Month: April 2019

April tornadoes ravage East Texas; SBTC DR crews respond

FRANKLIN and ALTO  What Mississippi emergency authorities labeled a “tornado outbreak” swept across East Texas through Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama over the weekend of April 13-14, claiming at least nine lives and injuring dozens.

In Texas, an EF-3 tornado hit Robertson County, destroying 55 homes in the town of Franklin and damaging property in surrounding communities. Two more tornadoes—confirmed as an EF-3 and EF-2—also struck Cherokee and Angelina counties, injuring at least 25 people attending a Native American cultural event at the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in Alto, Texas, and killing two children crushed inside a car in the community of Pollok in Angelina County, ABC news and the Associated Press reported.

SBTC DR crews have joined other relief agencies to minister in Alto and New Baden, Texas, a community of about 150 four miles from Franklin.

In New Baden, SBTC DR’s quick response kitchen, fresh from its deployment to help flood victims in Nebraska, set up operations Mon. morning, April 15. The unit, manned by volunteers from Salem-Sayers Baptist Church southeast of San Antonio, started serving workers immediately. Among its first customers were high school students from Franklin, their school closed because of the tornadoes, who came to New Baden to help clear debris.

“We are open for business,” SBTC DR feeding volunteer Ronnie Roark told the TEXAN, adding that the unit was prepared to serve hot breakfasts, sandwich lunches and hot dinners as long as needed.

The QR kitchen, a food truck type trailer, is parked at First Baptist Church New Baden, whose pastor, Fred Burden, is going around the community to let victims know that food and other forms of assistance are available.

Gordon Knight, SBTC incident commander at New Baden, confirmed that a shower and laundry unit from Lake Athens Baptist was en route to the area. An SBTC DR recovery unit from Calvary Baptist in Beaumont was also headed to Robertson county, said SBTC DR associate Daniel White.

“The steeple says it all,” Knight told the TEXAN, referring to the broken steeple of First Baptist New Baden damaged by the tornado, which also downed trees and took out electricity to the church.

Burden was alone in the parsonage across from the church when the tornado struck. Urgent messages from his daughter in Lexington, Ken., and his wife visiting in Houston alerted Burden to the storm.

“I looked out our window, then stepped out on the porch,” Burden recalled. “You could see the circulation.” The pastor sheltered inside his home where the noise of debris hitting the house drowned out the freight train sound of the tornado.

Not only was the church steeple tilted, but the youth hut was damaged, Burden said. He complimented church and community members who came Sunday evening to help, some diverted from nearby Franklin to outlying areas often forgotten in a storm.

Many in Burden’s congregation of 80-100 come from Franklin. Many in the church suffered storm damage, including Matt and Rachel Waller, whose modular home was destroyed.

“The tornado lifted the Waller home off its foundation and moved it 50 feet. Two giant trees stopped it,” Burden said. The family is staying with relatives and has been amazed at the response from the community, Burden said, adding as a commentary on God’s sovereignty and people’s response in times of crisis, “God can take a crooked stick and hit a straight lick every time.”

Texas Baptist Men have set up operations in Franklin at First Baptist Church, the church’s interim pastor, Ted Elmore, SBTC evangelism associate, told the TEXAN.

“We will do things in Franklin if TBM has needs. We will make sure if they need help and vice versa. We always cooperate,” Knight said, adding that TBM and SBTC DR assessors both worked in Alto yesterday.

“Alto was hit just as hard as Franklin,” Knight said.

SBTC DR teams are traveling to the Alto area, SBTC DR associate Wally Leyerle confirmed. Recovery teams from Dogwood Trails Baptist in Palestine and the Pittsburg/Mt. Pleasant area and a feeding unit from Flint will set up operations in Alto this week to minister to victims.

REVIEW: “Breakthrough” is a gripping film about the power of prayer

John Smith is a typical 14-year-old Missouri boy who loves basketball, video games and pizza.

He loves his parents, too, but he has trouble expressing it. He rejects his mom’s affection. He turns down her food. Occasionally, he even calls his dad by his first name.     

“It’s just a phase,” Brian Smith tells his wife, Joyce. “He’s just trying to get a reaction.”

John also is trying to find his place in this world. He was adopted as a child from Guatemala and never has understood why his biological mother didn’t keep him. Maybe that’s why his relationship with his mom has suffered. Or maybe it’s just because he’s a teenager with an attitude.

But John doesget along with his classmates, and one winter day he and two boys walk onto an icy pond to test their bravery. They’re told by a stranger to get off the pond — it’s dangerous, he says — but they ignore him. Seconds later, they plunge through the ice and frantically begin fighting for survival. Two of them make it back to the surface, but John — in the confusion — is kicked even deeper.

