Month: June 2013

HOUSTON 2013: SBC leaders address messenger questions

HOUSTON—Messengers had opportunities to ask questions of the presidents of Southern Baptist entities during those entities’ annual reports to the convention in Houston.

Following are accounts of questions posed by messengers on the convention floor and responses by entity presidents. Not all entity presidents were asked questions.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

John Killian of Maytown Baptist Church in Alabama expressed concern that the National Immigration Forum, which provides financial support for the Evangelical Immigration Table, is reportedly funded in part by liberal activist George Soros. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is part of a national ad campaign featuring the Evangelical Immigration Table.

“Will Cooperative Program funds be used to support legislation legalizing illegal immigrants and will the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission participate in any political project funded directly or indirectly by George Soros?” Killian asked.

In response, Richard Land said the ERLC under his leadership and he expected under Russell D. Moore’s leadership will heed the resolution on immigration reform adopted overwhelmingly by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix in 2011.

“Resolutions are instructive,” Land said, noting the resolution expresses support for immigration policies that provide a restrictive pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. with undocumented status.

“It is not amnesty,” Land said, suggesting amnesty is what President Jimmy Carter provided for those who fled to Canada to avoid the military draft during the Vietnam War.

Lee Bright of Roebuck Baptist Church in South Carolina, asked Moore if the ERLC will “actively support” the immigration bill being considered in the U.S. Senate.

“We are going to support principles; we are not going to support specific pieces of legislation,” Moore said.

“We support a just and compassionate approach to dealing with the millions of people in American society right now who are invisible, seeking a better future for their families. We also want to maintain the rule of law and the security of our borders,” Moore said.

GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins received two questions following his report to messengers.

Messenger Tim Rogers of North Carolina complimented GuideStone on its property and casualty program and alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, saying his church received more coverage at a lower premium.

He also asked about medical insurance premiums for 2014, and Hawkins said insurance premiums would be made available in coming weeks.

“There are so many unknowns about health care reform right now,” Hawkins said. “That’s the real tragedy here.”

Churches should talk to their property and casualty provider to determine whether they have adequate coverage, Hawkins said. Many churches coming out of recent natural disasters have learned their coverage is not adequate to rebuild.

Messenger Andrew Green of Missouri asked Hawkins about GuideStone’s social screening policy on its investment products.

The question referred to recent comments from the CEO of Starbucks Coffee in support of same-sex marriage as well as to a WORLD magazine article that called on people to divest in Starbucks stock.

“If we begin to go down this road, that is, divesting of a company and boycotting it because of statements or preferences made by their leaders, there would hardly be a company in the Fortune 500 group with which to invest,” Hawkins said. “If the questioner was consistent, he would also stop using Microsoft in his computer and cease use of his cell phone for those companies’ leaders have made similar statements.”

GuideStone is in sympathy with those who have concerns related to investing in certain companies, Hawkins said.

GuideStone’s longstanding investment policy states, “Investments are prohibited in any company that is publicly recognized, as determined by GuideStone Financial Resources, as being in the liquor, tobacco, gambling, pornography or abortion industries, or any company whose products, services or activities are publicly recognized as being incompatible with the moral and ethical posture of GuideStone Financial Resources,” Hawkins said.

In administering the policy, GuideStone has placed more than 400 companies on a restricted list in which the entity does not invest. “We are continually monitoring and evaluating companies in regular monthly meetings,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins emphasized that the funds invested by GuideStone include no Cooperative Program dollars but represent the individual accounts of more than 200,000 participants.

“We are stewards of their money,” Hawkins said. “Periodic surveys and continued participation indicate the overwhelming majority of our participants—98 percent—are in agreement with our investment policies.”

Expanding on the sources of those private accounts, Hawkins said most funds are administered in retirement accounts, like 403(b) or 401(k) accounts.

“Generally speaking, private, individual investors invest their monies in whatever way they determine necessary and appropriate,” Hawkins said. “However, GuideStone functions in a different environment with respect to retirement fund assets. GuideStone is held to a different standard as to how it invests participants’ dollars. As fiduciaries, we are subject to legal standards applied to fiduciaries, including ‘the prudent man rule.’

