Month: October 2014

Creamer envisions students who transform culture

DALLAS––If anyone left the inauguration service of Barry Creamer as president of Criswell College unsure of the new president’s direction for the school, they weren’t paying attention.

The college’s new leader outlined a vision focusing on equipping students to be “transformative agents for the culture” and using the current facility to its maximum capability.

“Our objective is to grow our curriculum and grow our program so that students are graduating and influencing the culture for Christ,” said Creamer, who has managed the school’s day-to-day operations since being named as the school’s chief operating officer last November.

During an Oct. 2 chapel service at the Dallas college, Creamer promised to usher in the same kind of change the college helped bring the Southern Baptist Convention over the last 40 years. The board of trustees officially installed Creamer as the school’s seventh president during the service.

Criswell trustees tapped Creamer as president in July. The school’s former president, Jerry Johnson, left to take the helm of the National Religious Broadcasters organization last November. LifeWay Christian Resources president emeritus Jimmy Draper served as interim president.

Creamer, who earned his master of divinity degree at Criswell, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington. He has served as Criswell’s vice president of academic affairs since 2011 and as a professor of humanities since 2004.

The SBC is Different Because of Criswell

Criswell College has a rich history of leadership, Creamer noted, saying: “We succeeded. The convention is different; the seminaries are different. The denomination is different because of Criswell College.”

W.A. Criswell, known as the patriarch of the “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention, founded the school that bears his name in 1970. He was the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas at the time.

Creamer said his desire was to build on that success by “expanding our curriculum, strengthening our campus and transforming what we are doing here so that we bring that same kind of transformation to the culture.”

Creamer’s hopes for the school are not surprising. He’s well known in evangelical circles and beyond as a well-spoken apologist for the Christian faith and is a leading voice on cultural and theological matters. Creamer hosts a radio program, “For Christ and Culture,” on KCBI-FM in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Creamer said he understands some who look at the size of the school and do not believe it possible to have such an impact. Giving credit to God, he continued, “We look at where we are, and we think we can get to the point where we graduate students who are influential in this culture and who actually bring about transformation.”

“God is able to do far above what we think or ask,” he said, citing Ephesians 3:20. “He has so much more in store for Criswell,” he added.

Speaking directly to current and prospective students who were on campus for the school’s Preview Day, Creamer said, “It doesn’t matter if we do anything else if students don’t graduate and go out and change the culture for Christ,” he said.

Biggest Need is Alignment

During meetings held on the same day, Creamer told trustees the college’s biggest need is “alignment,” that is, “making sure that every part of the school is going where the whole school is trying to go.”

“We want every person who is serving in any way on this campus to have in mind that their goal is to provide every student a way to move forward to graduation,” he promised, noting there must be awareness and agreement on the school’s goals among faculty, staff and students.

Creamer said the administration has reasonable goals for growth over the next several years, with hope the school would exceed these goals.

The administration set a benchmark 7-percent growth rate that envisions the school with a headcount of 600 students in 8 years and over 1,000 students in 16 years, he explained. The school has goals to establish a balanced cash flow, driven in part by the plan to sell non-essential property, freeing up $400,000 annually that is now dedicated to debt service.

The school must be intentional in its outreach to churches, prospective students and people who want to support what Criswell College is doing, Creamer said, emphasizing, “It’s all about relationships.”

The school also needs to increase its endowment, he said, noting a strong school is most often built on a healthy endowment.

Not Just Surviving But Thriving

Creamer said he didn’t want Criswell to be just another school students can choose from. “For 40 years this school has been at the center of the denomination,” he said, insisting the school can’t be content to rest on its laurels.

Creamer said his long-term goal for Criswell was to be “one of the premier schools in the country with exactly the same values commitment we have now.” He said he looks forward to a day in which “people are begging to get in here” to study so they can excel in their chosen field.

“It doesn’t matter if we teach well or not,” Creamer said. “What matters is if students have learned well and actually are equipped to go out and change the culture.”

Creamer said recruitment has to improve as well as student retention, calling the school’s current nearly 80 percent freshmen retention rate “fantastic.”

“We are a totally different type of school than before,” Creamer said.

“We must refocus our attention on the short-term intermediate goals we have right now and how we rebuild our reputation,” he continued, explaining he hoped his statements wouldn’t be negatively construed.

“We want people to know we are not just surviving but that we are thriving. We want to build confidence in our donors that what they are investing in is long term not just immediate survival.”

Plans to Leverage Existing Property

In a change of plans from the previous administration, Creamer said his plan is to maximize use of the school’s current campus. He told the trustees he was confident the college could grow into what it needed to by remaining in its present location for the foreseeable future.

