Month: October 2013

SBTC approves nine resolutions in Amarillo

Resolution one: On the Infringement of Religious Liberty in America

WHEREAS, Scripture teaches that man was created for the glory of God and is called to love and live for Him and Scripture also teaches that God intends man to worship freely Him in spirit and in truth and follow His ordinances without any hindrance; and

WHEREAS, because the forefathers of our great nation recognized man’s first duty is to God, they, in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protected this right, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”; and 

WHEREAS, countless brave American men and women have sacrificed, even to the point of death, for this right; and 

WHEREAS, we as Southern Baptists stand upon the inerrancy of Scripture and wholeheartedly support complete submission to God’s commandments without regard for the practices of men and women who live counter to God’s perfect truths; and  

WHEREAS, we are witnessing an increasing intolerance in American culture which represses the rights of Christians to live out their historic biblically based faith, such as: 

Military personnel reportedly punished and/or dismissed for expressing support for traditional marriage; 

Non-Discrimination ordinances such as the recently enacted San Antonio ordinance which originally sought to ban from public service anyone who had ever opposed gay marriage; 

Sports commentator Craig James’ firing from Fox Southwest for expressing a biblical belief regarding marriage; 

A health mandate in the Affordable Care Act requiring Christians to subsidize abortifacients in violation of their deeply held beliefs; and 

WHEREAS, Scripture encourages Christians to stand for Christ although we will be persecuted for righteousness sake and tempted to conform to the world (Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 5:11-12); now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, urge all Christians to stand for the faith and the clear teachings of Scripture and endure persecutions with the utmost respect, love and gentleness toward those who treat them with contempt, and to bless and pray for rather than curse their persecutors; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage all leaders in every segment of our society to respect the inalienable rights of Christians to worship and serve Almighty God with a clear conscience as our Creator commands, our founding fathers legislated and our military men and woman have sacrificed to maintain; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we note the need for pastors, lay leaders and teachers of God’s Word to lead and prepare the people of God to live in such a way as to give Christ the greatest glory in a world that is increasingly hostile toward the Christian message and the truth as revealed in the Scriptures; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we urgently express the need for the body of Christ to pray against the attacks of the enemy and be true intercessors for religious freedom in America (Ephesians 6:18).

 

Resolution two: On Violent and Sexual Content in Video Games

WHEREAS, violent and sexual content in video games has skyrocketed in recent years, as has the graphic and realistic nature of the violence depicted with the aid of advancing technology; and 

WHEREAS, the video gaming industry markets and sells billions of dollars worth of video games to children and their parents, such as Grand Theft Auto V which depicts sexual content, nudity, murder of innocents, theft, cruelty, necrophilia and illegal drug use; and 

WHEREAS, children are inherently pulled toward the activity of video gaming, which many studies show can be as highly addictive as some illegal drugs; and 

WHEREAS, the Bible reveals that the eyes are the corridor by which a person is filled with darkness (Matthew 6:23, Luke 11:34), and murder begins in the heart (Matthew 15:19); and 

WHEREAS, instances of murder more and more frequently committed on a mass scale by offenders with a documented history of playing violent video games prior to perpetrating those heinous crimes have multiplied across our nation in recent years; now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, urge our elected officials to enact swiftly legislation to curtail or stop the marketing to children of video games containing violent and sexual content; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we encourage members of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches and all Christian parents (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) to stand fast and resist pressure to purchase video games that contain sexual content and/or graphic violence for their children.

 

Resolution three: On Immigration Reform 

WHEREAS, the Bible commands that “every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1); and 

WHEREAS, Scripture calls us to show compassion and justice for the foreigner and stranger among us (Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Psalm 94:6, Jeremiah 7:6, Ezekiel 22:29, Zechariah 7:10); and 

WHEREAS, the borders of the United States of America are so unsecured as to have permitted millions of illegal immigrants to gain residence within our country; and 

WHEREAS, Texans have a unique perspective on immigration given its geographical situation adjacent to Mexico and is greatly impacted by policies that fail to secure our nation’s borders; and 

