Month: July 2012

Seminary buys Chick-fil-A sandwiches to show support

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demonstrated its support of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy and the biblical definition of marriage by purchasing chicken sandwiches for students, faculty and staff, Aug. 1. The seminary set up a tent outside the restaurant located on the corner of Altamesa and McCart in Fort Worth and handed out 250 sandwiches at lunchtime.

“We feel it’s important to stand with Mr. Cathy and his first amendment right and his freedom of religion to express whatever views he believes,” said Thomas White, vice president of student services and communications at Southwestern. “We also believe it’s fine for protestors to come. We welcome them, treat them with kindness and love them even though we disagree with them.”

In light of harsh criticism and calls for boycotts of the company after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy recently claimed to stand for the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman, Former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched a nationwide initiative urging people to visit the fast food chain’s restaurants on Aug. 1 for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” Huckabee, who was honored as a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in June, created the website ISupportChickFilA.com, where people could “RSVP” that they intended to participate. As of the morning of Aug. 1, more than 600,000 people had responded that they were going.

“We’re also out here today to show our support for the biblical definition of marriage,” White said. “We want to make sure we put our money where our mouth is. We’re not out here with protest signs, but we’re out here with our pocketbooks. We’re not just supporting Chick-fil-A today, but also on Sept. 6 at our all-campus picnic, when we’ll purchase 3,500 Chick-fil-A sandwiches to give out to students, faculty, and their families.”

Southwestern ethics professor Evan Lenow noted that the seminary’s purchasing of sandwiches shows “tangible support” of the company and its president’s beliefs. He also clarified what Christians mean by the phrases “traditional marriage” and the “biblical definition of marriage.”

“For the most part, when people say ‘traditional marriage,’ they mean a biblical understanding of marriage—marriage between one man and one woman for life,” Lenow said.

“What it points back to is Genesis 2:24. That is how God created us from the beginning, and that is His intent for marriage. It’s not a tradition like your Thanksgiving dinner with family. It’s something that goes farther back all the way to God’s created order.”

Lenow encouraged Christians not only to support Chick-fil-A for one day but to make it a regular habit to support and encourage businesses that stand on biblical values with your words and money.

Southwestern Seminary, which is an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the largest seminaries in the world with more than 3,500 students, faculty and staff. The seminary affirms the biblical definition of marriage and is in full agreement with the Southern Baptist statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which says in its article on the family: “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

—Article written by Keith Collier, Southwestern Seminary

SBTC DR aids New Mexicans in fire disaster

RUIDOSO, N.M.—Texas Southern Baptists poured their hearts into the work of helping New Mexicans recover from a wildfire that raced across the state after a lightning strike in early June, deploying 44 volunteers over the course of a month and sharing their faith along the way.

As the Little Bear Fire escalated, it burned over 69 square miles, destroyed 242 homes, and cost an estimated $19 million to fight. Despite the disastrous result, several residents are experiencing new life in Christ amid the aftermath of clean-up and recovery.

After evacuation orders were issued in early June for area residents, New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief (NMBDR) teams responded first, establishing a feeding operation at Ruidoso High School and incident command at First Baptist Church of Ruidoso. They deployed a mobile communications trailer along with much-needed chaplains to console distraught residents.

After more than 150 jobs were registered with NMBDR, incident commander Ed Greene directed Southern Baptist volunteers from five states, tackling over 100 of those while Samaritan’s Purse volunteers dealt with the remaining third. SBTC provided the largest number of out-of-state volunteers.

Work will likely end in early August, although some volunteers will return to remove the dumpsters that were delayed.

“The biggest bottleneck in operations has been the inability to get dumpsters to a dump near Alamogordo,” Greene said, describing a round trip of about 150 miles. “We will continue to deploy crews with skid steers to clean up selected sites and fill the dumpsters.”

Most local residents were amazed at the kindness of strangers ministering to them over the course of a hot summer. After the devastating loss of his home, one man struggled with this new challenge by moving into an RV trailer on his charred property.

“He was very touched by the fact that people would come from so far away to help him and have no idea who he was,” recalled Suzy Scott, an experienced SBTC DR volunteer from Westside Baptist in Atlanta, Texas who drove 700 miles to reach the site. “We just told him it was because of the Lord that we were there.”

Westside member Kris Butler recalled meeting a young family that lost their home. “They were really moved emotionally and not even sure if they would rebuild.” The father went around to all of the Texans, taking down their names so he would remember them.

SBTC volunteers were eager to return the favor of serving after Southern Baptist DR volunteers from 11 state conventions deployed last year to Texas following the Bastrop area wildfires, providing 16,192 meals and cleaning up 415 sites. “It is our opportunity and privilege to share with our fellow state conventions in disaster relief ministry,” stated Jim Richardson, the SBTC’s DR director.

“We have the opportunity to assist our neighbors during their time of need as they come to our assistance when we have a need.”

