Month: August 2020

SBTC DR teams rush to Southeast Texas following Hurricane Laura

While the “unsurvivable” storm surge predicted by the National Weather Service wasn’t as bad as expected, portions of East Texas and Louisiana still suffered devastating flooding and wind damage as Hurricane Laura made landfall in the early hours of Thursday morning, Aug. 27, south of Lake Charles. 

The storm intensified into a Category 4 hurricane before striking the Gulf Coast along the Texas-Louisiana border, diminishing to a tropical storm by mid-Thursday as it moved north through Louisiana into southeastern Arkansas, bringing damaging winds, torrential rain and the threat of tornadoes.

Days before Laura made landfall, Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief volunteers, along with DR teams from other Southern Baptist state conventions, prepared to deploy to assist survivors.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief national director Sam Porter told Baptist Press on Aug. 26 that at least 10 SBDR response sites will be established in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, with mobile kitchens, chainsaw teams, flood recovery crews and chaplains. Send Relief deployed an 18-wheeler Tuesday, filled with rolled roofing, mold remediation spray, face masks and shields. Porter said all operations will adhere to strict COVID-19 safety protocols.

SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice confirmed to the TEXAN on August 27 that Send Relief also provided grants to the SBDR teams of affected states to help with Hurricane Laura relief.

Rapid SBTC DR response to assist evacuees

SBTC DR shower and laundry crews from Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston and First Baptist Leonard deployed even before the storm to support a shelter established in Huntsville at the Walker Country Fairgrounds following the mandatory evacuations of Orange, Port Arthur, Beaumont and Galveston. With evacuees permitted to return to their homes Friday and Saturday, the units will be reassigned elsewhere in Southeast Texas or sent to Louisiana, Stice said. 

Stice said additional SBTC DR teams are deploying rapidly, including a mass care feeding unit from the Unity Baptist Association in Lufkin which will establish operations Aug. 28 at the Salvation Army’s central kitchen in Beaumont to prepare food for survivors in both Texas and Louisiana.

Quick response kitchen units from Salem-Sayers Baptist and the Top O’ Texas Association in Pampa, fresh from Hurricane Hanna deployments, are also en route to Southeast Texas.

Shower units from Hillcrest Baptist Church and the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association have been directed to Central Baptist Church, Kirbyville, to support power line crews working with the Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative. 

A laundry unit from the Bowie Baptist Association will serve power line crews and first responders housed at the East Texas Baptist Encampment.

A recovery team from Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist began clearing roads Aug. 27. SBTC DR chainsaw crews will head to Liberty Baptist in Bridge City over the weekend to begin assisting homeowners.

SBTC DR logistics and administrative personnel are also arriving in Southeast Texas. An incident management site has been established at First Baptist Church, Kountze, with Pastor Daniel White serving as incident commander.

Damage assessment from Hurricane Laura continues, Stice said, adding that volunteers will be deployed as needed and that SBTC DR is prepared to assist Louisiana once Texas’ needs are met.

“Once the homeowners get home, a lot of ministry will start,” Stice said.

An area still in recovery hit again

The threat of Hurricane Laura came as unwelcome news to Southeast Texas churches in the Golden Triangle Baptist Network still recovering from the September 2019 flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda and the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, GTBN Executive Director Jim Turbo told Baptist Press August 26.

Pastor Terry Wright of First Baptist Church of Vidor, in Orange County, told Baptist Press it feels like his church has been in recovery mode the past 15 years.

“Our church has been through so much here, Rita, and [2008’s Hurricane] Ike, and Imelda and Harvey … and then we worked with Katrina … and we’ve had some other floods in the area since then,” Wright said. “For the last 15 years it has been nothing but recovery, and our church still does not have all of its facilities from Imelda.”

Orange County, bordered by Sabine Lake, the Neches River and the Sabine River, is prone to flooding, Wright added. 

On Monday before Hurricane Laura, the church filled sandbags to place on church property and give to members. Members unable to evacuate to relatives’ homes, were directed to a shelter at First Baptist Church of Mount Enterprise, Texas, a partnering congregation about 150 miles north, Wright said.

First Baptist Vidor also prayed on Monday for a miracle.

“We’re just hoping and praying. We do believe that the Lord’s answered prayer,” Wright told BP, referring to Tropical Storm Marco that progressively weakened before easing ashore at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

On Thursday, the church’s prayers were answered again.

Wright told the TEXAN Thursday evening that First Baptist Vidor escaped largely unscathed from this most recent storm. 

