Month: May 2018

Gov. Abbott fields concerns from N. Texas pastors

MESQUITE Texas Governor Greg Abbott met with close to 40 African American and Hispanic pastors from North Texas May 10 at a Pastors Roundtable at Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, answering questions from faith leaders about the challenges facing their congregations and communities. 

Host pastor Terry Turner told Abbott, “Each of these men who surround you today are men who love the Lord and are leaders in our communities from Fort Worth to Mesquite.”

“It is time for all of us to come together to unite and support each other and live up to God’s  commandments and make Texas the best state it can possibly be,” Abbott told the group. “We as a community have to come together and find ways we can build stronger values.”

Abbott described strategies he had championed as governor, including economic opportunity zones and job growth. “We need to spread economic opportunity across the entire state of Texas,” he stated.

Questions from pastors addressed pre-K education, disaster relief funding, assistance for people who have been incarcerated, care for adults with special needs and enforcement of SB4, the sanctuary cities law passed in 2017.

“You’ve got to learn to read before you can read to learn,” Abbott said, stressing the importance of early childhood education to advance a statewide goal of students reading at grade level by third grade. He asked pastors to offer advice on the best strategies to keep at-risk students engaged in school so that they are “succeeding and on the pathway to getting a job.”

Regarding funding for the area affected by Hurricane Harvey, Abbott said Texas had received additional money for hazard mitigation projects and community development block grants. 

He countered concerns about the enforcement of SB4 which allows police to question the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest. “If you’re here following the laws, you have nothing to worry about,” Abbott stated. He asserted that SB4 was aimed at situations like Travis County’s release of formerly convicted violent criminals.

For individuals transitioning out of prison, Abbott said, “One strategy we are working on is to assist them in getting a job by purging their criminal record or allowing them to conceal information depending on what the crime is.” Records involving violent crimes would not qualify, he added.

After the meeting, Turner said, “I look forward to fostering an even stronger bond between our governor and our community leaders.” 

Social media stirs criticism of Patterson’s leadership

FORT WORTH—An 18-year old audio clip in which Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson discussed his views on domestic violence was posted online April 28 by a blogger and widely circulated online, leading to online petitions and other comments calling for his resignation.

In answering a question asked at a conference, Patterson said the proper response of a wife to domestic abuse “depends on the level of abuse to some degree.”

In the audio clip at issue, Patterson was asked his counsel to women “who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands.”

Patterson replied, “It depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help. I would urge you to understand that that should happen only in the most serious of cases.”

Moments later Patterson is heard telling about a woman at one of his pastorates who “was being subject to some abuse and I told her … ‘Every evening I want you to get down by your bed. Just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene — not out loud, quietly.’ But I said, ‘You just pray there.’

“And I said, ‘Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this,'” Patterson said. “And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me, and at God and the world for that matter. And she said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes ma’am I am.'”

Patterson went on to explain his happiness stemmed not from the abuse, but from the man’s presence at church that day for the first time, his brokenness over the abuse and his decision to trust Christ as Lord and Savior. The abuse stopped, Patterson said in the audio clip, and “he’s a great husband today.”

“Remember,” Patterson added in the audio clip, “when nobody else can help, God can. And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can.”

Patterson clarified to BP he did not suspect any physical abuse in the relationship prior to the episode he recounted. Any hint in the audio clip that he did suspect prior physical abuse was an error in the recounting, he said, adding, “I’m sure I didn’t tell it as well as I should have.”

“For sharing this illustration,” Patterson said in his statement, “especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise. However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.”

A statement issued May 1 by Patterson and the executive committee of the seminary trustees included three main affirmations:

  • It affirmed “that law enforcement officials and civil authorities have a vital and God-ordained role in addressing abusive relationships.”
  • It affirmed “the importance of protecting victims of abuse.” In conjunction with that affirmation, Patterson and the trustee executive committee endorsed a March 2018 “statement on abuse” by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

“We affirm that statement in its entirety,” Patterson and the trustee leaders noted, “and draw particular attention to the affirmation that ‘the local church and Christian ministries have a responsibility to establish safe environments; to execute policies and practices that protect against any form of abuse; to confront abusers and to protect the abused, which includes the responsibility to report abuse to the civil authorities.'”

  • It affirmed “that the gospel of Jesus Christ has led us to believe that there is no person in this world who is beyond redemption.”