The practical ministries of providing meals, showers, laundry and childcare ease the shock of wildfire devastation while the dirty job of clearing burned-out areas to facilitate rebuilding offers a ray of hope.

In the first two weeks of deployment, trained SBTC DR chaplains counseled 108 residents. At a time when emotions are raw, recipients of relief efforts often engage volunteers in spiritual conversations, allowing them to share the only real source of eternal hope.

A massive disaster like the 2011 Texas wildfires provided circumstances that led to 633 spiritually based encounters, 256 presentations of the gospel message, and 79 Texans professing faith in Jesus Christ. Local SBTC churches provided further ministry by following up on new converts and offering discipleship.

After the initial assessment of needs and provision of meals to evacuees of the Little Bear fire north of Ruidoso, the next phase of clean-up began in early July. Former Texan Alan Stoddard pastors First Baptist Church of Ruidoso, which served as the base of operations for volunteers from New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Baptist New Mexican Editor John Loudat reported that the multi-state relief effort had focused on destroyed home sites. Baptist Convention of New Mexico Executive Director Joe Bunce toured the area in mid-July, reporting that five people had professed faith in Jesus Christ in those first few weeks of ministry.

“We are grateful that you have been led and used by our Lord during our time of need,” shared Don and Pauline Romero in a note addressed to BCNM’s DR staff. “You have helped countless individuals to make this crisis somewhat more bearable,” he added. “The food and kind words of encouragement have not gone unnoticed. Bless you for being a blessing.”

Monte Furrh from Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham can’t even remember how many times he’s deployed on disaster relief efforts since his first trip to help days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. “Once you get to seeing it and the rewards of serving you’ve got to help.”

He remembers how the flames swirled and spun between the hills when he deployed to the Fort Davis area of far West Texas in April 2011. “The fire spread a hundred yards per second,” he recalled, hearing similar accounts of the rapid movement of the Little Bear Fire.

SBTC DR chaplain Sherry McDugle of Bois D’Arc Baptist in Palestine wept as she told of her new friendship with a policewoman struggling with not only the recent natural disaster but also the kind of human catastrophes in the lives of people she deals with through her work.

Encouraging the woman to put her faith in Jesus Christ, McDugle offered a green pine cone she had found to describe the new life available in Christ in sharing her own testimony. “We all got in a circle with her and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ as we held hands last night,” she said. After giving the woman a Bible inscribed with the names of Texas volunteers, they thanked God for the opportunity to “plant a seed in her life.”

“He’s just got to let it grow.”

A retired pilot took his loss in stride, standing near the ashes of his over 4,000-square foot house that took a year and a half to build and only three hours to burn. “You need to wake up at 4:30 after a fire and see the beautiful universe out there and realize how miniscule this is,” he said.

“There’s always a blessing in store and I believe the Lord has got a good plan for us. It’s already happening,” added the long-time Southern Baptist who moved to the area seven years ago from Spring, Texas. He praised the hard-working SBTC crew, noting that his wife plans to join New Mexico’s DR team after seeing the ministry first-hand. “These guys and women are so fantastic You don’t find this in the world. If this is not a witness, I don’t know what is.”

SBC’s Richard Land announces 2013 retirement plans

WASHINGTON—Richard Land, who led the transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics entity during the denomination's conservative resurgence, has announced he will retire next year after a quarter of a century of service as its president.

Land's retirement as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will be effective Oct. 23, 2013, he announced in a letter today (July 31) to the acting chairman of the entity's board of trustees. His retirement is scheduled to take place 25 years from the date he assumed the ERLC's presidency in 1988.

Land, 65, has acted as an outspoken advocate among Southern Baptists for biblical positions on such issues as the sanctity of human life, religious freedom, marriage and race relations. His staunch efforts during his tenure also have made him a leading evangelical Christian voice among social conservatives in this country's escalating cultural battles. Time Magazine named him in 2005 as one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals.

“Dr. Land has been a stalwart leader of conservative and Christian causes and has been at the forefront of protecting our liberty in America,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University Law School. “He will certainly be missed in the role that he has played for many years by those of us who have worked closely with him and those of us who have followed his work. I have a high respect for Dr. Land and believe his legacy will continue to be felt throughout the country.”

Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, told Baptist Press, “We're all indebted to [Land]. I'd hate to see him go, but if he's going to stay in the wars that's good. We need him.”

Land made it clear in his letter he is retiring only from the ERLC, “not from the ministry, or from what is popularly called the 'culture war.'”

“When God called me into the ministry a half century ago, the burden He placed on my heart was for America,” wrote Land, who recently began his 50th year in the gospel ministry. “That call and that burning burden are still there. I believe the 'culture war' is a titanic struggle for our nation's soul and as a minister of Christ's Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle.”

