Month: June 2022

SBC 2022: Messengers greenlight task force to implement sexual abuse reforms

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Messengers to the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim overwhelmingly approved two recommendations presented by the Sexual Abuse Task Force on June 14.

The vote clears the way for the formation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) and the creation of a database that will allow church and ministry leaders to track, in the words of the recommendation, “pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse with present or past associations with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity.”

The messengers’ actions represent the next step in an ongoing effort to prevent sexual abuse, protect those who have already been abused, and to respond to future allegations of abuse in SBC churches and entities. In May, the SBC released the results of an independent investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions that identified failures in the area of sexual abuse care and prevention on the part of the SBC Executive Committee.

Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Church in Arden, N.C. and chairman of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, told messengers before their vote that there could be “no more business as usual” regarding the handling of charges of abuse in SBC churches and organizations. Frank reminded messengers they had commissioned the task force at last year’s SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville, thanking them for “showing the resolve of Christ-followers.” He praised the task force itself—calling its members “Southern Baptist through and through”—along with entity heads, state Baptist executives, state sexual abuse task forces, and the Great Commission Council for their assistance.

“Most of all, I want to say thank you to the survivors of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said, including both survivors listed in the Guidepost report and the “countless anonymous ones” sitting in the auditorium. “You are the heroes in this hall.”

Frank went on to urge messengers to choose “humility over hubris,” genuine repentance over passivity, and the “glory of God” over “business as usual,” noting that much of the abuse that has been brought to light occurred on “our watch.”

“This is our denomination that closed our eyes and our hearts to survivors … to sexual abuse reform initiatives … in some cases allowing serial predators to quietly move from church to church,” he said. “Either we humble ourselves or God humbles us … by humiliating us and putting us in humiliating circumstances.”

ARITF will be ‘priority,’ exist as long as needed

The ARITF, members of which will be appointed by newly elected convention president Bart Barber, is authorized to operate for one year and is renewable by messengers at subsequent annual meetings as needed. Barber said in his first press conference as SBC president-elect on Wednesday that seating the ARITF would be his first priority.

Initially, the Executive Committee had pledged funds to support the ARITF work, upon approval by messengers. Send Relief’s June 8 announcement of its intent to give $3 million to fund the task force’s recommendations for sexual abuse reform and an additional $1 million to establish a survivor care fund to provide trauma care for survivors and trauma training for pastors rendered EC funding unnecessary.

The ARITF is also tasked with working collaboratively with entity heads to recommend funding mechanisms for future reforms. The ARITF will report to each SBC annual meeting while the task force is in existence.

The idea of a task force is not new to the SBC, Frank said. The ARITF will assist entities advising Baptist churches and organizations seeking help. It will also consult with the executive and credentials committees regarding cooperating churches that fail to uphold SBC standards in addressing sexual abuse and caring for survivors.

Creation of database is ‘nothing new’ to SBC

The creation of such a database has been discussed for more than 15 years in SBC circles, Frank said, beginning in 2007 when a motion was made for the EC to study its feasibility. The database would be created as soon as possible, Frank said in a press conference after the vote, adding that the specifics would be determined by the ARITF.

“There is an 80% recidivism rate among sexual abusers,” Frank earlier told messengers, noting that the database will provide churches with the resources to prevent predators from victimizing people from church to church. “It respects local church autonomy while acknowledging the reality that churches need resourcing and will provide a safe space for survivors,” he said.

Dealing with cases of abuse is a matter of when, not if, Frank told pastors.

“That’s not a word of prophecy. That’s just math,” he said. “ … When you look out on your congregation, you will see survivors, but make no mistake, you will get the phone call and what you do right there sets the direction of almost everything else.”

In a resolution passed before the close of business Wednesday, messengers offered a formal apology and asked for forgiveness from those who have been victimized in churches. “We prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all instances of sexual abuse among our churches,” messengers said.

With their actions this week, the SBC is closer to making that a reality.

Information from Baptist Press was used in this article.

SBC 2022: In convention sermon, Sanchez says, ‘Our view of the church is way too small’

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church of Austin, challenged messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2022 annual meeting to enlarge their views of a healthy church during the convention sermon Wednesday morning in Anaheim.