First responders raise his lifeless body to the surface 15 minutes later and transport him to the hospital, where doctors perform CPR and shock treatment in an attempt to restart his heart. Both fail. Forty-five minutes have passed since he fell into the water and stopped breathing, and John is considered dead.    

Then his mom prays. And then his heart starts beating again. Doctors are amazed, but they deliver more bad news to his mom: He likely has severe brain damage.

Joyce, though, isn’t giving up.

“I believe God can heal our son,” she says.

The faith-based film Breakthrough(PG) opens next week, telling the real-life story of a boy who survived a tragic incident that captivated a corner of Missouri in 2015 and eventually captured national attention. It stars Golden Globe nominee Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) as Joyce Smith, Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3) as her pastor, Jason Noble, and Dennis Haysbert (24) as John’s doctor. Marcel Ruiz (One Day At a Time) plays John.

DeVon Franklin (The Star, Miracles From Heaven) produced it, and Roxann Dawson (This Is Us, House of Cards) directed it. NBA star Stephen Curry is an executive director.

The movie involves three parts: 1) John’s struggle with his identity as an adopted child, 2) Joyce’s never-give-up, faith-filled outlook on his recovery, and finally, 3) The town’s questioning of why God spared John’s life but didn’t spare others.

It seems unfair to call Breakthroughone of the best faith-based films I’ve seen — even though it belongs in that conversation. That’s because Breakthroughis simplya great movie. Period.  

Metz is magnificent. Dawson’s veteran skills as a director are evident. The script is entertaining and inspiring. You know how the film’s going to end, but you’re still enthralled.

Most of all, Breakthroughis a great film because it’s based on an amazing true story written by a powerful God.

“I wanted to stay really true to the story,” Dawson told a panel of Christian media members. “So I did a lot of research.”

John Smith’s miraculous recovery is documented in 301 pages of medical records. Doctors saw it. Nurses saw it. First responders did, too. (And if you’re curious, John doesn’t visit heaven.)

Warning: moderate/major spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. The scene where John and his two friends fall through the water might frighten sensitive children. (Although my 7-year-old wasn’t troubled.) We see medical personnel perform CPR and shock treatments on John.


None. Boys talk about a girl being “hot.”

Coarse Language

Minimal. H-ll (2), OMG (2). (We hear John say “h-ll” in his home prior to falling through the ice. His mother corrects him. Later, we hear the pastor say the same word in excitement when John shows signs of recovering.)

Other Positive Elements

John’s family prays together before a meal. We see them in church. The entire town begins praying when they learn about John’s accident. 

Joyce and her pastor don’t get along — he’s too edgy and modern for her tastes — but they set apart their differences and join in prayer when John is in the hospital. 

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We see a young John ask his mom about his biological mother, “Why didn’t she want me?”

One of his school assignments involves a report on each student’s family tree. John doesn’t want to do it.

Life Lessons

Breakthroughgives us lessons on forgiveness and reconciliation (Joyce and the pastor, and others), the power of prayer (Joyce and others), supporting and encouraging one another (church members and townspeople) and patience (Joyce). It also raises questions about church styles (Joyce’s pastor says he changed the music to attract a younger crowd).


Corrie ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” For Joyce Smith, the answer is obvious. She prayed constantly — or without “ceasing,” in the words of Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Jesus told us to pray. He even told us prayer works (Mark 11:24). That is the message of Breakthrough. Like War Room, it displays the power of prayer. John was thought dead. Less than a month later, he walked out of the hospital as a healthy, normal kid. 

Breakthroughalso examines the unanswerable question: Why does God heal some people and not others? Ultimately, we don’t know. But we do know that God’s glory is displayed in both healings and weakness (Romans 8:28). It’s all part of his plan. Remember: This world is not our home. Eventually, all of us — John included — will die (Hebrews 13:14-16).

So, why did God heal John? Maybe it was to show miracles still happen. Maybe it was to remind us that prayer works. Maybe it was to display the power of God and to show others that He is real. Or maybe it was to give John himself a platform for future ministry. (The real-life John Smith wants to become a pastor.) Maybe all those possibilities are true. Only God knows.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe Joyce’s prayer led to John’s heart starting to beat again?
  2. Do you believe miracles still happen today?
  3. Why does God heal some people but not others?
  4. What did you think of the church’s worship service? What did you think of the pastor’s explanation for modern worship?
  5. What lessons can we learn about God from miraculous healings? What can we learn about God when people aren’t healed?

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

Breakthrough is rated PG for thematic content including peril.