“Other than being without power and some minor cosmetic damage, some trees and limbs down, we’ve weathered the storm fairly well,” Wright said

A recently purchased generator is alleviating the power outage, he added. The church has already opened its doors to SBDR personnel, including Porter and Send Relief drivers conveying supplies to the area.

“We just want to do what we can to facilitate helping others,” Wright said.

The pastor also expressed appreciation for the numerous messages and prayers, not just from the SBTC, but from around the country.

“Our people are praising the Lord that there was not damage here,” Wright said, conveying the church’s sympathy for communities in Texas and Louisiana suffering damage: “We feel for those folks. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like.”

This article also features reporting by Diana Chandler of Baptist Press.

A warrior not ashamed

What gives you hope? Our ultimate hope is eternal life in Christ, and that is the best answer to that question. But there are human analogs for ultimate hope—light in the darkness, the protection of a hen for her chicks, a land of milk and honey, the bosom of Abraham, and so on. What in this life, a pure thing, encourages you to put up with the frustrations of the day? 

For the past 37 years or so it’s been something out of Psalm 127 for me. “Children are a heritage from the LORD,” “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,” “He, [with a full quiver of ‘arrows’] shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

That last verse gets more picturesque in my mind with each passing year. “Shame” seems like an understated word for a warrior who stands in the gate speaking to an invading horde, but with no ammunition; he’ll have to run away because he can’t fight. But his enemies see and hear something completely different if the warrior has the ability to resist. Arrows are stand-off weapons—they go where the warrior or hunter cannot or should not go. When my children began to become resources to me, people of spiritual and even temporal wisdom, I began to sense the power of having them at my back. That confidence grows as they do. They go where I cannot and do things that are beyond my ability.  

There also comes a day when you take some level of hope from things you’ll never live to see. I think of grandparents or great grandparents who hold on to see that next baby born—a baby they won’t likely know as an adult. At that point the hope is real, but the reality of it is beyond our sight. But it’s important nonetheless. These kids, all of them, will on some days give us reason to despair, just as we did for the earlier generations. But we take joy in what could be rather than in the gritty details we know will come with child-rearing. 

But this doesn’t have to be only about kids. Think of bereft Job (“Though he kill me, still I will hope in him”) or formerly childless Hannah (“My mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation”). In the midst of the specifics, it is the LORD who builds the house and who watches over the city (Psalm 127:1).  

Some of us do the other thing, as with Naomi in Ruth (“The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”). Maybe they focus on the cost or pain or multiplying themselves. Some are hopeless and cannot imagine doing something as hopeful as reproducing, spiritually or physically. Can it be that we are more hopeless when we stop being obedient and useful to the kingdom of God? Is that why we get fractious as the days of relative isolation and uncertainty drag on? I observe that inactivity in good works and despair are travelling companions these days. 

Although I think Psalm 127 is literally talking about parents and children, maybe grandchildren as well, remember also the comfort Timothy was to Paul (“his father in the faith”) during his last phase of ministry. Who have you given to generously of the things God has showed or given you? Our spiritual children, those to whom we have witnessed or those we have taught, give us a reach beyond our imagination, a hope for things we will never see finished. These I think are also your arrows when you face your enemy at the gate. Those whose lives you have touched during your ministry so far are those who will encourage you as they reach their own maturity. 

Back to bitter Naomi near the end of chapter 2 of Ruth when she sees hope for herself as God opens a door for her widowed, pagan daughter-in-law. She comes alive, guiding Ruth at a strange and crucial moment, and then she, Naomi, not “Mara,” was later called blessed by the neighbor ladies because she was not left without a redeemer. This redeemer was not of her own son but out of the young woman she adopted and taught. And Naomi was neither hopeless nor ashamed.

So reproduce yourself, physically if you are able and spiritually if you are one of the redeemed of the Lord. Be confident, as Paul was, to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” to those who are your spiritual and physical children. It is a God-honoring, prudent bit of self-interest to prepare those who will one day be your strength and confidence—God’s provision for a warrior in the gate.   

The SBTC and Vision 2021

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists commandeered commercial aircraft as weapons, using them to strike at the heart of America. New York represented the economic prowess of our country. The Pentagon is a symbol of military might. The plane that went down in Pennsylvania reportedly was headed for the White House or the Capitol, the seat of America’s government. All of the targets were premeditated. No planes were headed for a church. Sadly, our spiritual power does not draw the attention of those who hate our nation. 

On the Sunday following 9/11, many churches were packed. People sought spiritual solace in a time of calamity. Only eternity will show if the church responded well. 

In March of this year, an unseen enemy struck the United States. COVID-19 began to take lives by the thousands. The elderly and those with underlying health issues were the most vulnerable. Commerce, travel and even public worship stopped. For weeks, people were asked to stay home. Churches scrambled to figure a way to minister to people. Electronic communications stepped to the front. Zoom became a common means of virtual gathering. Time will tell whether the church responded well.

