biblical] text. They know how to feed themselves from the Word, and they’re jumping at the bit, I believe, to be engaged in ministry 24/7.”

As the ministry grew, Romero realized that some students attending Bible studies might not be Christians. So he began a series of evangelistic lessons on the seven miraculous signs that Jesus performed in the Gospel of John. During each lesson, he asked the students what the passage taught about their needs and what it taught about Jesus.

A student named Matt attended every week and told Romero he wanted to believe in Jesus but couldn’t bring himself to step out in faith. Finally, after a lesson from 1 Peter about Christ’s death for sinners, Matt asked to talk with Romero. He confessed his fear that coming to Christ would require him to solve all of life’s most difficult problems on his own.

Romero told him, “I’m committed … to making sure that you never feel alone. And if there are any questions you have about what to do now, you can come to us. We’re committed to making sure that you understand where we’re going.”

At that, Matt said he was ready to move forward and committed his life to Jesus.

Romero said the SBTC helped make such ministry possible by sending him to seminars, helping him train other leaders, holding him accountable and allowing him to participate in webinars featuring respected college ministry experts.

“They’re not dedicated solely to the minister. They’re dedicated to the complete ministry,” he said of the convention.

In the end, the internship was so successful that First Baptist decided to keep Romero on staff and increase his salary after the SBTC stopped contributing to it.

“Because of the success of the ministry, the church is going to get behind this thing and own it,” Romero said.

For more information on the SBTC’s college minister intern program, email or contact Lance Crowell in the SBTC offices toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC).

Trustees reprimand Land, halt radio program over comments

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Two reprimands have been issued to Richard Land by the trustee executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The ERLC trustee executive committee also is terminating Land's weekly call-in radio show—the venue where Land made comments about the Trayvon Martin killing that ignited intense controversy, prompting the formation of a trustee ad hoc investigative committee.

The ERLC, led by Land since 1988, must “redouble our efforts … to heal re-opened wounds,” the executive committee said of Land's on-air comments about the intrusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case and his references to President Obama and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by name.

At the outset of its reprimands and broadcast termination, the trustee committee stated that Land's statements “were very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and to many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists. Damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The two reprimands of Land by the ERLC trustee executive committee state:

“We reprimand Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It was appropriate for Dr. Land to issue the apology he made on May 9, 2012 and we are pleased he did so. We also convey our own deepest sympathies to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss they have suffered. We, too, express our sorrow, regret, and apologies to them for Dr. Land's remarks. We are particularly disappointed in Dr. Land's words because they do not accurately reflect the body of his work over a long career at the ERLC toward racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and American life. We must now redouble our efforts to regain lost ground, to heal re-opened wounds, and to realize the dream of a Southern Baptist Convention that is just as diverse as the population of our great Nation.

“We further reprimand Dr. Land for quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry, and we acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment. We examined Dr. Land's written work during the investigation, and we found no instances of plagiarism in any of Dr. Land's written work. As a Christian, a minister of the Gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard. We expect all future work of the ERLC to be above reproach in that regard,” the trustee executive committee said regarding plagiarism allegations against Land over material he failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.

Regarding the call-in radio show, the ERLC trustee executive committee stated:

“… we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program. We hereby announce that the Richard Land Live! radio program will end as soon as possible within the bounds of our contracts with the Salem Radio Network.”

Land, in a statement issued to Baptist Press after the release of the reprimands and broadcast termination, stated:

“I have said on numerous occasions that I believe in trustee oversight and governance. I am under the authority of the trustees elected by the Southern Baptist Convention. This whole process was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen.

“I look forward to working with them and their fellow trustees and the ERLC staff as we seek to continue to minister the Gospel of our Savior across our great land,” Land said.

In his May 9 statement, Land apologized “for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The five-part, two-page apology followed a May 2 meeting when Land met with 11 other SBC leaders, including several prominent African American pastors. As a result of the meeting, which lasted nearly five hours, Land said, “I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.”

For the Baptist Press story on Land's May 9 apology, which includes the full text of the apology, go to

Among those in attendance May 9 were Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; James Dixon Jr., president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.; and K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa.

The ERLC trustee executive committee that issued the reprimands and broadcast termination is led by Richard D. Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark. Piles, on May 21, replaced Steve Faith as ERLC trustee chairman after Faith, a retired pastor and director of missions from New Albany, Ind., resigned citing a need to assist his local church that is currently without a pastor.