WHEREAS, the preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America lists among the founding purposes of our federal government to “establish justice” and to “provide for the common defense”; and 

WHEREAS, immigration into the United States without the permission of our federal government is a violation of the law; and 

WHEREAS, the vast majority of immigrants into the United States of America wish no harm to our country or its citizens but merely wish to improve their lives by taking advantage of the opportunities offered here; and 

WHEREAS, the presence of immigrants in the United States of America represents a unique opportunity to preach the gospel to all nations; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, hereby request that the Congress of the United States of America in its current legislative session adopt with regard to our nation’s immigration laws a comprehensive set of reforms that embody the six principles delineated by the Evangelical Immigration Table, which call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

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

RESOLVED, that we request that the government of the United States of America better coordinate the work of the various governmental agencies involved in order to respond consistently and effectively in the enforcement of immigration laws; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage all employers to obey the law in their hiring practices; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to cultivate opportunities to minister to immigrants in times of need and to demonstrate the love of Christ to all those residing in our communities; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we encourage Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to obey the Great Commission by redeeming every opportunity to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to the immigrants whom God has brought into our communities.

 

Resolution four: On Commending the Texas Legislature for Standing for Women

WHEREAS, Scripture informs us that every human life, born and unborn, has intrinsic value and immeasurable worth; and 

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have a long history of demonstrating their love for both vulnerable pregnant women and unborn babies; and 

WHEREAS, thousands of women who have experienced abortion have come forward to tell how abortion hurt rather than helped them, many of them describing appalling conditions and physical damage along with psychological harm; and 

WHEREAS, Texans recoiled as the scandal of Philadelphia’s Gosnell abortion clinic was brought to light through investigation, trial and multiple convictions of murder and other crimes against women and children; and 

WHEREAS, additional allegations were subsequently made against clinics in Delaware and Texas (Houston), where employees alleged similar safety violations, lack of basic hygiene and, in Texas, the killing of fully-born babies, suggesting a pattern; and 

WHEREAS, the Texas legislature responded by passing a pro-life omnibus bill with a ban on abortions after five months and strong clinic safety reforms; and 

WHEREAS, the Texas legislature stood for these reforms even as raucous pro-choice groups bullied and threatened legislators through such villainy as attempting to cast bodily fluids on supportive lawmakers, threatening the families of lawmakers, chanting “hail Satan” and attempting to overtake the capitol with angry mob rule; now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, commend Texas’ elected leaders for their courage under fire and encourage their continued efforts in protecting the least of these, women and babies.

 

Resolution five: On Worldwide Persecution of Christians

WHEREAS, the basic rights of people have their source in God, for He created mankind in His image according to Genesis 1:26-27 and those rights should never be repressed; and 

WHEREAS, the right of religious freedom is being denied people in places like Syria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and China, and human rights abuses including multi-generational imprisonment and death occur on a daily basis; and 

WHEREAS, for example, Christians in Syria are targeted by both government and rebel forces and thousands have fled to surrounding countries because of threats of torture and death; now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, applaud the efforts of leaders such as Congressman Frank R. Wolf (VA) and urge all our elected officials to champion the cause of religious liberty around the world through humanitarian aid, grants of asylum, diplomatic pressure and the implementation of any other effective international policies; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we commit to pray fervently for and affirm our Christian brothers and sisters who are facing extreme persecution; and, be it further 

RESOLVED, that we urge pastors, church leaders and congregations to become more aware of the plight of persecuted Christians around the world by reading such current literature as The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we agree to pray and encourage Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to pray for the freedom of persecuted Christians and to seek ways in which we can relieve their burdens (Galatians 6:2).