Land chose to announce his retirement nearly 15 months before its effective date to provide “plenty of time for an orderly transition for both the Commission and myself to the next phase of our respective future ministries,” he said in his letter to Richard Piles, acting chairman of the ERLC trustees. He described the ERLC's ministry as “critically important for both Christ's church and the nation,” saying, “I pledge to do everything in my power to make the transition to new leadership as smooth and seamless as possible.”

He has received numerous requests through the years regarding opportunities to serve in the public policy, media, ministry and academic fields, Land said.

“Until now, I have not felt freedom to consider such opportunities. God has now given me that freedom,” wrote Land, who said he already is doing some media and public policy consulting in Washington.

He looks forward to working more closely with the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, which is located at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, he said.

Land's hiring in 1988 came amid the ongoing effort by Southern Baptist supporters of biblical inerrancy to restore the convention to its theological roots. Conservative trustees of what was then known as the Christian Life Commission (CLC) had a majority after nearly a decade of appointments to the entity's board.

The CLC had never had a truly pro-life head since abortion had become a culture-cleaving issue in the 1960s, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing the procedure for effectively any reason throughout pregnancy. Foy Valentine, a courageous voice on race relations, was firmly entrenched in the pro-choice camp and fought pro-life efforts within the convention. Larry Baker, Valentine's successor after more than a quarter of a century of service, did not promote a pro-choice agenda when he took office in 1987, but he also was not a committed pro-lifer. Baker's tenure lasted only 19 months before he left for a pastorate.

Land took office and began turning the entity in a pro-life -– and more conservative –- direction while stabilizing an agency that was in serious financial straits. He maintained the entity's strong stands against racial discrimination, gambling, and drug and alcohol abuse.

In the ensuing years, he has acted as a leading voice for Southern Baptists and other evangelicals on not only the various “life” issues but in support of such positions as the accommodation of religious exercise in the public square, combating overseas religious persecution and defending marriage against efforts to legalize same-sex unions.

Land served from 2001 until early 2012, with less than a year off, as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The bipartisan panel of nine members chosen by the president and congressional leaders advises the White House, State Department and Congress on the condition of religious liberty in the world's countries. President George W. Bush appointed Land to his first two terms, and Senate Republican leaders Bill Frist and Mitch McConnell named him to his succeeding three terms.

In 1995, he was a key figure in the passage of a resolution on racial reconciliation upon the 150th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Messengers meeting that year in Atlanta approved a proposal apologizing to and asking forgiveness of African Americans for racism.

During his tenure, the ERLC has opened a staffed office in Washington, D.C.; received the religious liberty assignment from the convention, and started a radio program.

In his letter, Land said he was 41 years of age when he came to the commission, more than 10 years younger than the next youngest Southern Baptist entity leader and the first “baby boomer” to head a denominational agency.

“It has been the honor, privilege, and blessing of a lifetime to serve the Lord, the wonderful people of God called Southern Baptists, and other brothers and sisters in the faith through the ERLC for virtually half of my entire ministry,” he wrote.

While at the ERLC, Land has written or co-edited eight books, including “The Divided States of America? What Liberals and Conservatives Get Wrong About Faith and Politics.”

Before becoming the ethics entity's president, Land had served as vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College in Dallas since 1980 and was a strong defender of inerrancy. He had been professor of theology and church history at the school since 1975.

Land took a leave of absence from Criswell College for 17 months during 1987-88 to serve as senior adviser to Texas Gov. William Clements on church-state issues, as well as such initiatives as anti-abortion, anti-pornography and anti-drug legislation.

He received a doctor of philosophy degree from Oxford University in England, a master of theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a bachelor of arts from Princeton University.
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Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

A prayer for Sodom and America

“Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.’ —Genesis 18:32

The time for praying and fasting is upon us as Christian Americans. Abraham prayed that the righteous would not be destroyed with the ungodly. He pleaded in an intercessory prayer that God would not destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for 50 righteous persons down to 10 righteous people living in Sodom. However, his prayers were ineffective because the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were past the point of return and God would not spare the cities because there were not 10 righteous citizens living in these twin cities.

Scripture reveals to us the ungodly nature of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah when the men of Sodom called for Lot to give them the men in his house. Genesis 19:5 says, “And they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” The words “knew” and “know” are the same word in Hebrew, past and present tense. This word takes on the connotation of a sexual relationship. It’s the same word used in Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’” And again in Genesis 4:17 we read: “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.”

The men of Sodom were intent on sodomizing the angels although Lot offered his daughters to them to do as they pleased. Genesis 19:8 says, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Homosexuality was a predominant sin within these cities.

The Bible is clear on the judgment of all sin. God will judge every sin; however, homosexuality is the only sin that God gives up on as a part of its judgment. Romans 1:27-29 states: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

Same-sex intercourse is categorized, in the Bible, in the same context as a human having sex with an animal. “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion (Leviticus 18:22-23). Things that are detestable to God make him sick, nauseated and vomitous. It must be gotten out of his system so he gives them up to a reprobate mind, a mind without God.