“The fiduciary is legally required to act prudently in the economic interest of those it serves,” Hawkins said. “We seek to maintain moral integrity in what we do, including not investing in more than 400 companies on our restricted list, while at the same time we are very conscientious to carry out our legal duties.”

Hawkins told messengers it is virtually impossible for anyone to function in contemporary society without carrying on relationships with businesses that profit from endeavors one might find objectionable. In these relationships, Hawkins stressed, investors inevitably provide financial support to companies or persons whose products, services or conduct might be morally repugnant to most Southern Baptists.

“For example, one should ask if it is ownership of a company or the purchasing of its product that causes it to prosper and grow,” Hawkins said. “Consider that many hotels provide access to alcoholic beverages in the lobby and in mini-bars in each room. Many provide options for adult television programming which most Southern Baptists would not choose. Yet, we as Southern Baptists patronize and spend our money at these hotels on virtually every trip we take, including the Southern Baptist Convention, state convention meetings and family vacations.

“Additionally, Southern Baptists continue to fly on airlines that serve and profit from alcohol even though alcohol use is against their personal moral convictions. We shop in grocery stores where beer, wine and tobacco are sold. We buy gasoline at convenience stores where beer is sold, and in some cases lottery tickets are available. We pay taxes and many own treasury bills with a government that is the largest contributor to Planned Parenthood.”

Hawkins said, “Someone might say, ‘I will not invest in any company on the stock exchange and instead just put my money in a savings account at the local bank.’ But the bank could loan money to a liquor store or some other objectionable business going in down the street.

“If those who have zero tolerance with investments are consistent and follow this philosophy to the ‘nth’ degree, none of them would be flying on airlines, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants or buying groceries,” Hawkins said. “It is the patronage of the companies, more than stock ownership, that enables an enterprise to prosper.”

Hawkins emphasized that GuideStone is committed to its origin and identity as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. “When and if the SBC publicly boycotts a company, as it did with Disney in the early 1990s, we will consistently follow their lead,” Hawkins said.

“At the same time, we must function in a manner that is legally sound and sensitive to fiduciary and legal duties to maximize the economic return to participants while maintaining moral standards.

“It is GuideStone’s position that by following our investment guidelines, it can make investments consistent with Christian principles and still adhere to our fiduciary obligations,” Hawkins said, citing GuideStone Funds being recognized by Lipper as the Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S., ranking No. 1 out of 182 eligible companies with up to $40 billion in assets under management as of Nov. 30, 2011. This marked the first time in Lipper’s history the award was given to a Christian-based, socially screened fund organization.

International Mission Board

After International Mission Board President Tom Elliff presented IMB’s report, one messenger had a statement and request concerning the disposition of property overseas.

Doug Wendling, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Las Cruces, N.M., expressed concern about the disposition of IMB properties in East Asia. Wendling and his wife recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, he said, where they worked with a ministry that distributes Bibles to Chinese tourists from the mainland. While there, he heard of decisions that were being made about IMB-owned properties.

“While we are called to be good stewards, I don’t believe this decision should be made that will negatively impact this ministry over there,” Wendling said. “What I’m asking is that IMB will continue to seek God’s will and human wisdom in making decisions on the use of this property.”

Elliff expressed appreciation for Wendling’s sentiment and explained that over the years there has been a “deliberate shift” in IMB’s strategy. Historically, he said, IMB missionaries were seen as “settlers,” moving to a location and acquiring property to settle there.

Today’s missionaries are encouraged to be more like “pioneers,” Elliff said, so that they don’t get so comfortable in one spot that they’re unwilling to move to help “turn on the lights” somewhere else.

“I don’t think the legacy we want to leave behind in other countries is property,” Elliff said. “It’s people knowing Jesus.”

LifeWay Christian Resources

Messenger Kent Cochran of Missouri asked Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, to assure the convention that LifeWay Christian Stores would not sell resources “promoting dual covenant theology, prosperity preaching and tolerance of the sin of sodomy,” but did not identify specific materials.

“I certainly would not condone anything in our stores that affirms sodomy or those things you mentioned,” Rainer said. He asked the messenger to send him a list of the products of concern so that Rainer and his team could review the materials.