 

Resolution six: On the Cooperative Program and Missions Giving

WHEREAS, Scripture emphasizes the efficacy and testimony of the body of Christ working together (Philippians 1:27); and 

WHEREAS, Jesus gave the Great Commission to the whole church (Matthew 28:18-20), which will require a combined and comprehensive effort of all evangelical churches to turn back the darkness in the United States and engage all nations with the gospel; and 

WHEREAS, the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering form the cornerstone of missions giving in the Southern Baptist Convention; and 

WHEREAS, the North American Mission Board has challenged the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to plant 15,000 new churches in Canada and the United States through Send North America; and 

WHEREAS, the International Mission Board has issued a call to take the gospel to the 6,426 unreached people groups in the world; and 

WHEREAS, the giving through the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering has become static and resources will only allow 576 of the 1,400 current IMB applicants to be deployed to the mission field; now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, do affirm the biblical principle of cooperation in the body of Christ for the accomplishment of the Great Commission and these funding mechanisms as effective tools among Southern Baptists for that said task; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to renew their commitment to cooperate together through faithful participation in the Cooperative Program and sacrificial giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we urge pastors to implement strategic and ambitious goals to increase their Cooperative Program and missions giving; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we ask local churches to consider prayerfully engaging, through prayer and financial support, the Send North America initiative and the adoption of an unengaged, unreached people group through the International Mission Board.

 

Resolution seven: On Billy Graham

WHEREAS, William Franklin “Billy” Graham was born on November 7, 1918, and made a personal commitment to Christ at age 15 through the ministry of Mordecai Ham; and 

WHEREAS, Billy Graham is gifted and called as an evangelist by God to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for the saving of the lost and to the strengthening and encouragement of the local church; and 

WHEREAS, Billy Graham was ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention; and 

WHEREAS, Billy Graham has preached the gospel to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories at more than four hundred crusades, missions and evangelistic rallies and has reached more than two billion more through television, video, film, webcasts and 31 books; and 

WHEREAS, Billy Graham will celebrate his 95th birthday on November 7, 2013; now, therefore, be it 

RESOLVED, that in celebration of his 95th birthday, we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, express our profound appreciation for the evangelistic zeal and high Christian character demonstrated by Billy Graham as he continues to run with perseverance the race marked out for him; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to participate in and pray for the “My Hope America with Billy Graham” campaign held in conjunction with Dr. Graham’s 95th birthday; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we urge Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to renew our commitment to the evangelization of our lost world through prayer (Luke 10:2), personal evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20), the consistent preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21), the utilization of evangelists (Ephesians 4:11) and any other God-honoring means possible (1 Corinthians 9:22).

 

Resolution eight: On the “Look Like Heaven” Emphasis

WHEREAS, “Look Like Heaven” is a five-year initiative intended to encourage racial unity and cross-cultural relationships among SBTC churches; and 

WHEREAS, God included all races and cultures in His salvation plan; and 

WHEREAS, followers of Jesus are to recognize and appreciate that we are all one in Christ; and 

WHEREAS, Psalm 133:1 and John 13:34-35 teach that loving our brothers is a special mark of God’s children and that working together in love is God’s plan for us; and  

WHEREAS, Colossians 3:14 teaches that we are to put on love as a bond of unity, as a testimony before a lost world; now, therefore, be it     

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, encourage actions that build unity and cross-cultural relationships among SBTC churches and pastors; and, be it further 

RESOLVED, that we encourage the SBTC Committee on Order of Business to incorporate cross-cultural elements into the annual meeting program, especially during this five-year emphasis; and be it finally  

RESOLVED, that we recommend that Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches pursue cross-cultural relationships as they observe an emphasis month during July for the next five years.

 

Resolution nine: On Appreciation for President Terry Turner

WHEREAS, Pastor Terry Turner has served as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for the years 2012 and 2013; and 

WHEREAS, President Turner has led our convention with great grace, dignity and integrity, demonstrating a Christ-like spirit; and 

WHEREAS, President Turner has a heart and vision for our nation and the world, supporting mission causes nationally and internationally through the Cooperative Program; and 

WHEREAS, President Turner’s leadership in defense of traditional marriage, as well as through the racial unity initiative entitled Look Like Heaven, has been a great benefit to the churches of our convention; and 

WHEREAS, President Turner’s term as president ends with the conclusion of our 2013 annual meeting; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, assembled in Amarillo, Texas, October 28-29, 2013, express our appreciation to Pastor Terry Turner for his service and leadership as convention president and to Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, Mesquite, Texas, for their sacrificial generosity in sharing their pastor with our convention.