Preaching from Ephesians, Sanchez said, “The apostle Paul blows up our small view of the church” in the epistle. Throughout Ephesians, Paul reveals God’s “eternal plan to exalt His Son as king and lord,” placing “all things under Christ” (1:19-23) uniting “a fractured humanity”—Jew and Gentile—into “one new man” (2:12-16).

Through this unified, diverse, multiethnic assembly, believers show “the cosmic powers the manifold wisdom of God” in whose eternal plan Christ emerges victorious over Satan and hell, rescuing for Himself a people from every tribe, nation, and language, Sanchez said.

A healthy church, he continued, is one in which “members are walking together in a manner that is worthy of our God” and that is “built on the Word of God” that believers might “look like the Son of God, to the glory of God.”

Churches must embrace the ministry of the word, Sanchez urged, explaining from his main text, Ephesians 4:11-16, the structure (4:11-12), goal (4:13-14), and practice of Word ministry (4:15-16).

The structure

Paul lays out the structure of Word ministry in Ephesians 4:11-12, with apostles and prophets the foundation, evangelists the missionaries or “spreaders,” and pastors and teachers, the shepherds.

“We cannot build the church on any other foundation,” Sanchez said, not “music styles or age-graded ministries or politics or social justice or even our own personalities,” for “Jesus is building His church on Himself.” All else is transitory, liable to collapse when a ministry is tested by fire.

Sanchez challenged pastors to order their Sunday services around the Word of God and to exposit whole books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, where the “Holy Spirit chooses the topics, not the preacher.”

The goal

The goal of Word ministry is “Christ-likeness,” Sanchez added. This is accomplished corporately in the church as members grow to Christian maturity and are no longer children tossed about by human cunning, craftiness, or deceit.

He cautioned that today it is all-too-common for churches to be distracted by “every wind of doctrine,” human philosophy, conspiracy theories, and worldly opinions, perhaps because pastors have not ground their flocks in the Word of God.

“What trellises are you providing your church for the ministry of the Word to flourish?” he asked, offering examples of things like small groups and the sacraments that encourage spiritual growth and the development of discipling relationships within a congregation.

The practice

Indeed, discipleship is at the heart of Word ministry as is daily life enmeshed in Scripture, Sanchez said, describing the cycle: “Pastors, preach the Word from the pulpit. Church, receive the Word from your pastors and let that Word reverberate throughout the life of the congregation.”

“Prioritize relationships,” he urged.

After church, ask your children about the sermon, he suggested, or have a group of singles to your home or eat lunch with some young couples or host a small group and discuss the sermon.

Develop relationships that have an eternal impact, he said, describing his own personal experiences in which kindly believers invited him to church as a young Navy recruit far from home or asked his wife and him to their dinner as young marrieds.

“This is what the whole body working together looks like,” Sanchez said, describing himself as a “former Roman Catholic Puerto Rican kid” who once was lost but now is found in Christ because of the discipling efforts of “faithful Southern Baptists” who poured their lives into his and enveloped him into their lives and homes.

“Our view of the church is way too small. I know mine was,” he closed, exhorting listeners to imagine a convention of faithful churches where the Word is preached, new churches planted and missionaries sent, mirroring the spiritual vibrancy of the early church in Acts.



SBC 2022: SBTC’s Barber becomes 65th president of Southern Baptist Convention

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday following a long day of business that included the entry of a last-minute candidate into the race and a subsequent runoff.

Barber received 60.87% of the vote (3,401 votes) in the runoff to defeat Florida pastor Tom Ascol, who received 38.88% of the vote (2,172 votes). Among the 8,098 registered messengers, 5,587 cast ballots during the runoff.

The runoff was necessary after no candidate received at least 50 percent of the vote after the first round of voting. Barber also led after that initial round, outpolling Ascol 3,258 votes (47.58%) to 34.06% (2,332 votes).

Robin Hadaway, a longtime pastor, missionary, and seminary professor who now lives in Southern California, and Frank Cox, senior pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., were eliminated after the first round of voting. Cox entered the race Tuesday morning.

Barber, 52, is the 65th president in SBC history and the second Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastor to serve in the position. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, served as SBC president from 2002-2004. Barber, an Arkansas native who has pastored FBC Farmersville since 1999, is the 13th pastor from Texas to serve in the role.

A press conference with Barber is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Matt Henslee, associational missions strategist for the Collin Baptist Church and a member of FBC Farmersville, nominated Barber. Henslee called him a champion of Southern Baptist institutions and efforts including the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings, its seminaries, and both its state convention and local associations.