North American Mission Board

Messenger Robin Foster, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., asked North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, “to clarify and define NAMB’s partnership, formal or informal, with the Acts 29 church planting network.”

“We plant Southern Baptist churches,” Ezell said. “Our church planters affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and give to the Cooperative Program. We do not ask them what conferences they attend or what networks they connect with. We don’t ask them which books and magazines they read. But we partner with Southern Baptist churches to plant Southern Baptist churches. Would some of these be in the Acts 29 network? Yes. But our formal relationship is with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson answered a question from the floor regarding the six SBC seminaries’ decision to decline reallocation of Cooperative Program funds from the seminaries to the International Mission Board. Brad Atkins of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., asked the question.

Atkins, who made a motion for the reallocation at the 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans that was referred to the SBC Executive Committee and all six seminaries, asked Patterson for an explanation of their decision.

The 2012 motion asked the seminaries to consider allowing their portion of the CP Allocation Budget to be reduced from 21.92 percent to 21 percent and requested that the EC allocate the remaining .92 percent to the IMB.

“Dr. Patterson, we have missionaries that are trained and ready to go, but unfortunately there are not enough Cooperative Program dollars for them to be sent,” Atkins said.

Atkins then referenced his motion from the previous year and the seminaries’ joint decision to decline the reallocation before asking, “In light of Dr. Frank Page’s visionary leadership again this year in reducing the Executive Committee’s percentage of the Cooperative Program, which now goes to the IMB, would you care to share your thoughts as one of the men who was asked to research and pray over this action as to why this request was declined?”

Patterson thanked Atkins for his question and said he was happy to respond to it.

“There are several reasons why we did not choose to follow that request,” Patterson said. “The first one is that some years ago, our six seminaries were given a capital needs budget in the Southern Baptist Convention budget.

“This amounted over a long period of time to untold millions of dollars that came to our six seminaries for capital needs,” Patterson said. “We decided that we could get along without that, and so before this initiative ever became an issue, we voted to give away that money and to give it to the International Mission Board and others who were working in the area of missions.

“So, we already gave at the office and gave very generously and deeply, more so than anyone else,” Patterson said.

Also, Southern Baptist seminaries are committed to the world missions endeavor. Patterson told of IMB President Tom Elliff’s request for Southwestern to adopt an unreached people group as part of the IMB Embrace challenge.

Patterson told Elliff that the seminary is not funded to do that but the seminary would accept the challenge and make financial sacrifices to do so. The seminary adopted the Antandroy people of Southern Madagascar and began sending teams over last year. In May, a Southwestern Seminary mission team witnessed more than 400 professions of faith among the Antandroy.

“I submit to you that the seminaries are hurting right now,” Patterson said. “We are victimized by the same financial liabilities that everybody has. We are doing the best that we can. We are the ones that rear up the next generation of missionaries. We train them. Every investment we make in one of these missions students is an investment in the International Mission Board and in world missions.”

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—Based on reports by Dwayne Hastings of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Roy Hayhurst of GuideStone Financial Resources, Laura Fielding of the International Mission Board, Marty King of LifeWay Christian Resources, Joe Conway of the North American Mission Board and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additional reporting added by David Roach for the TEXAN.

Dems” filibuster succeeds in pushing omnibus pro-life bill beyond midnight deadline; second special session possible

Texas capitol building image

AUSTIN—A nearly 13-hour filibuster and parliamentarian wrangling in the Texas Senate Tuesday and into early Wednesday exhausted the final hours of the 83rd Texas Legislature’s special-called session and ended efforts to pass comprehensive pro-life legislation.

The final minutes of the session broke down in a cacophony of noise from protestors in the gallery and rules questions on the floor, leaving observers wondering if the measure passed by the midnight deadline and for several hours afterwards.

“Pandemonium in the Texas Capitol with protestors attempting to shout down the Senate. But, praise God, it looks like SB 5 passed just before midnight,” read a post on the Texas Values Facebook page shortly after the session ended.

But the tone changed as the morning wore on. Around 3 a.m., Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst returned to the podium and read from a prepared statement: “Members, regrettably, the constitutional time for the first called 83rd Legislature has expired. Senate Bill 5 cannot be signed in the presence of the Senate at this time and therefore cannot be enrolled.”