Draper, Melton share ministry wisdom at luncheon

AMARILLO—Veteran Texas pastors Jimmy Draper and T.C. Melton looked out at the youngest pastors attending a luncheon in Amarillo and expressed enthusiasm for their ministry among Southern Baptist churches.

“Without apology I’m very encouraged,” Draper told the Ministry Café luncheon during the annual Bible Conference hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “I really believe the younger generations of 20- and 30-somethings make one of the greatest generations ever seen.”

“Men coming out of our seminaries today can preach the Word of God,” Melton added, praising their faithfulness to Scripture.

For over an hour the two men drew from their experiences to answer questions posed by two of their younger counterparts in ministry—Wes Hinote, pastor of First Baptist Church of Plum Grove in Cleveland and John Powell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hamlin.

Draper pastored six churches in Texas, including First Baptist Church of Euless for 16 years. Prior to being called to Euless, he served as associate pastor to W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Church of Dallas. In addition, he led Lifeway Christian Resources as president from 1991 to 2006.

Melton served in pastorates across Texas, including 30 years at Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene. He has spent the past decade serving in various capacities with the SBTC, primarily as an area ministry coordinator for churches in West Texas. Additionally, he has served as interim pastor of more than 15 churches, many of them in rural communities.

“God saw something in us that would meet the needs for the time in which we pastored,” Melton said. Looking to the younger men at the table, he said, “I believe God saw something in you guys specifically designed for a ministry today. Rather than feeling second class, you should feel something very special. I would not be nearly as successful today.”

Hinote and Powell led off by asking how to guard against moral failure and gain wisdom by being mentored by older pastors.

Melton told young pastors to be careful “never to take that first step” in succumbing to temptation. 

Draper agreed, adding, “It’s not rocket science. If you don’t want to get wet, don’t go out in the rain. It’s your choice,” he insisted, encouraging ministers to avoid situations where “it’s your word against someone else’s.”

Draper and Melton agreed to the priority of a pastor loving his own wife and including her in ministry. “Your wife is your greatest protector,” Draper said. “There are two reasons to take your wife with you when you visit—they will be nicer to you and she will be your protection against any kind of advance women may make toward you or you feel tempted to make.”

Melton said he had never heard his wife speak a negative word about the churches he served. “That probably has done more to keep me encouraged than anything.”

Both men said they sought to maintain contact with and to encourage friends who had failures in ministry. “All of us are going to fall sometime,” Draper said. “It’s not whether we are going to fall, but whether we get up when we fall.”

“A lot of times when a preacher does fail we tend to forget that person,” Melton said, recalling a friend who admitted feeling abandoned. “One day I just got him on my heart and called him up.

“Don’t give up on people. Look them in the eye and say, ‘You may never be able to pastor again, but God still has a purpose for your life.’”

Melton also encouraged older ministers to make the time to befriend and encourage younger pastors. “You don’t know what it means to a young pastor in a small church for you to call him up and say, ‘Let’s go to lunch.’”

 “I think you’d find that most older, more established pastors would welcome the opportunity,” Draper said, recalling the time he asked Oklahoma City pastor Herschel Hobbs to meet with him. “We built a relationship we maintained all through the rest of my ministry and until his death.”

Jimmy Draper to serve as interim president of Criswell College

DALLAS—James T. “Jimmy” Draper of Colleyville begins serving as interim president of Criswell College on Nov. 1. The school’s executive board met Oct. 25, selecting the well-known pastor to lead until a new president is selected to replace Jerry Johnson who was named president of the National Religious Broadcasters.

Draper is president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, having served the Southern Baptist entity from 1991 to 2006. He was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1982, serving two terms during the years of the denomination’s Conservative Resurgence.

The Arkansas native has pastored six churches in Texas, including First Baptist Church of Euless for 16 years, as well as Red Bridge Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., and First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla. Prior to being called to Euless, he served as associate pastor to W. A. Criswell at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Draper’s commitment to encouraging younger leaders of the SBC prompted him to travel across the country in 2004 for what became known as the Younger Leader Initiative.