Your state convention shifted from in-person events to an online presence. More was needed. I knew that the SBTC needed some retooling but thought it would wait a year or two. Someone has said that a crisis reveals needs. Crisis also accelerates the need for change. After much prayer, I asked a select number of SBTC staff to serve on a vision team. They were tasked to help us not just navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, but to reposition the SBTC to better serve the churches during and afterwards.

The SBTC last went through a detailed analysis of our ministries in 2012 under the “Refocus Plan.” The purpose was to evaluate and adopt structure, staffing and services in response to the Praying and Listening sessions that had taken place across the state in the prior year. Now, eight years later, we again looked at the ministries of the convention and needed to address the question of how to best accomplish our ministry purposes.  

In order to gain input from the churches, the Vision Team sent surveys to over 500 individuals representing a wide cross-section of SBTC constituents. Responses were received from almost 40 percent of those contacted. The questionnaire included matters such as: the purpose and effectiveness of the convention’s ministries and major events; the importance of diversity and next generation engagement; how to measure success as a church and convention; the importance of the convention’s office building; and the purpose of a state convention. In addition, the Vision Team contacted several other Baptist state conventions. Common themes in those discussions included varying levels of staff working remotely and the importance of building relationships in order to accomplish ministry. 

From the data, 10 observations for actions were noted. You can see them on page 3 in this issue of the TEXAN. Most notably there was no desire to change the DNA of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. We remain a confessional fellowship of churches around the Baptist Faith & Message  2000. The convention staff continues to serve church with a kingdom focus. The central funding vehicle is the undesignated giving channel, the Cooperative Program. This will not change.

Methodology will change. Heightened attention to church health and leadership, enhancing digital capabilities and communication, renewed commitment to church planting and evangelism, and supplying resources with a relational component will take a different form in 2021. Some staff assignments will change. Practical matters like reducing facility cost, having some staff serve remotely and increased outsourcing are all a part of the plan.

Vision 2021 is not the final product. Your SBTC staff regularly evaluates how we best can serve the churches. Although COVID-19 has been a life-altering experience, we have the opportunity to adjust to advance the gospel in a new and fresh way.  

Contingency plan for November annual meeting approved by executive board

GRAPEVINE During their Aug. 18 meeting, SBTC’s Executive Board adopted a plan, recommended by the executive committee and approved by the convention’s Committee on Order of Business, to be implemented in the event of gathering restrictions that would make meeting in Austin this year impossible. 

The SBTC constitution requires an annual meeting in Article VI and guards the right of the messengers to designate the time and place of the meeting. The board can call a special meeting of the convention but cannot on its own authority designate the time and place of the annual meeting. In consultation with the convention’s legal counsel and parliamentarian, a plan was developed that follows constitutional guidelines should an emergency require a change. 

The motion passed by the board has two features: The first would authorize the board’s executive committee to cancel the 2020 annual meeting if they determine cancellation is “prudent or necessary.” The second feature authorizes the executive committee, on behalf of the board, to call a special meeting of the convention for the sole purpose of designating a new time and place for the 2020 annual meeting. If such a meeting is called, the board will offer a motion designating the place of the annual meeting as the same place as the special meeting and the time of the annual meeting, immediately following the adjournment of the special meeting. Upon approval of messengers to the special meeting, the new time and place would be in effect. 

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards stressed the precautionary nature of the plan, “Everything is set for the annual meeting of messengers at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Nov. 9 and 10. However, we do have an alternate plan that should enable us to gather in the event of the most extreme circumstances.”   

The calling of a special meeting requires approval of two-thirds of the Executive Board and published notice of the meeting, and its purpose, in the “official publication of the Convention” at least 30 days prior to the meeting.  

Southwestern Seminary launches Women’s Leadership Institute


Contact: James A. Smith Sr. (<>)

By Katie Coleman

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI), which offers a variety of certificate programs for women serving in any ministry, leadership, or life context—and Illinois Baptists are already partnering with the program.

These certificate programs will equip women in the work to which they are each individually called, according to Terri Stovall, dean of women and professor of women’s ministries. She says the programs are designed with a focus to equip any woman in any context to be “biblically grounded, theologically strengthened, and practically equipped.”

“All believers, including women, should be lifelong learners and lifelong teachers,” Stovall says. “For women, especially, we must be intentional about seeking out those opportunities that work within the various life seasons we find ourselves.”