In addition to Piles, other members of the ERLC executive committee are Donald L. Mason, a Georgia layman; Stephen W. Long, a director of missions in Ohio; Christopher L. Slaughter, a West Virginia layman; and Stephen G. Veteto, a Colorado seminary educator. The committee includes the ERLC trustee officers and the chairmen of the trustees' three subcommittees.

On May 9, Faith followed Land's apology with a statement that the ad hoc investigative committee was working “with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC Executive Committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC Executive Committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.

“It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the Convention,” Faith said. “The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the Convention and to the watching world.”

Additional Baptist Press reports on the controversy over Land's comments can be accessed at;; and

Revival at Hermleigh church began with kids

A year ago, Central Baptist Church in Hermleigh—100 miles southeast of Lubbock—no longer needed all 144 seats in their auditorium. Only a dozen or so faithful members were coming each Sunday, so a third of the space had been taken over for storage.

Then a steady stream of children and teenagers began accepting invitations from friends to attend a discipleship program on Wednesday nights, and their parents took notice. Young adults who had given up on church began returning and inviting other families.

With 20 baptisms since Thanksgiving and a crowd that surpassed 130 in late May, now the congregation needs every available seat.

“Our church is experiencing revival,” said Pastor T.J. Harkness. “Every single day I get a phone call of a new story of God working with these young adults.”

“We were such a small church, but we are growing so rapidly,” shared Alan Celoria, a retired music evangelist who works with the youth along with his wife, Jan. They were used to teaching a few teenagers in Sunday School. Now there are over 25 attending on Sunday mornings and around 50 on Wednesday nights.

“All of a sudden, God is doing big things in a small place,” he told the TEXAN.

In the remote West Texas town of around 400 people, Harkness set forth a big challenge, Celoria recounted. “God gave him a vision that we were going to see the church packed.”

Church members were enlisted to help with a growing youth ministry and provide transportation home for those who visited. Couples took turns cooking breakfast for students on Sunday morning.

“The approach was to do everything we possibly could to bring these kids in no matter what their motivation so that we could feed them the Word of God,” Harkness said.

Avenue D Baptist Church in Snyder offered the Hermleigh church a 15-passenger bus to transport more children and youth. Young adults began visiting the church as they saw changing habits of their children.

“They started going on Wednesdays and then on Sunday mornings and started asking if we’d go,” recalled Beatrice Thompson.

“Some kids you have to force to go to church, but I started noticing they’d want to get up and go on Sunday mornings,” she added.

“They would come home and tell us what they learned and then we were learning from it,” Beatrice said. That caught her by surprise. “I told my husband we ought to go and check it out.” Once they went, they were hooked, she recalled. “You can tell that they care about God by the way they treat you.”

As an interracial couple, the Thompsons felt uncomfortable with the reception they received while visiting other churches. “Here they don’t look at you that way,” she stated. “They see you as a person. That’s when you know these are people who are really into God.”

The pastor welcomed Rodney and Beatrice when they walked forward at a worship service to ask how to join the church and in the process realized they first needed salvation.

Celoria recalled how the Thompsons’ children began noticing a difference in their parents following their decisions to follow Christ. “Their three older children came to us and said something has happened to our family and we want that too.”

After the 11-year-old publicly professed her faith in Christ, two siblings followed and Beatrice quizzed them to make sure their decisions were sincere. “Pastor T.J. had a real good sermon on things that made sense to them and I could tell they were paying attention. They felt it in their hearts and I knew it was the real thing,” she added.

“The next Sunday we all got baptized—the whole family,” Beatrice shared, “except my baby,” she said, referring to their 3-year-old. “Her time will come.”

Thirteen-year-old Tommy Haynes showed such enthusiasm for the Team Kids program that it made his mother curious. “He had never been a church-goer and so I was really shocked,” shared Misty Haynes. “I said, ‘Tommy, if you love it so much, I might give it a try.’”

Through the invitation of their friends, Tommy and his brothers began attending and soon their mother followed. “I just absolutely loved it the first time. I felt so welcome and so at home.”

When the pastor stopped by their home to talk with Tommy and his brother Dylan about their decision to become Christians, Misty began asking questions to gain assurance of her own salvation years earlier.