Critics then pointed to a video of a 2014 sermon in which Patterson illustrated the Hebrew word used to describe Eve as being “built” from Adam’s rib by quoting a teenager boy’s assessment that a teen girl was “built.” Patterson added that the girl’s appearance was “nice.”

In an open letter to SWBTS trustees, a group of Southern Baptist women objected to Patterson’s continued leadership, describing “unwise counsel” to women in abusive situations and “inappropriate comments regarding a teenage girl.” By the time trustees met May 22, over 3,200 signatures were listed as affirming the concerns.

A May 5 open letter of support for Patterson listed 595 signatories by May 22, in which writer Samuel Schmidt argued, “This isn’t about divorce at all with many individuals, but about forcibly removing Dr. Patterson from his role, due to decades old vendettas and other personal reasons.”

On May 10, Patterson released another statement to apologize for harm caused by his illustration. “Pastoral ministry that occurred 54 years ago, repeated as an illustration [of domestic violence] in sermons on more than one occasion, as well as another sermon illustration used to try to explain a Hebrew word (Heb. banah ‘build or construct,’ Gen. 2:22) have obviously been hurtful to women in several possible ways. I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”

—Compiled from Baptist Press

Broken and hurting’ Santa Fe seeks hope, healing

SANTA FE, Texas—Associate pastor Joey Tombrella had a personal story to tell in his graduate recognition sermon days after the Santa Fe High School mass murder.

His sister Rachel Blundell, the school’s principal, and her daughter, 18-year-old niece Faith, were among those seeking safety when a teenager walked into the school, killed 10 and injured another 10.

“Prom was last week, and to hear gunshots behind you as you run in a grassy field with your heart racing,” Tombrella said of his niece, “it is not a surprise why this generation is being labeled the anxious generation.”

Faith told her story at Tombrella’s kitchen table in League City, Texas, the night before his sermon at Nassau Bay Baptist Church about 25 miles from the school. She heard the shots when they began around 7:30 a.m. May 18.

“She could see down the hallway one of her teachers, in her words, freaking out,” Tombrella told Baptist Press of Faith. “As she was leaving, she could hear the gunshots going from the high school. The fire alarm possibly could have even saved my sister’s life; I think she could have gone [back] inside, but the doors were looked because of the fire alarm.”

Both survived the ordeal uninjured, but eight students and two teachers were killed in the attack.

Area pastors met in Santa Fe today, May 21, to plan a community-wide service of hope and healing, First Baptist Church of Alta Loma pastor John Newton told BP. A service in a community venue, perhaps the Santa Fe High School stadium, may be of particular benefit to the unchurched and unreached in the town of 12,000 people.

“We are broken and we are hurting,” Newton told BP. “The wounds are very deep, they are very fresh. We are a small community. We have one high school and we know the kids. We’re not a metropolitan area with large schools. We live here.”

About 200 attend Alta Loma church in Santa Fe on Sundays, and attendance at all churches combined in the community would be about 2,500 on a “good Sunday,” Newton said. None of the dead or wounded attend his church that draws about 35 or 50 students to Wednesday evening youth events.

“We’re trying to reach out to our community to offer them some hope,” Newton said. “We find people that are without Jesus a lot. It’s not like we can say there’s no place else to go because everybody’s saved here. That’s not the situation in Santa Fe.”

The meeting is still being planned but might occur as early as May 23, Newton speculated. Newton cancelled his vacation to remain in town to minister.

The town is accustomed to hurricanes, he said, but not mass shootings.

“We do hurricanes. We’re resilient. Neighbors help neighbors,” he said. “This [shooting] is hopefully something that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and nobody will ever have to go through that again, because it is loss of life.

“It is a loss of security, a feeling of hopelessness, and personally, as a pastor,” Newton said, “I found myself not really even knowing how to feel, knowing what to do, and reaching out to some chaplains.” The Billy Graham Rapid Response team is onsite, Newton said.

Southern Baptists of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Texas chaplains are on standby to help as needed, leaders of both groups have said.

Police have arrested Dimitrios Pagourtzis as a suspect in the shooting. The 17-year-old used a shotgun, revolver and handmade explosive devices in the rampage. Some of the explosive devices were operational, police said in news reports May 20, although none of them were successfully detonated on the day of the crime.