“It means we have to leverage our resources to do that,” Creamer said. “It means we ask someone who is an expert on what is the best use we can get out of these facilities so that in 10, 15 or however many years we are in a good position to do whatever it takes to become the college God wants to make us then.”

Staying in place makes sense for the school, Creamer insisted, saying, “Dallas is a good fit.”

“I am not committed to a piece of land. At some point I think the vision does include a piece of land. But now the vision is to become a great school. Whatever that takes,” Creamer said.

Trustees affirmed Creamer’s vision, reversing an October 2012 vote that gave permission for the school’s former leadership to consider moving the college to a “new location.”

The trustees’ 2012 directives to “expand the current college curriculum toward a university model” and for the school to establish a “residential campus” remain unchanged.

The school is actively working to sell “non-essential properties” to eliminate the college’s only remaining debt, Creamer explained. He anticipates having a detailed proposal available for the trustees’ consideration in the spring. Tentative plans are for a residential campus with a 180-bed dorm on the downtown Dallas campus in place for the 2016 fall semester.

He said Criswell’s lack of on-campus housing for non-commuter students is a turn-off for many parents considering sending their child to the school.

Creamer said he didn’t envision a final plan calling for the demolition of any existing buildings but that many of them would be extensively remodeled. He said the preliminary cost estimate for the work is somewhere near $5 million.

In documents provided to the trustees, the new administration indicated a property study revealed it is feasible to serve nearly 2,000 students and provide residences for 720 students on the existing campus and nearby land. Currently the school has 350 students.

Other Board Decisions

During their meeting, Criswell’s board of trustees also elected Joe Wooddell as vice president for academic affairs and Bill Watson as assistant professor of Greek and New Testament.

City of Houston revises subpoena but not enough, ADF says

HOUSTON – On Friday City Attorney Dave Feldman struck the word “sermons” from a subpoena ordering five local pastors turn over their sermons, speeches, and communications with church members as part of an ongoing legal dispute with the city. But attorneys for the pastors said the move is not enough and nothing short of a complete withdrawal of the documents will suffice.

“The city of Houston still doesn’t get it. It thinks that by changing nothing in its subpoenas other than to remove the word ‘sermons’ that it has solved the problem,” Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in response to the city’s actions.

The revision was a preliminary response to ADF’s brief calling on the Harris County 152nd District Court to quash the subpoenas. It followed days of national criticism aimed at the city for what critics called an abuse of power. In his brief Feldman tried to justify the original demand calling the requested material “relevant” because of the pastor’s involvement in the referendum process that is at the heart of the lawsuit.

RELATED STORY: “Texas Attorney General calls for Houston City Attorney to withdraw subpoena”

The petition to repeal a controversial ordinance granting civil rights protections to homosexuals and transgender individuals was thrown out by Feldman claiming the signatory process flawed. The coalition of pastors responsible for the petition sued. The subpoenaed pastors are not part of the lawsuit.

“As we have stated many times, the problem is the subpoenas themselves; they must be rescinded entirely,” the ADF press release stated. “The city must respect the First Amendment and abandon its illegitimate mission to invade the private communications of pastors for the purpose of strong-arming them into silence in a lawsuit that concerns nothing more than the authenticity of citizen petitions.”

From the court revision:

“Request No. 12 originally read:

All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuals, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.

Defendants hereby revise Request No. 12 as follows:

All speeches or presentations related to HERO or the Petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

But the revision still leaves in place demands for “all communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”

In an attempt to clarify the reasoning for the subpoenas, Feldman stated in the revision, “The non-party recipients of these subpoenas assisted in organizing the referendum petition drive and are believed to have made presentations to circulators and petition signers concerning how to complete the petition forms or other relevant representations concerning the HERO ordinance or petitions. That information is discoverable and not privileged.”

In an interview earlier this week, Erik Stanley, an ADF attorney for the pastors said the circulators followed city charter requirements in performing their duties and any attempt to determine motivating factors for signing a petition violates First Amendment rights as determined by a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

SWBTS professor holds classroom dialogue with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality co-founder

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Evan Lenow recognized the risk of inviting Michael Saltsman, co-founder of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality (EME), to his seminary classroom to discuss whether evangelicals should support same-sex marriage but also viewed it as a learning opportunity for those called to ministry. Lenow and Saltsman dialogued on the topic in front of Lenow’s Bible & Moral Issues class at the seminary, Oct. 15.

“It’s humbling to invite someone into my classroom whose goal is to convince my students that I am wrong,” Lenow, who holds the traditional view of marriage, said in an Oct. 14 blog post. “But it is a healthy exercise for both student and professor.”