“In talking to her,” Harkness said, “Toby realized he hadn’t made a decision at all so I explained the gospel to both of them.”

“I had no clue that my husband didn’t feel he was baptized for the right reason when he was younger,” Misty said. “He was ready to take his own step and do it for the right reason,” she added, recalling her husband’s profession of faith that night in their home. Haynes and the two sons were baptized April 29.

“What’s been going on in that church has been really amazing,” shared Michael Hildebrand. He and his wife, Tiffany, left a few years ago. “Some things happened that I didn’t agree with at the time. I didn’t trust God that his work was going on, but we were drawn back to the church by listening to what God was telling us,” he said.

Now he sees that the seeds for growth had been sown for years. “The youth group is growing outrageously and we’re getting more and more adults. They’re being drawn in by the kids,” he explained.

More than 150 people attended the May 26 service followed by lunch at the community center to share elements of Bible drill, Scripture memory and character study taught throughout the year on Wednesday nights. Half of the parents of the teenagers had never attended the church.

“We’re reaching people,” Celoria said. “The Word of God is taking hold so that when they share with their parents what’s going on in their lives, the parents come out of curiosity as the Holy Spirit draws them.” Celoria said. “Men are being saved and baptized. Entire families are getting reunited. It’s amazing.”

Long-time members have made good on their promise to follow the direction Harkness believes God is leading, he added, embracing an appeal to repair and renovate church facilities.

“They started seeing the growth with a younger generation of youth starving for God’s Word and their parents following and being baptized and put to work almost immediately,” Harkness said.

In fewer than 45 days, over $30,000 was given to more than cover the cost of materials and labor on the to-do list compiled by a church committee. “It’s just absolutely amazing to see this, especially as a young pastor serving in my first church,” Harkness said. “I’m absolutely humbled God chose me to be a part of this growth.”

He remembers the lessons he learned in patiently waiting on God while attending Jacksonville College, confident that God would bless his ministry even when that took him to a small, rural church with only a few dozen members when he arrived.

Even after the special service in May that attracted a record-breaking crowd, attendance held steady the next week with 96 people in worship and 76 in Sunday School.

Talking recently with her husband about the change in their lives, Beatrice Thompson said, “I can’t believe we’ve lived this long not knowing how good life is with God in your life, knowing you’re doing work now that is so much different, so much more. We didn’t realize how good it feels.”

From homeless addict to theology student

DALLAS—One night six years ago, somewhere between Fort Worth and Dallas, Hal Benard Carouthers was hunkered down on all fours in the dirt behind orange barricade barrels and heavy equipment at a freeway road construction site, praying to God for a rescue. The dizzying blur of cars and trucks sped past, each emitting a loud “whoosh” and a blast of night air.

Still revving from a cocaine binge and unable to come down, he was insane, he recalled. He’s convinced of it. Inanimate objects were doing strange things back in Fort Worth, before he’d started his trek down the side of the freeway toward Dallas. The television was talking back to him.

He had tried to get sober by drinking himself down.

“But God wouldn’t let me fall asleep,” Carouthers said.

Somewhere along the asphalt, he broke, waving the white flag to the God who had been reminding him of a commitment he’d made as a teenager.

He’s been sober ever since that night.

He has the peace that comes with assurance, and is working out his salvation with gratitude, humility and submission.

Add to that a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Criswell College. He walked last month, and plans to enter a master’s degree program there this fall.

That night on the freeway is sketchy in his mind. With the kindness of strangers at the Fort Worth bus station—he doesn’t know how he got there—he ended up in Dallas at a shelter, then at Parkland Hospital, then to the familiar confines of the Union Gospel Mission.

Weeks went by with no relapses. Weeks turned to months. Carouthers was again attending the Bible studies he had attended before at places like Union Gospel and Dallas Life Foundation, where he participated in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He began to own the faith he had embraced as a teenager, that moment at age 16 when he said the gospel sunk in and he said yes to Jesus.

“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” Carouthers recounted from that moment in the early 1970s. But that joy would later give way to drugs and alcohol, times of sensing the pull of God, and then relapses into addiction. He enlisted in the Army at age 17, also serving stints in the Navy and Air Force. He would bounce between the civilian world and the military; his time as a civilian was wrought with missteps—a mixture of good paying jobs (he graduated from several trade schools) and then months of addiction and homelessness.