Perkins appointed to international religious freedom watchdog group

Southern Baptist leaders praised the swearing in May 17 of Tony Perkins as commissioner to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, will serve a two-year term on the bipartisan commission which serves as religious freedom watchdog for people of all faiths around the world.

Most notably associated with the cultural and political advocacy in the U.S. on issues relating to religious liberty and the sanctity of marriage and life, Perkins and the FRC have earned supporters and enemies, the latter condemning the USCIRF’s appointment of a “gay-rights opponent.” But former U.S. Rep. of Virginia and long-time international religious freedom advocate Frank Wolfe, whose 1998 legislation established the USCIRF, called Perkins’ appointment “fantastic.”

“I wholeheartedly support him as a USCIRF Commissioner, in which role I fully believe he will advocate vigorously for those of all faiths as a matter of international religious freedom,” Wolf said in a statement released by the FRC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, appointed Perkins to the two-year term. The president and leadership of both political parties appoint commissioners to the volunteer positions. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, on May 10 reappointed Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, an associate professor at the Department of Human Communication Studies, California State University, Fullerton. Dorjee, first appointed in 2016, is recognized for his scholarship on Tibetan culture and religious freedom conditions in Iraq and Burma.

In recent years FRC’s advocacy has extended beyond the U.S. to address the plight of religious minorities overseas. Earlier this month the FRC called the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar “the worst humanitarian crisis no one is talking about.”

“Christians have always believed that every person should have the ability to choose their faith and live it out free from government discrimination,” Perkins said in a May 8 FRC post.

Southern Baptist Richard Land called the appointment “good news for people facing persecution for their religious beliefs around the world.”

Perkins was selected along with American Values President Gary Bauer, and best-selling author and Kairos Company President Johnnie Moore. Land, the former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, added, “These people are going to be outspoken on America’s freedom of conscience around the world.”

Jack Graham, pastor Prestonwood Baptist Church, applauded Perkins’ appointment based on his work at FRC.

“In a time when three out of four people live in countries where their faith makes them targets of harassment and violence, it has never been more imperative to defend religious freedom,” Graham told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “In all my life, I don’t think I have met anyone more committed to defending the individual right of conscience than Tony. He’s a champion for religious freedom with a proven track record and unquestionable character. The global community is better for having Tony’s leadership on the USCIRF.”

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) called Perkins “a solid choice to help the Commission continue its important mission to monitor and protect the universal right to freedom of religion around the world.” The Southern Baptist senator told the TEXAN, “I’ve worked with Tony and I have seen firsthand his deep commitment to ensure protection of the free exercise of religion for all people. He will be a great advocate for people to live out whatever faith they choose and I look forward to working with him in this role.”

Ronnie Floyd, former SBC Convention president, tweeted a congratulatory note to Perkins calling his appointment “outstanding.”

Just weeks before his appointment, USCIRF issued its 2018 report summarizing the religious freedom conditions in 28 nations – 16 earned the USCIRF most severe ranking as “countries of particular concern.” CPCs are governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom according to the USCIRF report.

“Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Yet there is also reason for optimism 20 years after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. The importance of this foundational right is appreciated more now than ever, and egregious violations are less likely to go unnoticed.”

REVIEW: “Ferdinand” is a fun family flick with tons of great lessons

Ferdinand is a timid young bull living in an aggressive world. He enjoys butterflies and flowers. His bull friends prefer fighting.

This doesn’t mean, though, that he won’t stand up to others when necessary – like when the barnyard bully threatens to uproot a flower.

“You can hit me if you want, but leave the flower alone,” Ferdinand tells him.

Ferdinand may be different on the inside, but on the outside he still looks like a, well, bull. This means that despite his tender demeanor, everyone still expects him to take part in the bullfights. It also means that his massive appearance terrifies the local townspeople, even if we wouldn’t harm a flea.

“I’m not a fighter,” he declares.

But when Ferdinand accidentally wins a barnyard fight against one of the herd’s top bulls, he gets chosen by legendary matador El Primero for a bullfight in the arena – with thousands of onlookers cheering for blood. Can Ferdinand survive the fight, and perhaps teach his friends a few lessons, too?

The Oscar-nominated Ferdinand (PG) recently was released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital platforms, starring WWE wrestler John Cena as the voice of Ferdinand, Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters) as his goat friend Lupe, Anthony Anderson (The Star) as the bull Bones, and retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning as the bull Guapo. It received an Oscar nomination for best animated movie of 2017 and another nomination for best original movie song (Home).

