Month: February 2017

Choosing Your Neighbor

From time to time I receive a postcard boasting the headline, “Choose Your Neighbor!” It’s from a local realtor sending listings of houses for sale in my neighborhood. The idea is for me to tell my circle of friends and acquaintances about the available houses, thus allowing me to choose my neighbor.

Through many years of moving around the country and overseas, my family has been blessed with incredible neighbors. There was one family in particular that we really enjoyed. Our daughters were nearly the same age, and they were in and out of each other’s houses all the time. We also struck up a wonderful friendship with their parents, celebrating the holidays together and cooking out on the weekends.

Having great neighbors is an amazing joy. But most of us don’t really get to choose our neighbors. The fact that we don’t choose our neighbors doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be good neighbors. Ignoring our neighbors simply because we didn’t choose them is not a viable option.

Luke 10 contains a story about a good neighbor—the Good Samaritan. When Jesus instructs a lawyer to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself,” the lawyer, wishing to justify himself, asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 

Did the lawyer really not know who his neighbor was? Did he really want to know if it was OK to be a good neighbor to some and ignore others? Or did he want to know if people who were not like him were the people Jesus was talking about?

In the story, a man was robbed, beaten and left for dead. Jesus taught his followers not to respond like the priest and Levite, who both passed quickly by, crossing to the other side of the road to avoid the dying man. It was the Samaritan, the enemy of the Jews, who was filled with compassion and went out of his way to make sure the man was cared for. He even paid for the man’s care at a nearby inn from his own wallet.

Jesus challenged the lawyer’s idea of “neighbor,” including how he or she should be treated. This same parable challenges our modern idea of who our neighbors are and how they should be treated.

Reality is that we don’t always choose who our neighbors are, but we do choose what kind of neighbors we will be.

Perhaps you might honestly say that you would not have chosen the neighbors that you have. In fact, they may even challenge a prejudice or political view you hold. Even so, Jesus’ very clear teaching on how you should treat them holds true.

The Scriptures speak clearly in regard to how we are to treat the foreigner among us. Leviticus 19:34 tells us, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” God loves the foreigners and sojourners, and he provides for them, often through his people. As Christ followers, we can do no less.

The question is simple: “Who is my neighbor?” How you answer determines how you will respond to the current refugee crisis—the new neighbors coming to your city and cities around the world to which God may be calling you.

We must not ignore the refugee in need, such as the religious people did to the man who had been robbed and left for dead. This is a “Samaritan” moment for us. Jesus told the lawyer, “Go and do likewise” We should do the same. 

Terry Sharp is the International Mission Board’s state, association and diaspora network leader. This article is adapted from

A place for the irreligious at Colorado church plant

TIMNATH, Colo. Two months after settling about 900 miles north of their native Texas, Kelly and Brandi Parrish were sitting on the living room floor on Christmas Eve 2013 with their four children lighting Advent Candles. 

They had come to plant a church.

That night, the family asked God not to let them ever be alone again on Christmas Eve. Then they prayed that God would work in their lives over the next year.

For Christmas Eve 2014, the Parrishes hosted a gathering that was standing room only. 

By Christmas Eve 2015, Living Rock Church was meeting in a lawnmower factory where they conducted two services attended by about 300 people who had come to worship a living, dynamic God. Most attendees were recent converts or seekers who found their worlds altered by the gospel. Meagan Barash was one of those.

Barash is unusual for Living Rock Church as she had grown up in an evangelical home and had good knowledge of the Bible. But the knowledge had not penetrated her heart.

Through women’s Bible studies led by Brandi, Barash soon had more questions than answers. Finally, she expressed her feelings about having spent her life serving a plastic God.

“I had a knowledgeable relationship, but not on an intimate level,” Barash concluded.

Living Rock Church now has scores of families who have dramatic salvation experiences, many hearing the gospel for the first time. They had made sacrifices to follow Jesus.