“As a convention, we stand at a crossroads,” Henslee said. “And I humbly submit to you that Bart Barber is the man for the moment. Bart Barber embodies the best of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. … We need a man who will unite rather than divide, who will build up rather than tear down.”

Barber, an ever-present voice on social media, ran a digital everyman campaign. In one of his first public statements after being announced as a candidate, he recorded a Twitter video in his pickup truck during which he extolled the goodness of both milkshakes and Ascol (whom he called a friend who “loves Jesus”). He posted other videos on SBC-related issues recorded from the seat of his tractor, while walking on his ranch with a herd of cattle milling around in the background, and in full Trail Life U.S.A. uniform prior to a meeting of that group at his church.

He inherits an SBC that has much to celebrate but challenges on the horizon. SBC Executive Committee Interim President/CEO Willie McLaurin reported on Monday that national Cooperative Program receipts are $11.2 million ahead for the first eight months of the 2021-22 fiscal budget, and the SBC will celebrate CP’s 100th anniversary in 2025.

At the same time, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. is working to address declining baptisms and the implementation of reforms on the heels of an investigation that identified failures in the area of sexual abuse care and prevention on the part of the SBC Executive Committee.

Barber replaces Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who was elected SBC president in a runoff at last year’s annual meeting in Nashville. In March, Litton announced he would not seek a second term, as convention rules permit.

SBC 2022: Pastors’ Conference features heavy Lone Star State influence

ANAHEIM, Calif.—From the planning to the worship music to the preaching, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors were a major presence at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2022 Pastors’ Conference June 12-13.

Collin Baptist Association Executive Director Matt Henslee of Texas served as president of the conference, which featured messages from Colossians and was centered on the theme “We Proclaim Him.”

Worship was led by Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in Celina, accompanied by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Cowden Hall Band.

Marcus Hayes, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in The Woodlands, offered a Monday morning message of encouragement and gospel unity from the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:1-7, warning listeners to beware the world’s “haters.”

Paul wants leaders to see his “deep love for the church,” resulting in “care, concern, and compassion,” Hayes said, noting that often, “Care has turned into criticizing. Concern has turned into categorizing. And compassion has turned into canceling people.”

Hayes later added that “encouragement goes a long way” and that “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.”

“Be careful that you and I don’t come up with a different type of Jesus,” Hayes said. “Fashion your idea and your theology and your Christology on Jesus and who Jesus is and how He has presented Himself in the Scriptures,” Hayes said, remarking that Colossians is saturated with solid Christology and reminding all that “Jesus is not coming to take sides. He is coming to take over,” and that “the gospel still works.”

Among Monday afternoon’s speakers was Matt Carter, pastor of Houston’s Sagemont Church, who focused on verses 12-14 of Colossians 3:12-17.

Carter said the passage emphasizes the biggest problem facing the SBC today: division.

He affirmed the convention’s need to fight against “worldly philosophy and human tradition” and for “doctrinal fidelity and theological accuracy.” He vigorously cautioned that in so doing, Southern Baptists have stopped looking like Christ and started to look like the world, often lacking the one thing Jesus said would characterize His disciples in John 13:35:  love for one another.

“Love is maybe the only evidence of your salvation that you can’t fake,” Carter said. “I would imagine that every single solitary person in this convention would raise their hand and say that they are saved. They would say they are born again. Why in the world are we not known by the one thing Jesus said we would be known by?”

Matt Henslee, associational mission strategist for the Collin Baptist Association, served as this year's president of the SBC Pastors' Conference. BAPTIST PRESS PHOTO

Carter called for the SBC to become a “convention of churches that is known for biblical faithfulness and tender-heartedness.”

Israel Villalobos, pastor of Spanish ministries at Irving’s Plymouth Park Baptist Church, preached on Colossians 3:18-4:1. Villalobos focused on the family as presented in Colossians 3:18-4:1, noting that the apostle’s previous discussion of the church informed his teaching on the household.

“He is trying to help them live a Christian life in ways that God has ordained and, in so doing, bring our heavenly Father glory and honor,” Villalobos explained.

“Paul was presenting a view of marriage that actually elevated women to a level of equality and value,” Villalobos said. The command for husbands to sacrificially love their wives was revolutionary in Paul’s day, where marriages generally existed for the continuation of family and position, Villalobos added.