Saltsman, who serves as research director at Employment Policies Institute and vice president of a research and communications firm in Washington, D.C., grew up in a conservative, evangelical family. He is married, and he and his wife have a 2-year-old daughter. Although he held to a traditional view of marriage in college, he said, discussions with friends who were in same-sex relationships and readings on both sides of the issue caused him to reconsider his position.

“I was very concerned about the way the debate was moving,” Saltsman said. “On the one hand, I really felt like this was an issue on a civil marriage point that the church was wrong on, but on the other hand I was really concerned about the way that people who had reservations about abandoning a traditional view of marriage were being treated.”

This concern led him to co-found EME.

“The idea behind Evangelicals for Marriage Equality,” Saltsman told Lenow’s class, “was to have an organization that said you can be a faithful Christian and a faithful evangelical that supports civil marriage equalities as the government provides a certain set of benefits and tax treatments to opposite sex couples that they would also provide them to same-sex couples. But at the same time, that we could have a respect and understanding for those folks who (disagree).”

Saltsman said EME’s board members—which include author and former pastor Brian McLaren, who has been widely criticized for his departure from orthodox Christianity—would largely identify themselves as “evangelicals.” When Lenow asked him to define the term “evangelical,” Saltsman defined it as someone who focuses on “the authority of Scripture, the inerrant word of God, a personal relationship with Christ, evangelism and sharing the gospel.”

Saltsman said members of EME’s board fall along the spectrum of views on whether or not homosexuality is a sin—some believing it is, while others say it is not—but, he added, “I would count myself as one of the people who is still undecided on the issue.”

Thus, Saltsman claimed, EME’s argument for civil same-sex marriage is more a legal position than a theological one.

Lenow, who serves as director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern, countered with Scripture he believed clearly defined homosexuality as sin and asked, “If there really is a spectrum of belief across your board of advisors—you actually have people on your board who would say homosexual behavior is sinful and the Bible clearly condemns it as sin—how do you get to the point as evangelicals of saying, ‘This is a sinful behavior that God judges and condemns, yet we want to support it?’”

“We’re protecting a principle rather than promoting a behavior,” Saltsman argued, adding that Christians often “stand for the rights of people who we either think are heretics or whose beliefs we don’t believe in.” He said EME advocates “equal treatment under the law.”

Lenow pushed back, saying he did not understand how evangelicals could give “hardy approval to something God says is sinful.”

“Is that a theologically consistent (position to take)?” Lenow asked.

“In a pluralistic, religiously diverse society such as ours,” Saltsman replied, “I will always stand up for equal protection under the law, even for people who I disagree with and who disagree with my point of view.”

Lenow also asked Saltsman to give his definition of marriage, to which Saltsman gave two definitions—the church’s definition and the government’s definition—a dichotomy that allows for him to have one position theologically and another legislatively.

The two also debated whether or not recognition of same-sex marriages would open the door in the future for other redefinitions of marriage, including polygamy and incest.

Saltsman agreed that polygamy could “denigrate society” but was dismissive about the potential for society to accept it, adding, “Polygamy isn’t even a discussion,” to which Lenow cited groups already pushing for acceptance of polygamous cohabitation and the potential for polyamorous relationships with multiple husbands and wives.  

Lenow argued that opening the door for same-sex marriage becomes a “slippery slope” toward other perversions of traditional marriage. Saltsman said, “In any place where we draw lines … there’s always a way you can say there’s a slippery slope.” He argued that polygamy does not have widespread support by the majority of the population.

The two ended the dialogue with a discussion of whether Christian businessmen and businesswomen should be forced to offer wedding services and venues to same-sex couples. Both agreed this is a religious liberty issue and that Christians should not be persecuted for holding to their religious convictions. Lenow encouraged Saltsman and EME to take a stronger stand on this side of the religious liberty argument.

Following the dialogue, both Saltsman and Lenow expressed appreciation for the opportunity to discuss the issue with civility and Christian character. Students were given the opportunity to dialogue further with the two after class was dismissed.

“Today’s conversation in Fort Worth might not have solved the marriage equality debate, but it still provided an important opportunity to explain that it’s possible to be a faithful evangelical and a supporter of civil marriage equality,” Saltsman told the TEXAN. “I appreciated the back-and-forth with Dr. Lenow, who initially proposed this conversation and was kind enough to host it in his classroom.”

Lenow expressed appreciation for Saltsman’s willingness to join his class.

“Too often those on different sides of an issue talk at each other rather than with each other,” Lenow told the TEXAN. “This discussion demonstrated that two people can disagree on a significant topic and still have a civil conversation.