Wikipedia.org and the New World Encyclopedia provide similar historical background: “Jude 1:7. Sodom and Gomorrah have been used as metaphors for vice and homosexuality viewed as a deviation. The story has therefore given rise to words in several languages, including the English word “sodomy” used in so-called sodomy laws to describe a sexual ‘crime against nature’ consisting of anal sex, either homosexual or heterosexual.”

Over the last 50 years, America has observed the decline of the family structure because the biblical principles, values and morals connected to marriage have eroded. Marriage is no longer viewed as a divine institution designed by God to procreate the human race. Nor is wedlock understood to provide a lifelong companionship for a husband and wife. Marriage as God created will essentially reveal the glory of God’s image living in both male and female as they serve as an example of Christ’s marriage to His bride, the church. On the subject of marriage, America remains on the wrong course.

Same-sex marriage is a ridiculous and unnatural idea. Some things automatically belong together in relationships: boyfriend and girlfriend, man and woman, bride and groom, husband and wife, mother and father, aunt and uncle. But the union of same-sex marriages totally changes how we view relationships in a way that will never naturally go together—a boy and his boyfriend, a girl and her girlfriend, a man and his husband, a woman and her wife, the bride and bride, groom and groom, wife and wife, husband and husband, and so on.

The recent positional statement from President Obama makes it clear America is now in the same morally sinful category as Sodom and Gomorrah. It is embarrassing and shameful to observe a confessing Christian president grossly misinterpret Scripture. His claim that the Bible allows for same-sex marriages is out of context with Scripture. His announcement has put parents in a heart-breaking situation to explain to their children that the president is wrong: boys are not made to marry boys or girls to marry girls. 

Billy Graham has said, “If God doesn’t judge America he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” America is in trouble with God. We must pray that God will make us righteous, or America will one day become a modern Sodom.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you please help our president and governmental leaders see the error of their ways. In Jesus Name! Amen. 

—Terry Turner is the pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Porn for the Proles

Doing what I do every week, I’ve heard for years that “print is dead.” Book publishers have joined newspaper and magazine publishers in desperate efforts to stay in business. I think that’s one reason we hear a loud drumbeat every time a book or series of books becomes a cultural phenomenon. It’s not clear how much is grassroots enthusiasm and how much of it has been whipped into a fake lather by newsy reports of books flying off the shelves. “The Da Vinci Code” was such a fake phenomenon. This was especially exaggerated after a nearly unwatchable movie hit the theaters. One report suggested that Christians may have to “rethink their faith” after reading Dan Brown’s fiction. It didn’t turn out that way but the hype did sell some books to the gullible. Mission accomplished.

Our current phenomenon is what some have called “mommy porn” beginning with a book series called “Shades of Grey.” The books are currently bestsellers. I’ve been surprised to see people reading them in public. Imagine a man sitting in a waiting room reading Playboy. And you really can’t turn around without a “news” feature on the naughty books. A second-wave story suggested that imitator books, similar porn aimed at women, could be the salvation of the publishing industry. Books of this sort have been around for years but the “Grey” tie-in allows them to re-release, even re-cover, formerly less successful books for women who have recently discovered socially respectable pornography.

Two quick comments come to mind. First, such books are not the salvation of anybody. They may temporarily enrich the providers, but they will ease no one’s loneliness, fulfill no person’s sexual needs, enrich no marriage, and teach nothing useful about the human experience. The story truly reminds me of a section of George Orwell’s “1984.” Orwell wrote in the early 20th century and foresaw a “workers’ paradise” where the privileged treated the “Proles” (proletariats) as near slaves. They debased them by providing violent sporting events, astrology, sexy movies, sentimental songs, and pornography. The uneducated Proles were perfectly free so long as they did not break out of their intellectual or spiritual prison—as long as they did the dirty work. The upper classes were not allowed these vices, by the way. The health of the society was too important. As an aside, when was the last time you saw a seedy bar or strip club in the same neighborhood with a city council member who voted to allow zoning for such a business?

Second, the presence of mainstream porn is no shock but the shameless admission that the same industry that wraps itself in Mark Twain and Charles Dickens during “Banned Books Month” every year will gladly sell more shelf space (and their souls) to the basest of purposes is a bit hypocritical. It’s like a struggling drug store company thinking they can save the business by selling meth out of a brightly lit kiosk. If it were legal some would do it.

Clucking our tongues or even boycotts are not sufficient responses to the ubiquitous nature of porn in our society. We must do courageous things. I’m suggesting we actually disapprove of what pop culture is doing to our families and churches. We must disapprove in the sense of acknowledging the swath this stuff is cutting through our churches. Our pastors, our church staff members, our deacons, our Sunday School teachers, all are buffeted by real temptations to live as Proles. Some fall.
In your church and mine, some fall. Until this fact affects the trajectory of our preaching and the conduct of our ministries, we’ll be befuddled and ineffective, surprised to find poison we decry in our communities running through the veins of our churches. No boycott could ever address that problem.