A graduate of Baylor University, Draper received a master of arts in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He later served on the board of trustees at both institutions.

“Jimmy Draper will provide a wonderful transition for the future of Criswell College,” stated board Chairman-elect John Mann, pastor of La Junta Baptist Church in Springtown. “We are excited about the fidelity to Scriptures as well as the compassionate leadership that has come to define Dr. Draper’s ministry.”

Current board Chairman Keet Lewis also observed that because Draper assisted founder W.A. Criswell during the school’s formative years, he has been privy to the college’s vision from the beginning, and is uniquely positioned in this interim role to guide the college toward its expanded vision for the future.

Draper expressed confidence in the school’s future, telling the TEXAN, “Because of the commitment of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Criswell Foundation, you can look anyone in the eye and tell him that Criswell College will be in the future what it is today, rooted in the Word of God and the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Two conventions in Texas! How come?

Texas is a different kind of place, mysterious even to our Baptist brothers from other states. More than 14 years after the inaugural meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention newcomers and tourists are still surprised to find us here. Some write it off to the independent, even brash, spirit of the state. In reality, the recent history of Southern Baptists in Texas is interwoven with that of our national convention.

Those men who were best known in the Southern Baptist Convention during our Conservative Resurgence (1979-1995) were often from Texas—Paul Pressler, Dan Vestal, Russell Dilday, Paige Patterson, Paul Powell, O.S. Hawkins, Edwin Young, Winfred Moore, Jimmy Allen, Morris Chapman, Richard Land, Foy Valentine, Lloyd Elder and Jimmy Draper. They were convention presidents and candidates from both sides, new and former agency leaders, and spokesmen for moderate and conservative Southern Baptists. Texas’ convention messengers during those years would enthusiastically bring home ideas from the SBC meeting, hoping to apply them to the denomination’s largest state convention. They failed. While moderates did not win an SBC election during the decades of the Resurgence, conservatives did not win an election in Texas as the big state convention began to push back in the 1990s. The theological malaise that plagued our SBC agencies from the 1950s until the 1990s had not left Texas institutions untouched. The difference in Texas was that the problems were not as extreme as they were further east and the reformers were not able to get traction to change the direction of the existing state convention.

As their state convention began to make aggressive moves to duplicate and undermine the work of the SBC, the state’s conservatives began to look for another home. Between 1992 and 1998, the growing awareness among those who welcomed the SBC’s own reformation was that only something new would reflect that renewal in Texas. On November 10, 1998, 120 churches, meeting in Houston, formed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. During that meeting they welcomed Jim Richards as the convention’s first executive director, approved a budget of about $900,000, adopted a constitution and passed a pro-life resolution that had been rejected by their former state convention repeatedly since 1980.

Fast forward 14 years and the convention has grown by 2,000 percent to well over 2,400 affiliated churches—all of them joined together in a confessional fellowship. The convention remains committed to the same core values it embraced in 1998. These values have kept the SBTC accountable to churches according to priorities that led to the convention’s founding.

Doctrinal agreement—Unlike most Baptist bodies more general than a local association, the SBTC is confessional. Affiliated churches and institutions affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. They don’t necessarily adopt the confession as their own, many have not, but they express agreement with our current BFM and understand that it is the basic document that describes our doctrinal identity.

A plainly stated and clear commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible is a core conviction shared by SBTC churches.

Starting a state convention at the end of Conservative Resurgence, the importance of doctrine, particularly the nature of Scripture, was very much in the minds of the SBTC’s founders. The state convention from which many of our churches moved would not officially commit to the inerrancy of Scripture, preferring “authority” or some other word that proved inadequate during recent SBC history. A plainly stated and clear commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible is a core conviction shared by SBTC churches. That belief’s denominational expression required the founding of a new state convention in Texas.