Barash’s husband is a police officer, and she feared that their sacrifice would mean him dying in the line of duty. That wasn’t a sacrifice she was willing to make, so she had pulled back from her faith practice.

While stuck on a delayed flight home, she pulled out her Bible study materials. That’s when a sentence “popped out to me,” and she finally understood that God didn’t particularly want some dramatic sacrifice. Instead, God wants our hearts.

Church planting novices say, “Yes, Lord.”

Parrish was enjoying a successful sales career in the oil and gas industry after 10 years of teaching school and coaching. He had met Brandi when they were students at Howard Payne University, where he played basketball and she was a cheerleader. The college was halfway between their hometowns.

He is from Crosbyton, Texas, which is east of Lubbock. 

Brandi grew up in Katy, Texas, where she was surrounded by many great teachers and mentors at First Baptist Church, Houston. 

Both families were active in their local Southern Baptist churches and grounded in their faith while active in lay ministries.

In the fall of 2009, Parrish was mowing his lawn and praying.

“I very clearly heard God calling me to full-time ministry,” Parrish said. “I surrendered to that call.”

The Parrishes had been praying for a “Yes, Lord” moment, based on the obedience of Ananias in Acts 9, when they each understood God’s assignment for their family. God wanted them to plant a church.

“We were challenged by the fact that God had something more for us,” Parrish said. “If you had asked me about church planting, I could not have told you coherently what church planting is.”

With clarity about what they were to do, the next step was discerning where they would plant. After studying several western cities, they felt drawn to Timnath, which Parrish says is akin to the fictitious Pleasantville from a 1998 film.

“If you are not incredibly in tune, you may think that everything is fantastic and everyone is okay,” Parrish said of Timnath.

On a visit, Brandi found herself weeping uncontrollably. While driving around, she had seen a mother walking the sidewalk with three small children.

“That’s me,” Brandi said. “I’m just a little bit further down the road than her. I know how difficult it is, and I did it with Jesus.

“They are my people, these are my mamas living life like me without Jesus.” 

Statistics showed them that less than 10 percent of residents in the Fort Collins area have any connection to an evangelical church. Seventy-five percent are completely irreligious. Though most are highly educated, they don’t own Bibles.

Yet, most Coloradans claim a spirituality that centers on nature and the mountains. The state also has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and that rate is growing.


Living Rock Church launches

From their arrival in 2013, the Parrishes and their children focused on relationships. They sponsored events to meet more people and eventually conducted Bible studies in their homes. The kids joined sports teams and made new friends.

Since Living Rock Church launched in February 2015, they make a big deal about baptisms. Parrish dedicates entire services to baptism as each candidate tells their story of redemption and a new faith in Christ. Afterward, the entire church celebrates with a “Fatted Calf” party much like the prodigal son experienced.

“We can teach our people this is something worthy of a party,” Brandi said. “It’s not just that you got dunked this morning.”

Sometimes, the guests of honor are spontaneous. At the close of one baptismal service, Parrish felt a tap on his shoulder during the invitation. He turned to see Justin Owenby who had become a regular attendee at Living Rock and had made a profession of faith. 

Sitting through a baptism service, Owenby recalls getting “real emotional.” His family was equally surprised when he handed his keys and phone to his wife. This was something he needed to do now.  

“Do you have time for one more?” Owenby asked.

Yes, there was plenty of time. 

Their meeting place is a quarter-mile long lawnmower manufacturing plant. Each week, Living Rock converts space there to become a sanctuary and educational space. With about 150 chairs set up, attendees can look one way and see outdoors. They can look the other way through windows into the plant. The ceiling is so low that they don’t have a stage, but attendees don’t seem to mind.

“Most people have never been in church before so they don’t know what to expect,” Parrish said.

The Parrishes are thankful for partner churches that have supported them financially, and for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Parrish continued in his sales job until five years of funding began with NAMB. Now the offering helps support ministry expenses, Parrish’s salary, rent and other obligations.