“There was a great risk in bringing Michael Saltsman into my classroom because he had everything to gain while I had everything to lose. However, I am confident that the biblical design of marriage is able to withstand critique from both inside and outside the church. In addition, my students need to know what people on the other side of the debate are actually saying. I hope my students benefited from the discussion and are more prepared to engage in similar discussions on their own.”

Texas Attorney General calls for Houston City Attorney to withdraw subpoena

HOUSTON –Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called on City Attorney Dave Feldman, Oct. 16, to withdraw a subpoena requiring five local pastors to submit their sermons to his office as evidence in an ongoing litigation against the City of Houston surrounding a controversial ordinance the pastors seek to repeal.

“Your aggressive and invasive subpoenas show no regard for the very serious First Amendment considerations at stake,” Abbott wrote in the letter addressed directly to Feldman.

In a press conference Wednesday Parker and Feldman admitted the wording of the subpoenas was “overly broad” but claimed they had no knowledge of the documents before Tuesday because the subpoenas had been prepared and issued in September by a law firm assisting in the litigation.

But that statement does not ring true for Erik Stanley, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing the five pastors. Stanley found it disconcerting that attorneys for three of the most powerful law firms in the city did not consider the First Amendment implications of the subpoenas.

“The fact that it did not occur to them tells us their view of the law,” Stanley told the TEXAN.

Abbott concurred, writing to Feldman, “These lawyers acted in the city’s name, and you are responsible for their actions.”

Both attorneys called on Feldman to withdraw the subpoenas. Stanley filed a brief with the Harris County District Court Oct. 10 asking the subpoena be quashed. The request gives the pastors a reprieve from compliance and the threat of fines or imprisonment for contempt of court for non-compliance.

Critics nationwide called the subpoenas a “fishing expedition” that will have a chilling effect on anyone seeking redress with city hall. And the move illustrates a key objection members of the No UNequal Rights Coalition have with the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance—government intrusion into the life and work of the local church.

The ordinance, passed in May, gives protected status to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It requires public accommodations be made for individuals based on their gender identity, not biology. Although churches are exempt from the law, critics charge it would force para-church organizations, businesses and individuals to violate their religious convictions in accommodating the law. Parker, a lesbian, championed the ordinance saying its passage was deeply personal.

“It certainly serves as another example of the disregard the Parker administration has for the rule of law, and we knew that the ordinance was placing the punitive power of government over the religious beliefs of citizens, business owners, property owners and eventually the church,” Dave Welch told The Texan. Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, is one of the subpoenaed pastors.

Included among the 17 categories of requested material in the subpoena is “all speeches, presentations or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by or approved by you or in your possession.”

Another request calls for “all communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”

The subpoenaed pastors—Welch; Hernan Castano, of Rios de Aceite; Magda Hermida, of Magda Hermida Ministries; Khanh Huynh, of Vietnamese Baptist Church, and Steve Riggle, of Grace Community Church—are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city but have been outspoken in their opposition to the ordinance as members of the No UNequal Rights Coalition.

News of the subpoenaed sermons broke Tuesday morning. Within 24 hours nationwide blowback began to reverberate in City Hall. In the Wednesday press conference Parker and Feldman only admitted the subpoenas were poorly written and even blamed their critics for creating the controversy.

When asked why the city attorney she hired deemed it necessary to subpoena pastors’ sermons Parker chuckled and dismissively answered the question.

“Let me just say that one word in a very long legal document—which I know nothing about and would never have read—and I’m vilified coast to coast. It’s a normal day at the office for me,” she said.

Parker went on to accuse her detractors of deliberately misinterpreting the intent of the subpoenas.

Although she claimed ignorance about the subpoenas, a day earlier she posted on her Twitter feed, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”

Her Tweet spurred almost 300 responses from across the nation and political divide. Most disagreed adamantly with the ideology behind her post.

 “Using the pulpit for politics is not only allowed, it’s the foundation of our nation! Ever heard of ‘abolitionists?’” posted David Dombrowsky of New York.

And Andrew Ewert posted, “I’m as dyed-in-the-wool-liberal, secular, LGBT-loving as they come, and I think you may have crossed a line there.”

At the press conference Feldman said the court order for sermons has been “construed” as an effort to infringe on religious liberties.

“All of this hysteria about how we’re trying to infringe—all because of the use of the word ‘sermon’—is really ridiculous.”

But Abbott had a different perspective. He wrote, “In good faith, I hope you merely failed to anticipate how inappropriately aggressive your lawyers would be. Many, however, believe your actions reflect the city government’s hostility to religious beliefs that do not align with the city policies.”

Stanley called the city administrators’ actions “political retribution and bullying.”