Co-belligerents in the culture war

I’m a big fan of the Boy Scouts. Both my sons were scouts, one an Eagle Scout. My daughter would have been a great one, but for the fact she’s not a boy. Boy Scouts still think their name means something. Some groups, WMU (formerly Woman’s Missionary Union) and Campfire (formerly Campfire Girls) come to mind easily, have changed their PR stance so as to draw a broader clientele—they’d love to have some dudes to broaden their base of support. No big tent for the Boy Scouts; they are still just for boys. They have other standards as well.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have also specified a stance against homosexual scout leaders. They consider it to be in their best interests to enforce this policy. It is not a statement about what others should do or what a law should say. It is their own regulation, just like the part that says girls can’t be Boy Scouts. The United States Supreme Court has affirmed their right to have such regulations.

If 310,000 people “sign” an Internet petition, or if 31 million do so, BSA still has the right to do what they consider best. It is not sane to call this hate but it is discrimination. The Boy Scouts are discriminating between those who qualify to lead and those who do not, those who are boys and those who are not, and those who have earned their rank or merit badges and those who have not. Of course they do. Boys who want a badge but don’t prefer to earn it will no doubt consider this an unfortunate discrimination, as will homosexual people who prefer to be scout leaders.  

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy also sets some standards for his organization. In a recent interview you’ve no doubt heard quoted, Mr. Cathy said he is a proponent of traditional marriage. He further told us that his company is based on what he considers biblical principles. The interview was not about other definitions of marriage or about the lifestyles of those who see things differently. But of course “traditional marriage” and “biblical” are descriptors that some consider controversial, even hateful.

“Hate” is another one of those words (like discrimination) that is about to run out of content. If we allow it to be used to describe those with whom we merely disagree as opposed to those who actually express hostility to us, “hate” no longer serves clear communications. Why would our cultural referees in the media allow such an unproven charge when they would not allow a similarly unjustified use of “murder” or “embezzlement” to go unqualified or challenged?

Instead of Internet petitions, Chick-fil-A is getting boycotts. The company is called bigoted, indecent, and homophobic, even by those who believe that the company and its CEO have the right to believe as they wish. Some college campuses and one city I’ve heard about are considering a ban of the fast-food franchise because they consider the company’s advocacy for traditional marriage to be over the line.

OK then. Maybe we spend too much time talking about our opponents in the culture war. Here are two friends. Fortunately, both BSA and Chick-fil-A offer great products. I wonder how popular a “rally around the restaurant” movement would be if the food was nasty or the employees rude. Anyway, we can endorse both these friends for many reasons. We should endorse them because they are in a firestorm; and it’s our firestorm.

The fury over what some call discrimination against homosexuals has risen to an amazing pitch. We may regret that this is becoming the cultural issue of our day, but it is. For many, the science is settled and biblical Christianity is on the wrong side of history. We’ve weathered such accusations before and it doesn’t change what’s right. This isn’t our only cause or our primary commission but we will need to know what we believe about the nature of marriage, and we’ll need to speak for it and live it in the face of challenges of all sorts. So long as people live in community, marriage will be the basic unit of that community.

We should stand with our friends on this issue, be they many or few, because they will become fewer. The difference between tolerance of those who are different and affirmation of nearly anything people do is currently too subtle for America’s opinion makers. We who are called “intolerant” because we do know the difference will soon be persecuted if our society continues down its current path. The praise and support of a few thousand churches could embolden institutions and businesses who’ve stuck their necks out for the sake of conviction to stand firm

Array of church ministry helps offered at Ft. Worth conference

FORT WORTH—The Equip Mega Conference—with 14 church equipping events in one location—will be Aug. 16-18 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, and will offer church leaders honing for nearly every aspect of church ministry.

From a church staff retreat on Thursday and Friday geared to strategic planning and refreshment to a full slate of Saturday events to equip church staff and lay leaders, the conference is a virtual university setting for best church practices, said Kenneth Priest, SBTC church ministries associate.

“Equip is designed to address all facets of your church’s ministry—from volunteer needs to equipping church members for kingdom growth to practical needs in the everyday life of the church,” Priest said. “Preschool to senior adults, evangelism to church staff—we have something for you.”

Through Aug. 13, there is one registration fee— $15—for 11 of the 14 events ($20 at the door). Special registration is required for the Family Ministry Forum ($25 for up to five staff) on Friday, Aug. 17, the SENT Missions Lab ($25 per person), which runs all three days, and the Transitional Pastor Training ($100), which runs Aug. 16-17.

 

CHURCH STAFF RETREAT

Registration also covers the church staff retreat event from 1–9 p.m. on Thursday and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday, which includes group leadership sessions with Steve Stroope, pastor of Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, and Wayne Hoover, senior director of field operations for Chick-fil-A.