Facebook and Twitter feeds from pro-life advocates called the news very sad and acknowledged their hope Gov. Rick Perry would call a second special session. Dewhurst may have given them a glimmer of hope when he returned to the microphone following his prepared statement.

Dewhurst quipped, “It’s been fun. See you soon.”

But abortion-rights advocates cheered the ruling.

 “Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them,” said Sen. Wendy Davis, D- Ft. Worth, in response.

Davis’ filibuster effort while reportedly wearing a back brace for extra support seemed to be cut short just after 10 p.m. following her third rules violation called by Dewhurst. Parliamentarian rules wrangling stalled a vote for almost another two hours.

A sharp rebuke Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, prompted howls and screams from abortion-rights protestors who packed the Senate gallery. As midnight approached, a loud mob gathered outside and tried to enter the gallery. The shouts continued to rise as the senators took a roll call vote on a motion introduced by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to accept SB 5 as passed by the House.

That vote passed, 19-10, but was not announced until 11:59 p.m. amidst the continued caterwauling from the gallery. Two or three minutes after midnight senators gathered near the speaker’s podium and another roll call vote could be heard. But during the vote Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, could be heard shouting “It’s past midnight!”

Three hours later Dewhurst affirmed the timing.

In an interview Tuesday evening as Davis’s filibuster continued, Ann Hettinger, state director of Concerned Women for America, said she still held out hope that the bill would pass.

“I have never seen such prayer coverage in Texas,” she said.

But she predicted there would be “a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking” about the bill’s demise.

Critics of the bill said it was a thinly veiled attempt to incrementally suspend all abortions in Texas. Rallies at the Capitol since Sunday drew abortion activists from across the state. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, showed up to cheer opponents.

Following the bill’s demise Richards tweeted, “We’re sending @WendyDavisTexas a BIG thank you for standing up for women. Will you?”

Arguing that the unborn baby can feel pain as early as 20 weeks of gestation, the bill puts restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks. The current state standard is 24 weeks. The bill would require abortion clinics upgrade their centers to meet standards of ambulatory centers; doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic; and stricter oversight of how the RU-486 abortion drug is given.

The people of Texas were cheated last night

The events in Texas Senate last night were tragic, and shameful. Some on both sides held sincere opinions. At least a few on both sides voted along merely party lines. Beyond those two statements, I’m through being even-handed.

SB5 would have banned late-term abortions (beyond 20 weeks, when the child is understood to feel the pain of her destruction), and also included some regulations aimed at protecting the health of mothers. The House approved it, and the Senate had the votes to approve it. After Fort Worth Sen. Wendy Davis failed in her effort to maintain a 13-hour filibuster, the Senate had two hours to actually vote. At that point, leftists misused parliamentary inquiries to run down the clock. When this failed, liberals rallied the gallery to yell so loudly, for 20 minutes, that business could not be completed. You could clearly see a group of senators leading the gallery in this disruption. It was a hijacking of the legal process and should result in censure of those senators.

It was disgusting, and a behavior that will bite the minority back at a time not of their choosing. A few things are true about this episode:

  • Most Texans favored the fetal pain bill
  • Some pro-abortion supporters have a financial stake in keeping all abortions at all stages legal
  • The pro-life movement has far fewer employees and does not produce millionaires
  • Sen. Wendy Davis does not represent the people who live in Fort Worth
  • Sen. Kirk Watson and Sen. Judith Zaffirini should lose their seats for abusing procedure

 

Perhaps there will be a special session to take up this bill and two others left on the agenda. At that point, the whole circus begins again. It’s the best chance we have for two years to lower the number of children callously killed by abortion in Texas.

I’m not mad at Wendy Davis for her legal attempt at filibuster, although the things she said during her 10-hour talk were hair-raising revelations of the extreme pro-abortion mind. Sen. Davis is both a product and an explanation of God’s judgment on America. I am angry at the hooliganism and cynical abuse of procedure by the minority used to deny a legal vote that would have well represented the people of Texas.

The bill would have saved lives. Some of the people who were blowing horns and shrieking last night to disrupt the Texas Senate knew that and found other facts more important. Lord, help us.