Bill Thompson, director of the Union Gospel Mission, and Bobby Worthington, then the director of the AA and NA programs at Dallas Life Foundation, knew Carouthers. He’d been around, but this time was different.   

“Hal came to Dallas Life twice, I think, in the 90s and then later. He was in our Christ-centered 12-step program. He was there recovering from that and you know, the Lord did a work in his life,” Worthington recalled.

“The thing to remember,” Worthington added, “is that God can move in the hearts of the homeless and they be saved.” Sometimes, the changes are radical.

Darren Larkins, who was converted at Dallas Life’s inner-city chapel, is in the master’s program at Criswell also.

“You don’t get to see that all the time but God does allow you to see it some of the time,” Worthington said.

Years ago as a Criswell College student himself, God placed the homeless of east Dallas on Worthington’s heart, he said. Now an adjunct professor of evangelism at the school and director of its urban missions and encounter missions programs, Worthington continues to see the homeless as a mission field.

Worthington keeps in touch with Carouthers, encouraged him to enter the master’s program in the fall and is scheduled to serve on Carouthers’ ordination council this summer.

“As a professor you are mentoring students in the classroom and outside of the classroom, and you get these rewards,” Worthington said. “To see him go through the struggles and the change that God has brought in his life, it just means a lot to me. It means a lot to me to be able to go to his ordination service. That’s just the spirit of God working in his life.”

The decision to go to Criswell was slow coming.

“One of the chaplains told me, ‘You need to get started on what God has for you to do because you may not be able to even finish it.’ Dr. Bill Thompson told me, ‘You are getting older and you will want to be able to minister effectively.’”

Thompson was the one who pushed for Carouthers to enter Criswell College. Once there, Carothers was pleasantly surprised, he said, to see a familiar face in Worthington teaching there.

“I was going to serve God no matter what,” Carouthers said. “Criswell had been burning in my mind and for the first time in my life I knew that was where God would have me be. Dr. Worthington encouraged me and made himself available to me, as did several other of the professors.”

Mentors such as Worthington, James Bryant, Daniel Streett and David Brooks challenged him, cheered him on, made sure he had what he needed.

“How you doin’, Hal?” Brooks would ask. “You need anything?”

“Hanging in there,” he’d respond.

“Well, you are hanging well,” Brooks would quip.

“Those professors kept me going,” Carouthers recounted.

It was during Streett’s Greek classes—taught by a language immersion method—that Carouthers recalled hitting an academic wall. Streett and Brooks have Ivy League degrees. Carouthers, with some community college under his belt, was feeling overwhelmed, he said.

“I realized the Holy Spirit was developing my inner man to do those things that he would have me to do. When things got difficult in Greek, for instance, and I got to a point where it was really heavy on me and I felt like I couldn’t go any further, I knew to lean on the Holy Spirit and not on me. I was obedient to continue studying until I found myself making really good grades because I kept my mind on Christ and not on what I could do. I give credit to the Holy Spirit.”

Through it all, Carouthers was being immersed in Scripture and the way of Christ. Two years ago he began teaching a men’s Sunday School class at the Bible church that meets at Union Gospel. Carouthers has also preached there.

With 140 additional beds planned at the mission, Carouthers is hoping to be added as a paid chaplain. In the meantime, he will continue his theological education at Criswell.

Carouthers eventually wishes to pastor a church, he said.

“It’s because of God that I graduated, and he did that for his purposes and his kingdom. And I don’t think he’s through. I have high expectations of being used. But if he didn’t do anything else for me, I’m happy and content.”

Hope to see you in New Orleans

Fats Domino sang the blues in his song “I’m Walking to New Orleans.” I’m glad I don’t have to walk to New Orleans, but I’m happy to be going this month. The Southern Baptist Convention gives me an excuse to visit one of my favorite cities. The food is incredible, especially the seafood. The people are warm and friendly. The Saints football team may have a little scandal going on, but they have been my favorite professional team even when they did not look like a pro team. New Orleans Seminary is where I received my master’s degree. The seminary is also where I forged some lifelong friendships. I love New Orleans.