Nearly three years after arriving unannounced in Timnath, more than 400 people call Living Rock Church home. The Parrish family call it home, too.

“We knew that our role was to love our neighbors well, plant the gospel and make disciples,” Parrish said. “God would build his church.” 

Repeal the Johnson Amendment

Lyndon Johnson, a senator from Texas in 1954, was facing a tough primary campaign. Some of his major detractors were non-profit organizations (not churches) that published material in support of his opponent. Senator Johnson proposed an amendment to the tax code saying that 501(c)(3) organizations, churches among them, cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing for statements), any political campaign in behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” The amendment was adopted with little discussion of how it might impact churches. That means there was no consideration of how this act would relate to the establishment or free exercise clauses of our constitution’s first amendment. Later IRS interpretations of the amendment prohibit activity that has the “evidence of bias” or the “effect” of favoring a candidate or party. Clear as mud? President Trump said at his first national prayer breakfast that he would work for the amendment’s removal. The response to his statement of intent drew responses largely partisan. 

The amendment has rarely been used to challenge the tax exempt status of a church. According to Pew Research, 28 percent of black Protestants heard their pastors support Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign and about 20 percent heard denunciations of Donald Trump from their pastors. Four percent of white Protestants reported hearing pastoral admonitions in favor of a presidential candidate and 7 percent heard denunciations of a candidate. In some cases pastors have preached “political” sermons and sent the manuscript to the IRS as a statement for pulpit freedom. But mostly the IRS hasn’t bitten. Most pastors are intimidated by the law though and steer clear of politics to be safe. Playing on this and the fact that most pastors feel bound to abide by the law, liberal front groups like the Interfaith Alliance and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty have regularly written letters and columns warning pastors from saying anything about political issues or candidates. It works much of the time. 

In spite of its rare enforcement, I favor the repeal of the amendment. Suppose you have a school zone light in front of an abandoned school building near your home. The light blinks each day starting at 2:30 but everyone in town ignores it. For years, no one gets a ticket for disregarding the blinking light. Then one day it is strictly enforced; every scofflaw gets a ticket. Just because the Johnson Amendment has not resulted in many churches losing tax exempt status doesn’t mean it won’t. The amendment and its prophets have had a dampening effect on pulpit freedom in the meantime. 

Some say political speech from the pulpit violates the First Amendment separation of church and state tradition. It doesn’t. There are no prohibitions of religious speech or activity included in the First Amendment. Others claim tax-exempt churches receive an “indirect subsidy” from the state. Therefore the state has some right to limit speech. The subsidy argument implies that churches exist at the indulgence of the magistrate. It also implies that they, unlike hospitals, children’s homes, community advocacy groups, add no value to the community or that church members are not tax-paying citizens who rightfully expect the fire department to come when the auditorium goes up. By the way, the existence of the Johnson Amendment has in no way addressed the idea that tax-exempt status is a subsidy. This argument is a red herring. 

But the best argument against the Johnson Amendment is that no governmental body has the expertise or should have permission to judge the suitability of religious speech. For this reason, courts rarely arbitrate theological or ecclesiological disagreements. They wisely say, “It’s not my job, not part of my authority.” That is true. 

Now, should pastors speak in favor of or against candidates and partisan issues? Was John being political when he criticized Herod in Mark 6? Was Nathan when he confronted David in 2 Samuel 12? The Bible is chock-full of prophets praising and criticizing kings and communities. So I’d say “yes,” pastors should, under the leadership of the Spirit and from the message of the Word, preach as they are led of God. Sometimes that speech is going to irritate a senator, president or police chief. 

Some of us will overdo it and become expositors of policy rather than Scripture. It is not the business of the IRS to address such excess. Some of us already spend too much time preaching self-help and pop psychology. Political speech is not worse than those, or more off track. We really don’t need any government entity to help us stay faithful to our calling. They can’t do it well anyway.  