Due to the availability of flexible programs such as those found within the WLI, Stovall says, “there is really no excuse for a woman not to continue to learn and grow, which benefits the woman, her family, her church, and her community.”

For the student wife or minister’s wife, three certificate programs are available, including one that will meet spouse requirements for service with the International Mission Board. These courses are offered to students in a six-week format and are available in both a residential and asynchronous online setting. Courses are offered at a reduced rate but are not eligible for transfer into a degree program.

Certificate options include the Seminary Study for Student Wives Certificate (12 hours), the Seminary Studies for Student Wives in Missions (16 hours), and the Advanced Seminary Studies for Student Wives Certificate (8 additional hours).

“My hope is that the wives of our students who are studying at Southwestern understand and embrace their own calling to ministry as an individual, but also as an effective partner in ministry alongside their husbands,” Stovall says. “The influence and impact of a minister’s wife cannot be overstated, and I want our ministry wives to be encouraged, confident, and equipped to steward that influence well.”

For the woman serving and leading in her church or other ministry contexts, two certificate programs are available: the Certificate of Ministry Studies (12 hours) and the Advanced Certificate of Ministry Studies (20 hours). Like the programs for student wives, courses are available in a six-week format and are offered in both a residential and an asynchronous online setting.

“Many women have found themselves naturally growing into places of leadership and then, somewhat unexpectedly, feeling the weight of that responsibility,” Stovall says. “My hope for the lay/ministry leader programs is to provide opportunities for women serving the church who are not in a season to enroll in a full degree at Southwestern Seminary but will benefit from a focused course of study that fits within their schedules.”

“Southwestern’s mission,” Stovall explains, “is to biblically educate God-called men and women for ministry, and this is one more avenue that women have to access quality theological education taught by Southwestern’s faculty.”

The Certificate of Ministry Studies, specifically, “is targeted to the lay leader or the ministry staff member who wants to sharpen her iron,” Stovall says. “Through the years, I have talked to state convention women’s leaders, women’s ministers, and others who are looking for theological training in their leadership teams, and this certificate will help meet that need.”

The WLI is also offering two certificate programs for women who may later decide to pursue further education. Courses are offered in both residential and online formats, at a standard course fee, and are fully transferable to other degree programs.

The Leadership Certificate in Women’s Ministry (12 hours) will equip women as leaders in the local church by creating a foundation of biblical training as well as networking opportunities. The Certificate in Women’s Studies (12 hours) is designed for the woman who wants to establish a foundation for biblical theology of women and gender roles, as well as an understanding of contemporary issues.

“At its fundamental level, leadership can be defined as influence,” Stovall says. “From the days of Priscilla, Dorcas, Phoebe, and even Euodia and Syntyche, women have had great influence in the New Testament church. Today is no exception. Women are leading well as Bible teachers, mentors, counselors, ministry leaders, and voices of wisdom.”

The WLI has already partnered with the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) and their online leadership program, Edge, to provide Illinois women the leadership resources, affordable theological education, and networking opportunities found through these certificate programs.

Carmen Halsey, director of leadership development for the IBSA, says she and her team were in search of ways to provide quality and sustainable theological training for women who are leading across the state of Illinois. After connecting with Southwestern Seminary through Terri Stovall, both believed the partnership to be a good fit.

“We realize women are hungry to learn, but seminary is not the fit for all of them,” Halsey says. “Many have degrees already but want the knowledge that can immediately be applied. We also realize that it could be an on-ramp to seminary for others.”

As many Illinois women start taking the online courses this fall 2020 semester, Halsey says the program will provide the necessary tools to strengthen the theological understanding of women and equip them to be more effective leaders.

“Our goal is to enhance the theological training of women leaders in the church to ultimately strengthen the church,” Halsey says. “Immediate application of knowledge empowers them to continue to learn and grow but also intentionally pour into others. This contributes to building a leadership culture within our state.”

“Everyone serves the churches” in new structure approved by SBTC Executive Board

GRAPEVINE—Madisonville rancher Craig Bailey drew from the New Living Bible translation of Romans 8 to encourage the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board to view the “thorns and thistles” of life from a heavenly perspective. Before voting Aug. 18 on a 9.42 percent budget reduction for 2021 and rallying around a Vision 2021 task force report to restructure SBTC ministries, board members listened to Bailey address the temporary adversities of “sin, death and decay.”

“Thorns and thistles means more to me than it does y’all,” he said, speaking from his experience on a Texas ranch. Instead of being like “cringing, fearful slaves” referenced in verse 15, he reminded from verse 31, “If God is on our side, who can ever be against us?”