With Texas House cleared, omnibus pro-life bill needs Senate passage

AUSTIN—On Monday in a 95-34 vote, the Texas House approved Senate Bill 5, a pro-life omnibus bill restricting abortions after 20 weeks of conception and requiring increased medical standards of abortion providers.

The bill was considered for a final vote in the House mid-morning on Monday after Democrats were able to delay a reconvening of proceedings by more than two hours. Hours earlier, at around 3:30 a.m., it passed a preliminary vote, 97-33, after many hours of debate and tactical delays by opponents.

But the legislation must pass a Senate concurrence vote by midnight on Tuesday before going to Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he would sign it.

The omnibus bill would place substantial restrictions on abortions past 20 weeks of conception and requires: abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius of the clinic; abortion clinics to meet standards similar to outpatient centers; and greater physician oversight in the dissemination of the abortion medication RU-486.

An update to this story will follow later.

UPDATE: DR volunteers aid in flood-stricken Eagle Pass

EAGLE PASS—Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were aiding victims of flooding in the South Texas border town of Eagle Pass in the latest round of service in what has been a busy several months for disaster relief ministry.

On the heels of tornadoes in North Texas and Oklahoma and the deadly explosion in West, about 25 volunteers were counseling, making damage assessments and beginning clean-up efforts for residents in more than 400 homes flooded from 17 inches of rain last weekend in Maverick County. As of June 25, 54 people had made professions of faith through the witness of disaster relief volunteers, SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said.

Richardson said volunteers were providing 2,000 meals a day in addition to flood recovery, assessment and chaplaincy. The effort will likely last three weeks, Richardson said. Texas Baptist Men were working in concert with SBTC DR volunteers. Feeding is in coordination with the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

“The needs are great and trained DR volunteers are needed to replace those currently serving,” Richardson said, noting that anyone interested in volunteering may contact him at jrichardson@sbtexas.com or toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC). For information on DR ministry training, visit sbtexas.com/dr/.

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Marriage panel: Biblical answers, kindness needed as culture descends

HOUSTON—That the Supreme Court would attempt to define marriage is “unbridled chutzpah,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told a breakfast crowd gathered to discuss the growing societal confusion over marriage and family.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, under the leadership of new president Russell Moore, hosted the “Marriage on the Line” breakfast and panel discussion during this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston.

Among the panelists were pastors David Platt and J.D. Greear, as well as Patterson and Susie Hawkins, a Criswell College trustee and wife of Guidestone Financial Resource President O.S. Hawkins. Moore sat on the panel and moderated the hour-long discussion.

Moore directed the first question to Patterson, referencing the upcoming announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to either uphold or strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When asked if he thought Southern Baptists were prepared to deal with a decision that would do away with DOMA, Patterson expressed both regret and encouragement.

“The answer is, tragically, ‘No.’ For the Supreme Court to define marriage, when it is already defined in the first chapters of Genesis, is unbridled chutzpah,” Patterson said.

“We’re dealing with [this issue] as never before,” he continued. “There are two things we have to do in our churches: the first is to teach people to be kind. We must teach our churches to be kind and Christlike in dealing with these issues, just as Christ did when dealing with the woman at the well. And two, we must help them understand that this isn’t, if it ever was, Christian America,” Patterson explained. “We have to adjust to that.”

The next question was pointed toward Platt, who pastors The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. Moore asked how he would pastorally respond to a situation in which a married homosexual couple with children expressed a desire to be saved and join the church.

Platt’s response emphasized the necessity of repentance and a recognition of the biblical definition of marriage—both what it is and what it isn’t. He also called on the local church to show Christian love and grace to those involved, offering to help in any way possible in a time of what would undoubtedly be significant emotional turmoil and transition.

Hawkins responded to a question on how churches should continue to address the practical question of homosexuality within a church culture growing increasingly receptive to such behavior.

“The question is always hate the sin, love the sinner. I think we have to be really strong but listen,” Hawkins explained. “We often hear this in a culture—a 14- or 15-year-old says ‘I have same-sex attraction’ and we just assume this person is going to be gay. We need some strong leadership in this area—not harsh, but strong. Especially among our youth leaders,” she said.