“[Paul’s] thought would have been mind-blowing to those who were listening,” he continued.

Also culturally astonishing, Paul’s teaching on the relationship between master and slave was not an endorsement of slavery, but a radical humanization of slaves, who might be likened to modern employees, Villalobos said.

Evangelist Julio Arriola, Send Network SBTC director, spoke on Colossians 4 in the conference’s evening session. Arriola referenced Colossians 4:1 before delving into 4:2-6, reminding all that they have a master in heaven and that Christ is supreme.

God has decided to move and act at the beat of His servants’ prayers, Arriola said, leading into the text, where Paul urges his readers to devote themselves to prayer.


"Prayer is greatly needed now," Julio Arriola said during his message at the Pastors' Conference. Arriola is director of Send Network SBTC, a church planting partnership with the North American Mission Board. BAPTIST PRESS PHOTO

“Prayer is greatly needed now,” Arriola said. “We dedicate time to speak to God because we believe that He is supreme. He is important, but also, He is available.”

There is an urgency for prayer for our families, our churches, our leaders, the lost, our world, he said, urging alertness with thanksgiving: “It is time for Southern Baptists to change their grieving chants for a grateful song.”

“If we pray constantly, we will develop a tender heart for people,” he added.

At the conclusion of the conference Monday evening, Daniel Dickard—pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., was elected to serve as the next president of the Pastors’ Conference.


SBC 2022: Arlington pastor elected chairman of SBC Executive Committee

ANAHEIM, CALIF.—Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, was elected chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee’s during its Monday meeting at the SBC Annual Meeting.

The Executive Committee acts as the SBC’s fiduciary entity and conducts its affairs during the time between the convention’s annual two-day meetings. This work includes receiving Cooperative Program and designated gifts and disbursing them according to the allocation budget approved by messengers to the annual meeting, in the case of Cooperative Program funds, and according to the instructions of the donor in the case of designated offerings. The entity also has program assignments that include convention news, Cooperative Program promotion, and stewardship training.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Wellman described the committee to an NBA referee: “…If they’re doing a good job you should never recognize that they are on the court. The way the Southern Baptist Convention is structured, [the Executive Committee is] best when we’re following the will of the messengers, we’re being faithful to what our marching orders are, so to speak.”

Wellman is one of the longest-tenured members of the committee.

“It’s been a wild ride,” he noted. “I’ve served under four different Executive Committee presidents [two elected, two interim].”

Ronnie Floyd was the Executive Committee’s most recent elected president. Floyd was elected in spring 2019 and resigned in October 2021 after the committee voted to waive attorney-client privilege for some materials related to the committee’s handling of the reports of sexual abuse survivors. Floyd’s predecessor, Frank Page, resigned in 2018. The Executive Committee currently operates under the direction of Willie McLaurin as interim president of the committee.

As chairman, Wellman will serve ex officio as a member of the search team for a permanent Executive Committee president. Asked about his vision for some of the characteristics of a new leader for the entity, Wellman placed humility as a priority.

“One of the first words that comes to mind is humility,” he said. “We often think of that position as a pastoral role. I’d like to think of the Executive Committee as more of an administrative committee and the president and CEO as a servant or treasurer—someone who has some administrative capabilities to serve the charges that the [convention] messengers give.”

Wellman has pastored four churches in Texas since his first at age 21. He is married to Amanda and the Wellmans have four children.

SBC 2022: Jesus at the Center of it All

Editor’s note: Ed Litton is pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

ANAHEIM, Calif.—This week the Southern Baptist Convention will gather for our 164th annual meeting. It is always a special time when our convention comes together each June for this two-day family meeting. This is our first annual gathering in California in more than 40 years, and I am deeply grateful for the hard work and hospitality of so many of our fellow Baptists out here on the West Coast to make this meeting possible.

Many things have transpired within our convention and in our world since we gathered in Nashville one year ago. Shortly after I was elected at last year’s annual meeting, God began to impress a theme upon my heart for this convention. I believe, more strongly now than ever, our aim as Southern Baptists must be to make Jesus the center of it all.

I had walked with God for many years before I learned what it means to place Jesus at the center of it all. As a young pastor and church planter, I experienced God’s abundant blessings on my life and ministry. He had blessed me with a wonderful wife and a growing family. I was privileged to shepherd a thriving church. And I was being given many opportunities to use the gifts God had given me in ways I had dreamed about since I was preparing for ministry at Southwestern Seminary.