Ferdinand is an enjoyable and mostly family-friendly movie that has a few good lessons, with only minor content concerns.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers ahead!

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. Some of the calves bully Ferdinand. At one point they chant, “fight, fight, fight!” Bulls butt heads/horns. We learn that Ferdinand’s father was killed in a bullfight. Ferdinand nearly passes out after touching an electric fence. We see Ferdinand fight another bull in the barnyard. We learn that one of his friends was taken away to be slaughtered. Despite the real-life bloody nature of bullfights, we never see any blood.


Minimal. Lupe says of Ferdinand, “Look at those pecs!” A man pats his bottom, calling it his “buttocks.” The horses and Ferdinand take part in a dance competition and shake their rears.

Coarse Language

None. Although there are instances of “butt” (6), “suck” (3), gosh (1) and “jeez” (1).

Other Positive Elements

Ferdinand’s father is a good role model and a loving dad. Ferdinand is raised as a pet by a young girl, and their relationship is enjoyable to watch. When Ferdinand learns that the bully has been sent to the slaughterhouse, he wants to save him.

Life Lessons

The movie gives us lessons on bullying, standing up for what is right (Ferdinand), facing peer pressure (Ferdinand), self-sacrifice (Ferdinand and his friends), teamwork (Ferdinand and his friends) and overcoming odds (Ferdinand).


At its core, Ferdinand is a movie about being yourself and not succumbing to peer pressure. Viewed through a biblical lens, it’s a good message. I have four children, and each have different talents. This, of course, can result in jealousy, especially if one child is succeeding where the others cannot. I’m often reminding each of them: You are uniquely gifted. Don’t worry about what your brother or sister or even others think. Be yourself. Be the person God made you to be!  

God has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11), and He has given each of us unique talents (1 Peter 4:10-11, 1 Corinthians 12:5-6). But if we’re constantly wanting to be someone else, or if we’re feeling pressure to be someone else, then we can’t live a life pleasing to the Lord.

No doubt, the theme of Ferdinand (“be yourself”) can be twisted to include things that God prohibits. But viewed correctly, it’s a nice message.   

What Works

The humor. The scene of Ferdinand maneuvering through a china shop is worth the rental price.

What Doesn’t

Ferdinand is a few scenes from being a perfect family-friendly film. Remove the potty language, the rear-shaking and a couple of other minor things, and it is.

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever faced pressure to be someone you didn’t want to be? What did you do?
  2. When does “be yourself” become an unbiblical message?
  3. What can we learn about bullying from watching Ferdinand?
  4. How do we know God’s will for our lives?  

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Ferdinand is rated PG for rude humor, action and some thematic elements.

REVIEW: “Breaking In” is Rambo meets “mama bear,” with a few ethical questions

Shaun Russell is a loving, middle class mom who’s simply trying to teach her two children to know right from wrong – and to respect authority, too.

Her life is interrupted when her wealthy father – the dad she never got along with – is struck and killed while jogging. She’s left with a big mansion, a big piece of land, and an even bigger headache.

Wanting to forget her past and escape her father’s legal troubles, she opts to sell the place. But first she and her children will visit it and gather a few things, including personal mementoes.

The plan quickly goes awry. Upon arrival, she discovers the alarm has been tripped. Minutes later, her kids are taken hostage by three guys who want her father’s money, and she’s being chased through the woods by a fourth guy who wants her dead.

Can she find a way to save her own life – and the lives of her children, too?

Breaking In (PG-13) opens this Mother’s Day weekend, giving us the story of a mom who will do anything to rescue her kids. It stars Gabrielle Union (Bring It On, Bad Boys II) as Shaun Russell, Ajiona Alexus (13 Reasons Why) as her teen daughter Jasmine, Seth Carr (Black Panther) as her young son Glover, and Billy Burke (Twilight) as the lead bad guy, Eddie.

Breaking In has its fun-and-tense moments but plenty of ultra-violent ones, too. That’s because the movie is a combination of Rambo, Mission Impossible and every “mama bear” story you’ve imagined.

It’s what most parents would try if their kids were held hostage by four bad dudes, miles and miles from police. Still, the film’s violence had me wondering: How close was it to being rated “R”?

Let’s examine the details.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers ahead!