“You can often hear testimonies about and hear from people who struggle with this and come out on the other end just fine. We need to devote more resources, have more people on our church staffs, to pay attention to that one person,” she continued. “We need to model this with love instead of just offering platitudes from a pulpit or a Bible study lectern.”

Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C., emphasized the need for congregations to put hands and feet to the gospel by intentionally loving those who struggle with same-sex attraction, especially those who might have occasion to visit Southern Baptist churches with a heart that is spiritually searching.

“There was a day in America when you just didn’t talk about these things growing up. I think that day is over,” Patterson said as the panel wrapped up their conversation on homosexuality.

“If you’re pastoring a church, you must deal with these issues on a biblical basis, not what you think or what you feel about an issue. Children need to get [spiritual training] from the father and from the mother, but they particularly need to get it in the home, with the father, exegeted at the kitchen table,” he said. “If they grow up hearing the Word of God and what that means, it means they’re in a better position to deal with those questions when they come up.”

The latter half of the panel turned to an assessment of what Southern Baptists have done right in the past, and what they can do better in the future to set a standard for biblical marriage. Moore’s evaluation of the “divorce culture” maintained in America and within the church over the last half-century was a particular point of contrition.

“It’s little wonder that the world looks at us and sees us as hypocrites,” Moore said, referring to the disparity between the church’s stated biblical standard for marriage and the stark reality of the divorce rates inside Southern Baptist churches.

“It’s easy in a congregation right now in south Georgia to denounce homosexuality in very fiery terms, and the people to walk out and say, ‘Well, he preaches really hard against sin.’ But when the same pastor preaches on divorce, he does it in really therapeutic terms,” Moore explained. “I think that’s because he has more out-of-the-closet divorcees in his church than out-of-the-closet homosexuals.”

Hawkins emphasized the need for churches to promote a culture that values marriage and its inherent value for everyone, even those called to singleness or not yet married.

“A single will flourish in a culture that honors marriage more than in one that doesn’t,” she said. “Marriage was once seen as a covenant of community and we need to work hard, really hard, to recover that.”

Patterson’s closing remarks reminded those at the panel that the challenges facing churches via the family and the home are not new.

“The first-century church, when our Lord created it, was in a hostile culture—and yet they flourished. I think the world around us is collapsing in many ways and it gives us a unique opportunity to speak out against sin while preaching the love of God. I think the community is ripe to hear the Word of the Lord,” Patterson said. “The culture knows deep down that it doesn’t have ultimate answers. And we do.”

Moore closed the panel with an optimistic tone, spurring those attending toward an ever-increasing focus on the gospel.

“If marriage is as resilient as we see it being in Genesis 1 and 2, then the Supreme Court cannot legislate it,” he said. “The marriages in your church are gospel tracts. And we need to make sure that those marriages are displaying the gospel.”

 

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Resolutions cover BSA policy, children, mental health

HOUSTON (BP)—Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention dealt, as expected, with the hot-button issue of the Boy Scouts’ new membership policy, but also passed a series of resolutions expressing compassion for the victimized and vulnerable.

In two sessions June 12 at the annual meeting in Houston, messengers passed 12 resolutions in either unanimous or overwhelming votes, including one voicing disappointment in the May decision by the Boy Scouts of America to open their membership to openly homosexual youth. Messengers declined to call for churches to boycott BSA.

The resolution expressed Southern Baptists’ “continued opposition” to the new membership policy and urged removal of the executive and board leaders who also tried without succeeding to liberalize the BSA’s leadership guidelines. However, the statement also supported families and churches in determining what their relationship to the Boy Scouts should be and urged those who remain in the BSA to share the gospel of Jesus with boys and seek the revocation of the new membership rule.

Resolutions Committee Chairman Steve Lemke, provost and ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a news conference that the BSA resolution “is not against any boys.”

“We want to minister to the boys,” Lemke said, describing the resolution as “a balanced, middle way that tries to state what most Baptists would believe and respect the congregational autonomy that we believe.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters at the news conference, “I think many in our culture were expecting a caustic response to the Boy Scouts of America decision.”

Instead, Moore said, the statement “is a careful, Gospel-focused, balanced resolution that expresses our convictions as Baptists about human sexuality, human flourishing and also speaks to the larger question of our mission as churches.”