The pastors targeted by the subpoenas are part of a racially diverse association of pastors united in their effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, called HERO by its supporters. Unable to stop its passage by city council in May, the No UNequal Rights Coalition was formed to organize a referendum to put the ordinance to a vote by the city.

More than 50,000 signatures were gathered in the petition drive—far more than the 17,269 needed to put the issue on the November ballot. The requisite number of signatures was certified by City Secretary Anna Russell. But three days later, with only hours left in the city’s deadline for certifying the petitions, Feldman summarily disqualified thousands of signatures alleging they did not meet city charter standards.

The referendum failed and the coalition sued the city demanding Russell’s certification protocol be followed. The case goes to trial in January. The subpoenaed sermons and pastor-church member communications are part of the city’s discovery proceedings.

Outcry regarding the “overreach” has come from across the nation. Republican Texas Senator Ted scheduled a rally and press conference Thursday at Houston’s First Baptist Church. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council initiated a petition drive as a show of support for the pastors. Local and national talk radio hosts railed against the mayor and city attorney.

Nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity even offered to pay bail for any pastor jailed for failing to comply with the subpoena.

Southern Baptist leadership called on Evangelical Christians to respond en masse.

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary wrote in his blog post, “My concern is whether or not Christians will persist in having the courage of their convictions. This won’t be the last time the church encounters intimidation—for we are assured that all who desire godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

In a call for churches to stand with the Texas pastors this Sunday, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore wrote, “A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship.”

He challenged pastors to preach about or at least address the issue from the pulpit and for all Christians to pray and educate themselves about the perils of losing religious liberties.

Echoing the sense of urgency expressed throughout the day, Moore wrote, “The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”

God’s Plan for the Home

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention stands firmly on the conviction that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. The SBTC is a confessional fellowship based on agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message Statement (2000). Article 17 clearly stakes out our position on Religious Liberty. Article 18 puts forth our convictions about the family. In response to the subpoenas issued to the pastors in Houston relative to their rights as American citizens and Biblical Christians I am providing a sermon I have preached on the home. My sermon from Ephesians 5:22-6:4 addresses the basics of human sexuality and biblical marriage. Please consider what the Bible says about this important issue.

GOD’S PLAN FOR THE HOME (Ephesians 5:22-6:4)

First-century Ephesus was a difficult place to have a godly home. Temple Diana, an ancient wonder of the world was there. The economy was no longer based on goods & services but on tourist worshippers who came there to indulge in sensual practices. Merchants relied on the base desires of people enamored with self-gratification. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The Apostle Paul wrote Holy Spirit-inspired eternal truth. He taught the Ephesian Christians God’s design for the home. Other than your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there is nothing more important than your relationship with your family. You can have a godly home. Are you willing to follow His plan?

God’s plan for the home is for …

MEN TO BE MEN (5:23, 25-33a)

Regardless of public opinion, the biblical model of marriage is one man and one woman. Sadly a person is considered homophobic by saying God’s plan is for men to marry women and women to marry men. Beyond the basics of gender assignment, men have two responsibilities in the home.

1.  Leadership (23) – Paul uses Christ & His Church as an analogy.

Spiritual – Joshua 24:15 – Sharing the gospel with your family is the first obligation of spiritual leadership. (The gospel: We all fall short of God’s perfect standard. God is holy. Sin cannot enter His presence. Jesus lived a perfect life. Taking our place Jesus died on the cross shedding His blood to pay for our sins. He resurrected the third day. Anyone who will turn their lives over to Him and trust Him for forgiveness can have eternal life, Romans 10:13.)

Moral – 1 Cor.16: 13

2.  Love (25-33a) – Show love!

Sacrificial – (25) this is a love that gives to the other. We are to give up our rights.

Continual – (26, 27) Love is often spelled T-I-M-E. It gives security & reassurance to our family.

Exclusive – (28-30) a monogamous relationship is God’s standard, (Ex.20:14).

Unconditional – (31-33a) DIVORCE should not be in the Christian’s vocabulary. Our human imperfections allow us to see God work in our lives.

WOMEN TO BE WOMEN (5:22, 24, 33b)

In the first century women were considered property and were segregated from men. The God of the Bible elevates women to a place of respect and honor.

Women have an invaluable place in God’s work. Biblical truth is seen as controversial. There are 2 insights about women in the text:

  1. Role (vs.22, 24) “hupotasso” is a Greek word translated “submit” or “subject.” It is a military term meaning to “arrange in order, under.” God is a God of order. 1 Cor. 11:3-16 gives the order. 1 Cor.15:28 says the Son is subject to the Father. Jesus was not a second rate person in the Godhead, but He has a specific role to fulfill. By fulfilling God’s role assignment you are at God’s best.
  2. Relationship (v.33b) the words “respect” or “reverence” comes from the Greek word, “PHOBUS”. This is a “dread of displeasing.” A person in love desires and works for the best of the other. A wife is the heart of the home, Prov. 31:10, 1 Peter 3:1-6.