But success was not the greatest teacher in my life. Like a lot of other people, I learned more from pain and trauma than I did from joy and triumph. In 2007, my life was changed forever when my wife, Tammy, was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Losing Tammy brought the most devastating pain I’ve ever experienced. Each day was an immense struggle, not only to care for myself but also to care for my children and shepherd my church family.

It was in those dark days that I learned to place Jesus at the center. Every day was difficult. It felt at times like I would not survive the pain. But each morning when I opened my eyes, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I would retreat to my study to get alone with God and seek His face. I had long since developed the habit of a daily quiet time to start my day. But something changed in that season for me. Even in the middle of the deepest pain and darkest season, my heart was warmed by the love of Jesus. He met me there in my grief and sorrow, drew me close to Him and ministered to me in a way that changed my life forever. And from that time forward, I resolved to keep Jesus at the center of my life and ministry.

Placing Jesus at the center of it all is more than a tagline or a conference theme. It is the call of God upon each of our lives. Colossians 1:15-20 testifies about the preeminence of Jesus. It tells us He is before all things, and that He is the center of God’s plan of redemption. And because of this, He is to be at the center of all that we are and all that we do. For many months now, I’ve prayed that this reality would mark next week’s gathering of our Great Commission Baptist family in Anaheim. It is my hope that we – individuals, churches and our entire convention – will strive like never before to place Jesus at the center of it all.

We will address many important issues in our time together. None of those issues is more important than continuing to take positive steps forward to address the scourge of sexual abuse within our churches and entities. As we do so, I pray that our posture will reflect the heart of Christ. His love was perfect. His compassion was full. And as we discuss, deliberate and cast our votes, I pray that every messenger will seek to speak, act and vote in ways that honor Him. We can only do this with Jesus at the center.

As a convention, everything we do is about Him. We exist to get the Gospel to every person. And I am convinced we cannot share the Gospel if the Gospel cannot first be seen within us. Placing Jesus at the center will allow us to show His compassion for survivors, His righteous anger toward abuse, His desire for racial unity, and His heart for the nations.

This annual meeting will certainly be distinct from many others. But our greatest need is Jesus. We need His heart and His compassion. We need His mercy and grace. And we need the perfect wisdom that comes from above. As we gather together, please join me in praying for Jesus to be at the center of it all.

SBC 2022: Texas volunteers join California church in outreach efforts during Crossover

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Chris Lohman says they’re something in the water at Huntington Beach that makes it a hard place to do evangelism.

“It’s a city of coolness,” he said. “There’s surfing here, and within a couple of hours there’s snowboarding and snow skiing. All your needs are fulfilled.”

But at the same time, it’s a city stuck in generational curses, Lohman said. Just 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles, it has “always been a rough city” with lower-income living and everything that comes with that, like high divorce rates and broken families, he said.

Lohman grew up here. He’s surfed since the ’70s. And in March 2020, he planted The Garage Church to try to reach the city he loves.

‘Relaxed’ interactions

“We want to build relationships with our local community,” he said. “We are very relaxed. No one’s judging — everyone in our church has already screwed up. We just want to love on people. Our job is to make it realistic for them to come to a place where they can feel loved and learn about God.”

That’s why Lohman was out on the beach June 11 with four surfboards and a team of volunteers who had come to join him for Crossover, a series of evangelistic events held all over the area in the days leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. Lohman wanted to teach people how to surf and maybe get them to a place where they might want to learn about God too.

That’s how his own faith journey started — he got to a place where he was interested in learning about God.

“I’d been struggling with life and trying to figure out what was wrong,” he said. “I decided I was agnostic — I believed there was a god, but I didn’t know which one would be the best.”

As Lohman began to learn about different religions, “none gave me the feeling that Christ did.”

He surrendered his life to Christ one day on the ab machine at the gym, and about 15 years later he planted The Garage. These days, he spends his life trying to help other people find the narrow path he did.

“That’s why we do everything we do,” Lohman said.

Serving together

John Norfleet, a Crossover volunteer from First Baptist Church Winnsboro, Texas, said he had joined The Garage’s event that morning “to see if someone would want to experience the joy we have in Jesus.”

“We have prayed for God to open the door,” he said.