In 1954, the IRS code was not amended to clarify the U.S. Constitution. It did not interpret the First Amendment. The Johnson Amendment meddled in a realm that our political institutions cannot understand even when some individuals in government are well-grounded believers. Laws are not subtle, not sharp enough to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. That is the work of God’s Word, wielded by God’s people, under the headship of Christ. Our magistrates should leave us to it.   

REVIEW: Is “A United Kingdom” OK for kids & teens?

Seretse Khama is like any other male college student in 1947 London. With the world now at peace, he’s looking for that one woman who shares his beliefs and dreams. And he thinks he’s found her.

Her name is Ruth Williams, an optimistic and bright British girl who quickly falls for Seretse, too. They seem destined for marriage, but there’s one big problem. He’s black. She’s white. And interracial marriages in 1947 are a big taboo, particularly when you are—like Seretse—on the verge of becoming king of a black tribe in the country of Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

Their true story is the focus of A United Kingdom (PG-13), a romantic drama that is expanding to major cities this weekend and recounts a tale from history that largely has been forgotten. David Oyelowo (Selma) stars as Seretse, while Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Pride & Prejudice) plays Ruth.

“You disgust me,” Ruth’s father tells her, learning of the relationship and pledging to cut all ties. “… I can’t see you again … not if you choose him.”

But it’s not simply Ruth’s parents who are opposed. Seretse’s uncle, who has served as his guardian and has been grooming his nephew to become king, also is standing in the way.

“You will obey me, and you will divorce her,” he says. (Seretse’s father died years ago.)

Incredibly, the governments of the United Kingdom, Bechuanaland and neighboring South Africa conspire to have Seretse exiled from his home country, threatening not only his kingship but also his marriage. He and his wife even are kept in separate countries when she gives birth to their first baby.

The movie is an ugly-but-inspiring story that seems straight out of the Dark Ages, even if it occurred a mere seven decades ago. It’s also a tale we never must forget.  

Still, we need to ask: Is A United Kingdom family-friendly? Let’s take a look.

The Good

Spoilers ahead!

There’s a lot to like about this one.

The romance between Seretse and Ruth stays mostly within the teen-friendly realm. They kiss prior to marriage, but unlike most PG-13 romantic films it doesn’t go any further. (Although, post-marriage, there is one scene parents should know about; see details below).    

They display remarkable grace in the face of pressure and racial epithets, rarely responding with anger as friends and family members disown and turn against them. Upon learning that 80 percent of his own people oppose the marriage, an impassioned and tearful Seretse tells a crowd of several thousand: “I love my people. I love this land. But I love my wife.”

Oyelowo delivers an outstanding performance as Seretse Khama, reminding us why he was chosen to play Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 film Selma. Pike also is solid.

Finally, director Amma Asante is to be commended for giving us a movie about race and romance without diving into R-rated territory. We learn about racism—Ruth says her country has signs that read “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”—but we’re not bombarded with the n-word or bloody fights. 

The Bad

A United Kingdom is rated PG-13 for language and a “scene of sensuality.”

I counted a handful of coarse words or epithets: ba—rd (1); d–mn (1); he—(1); misuse of God (1); n-word (1); and coon (1).

The sensuality scene takes place immediately after their wedding, with both standing in the bedroom. It lasts fewer than 10 seconds, and we see shoulders, backs and his torso, but nothing else.

Violence is minimal, even though the movie opens with a boxing match involving Seretse, and, moment later, shows him fighting back when he is attacked by two or three men on a street at night.

Lastly, American audiences might find the politics and the nuances of the mid-20th-century British empire a bit difficult to follow. More than once I had to ask myself: Why is South Africa involved in this story, when neither Seretse nor Ruth are from there? A Google search answered my question, but it is obvious why A United Kingdom opened in the U.K. and not in the U.S.  