Southwestern Seminary trustees trim budget

FORT WORTH—In their first meeting with newly elected president Adam Greenway April 8-10, trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved lowering the budget, transferred investment funds to GuideStone Financial Resources and elected new officers.

Greenway described the 2019-2020 budget as “a recalibration and reset” of the school’s priorities. The $32.6 million budget is a reduction of more than $3 million from what trustees approved a year ago.

“In a time where we must be extraordinarily judicious in conserving resources entrusted to us by the Southern Baptist Convention of churches, by the donors and friends who believe in our work and are willing to invest in us, and the tuition dollars we receive from our students,” Greenway said, “we must make sure we steward and shepherd every dime in a way that is going to enable our seminary to flourish and thrive in an increasingly challenging environment and world.”

Acknowledging that budget cuts involve “some tough choices and some transitions,” Greenway said the action puts Southwestern in a strengthened position.

He emphasized his commitment to residential theological education and “to reprioritize our core degree programs which begin with the master of divinity program, our master of arts in Christian education program and our master of music program.” 

Trustees approved moving endowment funds currently managed by the Southwestern Seminary Foundation to GuideStone Financial Resources. Created in 1998 as the Harold E. Riley Southwestern Foundation and given to the seminary by Riley in 2005, the Foundation will be dissolved once the funds are transferred. A separate entity known as the Harold E. Riley Foundation continues to operate with no connection to SWBTS.

The Board elected Colby T. Adams as vice president of strategic initiatives, overseeing communications, campus technology and other administrative priorities. He also serves as chief of staff. Adams previously served as director of communications at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patricia Ennis was named distinguished professor emeritus of family and consumer sciences.

In order to correct an oversight at the Feb. 27 called board meeting, trustees elected Randy Stinson as professor of theology and ministry in the School of Theology, having already approved him to the position of provost.

The current bachelor of arts in humanities and biblical studies degree in Scarborough College was eliminated and replaced with a B.A. in Christian studies and a B.A. in humanities.

Graduates for spring and summer commencement who are approved by the faculty and certified by the registration were approved by trustees.

Updates approved to the bylaws included renaming The Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Church and Family Ministries as The Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Educational Ministries, as well as The School of Church Music to The School of Church Music and Worship.

Elected by acclamation to serve as board officers are three Texans—Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst as chairman; Danny Roberts, executive pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills as vice chairman; and Jamie Green, retired speech-language pathologist in Katy as secretary.

“What we’ve experienced the last two days is best described as family,” outgoing chairman Kevin Ueckert shared in closing the meeting. “We will forever be grateful for God’s grace in the midst of this window of opportunity to be a part of what he’s doing.”

REVIEW: “Shazam!” is a moving foster care story wrapped in a superhero flick

Billy Batson is a 14-year-old foster kid searching for his identity in life. And to discover that, he’s going to find his biological mom.

“I’ve got a mom. … She’s out there. I know it,” he tells a social worker.

But so far, all he’s finding is trouble — with his foster parents, with the police, with the system.

He’s run away from all six foster homes that have taken him in, causing so many problems that they don’t want him back. Now he’s moving in with number seven. The names of his new parents are Victor and Rosa Vasquez, a couple who began their owns lives as foster kids. They have a big home and a big heart for at-risk kids. Billy, in fact, will be the sixth foster child in their house.

He likes his new home. He likes his new siblings, too. He even likes his parents.

Yet his search for his biological lineage soon takes a backseat to a supernatural event. Billy is riding home from school when he’s transported to another dimension, in the presence of a wizard known as Shazam. This wizard is looking for a replacement who is “strong in spirit” and “pure in heart.” You know — a “truly good person.”

“I’m not one,” Billy responds. “I don’t know if anyone is, really.” 

Yet that doesn’t matter. Billy is Shazam’s only hope, and within seconds, he is given the powers of a modern superhero — complete with a muscular frame, tights and a cape. He becomes “Shazam,” a 20-something common man of steel who can fly, run faster than a bullet, and — yes — leap tall buildings, too.

The DC Comics film Shazam!(PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of an insecure young teen boy who learns how to be a superhero by trial and error. To gain his strength, he only needs to say one magic word. (You guessed it: “shazam.”)

It stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi (Thor: The Dark World) as Billy’s alter-ego Shazam, and Jack Dylan Grazer (Beautiful Boy) as Billy’s brother and good friend, Freddy.       

The movie follows two angles: Billy’s crash course on how to be a superhero (at first, he uses his powers for selfish reasons), and the evil Thaddeus Sivana’s hunting of Billy in hopes of stealing his powers. 

Shazam!is as funny as it is original, as we watch our superhero learn how to fly, jump and fight — just like an immature 14-year-old boy would. Each step is accompanied by wonderful wide-eyed giddiness, with Shazam and Freddy (who is filming him for YouTube videos) laughing in disbelief at their stoke of fortune.