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)


Extreme. With plenty of male-on-female violence (and vice versa). We see someone stabbed by a wine glass shard. A female character is choked and dragged by her hair. (She survives.) An unexpected visitor to the house is killed when her throat is slashed. (We don’t see it.) The mom is savagely beaten in the film’s final scenes. A child shoots a gun at a bad guy. A bad guy gets run over by a vehicle. A knife is placed on the teen daughter’s throat. The children are tied up, with tape over their mouths. Another unexpected visitor to the house is beaten. We see someone shot and killed. We see someone get stabbed and killed. (We see the bloody knife.) We see dead bodies, too.     


Minimal. A sex act is referenced but not explicitly described.

Coarse Language

Moderate. About 30 coarse words: s—t (11), b—ch (6), h-ll (5), GD (2), SOB (1) “swear to G-d” (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), d—n (1), f-word (1), a— (1).

Other Positive Elements

From the film’s opening scenes, it’s obvious the mom unconditionally loves her children. When the teen daughter seems concerned for her mom’s emotional state, the mom responds, “It’s not your job to worry about me. It’s my job to worry about you.” We also see the mom express love for her husband (via a phone call), and the siblings demonstrate their love for one another.

The robbers see this love and decide to take advantage of it. Eddie says, “Moms don’t run – not when their babies are in the nest.”

Life Lessons

Breaking In gives us lessons in parental love, bravery and self-sacrifice. One of the bad guys – Duncan – also offers a lesson on the importance of parents when he tells Shaun, “I wish I had a mother like you.”   


Would you kill someone to protect your children? That’s the question confronting moviegoers who watch Breaking In. The plot leaves pacifists little wiggle room. The kids are tied up, the robbers are violent, and the police are an hour or more away. We know that Scripture gives the government the right to kill in defense of the innocent (Romans 13), but what about when police aren’t around? By the time help would have arrived in Breaking In, the children might be dead.

Perhaps there was an alternative, as seen in the movie Captive, which was based on the real-life story of a woman who read The Purpose Driven Life to a robber. The gospel indeed is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).     

But if words fail, Scripture allows such an action. We are to “rescue the weak” (Psalm 82:4) and “rescue those who are being taken away to death” (Proverbs 24:11). Scripture permits killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2). Further, we are to count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). In Breaking In, we see the mom do exactly that. She’s even willing to die so that her kids might live.   

What Works

The slow-motion, room-to-room chase scenes. For much of the film, the tension is thick.

Additionally, it is nice to see an intact, middle-class minority family portrayed on the big screen – and in the main roles, too. Most of the bad guys were white. It’s a role reversal from what historically has been the opposite case in Hollywood.   

What Doesn’t Work

The excessive violence. The movie would have worked better with more tension and less blood. Toward the end, the violence got in the way of the plot.

The film continues the troubling trend of male-on-female violence. Yes, the males here are the bad guys, but it’s still unsettling. Tone it down, Hollywood.   

Discussion Questions

  1. Would you kill to protect your children? Do you think Scripture allows it?
  2. Could you have done what the mom did? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think about male-on-female violence in movies, even if the male is the villain?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Breaking In is rated PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language.

Sutherland Springs groundbreaking starts with prayer

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS—Karla Holcombe, one of 26 victims to die in the Nov. 5, 2017, shootings at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, walked the lot adjacent to the church often, praying for God to provide a place for expansion. Members said the two-acre tract was too expensive.

“You’re not going to have to buy a church. God is going to give it to us,” Karla replied.

“God gave it to us,” Mark Collins said, recalling Karla’s story before some 350-400 gathered May 5, 2018, for groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Sutherland Springs facility.

Collins, pastor of Yorktown Baptist Church, served on staff at Sutherland Springs for two decades. Holcombe was a family friend, his children’s youth leader, a good-humored prayer warrior.

The day of groundbreaking started with a prayer walk around the property where a $3 million facility will be constructed with funds from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), other financial gifts and in-kind donations. A GoFundMe account established by San Antonio contractor Brad Beldon provided cash to purchase the lot for which Holcombe had prayed. NAMB chose Myrick, Gurosky and Associates (MG A), a Birmingham, Ala., firm, to oversee the project.

Ted Elmore, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention point person to the church, coordinated the prayer walk at the request of Pastor Frank Pomeroy. About 50-60 gathered on the sunny morning as the church praise band practiced nearby.