Priority of missions and evangelism—Making the Great Commission a priority required the SBTC to relegate some other things in importance. Our business and financial plan specifies that no more than 15 percent of our annual budget can go to institutional support, for example. The convention values its ministry relationships with like-minded institutions but it will not allow those institutions to become its primary mission. Neither is the convention likely to have a large number of affiliated institutions. Doing so would require that missions and evangelism be diminished to support institutions. The convention’s founders set a different course from the start. Pursuing that course in Texas required the founding of a new state convention. 

The SBTC has also expressed its commitment to missions and evangelism by keeping our staff organization minimal and by avoiding debt. From the start, convention leaders determined that the SBTC would not become bureaucratically heavy. That has required that we utilize the expertise of strong churches, SBC ministry partners, consultants, and retired part-time workers. It means that our staff operates at times like that in a newer work convention, wearing multiple hats. It means that there are some things other conventions do that we simply don’t do or do in a more modest way. In a day when long-established conventions are struggling to trim their numbers through attrition or buy-outs, the SBTC is blessed to have not let our staff size outrun our mission priorities. 

Commitment to cooperative missions—Many of the churches that founded the SBTC years ago and others that joined in the first three years might have not done so if they were not enthusiastic about the Cooperative Program. Most of those churches came out of a state convention that was steadily reducing the amount and percentage of undesignated funds passed through its adopted budget to SBC missions causes beyond Texas. The founders of the SBTC determined to demonstrate their own convictions by sending 50 percent of undesignated funds through the Cooperative Program in the first year’s budget, before the convention had three employees or even one institutional relationship. That percentage was set to climb to 55 within the first 10 years of the convention’s life. This percentage does not include designated missions offerings or “preferred” budget items that are sheltered from the CP formula. The only option for churches wanting a state convention partner that would encourage support for worldwide SBC causes was to start a new state convention in Texas.

Our founders, our churches, and our leaders believe that God is using the Southern Baptist Convention and are willing to express it in all ways available. The Southern Baptist Convention and its various agencies strengthen the ministries or Southern Baptist churches in Texas. This is a boost and not a detriment to the agenda of the state convention which consists only of Southern Baptist churches in Texas. 

In brief, that’s why we started something new. Those “battling Baptists” in Texas really don’t spend much time battling; we’ve got better things to do. Our state has five to six times the land and population of our neighboring states. Our population is increasingly made up of lost folks—we need new churches and healthy churches. The missionary task of reaching Texas is more than enough to involve all the gospel-preaching churches in our state. The monumental task of the SBC’s newest state convention is to help start and strengthen churches sufficient to reach Texas and touch all the peoples of the world. That is ultimately why there is a second state convention in Texas.

Texas Churches, Same-Sex Marriage and Nondiscrimination

Editor’s note: As public and legal attitudes toward same-sex marriage shift in our nation, some churches are concerned about their rights to determine building use and even to decline to conduct a ceremony when doing so would conflict with biblical convictions. SBTC’s legal counsel, Jim Guenther, answers some of the pertinent questions below.

How does the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to void the federal Defense of Marriage Act, along with other ominous signs, such as lawsuits against businesses that “discriminate” against same-sex couples, affect Texas laws regarding marriage? 

While the concept of marriage is rapidly changing in this country, marriage in Texas remains understood in the law as the legal union of a man and a woman. It is in both the state statutes and the state’s constitution. The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to declare the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional did nothing to change the law in Texas.  So, for the present, same sex-marriage discrimination is not an immediate direct issue for Texas ministers and churches.

It is likely that someone will eventually challenge the constitutionality of the Texas law. The equal protection argument used to void the federal Defense of Marriage Act would likely be used in an effort to have the Texas law declared unconstitutional. It is more likely changes in Texas will be propelled by court decisions than it is that the legislature will alter the traditional legal understanding of marriage.

In anticipation of the possibility of same-sex marriage becoming legal in Texas, is there anything a church needs to do if it wants to maximize its chances of being able to continue its present practices?

No. The strength of the First Amendment’s right to freely exercise religion and to be free from state entanglement is at its greatest when it comes to the local church’s faith and practice, in its choice of its ministers and its members, in what may be preached from the pulpit and in its religious activities. The First Amendment shield remains in the closets of Texas churches. Time and events will tell when and how the shield might come to be needed, and how effective it will be when it is put to use.