The film has plenty of PG-13 content but it also tackles some heady questions, too, such as: What is family? What is home? How are we shaped by our parents’ decisions?

Overall, Shazam!is a fun ride, even if it may not be for small kids.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate: The film has its share of superhero punching and fighting, but its inclusion of demonic, ogre-like creatures is what will trouble some parents the most (not to mention give children nightmares). The creatures are Sivana’s sidekicks and accompany him wherever he goes. The most disturbing moment involves them killing two of Silvana’s family members (one is tossed out a window, the other eaten). We also see a creature bite off someone’s head. Earlier in the film, we see a truck crash into a car, nearly killing one person. Bullies beat up a tween boy outside school.  



Coarse Language

Moderate. OMG (11), s–t (5), a– (3), h–l (3), misuse of “God” (2), d–k (1), JC (1). The film includes a handful of inappropriate references to the male anatomy

Other Positive Elements

Shazam and Freddy show mercy to the bullies.

The film’s positive portrayal of the foster care system is commendable.  

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Twice, Shazam and his friends end up outside a strip club known as “The Booty Club.” We never see inside the building, but the film would have been more family-friendly without either scene.

Shazam and Freddy also buy and drink beer. They hate it — Shazam says it tastes like “vomit” — and they eat candy and chips instead.

We see Billy’s brother bullied for being adopted.  

Life Lessons

The film’s ads and promotional materials tell us that “we all have a superhero inside.” Perhaps that’s true on some level, but it’s not the movie’s major theme.

The film’s theme is this: Families matter. A home does, too.

Sivana hates his father because of how he was treated and ridiculed as a child. Billy has positive feelings for his biological mother but has never met her; he got lost in a crowd at a young age and was never found. Both instances, though, show how the verbal abuse or absence of a parent can impact a child for life.

Shazam! provides positive (even Bible-based) answers on the film’s two questions: What is family?and What is home?The film comes down squarely on the side of love — that is, Billy’s love for his foster parents and their love for him. Faith is never discussed, but we do see them pray before meals.

It may have been the first time I shed a tear during a superhero flick.


Wizards, demons and mythical gods form the film’s backdrop. Shazam the wizard tells Billy he will be as powerful as Atlas, Zeus and others. Silvana’s powers come from seven demons, each of which represents one of the seven deadly sins.  


Xbox, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Zaxby’s, Watz, Stewart Haas Racing.

What Works

The plot. The family-centric story. If you’re curious, it ends with a cliffhanger, guaranteeing a sequel.

What Doesn’t

Shazam!seems to be partially aimed at children and tweens. If so, some of the content (the scary creatures, the strip club, the language) should have been excluded.

Discussion Questions

1. What caused Billy finally to accept his new parents?

2. For children: How should you treat your friends who are adopted?

3. Do we all have a “superhero inside”?

4. Did you like the film’s foster care message?

Entertainment rating:4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating:2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material. 

Aggressive evil

I’m not a naïve person. I understand where evil comes from, in my own life and in the life of my community. It’s no surprise when someone steals or murders or embezzles. Among those of us not headed for prison evil quietly slumps downhill—something we didn’t do but should have, idle hands, polite gossip, and so on. But it’s startling to see well-dressed, educated, respectable people fight aggressively for evil, if you pause a moment and think about the fallout from evil policies.

Aggressive evil is when a somewhat well-known celebrity who doesn’t vote in Georgia travels to that state to threaten and campaign against a bill to protect unborn children after their heartbeat can be heard. Her campaign against the bill includes a threat from 50 or so other celebrities to boycott the Georgia film industry. Some of her enablers have picked up the chant that the bill would therefore be bad for business. Strong business has always been a terrible, and dubious, reason to bless wickedness. It’s no shock that many hold this viewpoint but it seems aggressive that someone would travel across the country to fight for these abortions.

Efforts to normalize pedophilia, to classify it as a “sexual orientation” that one can do nothing about, seem aggressively evil to me. In this article a respectable psychologist working with the police to protect children is described and quoted as urging us to “stop the hate” toward those with pedophilic urges. In her Ted Talk, the psychologist calmly refers to some pedophiles as being respectable men “with no psychological disorders whatsoever.” She claims the best way to protect children from being victimized is to not be so emotional about pedophilia. Those of us who’ve watched, stunned, as our society overturned every state law that defined marriage as involving a man and a woman should recognize the normalizing process at work here. If you have been shocked at the glorification of transgenderism, you should stop saying “surely we won’t go that far” about anything. Read the article and then tell me if we are being too respectful of some well-dressed and educated folks who energetically pursue terribly destructive ideas.