The prayer walk started at the construction site, then proceeded to the former sanctuary, now a memorial. Pomeroy scattered unleavened bread representing the body of Christ, poured juice symbolizing the blood of Christ and poured oil representing the Holy Spirit at both spots. Prayer followed.

The prayer event was an act of asking the Lord to cleanse and consecrate the land where violence had occurred, Elmore explained. Participants proceeded to the property’s boundaries—fenced by plastic construction sheeting—to pray individually.

Fresh from a trip to Washington, D.C., and a tour of the White House with Vice President Pence, the Pomeroys said they were glad to be home for the groundbreaking and prayer walk.

“We purposely picked this date so we could put something good on this anniversary,” exactly six months after the tragedy, Sherri Pomeroy told reporters.

Attendees filled a large open air tent to sit on white wooden chairs facing a raised stage featuring a trough of dirt behind a row of shovels and hard hats.

“We have prayed this morning,” Sherri opened. “That is what this thing is all about.”

Frank Pomeroy followed his wife, issuing a welcome before introducing NAMB’s Mike Ebert, who prayed and emceed the program.

Ebert expressed NAMB’s excitement regarding the rebuild, stressing, as Pomeroy had, that no victims’ or survivors’ funds were being used for the new buildings.

“Today, everything you see was either paid for or donated by others,” Ebert said, praising the “ripple effect through eternity” of the church’s testimony. Ebert mentioned he looked forward to worshiping with the congregation in a “few months” in the new building, a statement prompting a rise from MG A president Scott Gurosky.

Elmore ascended the dais next, bringing greetings from SBTC executive director Jim Richards and introducing Juan Sanchez, convention president, and other SBTC representatives.

Sutherland Springs encountered circumstances similar to those facing the first-century church, Elmore said. “The blood of the martyrs was shed in that room over there where they were worshiping Jesus,” he continued, reminding all that the “church of the Lord Jesus” was built on such blood. 

Gurosky followed Elmore, calling his company’s association with Sutherland Springs inspirational.

“We saw resolute souls and hearts ready to move forward, not back,” Gurosky said, expressing amazement at the project’s rapid progress from “concept to design” in 90 days. 

Gurosky said 30 companies had committed to donations and in-kind services for the project but admitted that construction would take longer than Ebert had suggested.

“So it takes more than a few months to build a church?” Ebert asked as laughter erupted.

In separate comments to the TEXAN, Ebert confirmed MG A had done 200 church project and recently helped NAMB “transition some space.” Gurosky confirmed local sub-contracters would be used and that Boerne, Texas, resident Gary Nazaruk had been coaxed out of retirement to become project manager.

Ebert recognized dignitaries, including Wilson County D.A. Audrey Lewis, Sheriff Joe Tackitt, and representatives of Congressman Cuellar and Senator Cornyn, before introducing Wilson County Judge Richard Jackson, who praised the perseverance of the community and church.

Senator Ted Cruz spoke next, proclaiming, “Glory to God,” reminding all that “181 days ago, this community saw the evil” but also saw strength, sacrifice, courage, passion and love. 

“The entire world saw the gospel,” Cruz added to resounding applause.

Cruz also recounted moments with victims and families. He recalled praying at Brooke Army Medical Center for a victim introduced as Dale. 

After Cruz’s lengthy prayer, Dale, his right arm immobile, gestured for a notepad and scribbled with his left, “Love your thoughts. I am David.”

“Laugh is good,” victim David Colbath also wrote before Cruz left that day. 

“What a testimony,” Cruz exclaimed.

Mark Collins, pastor of Yorktown Baptist Church, followed the senator, describing his long association with Sutherland Springs and Pomeroy. Collins discussed remembrance, emphasizing from Ephesians that the church must “stand and withstand” adversity “in remembrance of the promises of God.”

Mentioning that Pomeroy’s last sermon before the shootings concerned Proverbs 3:5-6, Collins produced a sign salvaged from the sanctuary, one of 18 framed Bible verses and the only one damaged in the attack. The verse was Proverbs 3:5-6. Collins returned the sign, with new glass, to Pomeroy.

After relating the story of Karla Holcombe’s prayer, Collins presented her son, John, with a crazily-colored tie for Mother’s Day. Karla had always laughed at the tie.