His pastor, David Rose, said he was first exposed to Crossover 25 years ago as a youth minister and appreciated the way the Southern Baptist Convention was intentional about holding evangelistic events in the city where it met each year.

He’s been coming when he could ever since. This year, his church sent 10 people.

“Any time we can be involved in sharing with others, it’s a good thing,” Rose said.

The article originally appeared in The Baptist Paper.

Sexual Abuse Task Force modifies recommendations in advance of the annual meeting

NASHVILLE (BP)—Changes to the recommendations that Sexual Abuse Task Force members will present to messengers at next week’s SBC annual meeting will address the nature of third-party investigations at the church level, including funding and action toward churches that refuse to respond to an accusation.

The changes came after hearing from Southern Baptists in the days following the initial presentation of the recommendations, said SATF Chair Bruce Frank in a video on June 8.

“We are super grateful to receive valuable feedback from pastors to entity heads to lay leaders,” he said. “Your task force has been hard at work to take that feedback and use it to strengthen our recommendations.”

The changes were made to clarify questions and concerns around funding and polity, Frank said. “The goal of all the recommendations is to help churches and entities make wise decisions for the glory of God and the good of people.”

A $4 million gift through Send Relief – rather than Cooperative Program dollars – will fund the reforms in the first year. In addition to the development, three key changes address future third-party investigations.

One clarification is that those investigations will be launched by the local church or other Baptist body, rather than giving the impression of a top-down approach. Churches or groups requiring financial assistance to hire an outside firm will be able to apply for grants that will be limited to funding.

The changes also note the potential situation where an abuse survivor requests a third-party investigation but a church or Baptist body refuses to cooperate. That can result in the church being submitted to the Credentials Committee for consideration of disfellowshipping.

Marshall Blalock, SATF vice-chair and pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., and SATF member Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, went into more explanation on the changes with TAB media.

At one point in the interview with Jennifer Rash, editor of The Alabama Baptist, the group discussed the term “credibly accused” and how a third-party investigation would arrive at that determination of an individual.

“That ‘credibly accused’ standard is the one that’s used in our civil courts,” said Hebert. “That is a higher standard, by the way, than what Guidepost recommended. Our task force listened to Guidepost but then made our own recommendation that increased the standard to what is called the ‘preponderance of evidence,’ which is a civil court standard.”

“Multiple levels” of assessment and review on the Ministry Check website as well as through the Credentials Committee, not to mention an appeals process, would make it extremely difficult for a false accusation to get through, he said.

With the Send Relief funding set through the first year, the Executive Committee will gather this fall to assess future funding, said Blalock. “We’ll know a little bit more then about the actual cost and these kind of things.”

Blalock also spoke to the controversy of Guidepost’s tweet in support of gay pride, how it could impact its report and the way it can shape a future working relationship with the SBC.

He was complimentary of Guidepost’s work and the individuals assigned to the SATF.

“They understood what we were about as Southern Baptists,” he said, adding that those individuals were Christians and Baptists. A sub-contracted group, he shared, was made up of members of a Southern Baptist church in Chattanooga.

“They were invested in our goal. They don’t hold to our worldview as a company, but the people they assigned to us were folks who we believed would do a good job.”

Expressing disappointment at the tweet, Blalock stood by Guidepost’s work and the responsibility of Southern Baptists to respond to it.

“The report they gave us is credible. We don’t think that tweet does harm to what they gave us. At the same time, we don’t have confidence to recommend them in the future at this point.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Violence against pregnancy support centers on the rise

NASHVILLE (BP)—An increase in attacks on pro-life centers has led those groups to call for prayer and protection.

On the morning of June 7, Mountain Area Pregnancy Services in Asheville, N.C., shared pictures of vandalism that had occurred at its offices overnight, including threatening messages spray-painted in red and shattered and broken windows around the building.

“If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you!” and “No forced birth” accompanied an anarchist symbol, the Asheville Police Department said.

That act followed at least three others. One occurred over Memorial Day weekend when a pregnancy care center in Hollywood, Fla., was also defaced with similar threats. On June 3 red paint was splashed on the front door of the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center in Washington, D.C., with the words “Jane says revenge” spray-painted on the building’s side, an apparent reference to Jane Roe, pseudonym of the plaintiff in the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which appears likely to be overturned this month. On the same day of the Asheville attack, a Buffalo, N.Y., pro-life center was firebombed and graffiti scrawled on its exterior.