This year holds a special treat. Fred Luter will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Fred is a faithful pastor. He refused to give up when Katrina scattered his flock. His passion for souls is unsurpassed. Fred has served the Southern Baptist Convention through the years. He is a powerful preacher. We’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak at some of our SBTC conferences through the years. All of these qualifiers make him a worthy nominee. What makes his probable election more significant is that he will be the first African American to serve as president. Inclusiveness is more than a word. It is a character trait that is seen through actions. Fred has my vote. He probably will not need it. He should be elected by acclamation.

Something makes every convention special to me. I am encouraged by the fellowship of likeminded believers. I find strength from others who share a common passion for the gospel. By working together we have the potential to embrace the unengaged at the ends of the earth. We have a window to make a difference. We need each other to make it happen.

There don’t appear to be many controversial issues on the docket this year. A convention name change is being presented in a less impacting way. The proposal calls for a descriptor to be used rather than a legal name change. If the motion is approved, SBC entities as well as others can refer to themselves as “Great Commission Baptists.” Of course churches have the right to do whatever they wish. All the Baptist churches I know exercise that right regularly.

Resolutions usually generate more heat than light. They do give us a snapshot of what the messengers think on crucial issues. Religious liberty is being threatened. We need to voice our concerns so we can continue with the freedom to embrace the unengaged. Maybe there will be a strong statement about our rejection of governmental intrusion on religious liberty.

There will be good preaching at the Pastors’ Conference. Texan Josh Smith will bring the Word. Nathan Lino, another Texan, will be nominated for first vice president of the SBC. There will be other participants from the Lone Star State. I encourage you to go if you can. Our SBC family is important.
I hope to see you in New Orleans. Drago’s oysters are almost worth the trip.

A never ending story, at least so far

A panel sponsored by the Baptist 21 Network during our annual SBC meeting in New Orleans will feature a discussion on the Conservative Resurgence. The Resurgence was of course the effort between 1979 and 1995 to return our convention’s institutions to a commitment of biblical fidelity. That one sentence sums up one of the most incredible events in church history since the Protestant Reformation. Danny Akin, a classmate of mine at Criswell College and Southwestern Seminary, now serves as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and will be a participant on the panel. I listened to Dr. Akin’s short teaser video in which he refers to the condition of Southwestern when we both attended classes there around 1980. The reminder brings back memories of things most Southern Baptists would not believe. Danny and I attended classes under men who did not believe the Bible to be infallible or inerrant, we heard theologians and ethicists who could not affirm the uniqueness of mankind or the sanctity of human life—and Southwestern was one of the three most conservative of our six seminaries in that day. Things were absolutely and verifiably worse at three of our schools.

The miracle that panelists including R. Albert Mohler, Paige Patterson, Akin, and David Platt will be discussing is that a large, bureaucratically bound denomination could and did make a U-turn where so many other denominations split instead. It was a work of God and a blessing to the world that it happened. It’s still happening, actually.

Even late in the Resurgence timeline, the 1990s, a lot of resistance arose from state conventions. As the deliberations of our corporate body became more local, reform became more difficult. It makes sense. Reforming the 10 or so least conservative state conventions would be more than 10 times as difficult as reforming one national body. In those conventions, as in the SBC, educational institutions were often the flash point between more and less conservative people. And, as in the SBC only more so, the relationships between those denominational employees who had strayed and their longtime friends made difficult decisions nearly impossible.

Time passed, though. The seminaries that were largely responsible for the biggest problems in our state conventions began to have a different kind of influence. Bible-believing pastors began to shore up churches that weren’t sure what they were doctrinally. State leaders who mourned the relationships and influence they lost during the Resurgence began to retire; they have been often replaced by convictional inerrantists. And a thing we could never have imagined began to occur. Some of our Baptist colleges began the long journey home. Twenty years ago, I don’t remember anyone predicting that this was possible.

Incredible transitions have taken place at Louisiana College and at both Shorter College and Truett-McConnell in Georgia. More conservative colleges like Oklahoma Baptist, Houston Baptist, and Union University have found increased support for the direction they were already taking. Transformed denominational bodies bear like fruit among their entities. In some cases the theological accountability of a state convention has moved colleges to shield themselves from oversight. Mercer in Georgia and Belmont in Tennessee are two examples of this trend. Rather than risk becoming accountable to the churches that built, funded and otherwise supported them from the start, these schools went rogue and heterodox.