Frank Pomeroy brought a message from Ezekiel 11, explaining that the prophet also lived in turbulent times, which included the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. 

“We are not the first to experience horrific loss,” Pomeroy said, emphasizing that we must know the “victory is ours” and that “true sanctuary” comes from a relationship with God.

Expressing gratitude to NAMB and MG A plus all who donated, Pomeroy said that his vision of Sutherland Springs as a lighthouse prompted a request to MG A for a bell tower. 

He got not one tower, but two.

“One is a bell for the memorial; the other is a light for what God is going to do,” Pomeroy said Gurosky told him.

After prayer by Paul Buford, pastor of River Oaks Baptist Church, Ebert called up groups to wield shovels, don hard hats and ceremonially turn over the ground. The first group consisted of survivors and family members of victims.

During worship and baptisms following a barbecue lunch, Kris Workman played guitar in the praise band. Workman, shot point-blank in the spine last November, is wheelchair-bound with a “nearly complete” severing of his L2 vertebrae.

“My condition is not a surprise to God,” Workman told reporters. “This groundbreaking is a pretty incredible thing. It means God is still big. Still in charge. A benevolent God has taken something meant for evil and turned it for his glory. This building is going to be for his glory.” 

SWBTS announces special May 22 trustee meeting

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “In light of recent events,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustee chairman has announced the board will hold a special meeting May 22. 

The meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. that day on the seminary’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas, according to a statement released by trustee chairman Kevin Uekert. The release was prepared on Saturday (May 5), Ueckert noted, but it was embargoed until worship services in many Southern Baptist churches had drawn to a close on Sunday evening.

SWBTS President Paige Patterson, 75, became embroiled in controversy this past week after a 2000 audio clip began widely circulating online in which Patterson expressed his views regarding domestic violence and divorce. See related Baptist Press story

“In light of recent events, Dr. Patterson has requested that I convene our full trustee board to meet in official session,” the statement said. “As part of a trustee’s duty to this institution, and by extension to the Southern Baptist Convention, and by virtue of my authority as Chairman of the Board I am calling a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees, pursuant to the Bylaws.” 

See full statement below.


“The Southern Baptist Convention has entrusted to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees a responsibility to oversee the mission and direction of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As chairman of this Board, I know I speak for each of our trustees in saying that we carry out this responsibility with great seriousness. 

“Since April 28, 2018, I, and the Executive Committee of the board of trustees, have been in conversation with our president. In light of recent events, Dr. Patterson has requested that I convene our full trustee board to meet in official session. As part of a trustee’s duty to this institution, and by extension to the Southern Baptist Convention, and by virtue of my authority as Chairman of the Board I am calling a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees, pursuant to the Bylaws. This meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on May 22, 2018 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.”

REVIEW: “Isle of Dogs” has a Christ-centered lesson ¦ if we”re listening

Atari is a pensive, 12-year-old dog-loving boy living in a city where dogs are banned.

It hasn’t always been this way, though.

Long ago, the people of Megasaki City loved dogs. Then a virus spread through the dog population, sparking a fear that it might jump to humans. It even led the authoritarian mayor to ban all dogs to “Trash Island,” even though scientists were closing in on a cure.

Among the expelled dogs was Atari’s beloved canine, Spots, who was given to him when the mayor — Atari’s uncle – adopted the boy.

But Atari isn’t giving up. He steals a small plane and flies to Trash Island in hopes of finding Spots. Then his plane crashes on the island. Then the mayor sends out a search party. Then the mayor threatens to kill all dogs. Can Atari change the mayor’s view of canines before the government wipes them out?

It’s all part of director Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs (PG-13), a thought-provoking, stop-action movie that is aimed more toward adults than children. It stars newcomer Koyu Rankin as Atari and Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Spots, as well as an all-star cast as the other dogs: Bill Murray as Boss, Jeff Goldblum as Duke, Bryan Cranston as Chief, and Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers ahead!

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. The violence is cartoonish and mostly played for laughs. Dogs fight for food in a humorous scene. Atari’s plane crashes, and one of the dogs discusses whether they should eat him. Dogs fight humans in a dust cloud reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon. A helicopter crashes, presumably killing the occupants. We see a fish and crab – each alive – cut up for a meal. Four dogs accidentally enter an incinerator. We also see a graphic (albeit cartoonish) operation.