Scripture refers to the father as the leader. We can include both parents in child rearing. Every child has 3 basic needs:

  1. Testimony – Live before them the gospel
  2. Touch – Give children a disciplined structure
  3. Talk – Train children in the Word of God.

Parents are to be God’s instruments shaping a godly generation.

Only by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment can our homes be happy. I encourage you to have prayer and the Word of God read in your home. Your decision will help determine your family’s legacy. It can be a legacy of love for each other and the watching world. We must live out our faith starting in the home.

Border ministry moves to McAllen Central Station

McALLEN—Ticket counters representing eight bus companies serve hundreds of passengers daily at McAllen Central Station, an international transit hub in the Rio Grande Valley. Central Station has also become a new site for SBTC Disaster Relief chaplains to minister to immigrants picked up by border patrol agents.

“We will minister to families as they are released by the border patrol and transported to Central Station,” SBTC Interim Director of DR Scottie Stice said. “At the bus station, we will greet them, pray with them and share the Lord with them as they move on to their destinations.”

SBTC DR chaplains will also distribute travel packs assembled in the Rio Grande Valley by Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Relief (VOAD). The packs contain snacks, light blankets, toothbrushes and travel necessities.

SBTC chaplains will be working with other faith-based groups through VOAD.

“Our chaplains will work the twilight or swing shift, from 3­-11 p.m. nightly through the week,” Stice explained, noting that chaplains Julian Moreno and Armando DeLeon left for McAllen on Oct. 15 and expected to work that evening.

“We are sending bilingual teams of two to three members,” Stice said. “We never know how many busloads of immigrants to expect. Some evenings three to five may come. Other times, only one may come. But we’ll be ready.”

Moreno and DeLeon are expected to be in McAllen through Oct. 17. Another team led by Jim Howard will rotate in on Oct. 20, Stice said, adding, “First Baptist Church of McAllen has been and continues to be heavily involved in the ministry to border immigrants.”

Professor installed into evangelism chair preaches, practices “Everyday Evangelism”

FORT WORTH—Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was installed in the school’s prestigious L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at the beginning of the fall semester. Queen is the eighth professor to hold the distinguished position but the first among them with an earned Ph.D. in evangelism.

The history of the Scarborough Chair, as well as Southwestern’s legacy of training in evangelism, goes back over a century.

The school’s founding president, B.H. Carroll, installed L.R. Scarborough as the first occupant of the “Chair of Fire” in 1908. The nickname stemmed from Carroll’s preferred designation for the newly created chair of evangelism, the first of its kind in the world.

In keeping with the wishes of Carroll, the Chair of Fire has been reserved for professors who displayed a particular fervor for evangelism.

“That all the work of this chair may not be mere theory and historical delay,” Carroll writes, “the occupant of this chair must himself be a practical field evangelist all the time illustrating, between lecture series, the power of his office in great revival meetings.”

In his four years at Southwestern, Queen has proved to be just such an evangelist. However, he says he is fully aware of the weight that accompanies the historic Chair of Fire.

Referring to his new assignment as the “Holy Grail for evangelism professors,” Queen described the history of the position first held by Scarborough.

“Scarborough was the first evangelism professor in the world. He was a preacher of the people who passionately shared the gospel and inspired people with his stories of soul-winning. His successor E.D. Head was evangelistic but is primarily remembered for his passion for scholarship.”

According to Queen, James Eaves and Malcolm McDow were both “compassionate men who loved souls.” However, they each held the chair for only a year or two during a brief period when it rotated among the chair of the seminary’s evangelism department.

“C.E. Autrey was thoroughly Baptist, but he had a broader base in his evangelistic leadership among evangelicals because of his association with Billy Graham,” Queen explained. “He left Southwestern to lead the evangelism department at the then-Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board).”

It was under Roy Fish that the Chair of Fire was officially named for Scarborough.

“Roy Fish had a love for studying evangelism historically, and in many ways contributed to an ongoing history of evangelism among Southern Baptists,” Queen said. “If Scarborough’s evangelistic influence in theological education was that he introduced the study of evangelism in seminaries and divinity schools as the first professor of evangelism, Fish’s evangelistic influence is in the students he taught who now serve as professors of evangelism.”

Queen pointed out that Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, his immediate predecessor in the Chair of Fire, has championed evangelism in his role as president at three different schools: Criswell College, Southeastern Seminary and Southwestern.