During the church staff retreat, ministry experts in dozens of ministry areas will be available for consultations with churches. Hoover’s presentation will show how the Chick-fil-A “serve model” can be applied in a church setting.

“They come prayed up and ready to focus the church staff time on the needs of their churches. We will provide the space, connect you with a hotel for lodging, and recommend restaurants or offer a catered meal for you to choose,” Priest said.

 

EQUIPPING CHURCHES CONFERENCE

An Equipping Churches Conference from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. that Saturday (Aug. 18) will help staff and lay leaders in all areas of church ministry.

 

MEN OF IMPACT RALLY

This event from 7-9 p.m. on Friday features a $5 optional dinner. Speakers will include Stroope and Chuck Lawless, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary. The event aims to challenge Christ-like men to focus on developing other men to be spiritual mentors in the home, church, workplace, and world.

 

 

BLACK CHURCHES EQUIPPING CONFERENCE

This year the Black Churches Equipping Conference is incorporated into the larger mega-conference. Scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, it allows church leaders and members a buffet of 40-plus workshops in one weekend that will address almost every area of Christian service.

 

Other events include:

• Stewardship Conference:

    9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 18)

• Family Ministry Forum:

    9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday (Aug. 17)

• Children’s Music Leader Conference:

    9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

• Kid’s Conference:

    9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

• Texas One-Day Sunday School

    Equipping: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

• SENT Lab: all day Aug. 16-18

• Church Library Conference:

    1 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday &

    9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

• Women’s Leadership Challenge:

    7-9 p.m. Friday

• Transitional Pastor Training: all day

    Aug. 16-17

• Avoiding Thin Ice Business

    Conference: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

 

To register, visit sbtexas.com/equip.

Boy Scouts say no to lesbian mom

IRVING—With temperatures surpassing 100 degrees outside the Boy Scouts of America Museum, the 7-year-old Tiger Cub Scout sweating under a hot sun on July 18 couldn’t come up with an answer as to why his mom was holding a press conference.

“Is all this stuff the adults are talking about just weird?” the PBS journalist asked while 32-year-old Jennifer Tyrrell continued trying to make her case for allowing homosexuals to serve in BSA leadership.

Staring at the ground, tugging at the plaid scarf of his uniform, the little boy nodded, “Yeah.”

Cruz Burns’ participation in an Ohio Cub Scout pack was short-lived since his lesbian mother pulled the boy out of the unit she had served only seven months. The local leader who enlisted Tyrrell ignored the long-standing policy that prohibits homosexuals from official roles, telling her instead that it would be fine, according to her account.

But after a complaint was shared at the next level of leadership, the pack was asked to comply with BSA standards and removed her as leader. Parents who are straight or homosexual are welcome to accompany their kids to scout meetings or show the same support as any parent, but the leadership limitation stands, recognizing that many parents do not want their children led by homosexuals in an organization that promotes character qualities often associated with Judeo-Christian principles.

“The Boy Scouts of America treats everyone with courtesy and respect,” responded Deron Smith, BSA public relations director after giving Tyrrell about half an hour to voice her concern in person with scout officials.

“Today, representatives from the BSA accepted an online petition from Jennifer Tyrrell and her family,” he said, noting it was the second time the Ohio woman had delivered petitions to the 102-year-old organization.

“The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect.”

That notion was lost on nearly all of the media representatives, most of them preferring to rely on a tiny group of protesters standing on the edge of BSA property to represent the “family values” argument.

Hoisting signs listing groups destined for hell, the independent Baptists from Mansfield applauded the BSA decision as “a stand for biblical morality” and “that which is normal.” Joined by three laymen from his church, Pastor Joey Faust spoke of another organization with Christian roots, recalling the influence of the YMCA on his own life as he received “a good, moral foundation” as a camper and later as a counselor.

Whether the Y remains as committed to those foundational principles as do the scouts Faust couldn’t say. For now, his concern is for the Boy Scouts of America to remain true to their convictions in spite of widespread protest by homosexual activists like Tyrrell and the various groups that joined her in Irving.

Long-time Southern Baptist scouter Chip Turner of Fort Worth isn’t a bit surprised that only a handful of folks showed up to support the decision of scouts. “Opponents to these policies are relentless and highly vocal,” he told the TEXAN. “Unfortunately, the silent majority remains largely unheard.”

Turner hopes Southern Baptist churches and individual members will seize the opportunity by sending a note of affirmation to BSA for the moral and ethical commitments to which they have remained true for more than a century.

Turner, past national president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, told the TEXAN, “The Boy Scouts of America remain committed to the moral and ethical standards which have been affirmed several times in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions.”

“Scouting remains one of the finest evangelism, family ministry, and religious education tools available for established churches as well as new church plants. (See Turner’s article on page 9 on how to organize a scouting ministry.) Scouts and their families involved in the religious emblems program are often reached for Christ and it is not uncommon for youth participants to clarify their calling to vocational ministry,” he said.