We might see aggressive evil in the efforts to run gospel-based child placement agencies out of business for their biblical convictions. Laws that shield such faith-based institutions are in place across the country, and in Texas, but challenges like the one linked above in Michigan will multiply. In a government child welfare system that depends heavily on the generosity of churches and religiously motivated donors, forcing these Christian people to choose between their convictions and their work will result in a system increasingly unable to place children. Our homes will go out of business in many cases so that some politicians can do what LGBT activists call fair. It’s not even a matter of whether these activists will take up the work of those they’ve run off (they won’t), it’s a matter of asking people who believe one thing about man, God and marriage to act as if none of those things matter when it comes to sending children to live with those who deeply believe the opposite things. Who would do that?

The Texas Legislature has received a bill that would protect infants (as in “already born”) from neglect or something worse if they survive an abortion. Those who say “this is already illegal” or “that wouldn’t happen” are insincere or more naïve than I am. The Texas bill is very similar to one that failed in the U.S. Senate in early March. The president of Planned Parenthood sees a subtle threat to Roe v. Wade in the thought of requiring abortionists to provide medical care for babies they remove from their mothers without killing. Those who speak and act against such legislation are willing to bless grisly evil to avoid crossing the abortion industry. That’s not mere wrong-headedness but it is aggressive evil.

Isn’t that one of the things the Lord says he hates? Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

“These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”

Of course none characterize themselves as doing any of these things. We disagree on what is proud or wicked or evil or a lie or even discord. But it is more than just a clash of viewpoints when some of our neighbors seem so energetic in the fifth of these seven things the LORD hates.

We should be startled and scandalized to see it play out. There are guys in prison whose consciences are more tender than some we welcome into polite company. I sometimes think we are too tame with those who oppose life and justice. I wonder what John the Baptist would say to the president of Planned Parenthood or the “faith leaders” who rally against Christian child welfare agencies. I think there should be a little more John in all of us than I usually see in myself.

REVIEW: “The Best of Enemies” has a message of hope for our divided culture

Ann is an outspoken civil rights activist who has never had an opinion she didn’t want to share.

C.P. is a low-keyed Klu Klux Klan president who has never seen a black person he didn’t hate.

They come from opposite sides of town and opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, and now they’re being asked to find common ground on an issue — school integration — that has divided the city of Durham, N.C.

The inspiring historical drama The Best of Enemies (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the unlikely true story of how a black woman (Ann Atwater) and a white racist (C.P. Ellis) helped end school segregation in a corner of North Carolina in 1971 when hatred and racial strife were dominating local politics.

One of the city’s black schools had been damaged in a fire, forcing Durham officials to try and find a new home for hundreds of black students. With white city officials dragging their feet in integration and neither side willing to budge, a judge ordered a 10-day charrette — a forum in which two sides come together to try and forge an agreement. The 12-member council included six black people and six white people, with Atwater and Ellis leading their respective sides. At the end of the 10 days, they voted.    

The film stars Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as Atwater, Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Ellis, and Babou Ceesay (A.D. The Bible Continues) as charrette organizer Bill Riddick. All three are spectacular.

The Best of Enemies is historical drama at its finest, although its inclusion of racial slurs and other strong language may repel some moviegoers.

The movie’s spiritual themes (reconciliation, redemption and standing up for righteousness) shine through the hate-filled rhetoric. Ann Atwater had a salty tongue — in the film and in real life — but she was a churchgoer, too.    

“Same God [that] made you made me,” Ann tells C.P.

Warning: moderate/major spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. We see KKK members shoot into a single woman’s home after they learn she is dating a black man. (She survives.) Later, they break into her home and threaten to harm her unless she says she’s not friends with black people. (They make her use the n-word.)


Minimal. A woman is seen in a bra.

Coarse Language

Moderate. N-word (19), h-ll (6), d–n (3), a– (2), s–t (2), misuse of “Christ” (1), GD (1).

Life Lessons

It’s difficult to watch The Best of Enemies and not see parallels to our modern-day divided society, where hostility is the norm, goodwill is rare, and trust is nearly nonexistent.  

Thankfully, Ann and C.P. demonstrate a better way, even if they do get off to a rough start.

We learn lessons about loving your enemy and doing good to those who hate you. (Ann goes out of her way to help C.P.’s mentally challenged son, who is institutionalized.)

We learn that hate-filled hearts can change, if we are patient. (C.P., by the end of the film, views black people in a different light.)

We learn the benefits of relationships, community and conversations. (Both sides watch their preconceptions disappear when they are forced to talk to and work alongside one another.)