We hear discussion of cannibal dogs. Dogs talk about a canine who committed suicide. We see the bones of a dog who presumably starved to death in a cage.   


Minimal. The mayor’s backside is seen as he exits a hot tub. The dogs discuss a dog being “in heat” and of dogs mating. Nutmeg, in a conversation with a male dog, talks about “tricks” she can perform. She’s referencing dog show tricks, although it could have a double meaning. In another scene, she says, “I wouldn’t bring puppies into this world.”

Coarse Language

Minimal. D—n (2), SOB (1).

Other Positive Elements

Students rise up to oppose the “Anti-Dog” elements within the government. Later in the film, a member of the Anti-Dog wing performs a heroic action for Atari. We also see a mean dog turn nice.  

Life Lessons

Atari and other characters deliver lessons on self-sacrifice, perseverance and unconditional love. 


Isle of Dogs is a dog movie that’s not really about dogs. Sure, if you say “Isle of Dogs” fast enough, it sounds like “I love dogs” – and that’s intentional — but the film is rich in symbolism aimed directly at humans, and specifically, the way humanity treats classes of people. But which classes of people? Which races? Which nationalities? Anderson, the director, doesn’t say.

Some will see parallels to 2018 politics, but Anderson began working on the film during the previous presidential administration. It’s just as easy to apply the film’s themes to the treatment of Jews in World War II or to African Americans in 1950s America. The mayor even sets up “displacement camps” for the dogs.  

Besides, it shouldn’t matter which class of people the film is referencing, because no class should be treated that way. Every person bears the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and every person should be loved just as Jesus loved us (John 13:34). Our goal should be that of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  

What Works

The use of stop action for an adult movie.

The humor and emotion. Anderson masterfully balances them.

What Doesn’t

Not applicable.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you see parallels to history or modern-day politics? If so, where?  
  2. What does Scripture say about racism? About treating one another?
  3. Do you like the use of stop-action films to convey adult messages? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rowlett church plant, buoyed by CP, gives back

ROWLETT In mid-March, the 130-member congregation at Rowlett Friendship Baptist Church celebrated its second anniversary—an event 

Pastor Alton McKinley credits in part to the Southern Baptists of
Texas Convention and Cooperative Program support. 

McKinley had been serving as an associate pastor under Pastor Terry Turner at Mesquite Friendship Baptist, the mother church of RFBC. Three years ago, they began planning a church plant, and in March 2016, the Rowlett church launched with McKinley leading as a bi-vocational pastor. 

A full-time employee at the Veterans Administration, one of McKinley’s challenges as a church planter is time. After a full day at his job, he invests another four or five hours doing church work “in study as well as just making sure the church is open for business,” he said.  

Describing the labor involved in planting a church, McKinley said: “You are establishing every ministry until that ministry is up and running—even the nursery. In an established church, the ministries and the bylaws and procedures are already in place. In a plant, the pastor has to establish all of that.

“Four out of 10 church plants do not succeed,” he said adding, “It is only with the support of the SBTC, and churches that support the SBTC and the Cooperative Program that, two years in, we are still a vital church plant.” Through CP, the Rowlett church has received financial support, mentoring support and a much-needed weekend retreat for McKinley and his wife. 

The SBTC’s Church Planter Retreat, held in San Antonio last spring, provided training and refreshment to 200 pastors and their wives, all free of charge because of CP funding.

McKinley said, “It was an opportunity for my wife and myself to just relax, refocus and re-energize. You don’t know what a blessing it is until you see other church planters who are struggling with the same things you’re struggling with, and you are able to sit down and discuss things that will make you better in your ministry, make you better in the kingdom.” He added, “It was a powerful weekend for me and my wife.”

In one impactful breakout session for McKinley, church planting pastor Damon Halliday talked about the need for persistence. The pastor of Keystone Fellowship Church in Fort Worth recounted how in five years, after persistently getting the word out, passing out fliers and serving hotdogs at community outings, the church now has more than 600 attending.  

It resonated with McKinley. “I looked back over the last year and saw how our persistence got us from 60 to 130. We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

RFBC now enjoys a blessing: Being able to help support other churches through their own CP giving.  “Our church is overwhelmed that a church plant less than two years old is now giving to support other churches. My wife and I have benefited from CP giving, and we are advocates for it. Any church not doing it, you are missing out on a blessing for someone else and for yourself in advancing the kingdom.”