Tyrrell claims her complaint is about more than “gay activism.” She told one media outlet, “This is about I’m a mother and you deny me a right to participate in my child’s life.” Since the April 17 action by her pack, not only has she removed her son from further participation, but made the rounds in New York and other venues with the boy in tow, eager to make her son a poster child as a presumed victim of discrimination.

Her claim that BSA keeps her from participating in her son’s life is not the only speculation she provided to journalists, several of whom told the TEXAN they had no idea why anyone would object to letting homosexuals lead scout units. She also questioned whether BSA had really conducted a two-year study of the issue before affirming existing policy.

“I asked if I could see some proof,” Tyrrell said. “They said they are not releasing anything to the public.” Since she was able to provide 300,000 online signatures collected by change.org, Tyrrell said she has a right to see the names of scout parents and other BSA supporters who encouraged the private organization to maintain their policy.

Tyrrell was accompanied at scout headquarters by Mark Anthony Dingbaum, organizing manager of change.org.

“The secret meetings, not releasing the information is definitely not conducive to a conversation,” she told reporters after meeting with national scout leadership.

However, Tyrrell praised the scouting organization, calling it “a huge cultural institution in America.” She expressed regret that she could not keep her promise to the Tiger cubs she led to see them through until they earned Eagle rank, a process that takes 10-12 years. “It just has this one policy that is outdated and needs to be changed.”

The matter is personal for Tyrrell and her lesbian partner. “Our whole life is frustrated because it’s one discrimination after another,” she said, noting the support they have received from homosexual activists. “Hundreds of thousands of people count on us.”

The Boy Scouts of America make it clear that “being a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right.” Adults must apply for positions after submitting background information, reducing the risk to children. Leaders are required to notify the local council if there is evidence or suspicion that youth protection policies have been violated and teach the “three R’s” of “recognize, resist and report.”

Tyrrell said homosexuality has nothing to do with her qualification as a scout leader. “My sexual orientation is no more a part of who I am as a whole than anyone else. It doesn’t come up in constant conversation,” she told reporters. “Really, as a parent, we just want to be involved in our kids’ lives.”

Recalling the day she was told she could no longer serve, Tyrrell began tearing up, stating, “It’s heartbreaking if you’re a parent. If you love a child you understand. When somebody hurts them it’s much worse than if somebody hurts you.”

Holding onto her son while flanked by her partner and another of three siblings, she added, “He shouldn’t have to live with this. He shouldn’t have to deal with it on a daily basis and I’m going to fight until he does not.”

The complete statement by BSA on this issue is available at their website at scouting.org. Readers interested in sharing their own opinion with BSA may contact them at P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079. A video of Tyrrell’s news conference is available at youtube.com/sbtcweb.

Students advance gospel in Texas churches, cities

While some students choose to spend the lazy, hazy days of summer lounging at the pool or watching day-long movie marathons, this summer 15 college and seminary students have given up their summer breaks to minister in churches across Texas and led more than 60 people to saving faith.

Those 15 students made up five teams that spent seven weeks this summer serving with Engage—a ministry of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention that sends out student evangelism teams to local churches throughout Texas with the goal of reaching the lost and revitalizing churches.

Engage coordinator Mitch Tidwell said this year’s teams—dispatched in a partnership between the SBTC and the North American Mission Board (NAMB)—made a significant difference in encouraging local churches and leading the lost to salvation in Christ. Through the first six weeks, 63 people had recorded salvation decisions with numbers for the seventh week still out at press time. Many of these churches are in communities that have seen their heyday or in other challenging circumstances.

“When lost people come in the doors, we’re seeing people saved because the thing we tell our teams is to just be intentional about the way they minister,” Tidwell said. “It’s really had a huge effect on churches. It’s just kind of like a shot in the arm kind of thing. It helps them get a leg up and energizes the pastor and the church.”

Most of the churches the Engage teams minister with have an average attendance of 20-30 people, Tidwell said. Yet teams have seen as many as 80 people come to a block party, allowing a church to begin relationships with people in that community and lead them to the Lord. In a given week, the groups also lead five revival services, children’s sport camps, youth rallies, evangelistic training and community outreach during a Saturday-to-Thursday endeavor with each church.

Tidwell said that while working at CrossWalk Church in Round Rock, one of the teams went to a local skate park where they visited with skaters and invited them to come out to the church. Seventeen young people from the skate park came to the revival meeting that night.

“The first night, the team leader, Jonathan McLeod, said once they got there to the revival meeting, the students weren’t sure if they should stay or go,” Tidwell said. “Jonathan got up there and preached and two of them accepted Christ that night. The next night, they showed back up and seven of them gave their lives to Christ.”

McLeod, who served as a preacher and team leader, said those two evenings stand out to him as highlights of the time he has spent serving with Engage this summer. Another high point, he said, was his team’s chance to minister at Navasota Baptist Church in Navasota.