We learn that talking to one another — instead of about one another — can solve problems. (Imagine that!)  

It’s easy to hate a person you’ve never met. It’s much more difficult when you’re face to face, learning about their problems, their weaknesses. Pretty soon, you discover you have a lot in common.

Perhaps America could benefit from a charrette in 2019.


Jesus commanded us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). We see that demonstrated in The Best of Enemies — so much so that C.P. begins doubting what he’s been taught about other races. “I’m the president of the Klan. I’m supposed to hate black folks,” he says.

It isn’t a faith-based film, but it has more spiritual themes than seen in most mainstream movies.

The final 15 minutes drove me to tears and had me clapping, too.

Discussion Questions

  1. What led C.P. to change his views about other races?
  2. Do you think a modern-day charrette would work?
  3. Name three biblical lessons from The Best of Enemies.
  4. Was Ann’s outspokenness helpful or harmful?

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

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference.

SBTC approves new policy on affiliated churches and sexual abuse

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board approved a policy on March 26 related to sexual abuse and affiliated churches. Based on an interpretation of the Convention’s faith statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the policy would disallow new or continued affiliation by a church whose senior pastor has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child. The policy also prohibits new or continued affiliation by a church that is found to be “indifferent in their response to child sexual abuse.”

The policy states that, “indifference can be evidenced by, among other things, (a) employing a convicted sex offender in positions other than that of senior pastor, (b) allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors, (c) continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church, or (d) willfully disregarding compliance with child abuse reporting laws.”

Article XV of the BFM 2000 says in part that “Christians should oppose…all forms of sexual immorality.” The Executive Committee interprets this article to oppose child sexual abuse as “a form of sexual immorality that is clearly ungodly, morally corrupt and a sin against a holy God,” according to the newly crafted policy.

The Convention’s bylaws empower the Credentials Committee, a procedural committee of the Convention, to review the qualifications of churches for affiliation. The Committee then recommends appropriate action to the SBTC Executive Board or messenger body of the convention for final disposition.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “We grieve to hear of any victim of sexual abuse. In an attempt to help churches protect children, the convention has expended a great deal of staff time, conducted several training events, allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for training and employed a consultant to assist this process. We further expect churches to minister within the parameters of our faith statement and bylaws. The convention continues to be committed to facilitate sexual abuse awareness and prevention.”

In late February this year, the Convention announced an initiative to provide no-cost training on sexual abuse awareness to as many as 1,000 affiliated churches, as well as providing five training events during 2019. This initiative continues the Convention’s ten-year relationship with MinistrySafe, a company that assists churches and other institutions to prevent sexual abuse.

Read the full policy here.

Ronnie Floyd elected SBC EC president/CEO

DALLAS  Ronnie Floyd is the new president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, elected today (April 2) by ballot vote in a called meeting in Dallas.

Floyd received 68 of 69 votes cast, the EC said, electing Floyd in an executive session of nearly four hours.

A former SBC president, Floyd will announce his resignation April 7 as pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas in accepting the EC position, he told his congregation March 31 in preparation for today’s vote.

“As an ambassador for Christ, the Gospel and our Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd said in a video now posted on YouTube, “this role provides influence for the Lord and His Gospel message in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of places, nationally and globally.”

“The thought of parting from you has been gut-wrenching for Jeana and me. Words cannot describe it,” Floyd told his congregation. “The sense of loss is undeniable. But the sense of calling at this point is greater.”

SBC President J.D. Greear affirmed Floyd’s election in comments to Baptist Press today.

“This is a crucial moment for Southern Baptists, and I am excited to work alongside Ronnie Floyd as he leads the Executive Committee forward,” Greear told BP. “Pastor Ronnie has had a lifetime of leading in the kinds of evangelism and sending we are promoting in the Who’s Your One? and Go2 initiatives, both on the local church and national convention levels.

“He is a man of prayer and a man of action; a man of prudence and man of boldness,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “He is a gifted leader who I believe will keep the Gospel above all.”

Floyd, married to Jeana 42 years, is widely endorsed by Southern Baptist leaders including entity presidents, state convention executives, a diversity of pastors and others as well as the Woman’s Missionary Union.

“Impeccable integrity,” “visionary leader,” “prayer warrior” and “a role model in the pursuit of inclusiveness” are traits noted among endorsements offered in advance of the vote.

Floyd is in his 33rd year as the pastor of Cross Church, which celebrates its sesquicentennial in 2020. Under Floyd’s leadership, the multisite congregation has planted 148 churches and baptized more than 22,000 people, according to a press kit distributed by the SBC Executive Committee in advance of today’s vote. Cross Church reached $1 million in annual giving to the SBC Cooperative Program in 2015 and has since exceeded that amount annually.