North Carolina Baptists stepped in on the same day of the Asheville attack to offer help, Executive Director Todd Unzicker said.

“We abhor this vile attempt to terrorize a center that cares for women in crisis and works to save pre-born lives,” he told Baptist Press. “Mountain Area Pregnancy Services is a beloved partner to many of our churches in the Asheville area.

“Because of our commitment to stand for life and the generosity of N.C. Baptists, we immediately offered financial assistance to help them recover from this attack. I pray this ministry’s bold Gospel witness shines brighter than ever before in their community.”

Vandalism toward pro-life centers increased sharply after a leaked memo last month pointed to an upcoming Supreme Court ruling that would, in effect, reverse Roe v. Wade, the decision that ensconced abortion into federal law.

With that ruling still not public, pro-abortion activists have maintained pressure and threats against pro-life groups. A 26-year-old California man was apprehended outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh on June 8.

The man admitted he had traveled there to kill Kavanaugh, who was at home with his family, before killing himself. He told authorities he was upset over the leaked memo and how he expected Kavanaugh to vote in future cases regarding gun rights. Police recovered a Glock pistol, tactical knife, screwdriver, nail punch, pepper spray, zip ties, pistol light, duct tape, hammer and a crowbar from the man’s pack.

Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered just last month to increase 24/7 protection at the homes of all Supreme Court justices. A June 7 memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security cited the upcoming SCOTUS decision as the impetus for individuals “both for and against abortion” calling for violence on public forums. That violence includes coming against “government, religious and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”

A bipartisan bill that would expand security protection for immediate family members of Supreme Court justices has stalled in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, hours after the arrest thwarting an apparent assassination attempt, pro-abortion protestors gathered outside of Kavanaugh’s home to carry signs and chant pro-abortion slogans.

A treasury of riches

What pictures come to mind when you think of a great preacher or teacher? There are several images in the Bible. Perhaps you imagine an Old Testament prophet who announces the holiness and glory of God. Maybe you imagine a New Testament shepherd who carefully teaches and instructs his church through various circumstances. In general, maybe you imagine a dynamic speaker or a great motivator. 

In Matthew 13, after teaching the value of the kingdom through parables, Jesus asks His disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” (13:51). They answer, “Yes,” but over and over they reveal their need for further explanation of what they’ve heard. Later, in Matthew 15, Jesus will ask them again, “Are you still without understanding?” (15:16). Clearly, understanding is important (and difficult) for the life of a disciple. If Jesus, the greatest teacher in history, had to slow down and reteach for clarity, how much more difficult will it be for us to lead people in truth and teach them to share it with others? 

To be effective preachers and teachers of the kingdom, we must have a clear understanding of the weight of responsibility that has been entrusted to us. In verse 52, Jesus compares His disciples to scribes or teachers of the law. Scribes were those who were properly trained to instruct others. They had authority and wisdom concerning the right understanding of the law. Yet, Jesus’ comparison draws attention to the difference between His disciples and the Jewish scribes. 

"Our responsibility as pastors and teachers is to continually search the Bible and display the full meaning of it by connecting it to Jesus and His riches."

See, the Jewish scribes, including the Pharisees, ultimately failed to grasp the full message of Jesus and His kingdom. They relied on what is “old” because they had not been instructed in the “new” secrets of the kingdom. Jesus tells them this is why He taught in parables. It is not that these things were truly new. They’ve been hidden since the foundation of the world (13:35) but have now been revealed in Jesus. All the old is made clear in light of the new. Jesus tells His disciples that it is their role as scribes of the kingdom of heaven to bring out “what is new and what is old,” leaving nothing behind. 

I love the imagery that Jesus gives in describing this responsibility of preaching and teaching. In Matthew 13:52, He says, “… every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.” The picture Jesus is painting is that the Word of God is a storeroom and the truths of the kingdom in it are treasures to be displayed. He wants us to see our responsibility as preachers and teachers as simply taking the treasures in the storeroom and showcasing them for all to see!

As disciples of Jesus and teachers of His Word, there is storeroom of treasures available to us called the Bible. Our responsibility as pastors and teachers is to continually search the Bible and display the full meaning of it by connecting it to Jesus and His riches. The kingdom of God is our pearl of great price and Jesus is the “yes and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20) to all we need. Let’s be devoted to this storeroom and showcase the great value and beauty of its treasures!