The Worldview

Nearly 2,000 years ago God told us through the Apostle Paul, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek …” (Romans 10:12). But despite how God views racism, it still persisted in the 1940s—and it still persists today. Racism also wasn’t simply an American problem in the ’40s and ’50s. It was a human problem, and sometimes, it went both ways.

The gospel, of course, is the ultimate solution, yet we still can be thankful for men and women like Seretse and Ruth, who chose to disobey their governments and do what is right. (The movie does not address their faith, although both were raised Christian.)

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

A United Kingdom really isn’t for young kids, but I’m guessing that if I had teenagers in my home, I would want them to watch it. Its message about opposing evil and racism and standing up for what is right is one I would want my teens to learn.  

Discussion Questions

Would you consider Seretse and Ruth heroes? (Why or why not?) Were you surprised that both families opposed the marriage? What did you learn about racism in the film? Do you think each of them handled verbal attacks well? Do you think they made the right decision to marry? When is it biblically permissible to disobey the government?  Were racists of the 1940s and 1950s simply “products of their culture?”

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A United Kingdom is rated PG-13 for some language, including racial epithets, and a scene of sensuality.

Teen Vogue”s Startling Abortion Advice For Teen Girls

The startling article “What to Get a Friend Post-Abortion” was recently published by Teen Vogue, guiding teenage girls on how to comfort their friends who are recovering from abortions. Teen Vogue explains to their readers:

The worst part of all this isn’t the procedure itself (which by the way is completely safe as long as you have access to a good clinic) … but how you are treated afterwards … she shouldn’t have to feel ashamed because she made the right decision for her situation … and that’s OK … she will need you—not because the act itself is so terrible, but because the world can be.

It’s difficult to identify the most disturbing aspect of this article: A teen magazine meant to help girls learn about fashion and makeup is advocating murder? Standing up for equal rights for women is now synonymous with accepting and promoting abortion? Post-abortive teenage girls are encouraged to wear the F-Uterus pin (a uterus giving the middle finger)—proceeds of which go to Planned Parenthood—as a response to anyone who asks if a post-abortive girl regrets her decision?

While reading this article dedicated to explaining how teenage girls should comfort their post-abortive peers, I wondered if the author was a professional counselor, a physician, a social worker, or a health care professional of any kind who was qualified to give impressionable young girls healthcare advice. Not surprisingly, the author only cites her personal post-abortive experience as a source of medical advice.

As a licensed professional counselor who works with post-abortive women, I find the most inconsistent and harmful aspect of this article to be the way the author masks it as a help piece, while directing teenage girls to do the very opposite of what will actually bring them health and comfort.  The author repeatedly tells readers they have no reason to feel shame and guilt. One would be hard-pressed to find a mental health clinician who regularly tells clients how they are supposed to feel—a fundamental tenet of Psychology 101. The very basis for processing grief and healing is identifying and exploring how an individual feels.

As a girls’ ministry director who ministers to hundreds of teenage girls weekly, I am praying for this generation of teenage girls to take stands for the principles of God’s Word. Generation Z is a generation who will no longer be able to be lukewarm in their faith or waver in their stance on religious, political or social concerns. The spiritual issues that my Millennial generation labeled as secondary and non-essential will be non-negotiable for Generation Z. With culture pushing liberal agendas, this is the generation of Christians where the rubber meets the road.    

As a pro-life advocate who recently prayed at a pro-life rally in the very courtroom where Roe v. Wade first began, I want teenage girls and women to know the pain and regret that abortion brings. Abortion is not the only option to an unwanted pregnancy. An unwanted pregnancy does not mean an unplanned pregnancy because God has a plan for every life that is conceived, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one came to be.” Psalm 139:6.