Floyd has been active in various arenas of Southern Baptist life and interdenominational ministry. He has served as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force since 2017 and is a member of the board of directors of the Family Research Council in Washington.

Floyd has 43 years of pastoral experience dating back to First Baptist Church in Cherokee, Texas, in 1976 and subsequently including congregations in Milford, Palacios and Nederland, Texas. He began leading Cross Church in 1986 when the congregation was known as First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., and expanded the ministry to include campuses in Pinacle Hills, Rogers and Fayetteville as well as a campus in Neosho, Mo. Weekly Sunday attendance encompasses more than 9,000 people in 11 worship services across the various Cross Church campuses, according to the SBC Annual Church Profile.

Floyd is the author of more than 20 books and host and lead speaker of The Summit businesspersons’ luncheon of northwest Arkansas, equipping more than 400 business leaders each week.

He was president of the SBC from 2014–2016, chaired the SBC Great Commission Task Force from 2009–2010, and chaired the SBC EC from 1995–1997.

SBC entity leaders endorsed Floyd in advance of today’s vote, including the following comments:

— Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny L. Akin: “Ronnie Floyd is one of the most gifted and effective leaders I know. … He is tireless, focused, wise, and visionary. He also is a man of impeccable integrity. I believe he is the right man to lead the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in these challenging days that face our Convention.”

— Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason K. Allen: “The best way to determine how a person will lead in the future is to review how they have led in the past. As SBC president, Dr. Floyd pursued denominational unity by reaching out across generational, theological, and ethnic lines; he pursued denominational renewal by focusing on spiritual awakening, personal evangelism, and fulfilling the Great Commission; and he pursued denominational expansion by championing the Cooperative Program. I’m confident Dr. Floyd will do the same in this new leadership post, and I’m more hopeful for the SBC’s future with him at the helm of the Executive Committee.”

— International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood: “Ronnie Floyd, twice elected SBC president, believes in and supports the work of Southern Baptists. He has led his church to become the top Cooperative Program giving church in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and one of the top CP and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering churches in the SBC. Dr. Floyd is a visionary Great Commission leader and passionate prayer warrior who loves the local church, works to build unity in our Convention, and models and promotes racial reconciliation. God has answered our prayers for the search committee.”

— North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell: “Ronnie Floyd is a visionary leader who is wholly devoted to advancing God’s Kingdom. His heart for prayer and spiritual awakening will help keep Southern Baptists focused on reaching our world for Christ. I believe Ronnie is just what we need as we walk through times that are challenging yet filled with opportunity.”

— Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam W. Greenway: “Dr. Ronnie Floyd is a visionary leader with an extensive track record of denominational involvement and Great Commission passion. I am personally excited that this two-time Southwestern Seminary alumnus has been nominated to become the seventh president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. I pray that God will use this friend to me and all Southern Baptists to help forge greater unity and cooperation in our task of connecting all people to Jesus Christ.”

— GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins: “We are thrilled to hear that Ronnie Floyd is unanimously being recommended for election to the Executive Committee. We have known Ronnie and Jeana for decades and cannot think of one without the other. Southern Baptists are blessed to have this God-honoring, vision-casting, servant-hearted couple leading our SBC into a new day of unparalleled potential and cooperation.”

— Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg: “Dr. Ronnie Floyd is a passionate visionary leader who believes in the mission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has a track record of denominational engagement among Southern Baptists and effective leadership in the larger evangelical community. His authentic spirituality, coupled with his demonstrated commitment to inclusive leadership, makes him an ideal president for the Executive Committee. I look forward to working with him in this new role.”

— New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Chancellor Chuck Kelley: “Vision, skill, passion, and a relentless focus on the Great Commission. Dr. Ronnie Floyd is all this and so much more. As Southern Baptists face many challenges, including the greatest evangelistic crisis in their history, they will be well served with an outstanding leader at the helm of the Executive Committee.”

— Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.: “Ronnie Floyd is one of the most dynamic leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. There is no pastor in the SBC today who has more experience in denominational life and leadership. He is deeply committed to the SBC and is passionate to see Southern Baptists reach a lost world for Christ. His commitment to the Cooperative Program is clear and he leads by example. I look forward to working with Ronnie Floyd as he assumes this new position of great importance to our Convention and its work. I am thankful to God for him.”

— Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore: “I wish to extend my congratulations to Ronnie and Jeana Floyd, and to the Executive Committee as they begin this new ministry. Ronnie Floyd has my prayers and my pledge to work together to advance the causes of our churches and the message of the Gospel. The potential of our Southern Baptist churches, united in common cause and mission, is great indeed. I believe the very best days of the Southern Baptist Convention are yet to be seen, and I look forward to years of partnership toward that goal.”