(Read related BSA story here.)

Lemke acknowledged the statement on the Boy Scouts was the big news, but he said the Resolution Committee members “were really excited about the resolutions related to compassion ministries.” These resolutions:

—Call on churches to protect children from sexual abuse and to pray for abuse victims;

—Urge Southern Baptists to become informed about human trafficking, how to combat it and how to provide Christian ministry to its victims;

—Affirm the “immeasurable value to God” of people with “mental health concerns” and oppose “all stigmatization and prejudice” toward those with such problems (Read related story here);

—Express opposition to laws that may result in health-care rationing for senior adults and encouraged ministry to the elderly, and

—Endorse possible probation and parole for some nonviolent offenders and called for churches to seek the “moral and spiritual transformation” of prisoners.

Messengers also approved resolutions:

—Calling for religious liberty for college students, military chaplains and service members, and religious liberty for employers regarding the health care they provide their employees;

—Encouraging churches to pray “confidently, regularly, and fervently” for the president of the United States and other governmental leaders;

—Urging all Southern Baptists “to tithe cheerfully to their local churches;”

—Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Woman’s Missionary Union and commending the organization for its faithful support of and involvement in missions.

—Expressing appreciation for Billy Graham, who will turn 95 years old in November, and his evangelistic team and encouraging churches to participate in his organization’s “My Hope” outreach campaign this fall, and

—Thanking God and all those who helped with this year’s meeting.

Lemke said Southern Baptists “sort of have a litany of ethical issues—and they’re abortion and homosexuality and three or four others—that we talk about a lot, and I don’t think we talk enough about some other things,” even though Southern Baptist are ministering to the victimized and vulnerable, he told reporters.

“And without renouncing these other ethical beliefs that we have historically had, there is an interest in issues of justice and issues of compassion, and I think that we as Southern Baptists need to voice those in a more articulate way,” Lemke said, acknowledging young people especially are concerned about those issues.

Moore also expressed an emphasis on the suffering.

“There was a great emphasis on the vulnerable, hurting” in those resolutions, which called on churches “to be the presence of Christ to those people.”

“I think the mental illness resolution is phenomenal. It speaks to removing a stigma among people in our churches who are suffering with mental illness and also with those who are caring for them in ways that I think will have ramifications (possibly) for decades,” Moore said.

Nine resolutions were submitted to the committee for consideration.

In addition to Lemke, other members of the Resolutions Committee were: Matthew Arbo, member, Redeemer Fellowship, Kansas City, Mo., and assistant professor of Christian ethics, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tom Biles, member, Idlewild Baptist Church, Lutz, Fla., and interim pastor, First Baptist Church, Dade City, Fla.; David Crosby, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, New Orleans; David Dykes, senior pastor, Green Acres Baptist Church, Tyler; Richard Gaines, senior pastor, Consolidated Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky.; Galen Jones, church planting pastor, New Destiny Christian Fellowship, Duluth, Ga., and church planting consultant and state missionary, Georgia Baptist Convention; Manpoong Dennis Kim, pastor, Global Mission Church, Silver Spring, Md.; Joe Wright, member, First Baptist Church, Dyersburg, Tenn., and director of missions, Dyer Baptist Association, Dyersburg; and Carol Yarber, member, First Baptist Church, Malakoff.

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Calvinism team addresses work in forum

HOUSTON (BP)—Members of an advisory committee on Calvinism say that with their report now issued, the “next step” in cooperation and unity is up to individual Southern Baptists.

Twelve of the 19 members of the committee appeared together June 10 in the exhibit hall’s Cooperative Program booth, answering questions from messengers. The 3,200-word report, which urged Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” and “stand together” for the Great Commission, was unanimously approved and released in late May.

“It’s really up to all of you as to what happens with this,” committee member Tammi Ledbetter told an audience gathered around the CP booth. “We can talk it to death, and I think we probably have. What matters is what you do with your life in the way you relate to other people. And every time you have a conversation about this document or you have a conversation about a fellow believer … how you handle yourself will make the whole difference.”

The hope is that both sides will put the focus “back on winning people to Jesus,” added Ledbetter, managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN and a member of Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a committee member, agreed.