As a Christian Millennial who sees her Christian peers regularly waver on controversial spiritual issues, I pray my generation will start saying, “Enough is enough!” We must start standing up for the truth of God’s Word, or we will soon not recognize our country or even our churches. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” must be our battle cry. As Christians, we are on a rescue mission to bring as many people to Heaven as possible. We must stop being ashamed of what the Bible says about abortion, gender, sex, homosexuality and marriage and start proclaiming God’s truth to an unbelieving world.

Norma McCorvey, “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, famously stated, “However, upon knowing God, I realize that my case, which legalized abortion on demand, was the biggest mistake of my life.” Abortion is not the unpardonable sin, but the decision to abort an unborn baby affects its mother and father for the rest of their lives. We are never hurting people by telling them God’s truth. If we truly want to help a post-abortive teenage girl, the only comfort is in offering God’s heart on abortion. Abortion is murder. Abortion is a sin. Abortion is also forgiven when we receive the forgiveness God offers through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Julia Jeffress Sadler serves as the Girls Ministry Director at First Baptist Church in Dallas and is a licensed professional counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm. She is also a National Board Certified Counselor.

Night to Shine

Nearly 400 churches from around the world, including Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, hosted a prom night experience for people with special needs, Feb. 10. The event, created by the Tim Tebow Foundation, created opportunities for local churches to give people with special needs a memorable evening while pointing them to God’s love. About 600 volunteers helped make Prestonwood’s event a huge success. 

SBTC presents $200,000 check to SBC Executive Committee

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), presented the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee with a special CP gift of $200,000 during at its Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville. The gift was in addition to the 55 percent of CP receipts the SBTC forwarded to SBC causes in 2016.

Messengers to the 2015 SBTC annual meeting voted to send the EC 100 percent of 2016 CP receipts that exceeded the budget, Richards said. When 2016 did not yield much overage, the SBTC Executive Board voted to send the $200,000 from the convention’s reserve funds out of a desire to support SBC missions and ministries.

Page received the gift with gratitude. “That is an encouragement to me and to us. Thank you, Jim.”

Read Baptist Press’ complete wrap story on the SBC Executive Committee trustee meeting here.

Platt apologizes for “divisive” IMB amicus brief

NASHVILLE International Mission Board President David Platt has apologized to Southern Baptists for the divisive nature of an amicus brief the IMB joined last May in support of a New Jersey’s Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.

“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said Feb. 15 during a meeting with Baptist state paper editors in Ontario, Calif.

“I can say with full confidence,” he said, “that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.” 

Platt offered a similar apology to executive directors of Baptist state conventions, who met in the same location.

The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae—Latin for “friend of the court” —brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.

In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship. In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.

Going forward, Platt said, missions is “what I long for the conversation about the IMB to be focused on, for the sake of those who have never heard.”

Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

In the future, a new process for filing amicus briefs is needed, Platt said, “that will involve my office and our trustees.” He pledged to discuss such a policy during a Feb. 28-March 1 IMB trustee meeting.

Platt also told editors, “Going back to at least 2010, so far before I stepped into this role, our … legal department has filed various similar briefs related to religious liberty. And since 2010, all of those matters have been handled by our legal department.”

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a former IMB trustee chairman, told Baptist Press Platt’s “remarks [to state executive directors] were very well received.”

Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis told Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal, “I greatly appreciate the directness and humility that the leader of our flagship missions organization demonstrated in meeting with Baptist state convention executive directors. I saw the same spirit in one-on-one conversations with Dr. Platt.”

Haun Resignation 

Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., resigned from the IMB trustee board in November based on his conviction the IMB should not have joined a friend of the court brief last May supporting the ISBR.

Haun, a former Tennessee Baptist Convention president, told BP resigning from the IMB trustees “was one of the most heart-wrenching decisions that I’ve ever had to make in my ministry because I feel like I’ve been a faithful Southern Baptist all my life.”

Haun said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the gospel.

“I don’t think the IMB advocates the same doctrine as the Muslims,” Haun said. “But I do think that Paul warns us [in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15] about making these unholy alliances. And I think that’s where we’re scripturally on the edge.”