— LifeWay Christian Resources Acting President Brad Waggoner: “Ronnie Floyd has been a faithful partner of LifeWay Christian Resources throughout his ministry. We are grateful that God has chosen him to lead the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention for such a time as this. A strong supporter of the Cooperative Program with a proven track record of effective leadership in the local church, Ronnie Floyd is uniquely gifted to unify and lead our Convention of churches in this crucial time.”

Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union auxiliary of the SBC, also welcomed Floyd’s nomination in comments preceding the vote. “We are at a critical hinge in history. We need people who will lead us on an unshakable pursuit of God and His mission,” Wisdom-Martin said. “We will pray for Dr. Floyd as he transitions to this new Kingdom post and look forward to working with him.”

In a series of Zoom conferences and conference calls scheduled today and April 3, Floyd will hear the concerns of Southern Baptists leaders encompassing bivocational and small-church pastors; the Great Commission Council of SBC entity and WMU of which Floyd will be a member; the Large Church Roundtable; the Mega-Metro pastors fellowship; the EC’s Convention Advancement Advisory Council; ethnic fellowship leaders; state convention executives and state convention presidents; and young leaders. More than 400 individuals have been invited to participate, according to Roger S. “Sing” Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations.

SBTC DR aids Nebraskans flooded by March bomb cyclone

BRISTOW, Neb. A harsh late winter set the stage for epic mid-March flooding in the Great Plains as a phenomenon commonly known as a “bomb cyclone” triggered a massive drop in air pressure that precipitated high winds across the Texas Panhandle and shattered flood records from rains and melting snow in eastern Nebraska.

“This was a monster, no doubt about it,” Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, said in comments reported by the Omaha World Herald.

The unprecedented flooding brought calls for assistance to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Scottie Stice, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention DR director, confirmed that SBTC DR crews headed to northeastern Nebraska over the weekend of March 23 with mud-out, shower, laundry, water support and feeding trailers to serve the areas surrounding tiny Bristow, Neb.

As of March 30, 14 SBTC DR volunteers from Borger, Pampa, Jasper, San Antonio and the DFW Metroplex worked alongside seven from the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists to minister to the Boyd County communities of Bristow, Lynch and surrounding ranchlands.

Bristow village council chairperson Marlo Johnson expressed gratitude for the Southern Baptist help.

“They are truly a blessing. The ministry is wonderful,” Johnson told the TEXAN.

Seven households out of a town with a population of only 62 were affected by floodwaters, Johnson said, adding that most had been able to return to their homes and some never would.

The record damage was caused by rain falling and snow melting atop frozen ground, causing a massive run-off.

“For us old timers, it was the fastest we’ve seen the water come in,” Johnson said, adding that with other townspeople, she watched Ponca Creek, a Missouri river tributary, fill with overflow from the Niobrara River south of town.

Large chunks of ice the size of sedans swept downriver, causing damage similar to that wrought by tornados, said Wally Leyerle, SBTC DR associate on site in Bristow.

Bridges are out, complicating recover efforts.

“People are greatly inconvenienced and must travel good distances to any large stores. A town that normally is 30 minutes away now takes two or three hours to reach,” Leyerle said.

What was once a 35 mile trip south to the town of O’Neill—where a local radio station has raised $100,000 for flood recovery assistance—is now a 180 mile trip, Johnson said.

The community has pulled together, as always, Johnson said as she dropped off a load of clean towels for workers. She and village residents have cooked for Red Cross volunteers and Southern Baptist crews as they have arrived.

“It’s been a delight to work with the people who have come in,” Johnson said, referring to the week’s below-freezing temperatures by adding, with a chuckle, “It’s fun to see Texans running around with ear muffs.”

“This is yucky work,” Judy Brandon, SBTC DR volunteer from Borger, said. “It’s really sad to see homes inundated with mud and water.”

Brandon commended the resilient, welcoming spirit of the local community. “These people are good people, the salt of the earth. They love each other. They love living in Nebraska. When there are needs in the community, they stand together tightly. They love God, country and each other.”

The area is well-churched, Brandon said. SBTC DR crew members have been able to pray with residents and even share the gospel.

“Oh, I know Jesus has forgiven me of my sins. I would not be here today if I did not have the Holy Spirit in my heart,” one resident told Brandon.

“We are glad to be here. They are glad to see us,” Brandon said.

SBTC DR crews are expected to remain in the Bristow area through the first week of April, Leyerle said, adding that the rest of the Great Plains states affected by the boom cyclone are still waiting for waters to recede before clean-up operations can begin in full and that future deployments are likely.