The perfect storm of four months of greatly decreased income from affiliated churches and the urgency of preparing a 2021 budget in time for the board meeting led SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards to enlist the help of an in-house task force to help solve the problem without compromising core values. Board members affirmed ministry team structure recommendations advanced by the 2021 Vision Team that will better position staff and ministries to serve the more than 2,600 affiliated SBTC churches.

The eight staff members evaluated the future of the SBTC in light of changes accelerated by the pandemic, Richards explained. Surveys were sent to over 500 individuals with 37 percent responding from a wide array of SBTC constituents.

Survey questions related to the purpose and effectiveness of the convention yielded 10 observations for action in regard to maintaining the mission statement, prioritizing church health, increasing digital communication, strengthening relationships with pastors, producing resources for smaller membership churches, engaging younger pastors, including greater diversity of thoughts and views through a cultural lens, realizing cost savings by downsizing the office, maintaining the EQUIP training and Empower evangelism conferences while suggesting a possible combination of one or both with the annual meeting, and distinguishing the differences between the two Texas state conventions to new Board members and younger pastors.

Set to begin in 2021, the restructured organization approved by the Board reduces the number of departments from seven to five and allows the Executive Director an allocation of $250,000 from reserves to cover additional transition costs of the new plan.

Many areas that had migrated to other departments over the last few years will be moved back to the Executive Director’s office under the umbrella of Cooperative Ministries. Among the assignments likely to fall under that department are partnerships with the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, promotion of the Reach Texas State Missions Offering, relationships with associational strategists and various networks, ministry relationships, and the Annual Church Profile report gathering. Kenneth Priest will continue working as a senior strategist in this department.

Most of the remaining areas currently housed under Church Ministries and Pastor/Church Relations will fold into a new department named Church Health & Leadership led by Tony Wolfe, the current director of Pastor/Church Relations. Mark Yoakum, who has served the last eight years as director of Church Ministries, announced his retirement effective Jan. 31, 2021, to return as a consultant during 2021 to assist with the EQUIP conference.

 The department to be known as Missional Ministries represents a return to the original combination of both evangelism and missions assignments with a new senior strategist to be named at a later date. Doug Hixson will continue leading church planting efforts within that new department.

A new department known as Digital Ministries and Communications will be led by Lance Crowell, who currently serves as a ministry associate in Church Ministries. This department will build on the legacy of print communications, adding a variety of digital resources and media to host online training, provide information technology, research and development, event planning, and audio-visual support for churches. Gary Ledbetter, current communications and ministry relationships director, announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, 2020, when he will have completed 20 years serving the SBTC. He will continue editing the Southern Baptist TEXAN print newsjournal in a consulting role throughout 2021. 

Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis will lead a renamed “Business & Operations” department with a broader assignment that includes stewardship, tax seminars and business administration.

Richards emphasized that every person employed by the SBTC will live by the motto “everyone serves the churches” as they individually relate to a dozen or so churches each year while also carrying out assigned duties.

Board Chairman Danny Forshee of Austin thanked the team for their extensive research and recommendations over a two-month period. In addition to Richards and Davis, other members of the team included Tony Wolfe, Kason Branch, Lance Crowell, Randi Kent, Kenneth Priest and San Juanita Shelton.

With fewer staff based in Grapevine, the existing building would exceed the need for office space. Furthermore, an already-reduced workforce resulting from natural attrition, retirements and anticipated staffing adjustments in time for 2021 prompted the Executive Board to authorize the Board chairman to appoint a relocation committee to look into selling the current 30,000-square-foot office building and relocating to a smaller building in the same area.

Davis explained the need to formulate a budget that is more in line with actual receipts for March through June of 2020 when a downturn in giving by churches began.

The SBTC, like all state Baptist conventions, is dependent on undesignated Cooperative Program giving from affiliated churches in order to provide in-state ministries and fulfill the Great Commission mandate not only within Texas, but around the world. The proposed 2021 in-state CP budget calls for a reduction of $100,099 per month.

The proposed budget of $26,159,798 is $2,721,306 less than the 2020 budget and continues to allocate 55 percent of undesignated receipts to benefit Southern Baptist work around the world.

CP receipts for the first half of the year were $1,164,872 under budget—$720,000 less than reported at the midpoint of 2019. Davis projects the budget shortfall to increase by the end of the year. 

With tight restrictions imposed as early as March on discretionary spending, travel and hiring of new employees, as well as receiving a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan from the government, reductions in salaries and benefits for employees have not been necessary in 2020. Moving major events such as student camps and the EQUIP training conference to a virtual platform led to a net surplus for the first seven months of 2020.