“In one day we saw 15 people give their lives to Christ,” McLeod said. “Thirteen of them were youth from the community who came to our Backyard Bible Club. [One] afternoon, while we were evangelizing at an apartment complex, a lady gave her life to Christ, and that night at the revival service, another lady gave her life to Christ.”

The team saw a similar harvest during its week at Coastal Oaks Church in Rockport.

Tidwell said when the pastor of the church that was scheduled to host the Engage team found out a fellow pastor in town was having difficulty in his church, he offered to have the Engage team hold their services and the block party at his fellow pastor’s church instead. After a well-attended block party where McLeod gave a gospel presentation, three women from the community came forward to receive Christ as savior.

“It was just kind of a neat story how that worked out,” Tidwell said. “Coastal Oaks reached out and sacrificially just gave. We just don’t see stuff like that usually.”

Tidwell said even as the Engage ministry benefits churches, it also benefits the participating students, many of whom plan to go into full-time ministry after college or seminary.

“The ministry experience is just so broad,” Tidwell said. “It’s literally like going on a mission trip. You have to be just as flexible as if you’re going into a foreign country. You may walk into a church and they have everything ready for a VBS, or you may get there and they forget that you’re coming and you just [have] to wing it. If you’re a preacher, you’re preaching 35 times a summer. It’s just an opportunity that I really don’t know that you can get anywhere else.”

McLeod, a master of arts in theological studies student at Criswell College in Dallas, agreed and said his time serving with the Engage ministry has grown him spiritually, even as he reaches out to minister to others.

“I think the most significant thing I have seen in myself this summer as a product of Engage has been spiritual maturity,” McLeod said, mentioning that his team has exegetically studied James, Micah and Mark in preparation for the lessons they lead during Engage. “Constantly being in the Scriptures, praying and pouring into people’s lives invites spiritual maturity.”

McLeod said he would encourage college students who want to serve others to consider serving with Engage in future years. Most important, though, the Criswell student said he wants to encourage people to pray for the ministry.

“As my pastor has reminded me numerous times, revival is not something you can muster up.” McLeod said. “It is something you can pray down. The greatest way to get involved with Engage in the years to come is committing to pray for Engage daily.”

Collegians and seminarians interested in serving with Engage for 2013 can contact mtidwell@sbtexas.com or 817-552-2500. Those interested in following the progress of the teams can read the Engage ministry’s blog at engageteams.wordpress.com.

How to Start a Church Scouting Ministry

Many of America’s first Scout units were in churches with ministers serving as their leaders.  Over 102 years later, 70% of all Scout units are faith-based.  Whether a Cub Scout Pack (boys in grades one through five), Boy Scout Troop (boys completing fifth grade and above), or coed Venture Crew for high school, scouting offers a unique partnership with churches to make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, and families.  And, when used in conjunction with the P.R.A.Y. Religious Emblems Program (formerly the God and Country Program), pastors report entire families being reached and discipled for Christ.

Here is a step-by-step process for starting a church scouting ministry:

1. Begin with the clear understanding that the local church owns the Scout unit(s).  Similar to a franchise rather than a “sponsorship,” Scout units are intended to support the ongoing mission of the chartering organization.  This mission obviously includes outreach, evangelism, and discipleship.

2. Contact the local Boy Scout Council office and express a possible interest in having Scout units. In turn, a scouting volunteer or professional – perhaps even a team – will come to the church to make a presentation.  The team will likely include a new unit organizer who is committed to being a resource to church leadership throughout the formative process.  Later, a new unit commissioner (someone experienced in operating effective Scout units) will be provided for ongoing encouragement and counsel.

3. To move forward, the church membership votes to adopt Scouting as an integral ministry.

4. Once scouting is approved, a unit organizing committee is selected from within the church family.

5. The church’s unit organizing committee selects and recruits key unit leaders as well as the ongoing unit committee. To best ensure that scouting is a church ministry, key leaders should be active members who feel this is a fulfillment of their personal mission.  [Note: The chartered organization representative must be a member of the congregation. This person is an ongoing link between the church and Scout council.]

6. Once enlisted, the key leadership team is equipped by the district training team.  (Districts are geographic subdivisions of the Scout council).  Much of this basic training is available on-line.

7. The unit committee, assisted by the new-unit organizer, plans and organizes the program.

8. When the unit’s program has been planned, it is time to recruit youth members.

9. All unit leaders and Scouts complete the appropriate registration forms.

10. The first meeting of the unit is conducted by the well-trained leadership team.

11. After unit launch, a charter presentation is made to the church family.  This document affirms the relationship between the church and scouting.

12. Moving forward, churches can visibly support the unit(s) in many ways.  For example: including weekly meetings in the church calendar, linking to unit websites, observing Scout Sunday each February, providing service project opportunities at church, attending Scout unit recognition events, and providing a unit chaplain (staff or key layperson).

R. Chip Turner is a Southern Baptist who serves as national chairman for BSA religious relationships