Should churches amend their governing documents to specify their religious beliefs regarding marriage?

Although not necessary to support the church’s existing right to free exercise of religion, that suggestion is a good idea for many reasons. Simply naming the BFM 2000, or other statement confirming a biblical definition of marriage, as the church’s statement of faith would put this in place.

If a church allows non-church members use of church facilities for a fee, could that move the church closer to being required to allow use by non-church members for purposes that are inconsistent with the church’s statement of faith?

 Likely not.  However if a church is anxious about the law, it would make sense for it to establish polices which it would follow to avoid being “open to the public.”  The most reasonable policy might be to say the church facilities will only be used for purposes consistent with its statement of faith; specifically to include marriage ceremonies.

What might the future look like regarding this issue?

Ministers and churches in Texas will, in any event, continue to have their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion. If it comes to pass that the United States Supreme Court declares there to be a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, the ultimate question in the law is going to be how that right fares when it comes into conflict with a minister’s or a church’s free exercise of religion.

Criswell preaching chair announced at Southern Seminary

LOUISVILLE, Ky—Southern Seminary announced a new academic chair in preaching in honor of the late W.A. Criswell, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Southern Baptist statesman and two-time Southern graduate, during an Oct. 17 chapel service in Alumni Memorial Chapel.

Jack Pogue, a long-time friend of Criswell who was present for the announcement, funded the chair. After introducing him, seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. thanked Pogue for his generosity.

“It is my great privilege to announce today, at the great generosity of this friend, the funding of the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching,” Mohler said.

Before the announcement, Mohler commented about Criswell’s gift of expository preaching.

“He, in many ways, exemplified not only for Southern Baptists but for evangelicals at large, a recovery of expository preaching,” Mohler said. “From the time of Charles Spurgeon to the time of W.A. Criswell, there are very few prominent preachers who are actually committed to what we would call biblical exposition.”

Mohler introduced a video of Criswell’s 1985 address, “Whether We Live or Die,” which the seminary community viewed as part of the service. Criswell preached the message, one of his most well-known sermons, at the Pastors’ Conference held before the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.

In the sermon, preached during one of the most intense times of controversy over the inerrancy of the Bible among Southern Baptists, Criswell outlined how acquiescence to liberal theology leads to the death of denominations and institutions. As examples, he pointed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s defense of the Bible in the “Downgrade Controversy” among English Baptists in the late 1800s and the University of Chicago’s fall into liberalism after its founding as an orthodox school to train ministers.

Criswell illustrated the influence of liberalism within the SBC with the story of professor Crawford H. Toy’s dismissal from Southern Seminary in 1879, due to his acceptance of German higher criticism. He pointed to the seminary’s subsequent acceptance of Toy’s theology, citing a 1985 issue of Southern Seminary’s at-the-time academic journal, Review and Expositor. The issue—published shortly before Criswell’s address—included an article describing Toy’s beliefs as “perfectly acceptable, condoned, and defended,” were he to teach at the seminary then.

Later at the 1985 convention, Southern Baptist messengers elected Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, as convention president. Stanley’s presidency continued a line of conservative presidents and helped secure the success of the conservative movement, known as the “Conservative Resurgence.”

Concerning the context of Criswell’s sermon, Mohler said the legendary preacher and former SBC president delivered the sermon under “conditions of maximum warfare.” The 1985 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Mohler said, was one of the great turning points in the SBC.

“There is a line that runs very straight from that day in Dallas, Texas, to this day in Louisville, Ky.,” Mohler told Southern Seminary students. “We can look back at history and say, had not the convention voted as it did in the very day after Dr. Criswell preached that sermon, we would not be sitting in this chapel today. It would be a very different world and a very different institution.”

Pogue, a businessman from Dallas, is also the funder of the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library. The digital library provides for free Criswell’s more than 4,100 sermons in digital format. At the conclusion of the service, Pogue provided each chapel attendee with a copy of “Criswell Classics: Centennial Edition,” a DVD collection of 12 of Criswell’s most important sermons.