The Board also modified the Executive Director Succession Plan originally approved in 2014 to provide “the potential for a period of time during which the transitioning Executive Director and the Executive Director-Elect work together.” The revised plan would allow Richards an opportunity to train and advise a successor elected by the Board once retirement plans are announced.

In other business, the Board approved 19 churches for affiliation, and removed 94 churches that have disbanded, merged or disaffiliated bringing the new total of affiliated churches to 2,669.

Credentials Committee Chairman Jason Gray, of Redeemer Church, Abilene, explained that the larger number of churches for removal was proposed after years of attempting to locate a spokesman for each one to verify its status. In the process of contacting every SBTC church during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gray said, “It became clear that an updating of rolls was necessary.” Research conducted prior to the virus verified that phone numbers and addresses were not correct and neither neighboring pastors and churches nor associational leaders believed the congregations to still exist.

“The decrease can seem disappointing, but I think it is the desire of all of us to have an accurate number of affiliated churches,” Gray added, calling for the SBTC to continue with “utmost integrity” in its credentialing process. Of the 94 churches removed only seven requested disaffiliation, returning to independent status, joining the American Baptist Convention or aligning exclusively with another state Baptist convention.

In other business, the Board:

  • approved the continuation of a Cooperative Ministry Relationship with Criswell College and Fraternal Ministry Relationships with the Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists and the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas;
  • heard a report of an Executive Committee request that the Internal Revenue Service accommodate Baptist polity to allow churches to continue to be placed under group exemptions afforded the SBC;
  • authorized use of up to $40,000 of the Protection Benefit Endowment to cover protection benefit costs in 2021;
  • approved a change to the matching benefits offered by GuideStone Financial Resources to fund church employee retirement plans specifically for qualifying lead and senior pastors;
  • received reports from the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, Texas Baptist Home for Children, Jacksonville College and Criswell College; and
  • provided a means of changing the date and location of the Nov. 9-10 annual meeting scheduled at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin in case restrictions make that necessary.

Rebekah Naylor named first female distinguished professor at Southwestern Seminary

Rebekah Ann Naylor, a longtime medical missionary to India, has been appointed distinguished professor of missions in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the first female ever to hold such a position at the seminary.

“The late Robert E. Naylor, our fifth president, began the tradition of pronouncing upon new students and faculty the worthy name of ‘Southwesterner,’ and in my estimation there are few individuals more worthy to wear this distinctive appellation than his own daughter, Dr. Rebekah Ann Naylor,” said President Adam Greenway. “Through her decades of service with our International Mission Board in medical missions, she has made tremendous contributions to the advancement of God’s kingdom,” he said.

Naylor made her profession of faith at the age of 5, and eight years later accepted God’s call to become a medical missionary. After graduating from Baylor University with her B.A. degree in chemistry in 1964, she then completed her doctor of medicine degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1968. Her surgical training was completed 1973, after which she was certified by the American Board of Surgery and became a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

In 1973, Naylor was appointed to the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). Following a 13-week orientation that prepared her for the mission field and a semester of studies at Southwestern Seminary, Naylor was deployed to Bangalore, India, as a general surgeon, evangelist, and church planter. 

Naylor served at Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH) from 1974-2002, during which time the hospital experienced significant growth during this time. While Naylor’s initial appointment was as a clinical surgeon, she eventually assumed the positions of chief of medical staff, administrator, and medical superintendent. Under her supervision, BBH expanded patient care services and increased its capacity from 80 to 160 beds. 

Naylor also supervised the construction in Bangalore of the Rebekah Ann Naylor School of Nursing in 1996. She later became its professor of anatomy and physiology and saw the first class graduate in August 1999. 

Besides serving as a missionary surgeon and professor, Naylor also worked as a strategy coordinator and church planter for the International Mission Board in the state of Karnataka, India, from 1999 to 2009. During this time, she worked with the medical ministry and Indian pastors to help plant 900 churches in the state.

Upon her return to the United States, Naylor joined the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and taught in the surgery department. She was promoted to associate clinical professor of surgery in 2007 and served in that capacity until her retirement in 2010. She then began serving as a global healthcare consultant for Baptist Global Response, mobilizing and training healthcare personnel to meet needs around the world. She also helped found Mercy Clinic, a free medical clinic for the uninsured, low-income population of southern Fort Worth, and has previously taught at Southwestern Seminary as an adjunct professor of missions.  

In commending her appointment, IMB President Paul Chitwood stated, “At the International Mission Board, Rebekah Naylor’s name is synonymous with medical missions. Not only is Dr. Naylor the leading voice in IMB’s current healthcare strategy, her advocacy is one of the primary reasons that the IMB has more medical professionals serving overseas today that at any time in our history.” 