“Exactly like Fish’s influence on theological education, Patterson has trained numerous Southern Baptist professors who are evangelistic in their places of service, as well as beyond SBC entities,” Queen said. “On a personal note, Paige Patterson has had the most influential impact on me in my practice of personal evangelism. His example, teaching and expectation for faculty to be soul-winners have made me who I am today.”

Known by those on campus for his winsome and approachable personality, Queen has continued in the tradition of the previous occupants of the Chair of Fire by displaying evangelistic passion both inside and outside of the classroom.

Queen was instrumental in the seminary’s “Taking the Hill” initiative, a plan conceived in 2009 by Patterson, the then-occupant of the Chair of Fire. Prioritizing the importance of evangelism both far and near, “Taking the Hill” and its follow-up initiative “No Soul Left Behind” proposed to share the gospel with every household within a one-mile radius of the seminary campus—some 6,700 homes. Thanks largely in part to Queen’s leadership and passion, the seminary accomplished this goal by the end of 2012.

The seminary’s next evangelism initiative, “Going the Second Mile,” extends that same theme to include every household within a two-mile radius. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Queen leads groups of students to share the gospel at least once every week in the area immediately surrounding the seminary.

In his newly published book Everyday Evangelism, Queen lays out how to establish a culture of evangelism within your church. Groups from Southwestern have also been made available to do evangelism outreach and training at churches across the state of Texas.

Twice in the last year, Queen has led a group of Southwestern students to Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla. The students trained and led church members to share the gospel personally in the area around the church. Between the two trips, more than 20 individuals expressed faith in Christ for the first time.

“We chose Southwestern because we know that Southwestern has a hot heart to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people,” pastor Stephen Rummage said.

“We know what they’re doing in their community around Southwestern Seminary to reach people with the gospel, so we wanted a little bit of that spirit here in our community as we seek to reach the people around us with the gospel.

“I’ve known Matt Queen for a long time. He was one of my students when I was a seminary professor. I know about his commitment to evangelism and to personal soul-winning, so I really wanted our students here to have an opportunity up close to find out what it’s like to be around people like Matt and like the students who are studying with him at Southwestern, who are sharing the gospel diligently, boldly and through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In writing of Scarborough, Carroll penned these words that also describe the most recent occupant of the Chair of Fire: “His office continues each year from January 1 to December 31. He is now on the field. The Lord is blessing him. … Like John the Baptist, he is both a burning and a shining light—not light without heat as fungus fox fire, not the aurora borealis, brilliant indeed, but melting no icebergs, but light with heat.”

City of Houston ordered to submit response to petition rejection

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the City of Houston to justify its rejection of thousands of signatures on a referendum calling for the repeal of the controversial Equal Rights Ordinance (ERO). The court on Friday, acting in response to an appeal by a diverse coalition of local pastors, gave the city until Oct. 20 to submit a written response.

The decision came as Andy Taylor, lead counsel for the No UNequal Rights Coalition, continued to depose witnesses for the January 2015 trial against Mayor Annise Parker and the City of Houston for their role in the petition certification process. The coalition charges the mayor and city attorney Dave Feldman acted in violation of the city charter by summarily dismissing thousands of petition signatures certified by city secretary Anna Russell.

 “This is a positive sign that the court is taking our position seriously,” said Taylor.

The ERO—passed by Houston’s city council as a landmark civil rights measure in May and now temporarily suspended—gives protected status to individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Mayor Parker, a lesbian, said the debate over its passage was personal. Those opposed to the measure on religious liberty and moral grounds contend the mayor and city attorney colluded to thwart the referendum.

Under questioning Monday, Russell, who has served as city secretary for 42 of her 62 years as a City of Houston employee, said no city attorney, until Feldman, had ever inserted himself into the referendum certification process. She restated that her office reviewed just under 20,000 of the 50,000 signatures, certifying the requisite number to call a referendum.

“The city secretary made it very clear she finished her job on July 27,” said Jared Woodfill, an attorney and plaintiff in the suit.

On Aug. 1 Russell drafted a memo to Parker and the city council, noting the certification. However, before she could send it, Russell testified she was called to the mayor’s office Aug. 4 and told by Parker, Feldman, and Janice Evans, the mayor’s public information officer, to include in her certification letter Feldman’s addendum disqualifying scores of petition pages. She complied.

That afternoon Parker and Feldman, ignoring Russell’s certification statement, held a press conference announcing the petition drive had failed and the city council would not vote again on the ERO.

The coalition filed a lawsuit demanding the city act in accordance with its charter. Following an Aug. 15 hearing, a Harris County judge called a January trial. But still hoping to get the referendum on the November ballot, the coalition also filed a writ of mandamus with the Texas Supreme Court. The action called on the court to compel the City of Houston to act in accordance with its charter and certify the petition signatures. Without certification there would be no city-wide vote on the ERO.