I remember when Southern, Southeastern and Midwestern Baptist Theological seminaries elected conservative presidents. Some faculty members resigned in protest, a few tried to hide behind tenure or word games to continue teaching but those institutions did come around. Those notable state Baptist colleges that have held to or returned to their heritage are a second-generation affirmation of the Resurgence and worth celebrating. They face some challenges though.

Money is a challenge. College education is shockingly expensive these days. Baptist schools are competing with all manner of educational institutions during a time when churches and state conventions are themselves struggling financially. The only possible reason for the continuation or support of Baptist Christian education is if it remains distinctly Christian. Becoming more like the non-Christian or formerly Christian academy (institutions that often make people worse) only argues against the need for the school that follows this path.

Transition is a challenge. At our seminaries that had the most tumultuous transition, the former leaders claimed (hopefully, I think) that credible scholars would not be available to replace the teachers that resigned or were forced out. For the short term, the seminaries struggled to find the right people, although now a generation of homegrown scholars has arisen to fill the positions. Scores of faculty have resigned in protest over the revival of our Baptist colleges. The colleges face the same struggle to fill key slots but have the advantage of seminaries that are already producing professors in some the most important disciplines.

Accountability is a challenge. One claim that those who cannot affirm either the doctrinal or morality statements of their Baptist university employers is that the board is changing the rules under which they were hired and have worked for years. In a sense this is true. How incredible it is when an employee who has admitted sexual misconduct for years is surprised to find that his Baptist school considers it a deal killer. That is the case at one Baptist school and we should be ashamed. The same can be said of professors who for years taught error regarding our faith. Some state conventions put up with it in the past and some still do. Reforming a college, or seminary, is not a one-time thing; it is an ongoing commitment. We will have this kind of destructive denominational cataclysm every generation or two or we will do the right thing regarding our institutions year by year.

Outrageous criticism is not a challenge. Websites like “save our [your school name here]” pop up whenever conservatives start to wake up around the country. They claim the buildings will fall down and that the physics department will teach that the Earth is flat. Blah, blah, blah, world without end. We lived through the same predictions in the 1990s about conservatives being anti-intellectual and by definition stupid. It’s so over the top that no one changes his mind because a former employee doesn’t like the new boss. They sue and nearly always lose. They discourage only donors and prospective students who already agree with their perspective.

We should cheer on our Baptist colleges in places and cases where they support the work and message of their constituent churches. Academic freedom, the imaginary right to teach whatever you prefer, is to a Christian secondary to the revealed Word of God that our churches preach each week. Schools that get that are a treasure and we should encourage them as we can. The return of a school to biblical fidelity is nothing less than the affirmation of the churches that built it and the Lord those churches serve. Genuinely Christian colleges swim upstream against an academic current that overwhelmingly teaches a pagan theology, however much materialists deny teaching any sort of theology.

These follow-on victories have another thing in common with our Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence. The victory occurs when the institution repents. The SBC did the right thing, started down the right path, in 1979, even though it was nearly a decade later that it bore fruit in our institutions. If the Resurgence had failed, it would have still been the right thing to try. We have no guarantee that our newly or continually biblical Baptist colleges will overcome the challenges common to educational and denominational entities in our day. If one goes under, it is only a failure in our sight. The effort was nonetheless grand and righteous. Our call is to faithfulness rather than apparent success. The struggle to keep the entities our churches cooperatively support faithful is never ending. The details of the struggle may change but we are obligated to diligent oversight of the parachurch structure we build.

A bit of clarity

This is no silver lining but when the U.S. House of Representatives failed to ban sex-selection abortions in late May the issue of abortion in America became clearer. Democrats and Republicans voted on both sides of the bill that would make it illegal to “knowingly perform an abortion based on the sex of the child.” Knowledgeable observers say neither the Senate nor the president would have approved the measure if the House had.

Now we know this is not about women. Sex-selection abortions are done to prevent the birth of girl children much more often than to prevent the birth of boys.

Now we know that the “safe, legal, and rare” rubbish is simply that. Planned Parenthood, the enemy of life and now of women in America, “condemns any coercive reproductive policies.” That means any law that protects unborn life of any sort for any reason, any law that informs mothers of the stage of their baby’s life, any law that protects underage girls from ignorance and manipulation by a greedy industry, and any law that prevents cruel and bloody murder of an already viable child in the birth canal, is condemned by this “women’s health” company.

Now we know that the lives of some people in America are merely hypothetical and political to some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Now we know.