He added, “I look forward to seeing how God will use her in the role of distinguished professor of missions in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to call out the called for the sake of every nation, all tribes, peoples, and languages. There is simply no better choice for this role.”

John D. Massey, dean of the Fish School, said he “could not be more excited” that Naylor has been appointed to the faculty, explaining that she “brings a wealth of missions experience from her 40-plus years as an IMB missionary in India and currently serving on special assignment with the IMB in the area of healthcare strategies and church planting.” 

“In her lifetime,” Massey continued, “she has created an unmatched legacy of service to the Lord through reaching the lost through serving as a medical doctor in India. In a real sense, Dr. Naylor is coming home. She lived on our seminary’s campus as the daughter of our fifth president, Dr. Robert Naylor, until she left for college. Welcome home to the Dome, Dr. Naylor!”

Missionary emeritus Robert A. Hampton, 88

Robert A. Hampton, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Brazil, died May 8, 2020, in Tom Bean, Texas. He was 88.

Bob was born Sept. 29, 1931, in Norborne, Missouri, to the late Alfred Clifton and Marie Elizabeth Key Hampton.

He graduated from Norborne High School in 1949 and served as a hospital corpsman with the U.S. Navy from 1951 through 1955. He married his high school sweetheart, Wilma Rodenberg, on Dec. 30, 1951. 

Hampton received a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri), Warrensburg, and the master of divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.

God called Hampton to the ministry while he was in college. He was pastor of churches in Clinton, Holden, Warrensburg and Gilliam, Missouri, before the International Mission appointed him and Wilma missionaries to Brazil in 1965. 

They served from 1966 through 1976 in Petrolina, Pernambuco, where he started many churches in areas with no evangelical presence. Wilma became ill and the family returned to the U.S., where he accepted the pastorate at First Baptist Church, Wellington, Missouri. Wilma died on March 8, 1978.

Hampton married Marjorie Crowe Bateman on June 1, 1979. Margie and her late husband, Dallas Lane Bateman, had served as missionaries to Kenya until his death in 1976. 

In July 1979, the Hamptons returned to missionary service and served in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, until 1987. There Hampton taught at the North Brazil seminary and he and Margie assisted in the translation of the MasterLife discipleship program into Portuguese. He was also pastor of Igreja Batista Casa Forte. The Hamptons moved in January 1989 to Rio de Janeiro, where he taught at the Baptist Institute of Religious Education for Women and carried out church planting and discipleship.

In November 1997, Robert and Margie retired and moved to Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Odessa, and then Magnolia Baptist Church, Holden. They moved in 2007 to Tom Bean, where he continued to preach at various churches. 

Hampton is survived by his wife of almost 41 years, Marjorie; his daughters, Cara (Kelly) Hainey, Melanie (John) Brown, Lisa (Glen) Kolkmeyer, Regena (Don) Willoughby; his son, Robert (Kelley) Hampton III; stepdaughters, Dina (Scot) Kanaley, Tara (Jim) Shipp, and Lari (John) Hall. Bob is survived by 26 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and his first great-great grandchild expected in November 2020. He is also survived by his sister Karen Kay (David) Blankenship.

Funeral services were held at Luella First Baptist Church. A private graveside services is to be held later at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, in Dallas.

Read an obituary here.

Southwestern Seminary’s Brent Ray dies

Brent S. Ray, director of the World Missions Center (WMC) and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died in his sleep, Aug. 14. He was 61 years old.

“Dr. Ray and [his wife] Elaine were veterans of the International Mission Board and brought their passion for missions to Seminary Hill in leadership of our World Missions Center,” said President Adam Greenway. “He was a man on mission here, pointing students to the unfinished task of fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Along with his wife, Elaine, Ray had roughly 40 years of experience in a variety of ministry settings. From 1976-1990, Ray served in four pastoral ministry roles in North and Central Texas, during which he also began his education. Following preliminary studies at Baylor University, Ray transferred to Dallas Baptist University, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in biblical studies. He later attended Southwestern Seminary, earning both the master of divinity (1989) and doctor of ministry (2000) degrees.

Ray and his wife served as International Mission Board missionaries in South America from 1990-2003 prior to their return to Texas in November 2003. In addition to founding a regional church planting ministry in northeastern Brazil, teaching at the Northeast Baptist Theological Seminary in Bahia, and guiding mission leaders in the development and execution of strategic ministry initiatives, Ray also served in regional supervisory and administrative roles for missionaries in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In 2003, Ray joined the Hope for the Heart and the Hope Center Foundation in Dallas, Texas, where he served as president.