“So much of this comes back to what Tammi said — our own personal attitudes and dispositions,” Akin said, adding that Southern Baptists need to be “men and women of honesty and integrity.”

“If we will pursue those types of agendas in the days ahead, I believe we can come together for the very purpose on which we fought the conservative resurgence — that is, standing on an inerrant Bible to get the gospel to every person on the planet.”

The advisory team — not an official committee of the convention — was assembled by Executive Committee President Frank Page in August 2012 to advise him on developing “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.” The committee was composed of Calvinists and non-Calvinists from different walks of life in the convention.

“There has been a lot of talking about one another, and I decided it was time to talk to each other,” Page said during the panel discussion, acknowledging he “had doubts” about whether the committee could come to an agreement on a report.

“I am not naive. I know there are still differences,” Page said. “There are people on this group that have strong wills, strong opinions. I am among that group. But I just want to see us work together so men, women, boys and girls can be won to Jesus.”

The writing committee consisted of Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Mohler is a Calvinist; Hankins is not.

There were “several drafts” written before the final report was released, said Union University President David Dockery, the committee chair.

“Everyone had an opportunity to participate in the final document,” Dockery said. “Everyone had an opportunity to make suggestions.”

Hankins said he wants Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” and “cut out the meanness.”

“We sought to have something that would call all Southern Baptists together around the gospel,” Hankins said. “We sought to have something that would clearly express that there were real differences [while recognizing] we still want to partner together for the cause of Christ and the announcement of the gospel all around the world.

“We hoped to have a document that would … return us to a time period that we were in not so long ago in which we shared theological differences, but the rhetoric wasn’t so harsh,” Hankins said.

Said Mohler, referencing the year of the Southern Baptist Convention’s formation, “If you go back to 1845, there were people like me in the room, and there were people like Eric Hankins in the room. And they wanted to be in the same room together, because they wanted to send missionaries together, and they wanted to do great things for the Great Commission together.”

Page said he sees a level of “anti-Calvinism” in the convention “that frightens me.” On the flip side, he said, a Calvinist friend recently told him that the “extreme Calvinists” were driving the friend “crazy.” There is “vitriol” on both sides, Page said.

“It was my opinion that we need to deal with this because I think we’ve come to the point where trust is hitting a new low,” Page said. “We need to act on this to say, ‘We’ve co-existed for a long time, but it will only work when we do what we’ve said [we should do] — talk to [one another], not at, not about.'”

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a committee member, said, going in, he wanted to see the document reflect the strong belief that both sides are responsible for and “involved in winning people to Christ.” He also wanted it to urge “honesty” on the part of potential pastors for church leadership roles. The report met his goals, he said.

“Just be honest. Be forthright, up front,” Patterson said, speaking to those who submit resumes for church positions. “The document calls for that. All of us agree to that. We have tried to model that to the best of our ability.”

David Allen, dean of Southwestern’s school of theology and a member of the committee, said that when discussing the subject of Calvinism, it’s important that neither side “misrepresent one another’s positions.”

“It’s very important that we respect what someone says they believe and allow them to define what they say they believe,” Allen said.

Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a committee member, said one way to have dialogue with “someone you disagree with” is to get together and “try to state things [you think] the other person agrees with you on.”

“You come around to having to understand what the other person says,” Dever said.

During a question-and-answer time, the panel was asked if both strands of theology can exist in the same church or whether a church needs to take a stand on one particular side.

Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists teach at NOBTS. Lemke served on the committee.

“There is a natural tendency for people who are likeminded to share together,” Lemke said. “So probably the direction and interest and theology of the pastor is going to affect the sort of persons that join that church.”

But there are churches that have a “great deal” of theological diversity, Lemke added, and who have Calvinists and non-Calvinists among their staff and congregation.

“I think it’s possible [for both sides to exist] within the same fellowship,” Lemke said. “That may cause some tensions. But I think it’s a good thing within the body of Christ to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and a committee member, said the report “can really serve as a model for local churches” to “navigate through how we think about these issues and how we relate to one another.”

“We’re not going to treat one another as though we have deficiencies or as though we are somehow less because we have this position or that position,” Rummage said.

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