Also at the service was Jerry Johnson, the outgoing president of Criswell College in Dallas, a school that Criswell himself helped establish, which later took his name. The National Religious Broadcasters recently named Johnson as their new president.

Audio and video of the service are available at www.sbts.edu/resources.

 

GuideStone joins class-action lawsuit against HHS abortifacient mandate

NEWS RELEASE: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON—Last Friday the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty together with the national law firm Locke Lord LLP filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of three non-profit religious organizations who cannot comply with the federal government’s mandate that they provide employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs and devices:

  • Reaching Souls International, a nonprofit evangelistic ministry dedicated to preaching the gospel and caring for orphans in Africa, India, and Cuba;
  • Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist college dedicated to equipping students to make disciples of Christ among all the nations through a biblically-centered education; and
  • GuideStone Financial Resources, the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. GuideStone has been providing retirement and health benefits to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell College for nearly 100 years.

The class, represented by Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, includes over 100 ministries that currently receive conscience-compliant health benefits through GuideStone. None of the ministries that comprise the class qualify for HHS’ narrow “religious employer” exemption, and they all face enormous fines if they do not comply with the government’s mandate by Jan. 1.

“The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as ‘religious employers’ is senseless,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “These people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith—if they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition.”

The lawsuit is brought by Reaching Souls, Truett-McConnell, and GuideStone on behalf of all of the religious groups that participate in GuideStone’s health benefits plan and are not exempt from the government mandate to cover emergency contraceptives.

“The very purpose of the GuideStone plan is to provide ministry organizations with employee health benefits according to biblical principles,” said O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s President and chief executive officer. “The government shouldn’t prohibit us from continuing in that ministry.”

The government allows exemptions from the mandate for churches and certain other religious ministry groups, but Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell do not qualify because they do not fall within a narrow tax law category of ministries that are “integrated auxiliaries” of a church.

Founded by a Southern Baptist pastor and evangelist in 1986, Reaching Souls’ mission is “to reach Souls for Christ” by training, equipping, and supporting African, Cuban, and Indian pastors and evangelists as they preach the gospel to their neighbors and countrymen. Through their dedicated preaching, pastors and evangelists trained and supported by Reaching Souls have reached out to more than 20 million people in Africa, Cuba, and India.

In addition to proclaiming the gospel, Reaching Souls has rescued hundreds of orphans in Africa and India by placing them into loving homes. If Reaching Souls does not comply with the mandate by Jan. 1, it will face $365,000 per year in IRS fines.

“Because everyone is made in the image of God, even the most vulnerable people in society should be respected, served, and loved. That’s why Reaching Souls is committed to reaching the neediest people with the gospel and caring for orphaned children, and it’s why we believe that human life should be protected from conception. We want to offer a health plan that reflects those commitments,” said Dustin Manis, Reaching Souls’ CEO.

Located on 200 acres in the mountains of Georgia, Truett-McConnell is a Georgia Baptist liberal arts college whose mission is to “equip students to fulfill the Great Commission by fostering a Christian worldview through a biblically centered education.” If Truett-McConnell does not comply with the mandate by Jan. 1, it will face nearly $3 million per year in IRS fines.

“We teach our students what it means to think biblically about all areas of life,” said Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell. “We can’t tell them that human life is sacred from the time of conception and then turn around and offer health benefits that are inextricably linked to providing abortion-causing drugs. Southern Baptists have a long history of standing up to government coercion in matters of conscience—it’s a tradition we’re honored to join.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Locke Lord LLP in the federal district court in Oklahoma. This is the 74th lawsuit challenging the administration’s mandate. The Becket Fund is also representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, Eternal Word Television Network, Houston Baptist University, Ave Maria University, and Wheaton College in similar lawsuits. This is the second class action file challenging the administration’s mandate. The other class action was filed in federal District Court in Denver by the Becket Fund and Locke Lord LLP on behalf of various religious organizations participating in the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, a national plan established for Catholic employers.