In 2012, stemming from a desire for a hybrid ministry role wherein he could both return to teaching ministry and focus on developing partnerships and strategic alliances for Christian leadership development on the foreign mission field, Ray returned to Southwestern Seminary as associate director of the WMC and director of Global Theological Innovation, which later became Global Leadership Development (GLD).

As GLD director, Ray fostered relationships with overseas seminaries in order to strengthen theological education around the globe. In 2019, Ray was promoted to WMC director, which allowed him to oversee all the missions mobilization efforts of Southwestern Seminary and Scarborough College.

Even amidst the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Ray remained hard at work to strengthen theological education around the world, overseeing initiatives in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia that included training professors and assisting with the logistics of transitioning to online education.

John D. Massey, dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, said, “Dr. Brent Ray, my dear friend and fellow servant in the ministry, will be keenly missed in every way. He brought an unusually strong mix of energy, gifts, and enthusiasm to everything he did. He was a joy and delight to serve alongside.

“As director of the World Missions Center, he worked tirelessly to mentor and train Great Commission servants and model a love for Christ and for the nations among our students. He did all things with excellence and made a tremendous impact for the kingdom in the lives of so many of the Lord’s servants. He displayed a Christ-like humility and love for people like few I have ever known. In the Fish School and the WMC, we deeply grieve his loss.”

Ray is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their three children, Ariel, Jared and Jordan.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to the Southwestern Seminary World Missions Center in honor of Dr. Ray.

Get the most out of your Bible reading today

Daily Bible reading is life-giving. When you are in a healthy rhythm of communing with God through Bible reading and prayer, there is a prevailing grace that accompanies daily motions. But if you’re like me, honestly, sometimes regular Bible reading can feel more like a daily habit than a daily grace.

So how do you get your heart back into your Bible reading? How do you turn mindless repetition back into meaningful rhythm? Here are five suggestions:

1. Before you engage the written Word, engage the Living Word. Pray that the Lord will give you a mind to understand, a heart to value, and a will to obey what you are about to read. When I jump into Bible reading too quickly, sometimes I get halfway through a chapter before I realize that I have been reading the words on the page while thinking about something else entirely. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Just a simple, meditative, focused invitation to God that he might meet you in this devotional rhythm. Beginning your Bible reading with prayer is a great way to clear your mind and invite the Lord’s voice into the space of your rhythmic devotional practice.

2. As you read, keep primary points primary and secondary points secondary. Ask, “what is the main point of this passage of Scripture? What high-level, big idea do I need to take away from my Bible reading this morning?” It is true that every written word of God contains a wealth of wisdom that no reader could ever fully exhaust. But the passages of Scripture are given to you by God with some primary truths in mind. Discover those primary truths, believe them, and act on them. They will help you filter all of your secondary questions appropriately.  

3. Spend more time on what the text does say than on what it does not say. Yes, there are all kinds of things the Bible does not say. But the wisdom of God revealed through the pages of Scripture is inexhaustible by the finite human mind. To believe in the God of written revelation is to trust his goodness to us in both what he has chosen to reveal and what he has chosen not to reveal. It is neither uncommon nor unhealthy to walk away from your daily Bible reading with more questions than answers. But the answers you do walk away with are those truths that the Author has intended for you to know and live. One answer from God’s Word is worth a thousand questions it might raise. And if you read with devoted, rhythmic expectation, more answers will come over time as you grow closer to the heart of the Author.

4. Focus less on what you think about the passage and more on how the passage should shape the way you think. In every sitting, you will bring a goulash of compounding (and sometimes conflicting) viewpoints to the rhythm of Bible reading. It is only natural that we filter what we read through what consumes most of our thought life and emotional life at the moment. The way we think and the way we feel affects the way we read. But the rhythms of grace compel us to trade in our thoughts for God’s thoughts—to value how the Divine Author would have us think more than we value what we think about what he has written. His thoughts are not ours. They are much higher. To fill yourself with the delightfulness of God’s Word, elevate your mind to the heavenly table. Allow the written Word to challenge and shape the way you think rather than allowing the way you think to challenge or shape what you are reading.

5. Value transformation over knowledge. There is a goal in mind. There is a purpose to your devotional, rhythmic reading of God’s Word. The goal is not that you might accumulate factual knowledge from the Bible. The goal is to be transformed into the image of Christ. When it comes to the intersection of Bible reading and Christian living, there is infinitely more value in what you do with what you know than there is in what you know to do. If you come to the pages of Scripture with a primary goal to fill your head with knowledge, you will miss the glory of spiritual transformation. Every day, at the conclusion of your Bible reading, ask, “Today, what does God want me to do with what I have come to know?” Allow your reading not only to shape the way you think, but the way you live.