Dave Welch, executive director for the Houston Area Pastor Council, said the coalition had been cautiously optimistic about whether the high court would consider their brief.

“Their order for the City of Houston to file a response brief by October 20 is a very positive sign that they also recognize the urgency of resolving this even though too late for this year’s ballot,” Welch said.

Harvest America presents gospel to sold-out crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas

A sold-out crowd of 19,000 crowded the American Airlines Center Aug. 5 for the third-annual Harvest America event, which featured live music from Christian artists MercyMe, For King & Country, and Phil Wickham and a gospel presentation by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California. Another 3,900 venues across the country hosted the live simulcast.

This year, Laurie surprised some by stating that he believes all roads lead to God. He followed that up, however, with an important caveat.

“I don’t care if you’re a believer, agnostic or an atheist. I believe whatever road you’re on, you will get to God one day and you will stand before God one day,” Laurie said. “All roads lead to God. But only one road leads to heaven, and that’s the road through Jesus Christ.”

While final numbers are not yet reported from all of the venues, the visible response to the gospel at American Airlines Center was significant as hundreds flowed down the aisles to respond to the message preached by Laurie.

Local churches were asked to participate in this year’s event in a number of ways. In addition to promoting the event in their communities, volunteers from local churches were given the opportunity to visit the Harvest America website in the days preceding the crusade and sign up for various service opportunities, from ushering to working as decision counselors.

Stuart Pendell, minister of couples and assimilation at North Richland Hills Baptist Church, helped coordinate details for his church’s participation in Harvest America.

“We were able to go on the website and choose which areas to serve in, and then our people could select the exact area where they wanted to be involved. Then Harvest America did all the training,” he said. “The great thing is that everyone was utilized, all of our ushers and greeters. Everyone was involved.”

Prestonwood Baptist Church has served as a simulcast venue for Harvest America in the past and provided significant local ground support for this year’s Harvest America. According to executive pastor Mike Buster, in addition to providing 118 of the 268 ushers for the event, two of their laypeople coordinated the prayer ministry that prayed during Harvest. More than 100 church members and staff were on hand to serve as decision counselors both in the venue and among overflow crowds outside.

“I’m so grateful for the way our church family truly engaged in Harvest America in the weeks leading up to it and on the evening of the crusade,” pastor Jack Graham said. “We were blessed to witness the fruits of our labor as hundreds of people streamed toward the stage at American Airlines Center to accept Christ as their Savior. To God be the glory!”

Pendell stated that his church is looking forward to being even more involved next year as Harvest America plans to host its 2015 event at Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers.

Harvest America held its first nationwide event two years ago in Southern California, the birthplace of Harvest Ministries, and last year’s event was held in Philadelphia. Between the two, the organization recorded a total of more than 28,000 first-time professions of faith.

For more information on this year’s crusade or to stay updated on next year’s event, visit

SBTC DR chainsaw teams immediately deploy to Waco

Waco—Thunderstorms and high winds blasted Waco the evening of Oct. 2, uprooting trees, cutting electricity, collapsing roofs and setting homes ablaze, the Waco Tribune reported. Even as the storm struck Waco, SBTC DR volunteers actively monitored the weather event and deployed to the city immediately.

“We were watching the news and I called (Temporary Interim SBTC Disaster Relief Director) Scottie Stice. We decided some volunteers needed to get there quickly to assess the situation,” said Jim Howard, pastor of West Side Baptist Church of Atlanta, Texas. Howard and another DR volunteer left for Waco that same night.

They arrived in Waco armed with chainsaws and worked in neighborhoods north and south of Valley Mills Road and Bosque Blvd. on Friday and Saturday before returning home on Oct. 4. The turnaround proved quick for Howard, who led a five-man SBTC DR chainsaw team back to the area on Monday, Oct. 6.

SBTC chainsaw teams worked on 10 houses, removing fallen trees, clearing debris and touching lives for eternity.

“One young man I spoke with had never seriously considered the gospel,” said Howard, describing an encounter with a homeowner. “He had heard it [the gospel] several times but had just blown it off. I shared my experience, and he said he would consider it.”

Others encountered by the teams faced far more challenging situations than downed trees and damaged roofs. One storm victim suffered from ovarian cancer; her husband was out of work and looking for a job.

“We worked at this couple’s property quite awhile. Trees covered a guest house in their back yard. We were able to pray with her and her husband,” Howard said. “They were very grateful.”

SBTC DR chainsaw team members returned home on Oct. 6.