Regarding the IMB’s mission and purpose, Haun said, “I understand the religious liberty aspect of the entire argument. But I do not understand why the International Mission Board, with our mission to reach the world for Christ, would have to jump into the fray of a mosque being built in New Jersey.”

While Haun was still an IMB trustee, he contacted Platt with his concerns, and the amicus brief was addressed at a confidential “trustee forum” in August, the Baptist and Reflector reported.

Platt told BP in a statement in January, “As a result of discussions among IMB trustees and staff over recent months, we have revised our processes for our legal department filing any future amicus briefs. IMB leaders are committed in the days ahead to speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.” He also expressed gratitude for Haun’s trustee service.

Religious Liberty

Clyde Meador, retired executive advisor to Platt, told BP the IMB joined the ISBR amicus brief in an effort “to support the USA’s foundational principle of religious freedom” and “to support Baptist partners and others around the world who seek permission to construct church buildings.”

Meador, who retired from the IMB in May, said in written comments the amicus brief “speaks to a matter closely related to International Mission Board work around the world. In a great many countries, especially but not exclusively Muslim-majority countries, Baptist churches with whom missionaries work find it very difficult if not impossible to receive permission to build church buildings.”

The IMB’s worldwide Baptist partners “emphasize the basic principle of religious freedom” in “seeking to obtain building permits,” Meador said. While religious freedom in the U.S. does “not necessarily” persuade other nations to grant similar freedom, “contrary action by the USA would be quite persuasive.”

“Should it be clear that the USA does not uphold its principle of religious freedom when applied to the building of mosques, an excuse is readily available to any Muslim or other opposing country to deny the building of church buildings,” Meador said. 

The Baptist Faith and Message, Article XVII, affirms, “Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others … The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.” 

—This story was compiled from 
two separate Baptist Press reports.

Jacksonville College affirms president, hires new vice president

JACKSONVILLE, Texas—Jacksonville College trustees unanimously reaffirmed the institution’s president and welcomed a new vice president for executive affairs during a Jan. 28 board meeting held on the East Texas campus.

In a motion offered by Vernon Lee of Jacksonville and seconded by Bob Pearle of Fort Worth, the board expressed confidence in Mike Smith’s leadership. Acknowledging limited resources from which to draw financial support, Lee praised the president’s “heart and sacrifice” over his nearly five-year tenure. 

“There’s nobody that wants to get out of debt more than me,” Smith told the board. “Raising money takes time and relationships.” He expressed appreciation for a recent $150,000 grant from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

Newly elected VP Blanton Feaster previously taught at Dallas Baptist University and for over 20 years served local churches, including those affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and SBTC. He earned degrees from Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With extensive banking industry experience, he will assist Smith in teaching religion courses, reviewing operations of each department, and addressing financial needs and external affairs.

Smith reported enrollment had increased from 402 in 2010 to 598 in 2016, having the highest spring enrollment ever of 573, including 240 students receiving dual credit for high school and college courses. Online enrollment has grown, attracting 319 students, with a boost from having courses listed through a regional consortium in Texas.

Following the financial report from Randy Gorham, trustees discussed the impact of a decline last year in the school’s $2 million endowment related to what the CPA described as “oil taking a hit” last year. However, performance improved in recent months, he said.

“If the college could ever get to the positon where people gave enough money or had enough revenue where at end of year our net profit is $200,000, we could pay that back,” Gorham said, referring to funds borrowed from the endowment.

Questioning whether the “historic value” of endowment funds had been maintained, trustee James Schoenrock of Euless sought to restrict movement of funds for one year, but the motion died for lack of a second. Instead, trustees directed Smith and executive officers to discuss debt reduction ideas with financial advisors.

In other business, the board authorized check signing privileges by Feaster, supported a “debt free in three [years]” fundraising effort and re-elected officers.