Author: Caroline Anderson

Tale of two journeys on the refugee highway

Refugee image

On the road to a new life, many female refugees experience sexual trauma, grief and sometimes domestic abuse. Christians are providing a road map to healing.

Refugees take more than one journey. The more obvious journey is the one they make from instability and threats of violence and death to Western nations in search of stability and safety.

Another journey many women take is through a trail of sexual trauma, grief and sometimes domestic abuse.

William and Darlene King* serve among refugee populations in Europe. Darlene helps women navigate these dark corridors from trauma to healing. Darlene partners with other Christian organizations to provide for the mental health needs of refugees by hosting trauma healing seminars and offering counseling.

Darlene recalls one woman named Estere* who came to a trauma healing seminar she and other Christians hosted.

At first, Estere was downcast and didn’t make eye contact or participate. By the end of the second day, however, Estere was smiling, talking and contributing.

During the second round of the seminar, Estere shared she was walking through a difficult season at the time. During that session, they taught about grief and domestic abuse. Women began crying at the end of the session – the content hit close to home.

“We could not walk out the door like this, so I said, “Okay, everybody stand up. Let’s all say one way that we have been strong,” Darlene said.

“I have hope that things will get better,” Estere shared.

Darlene explained how this was an encouragement because, for Estere and the other women, life situations aren’t necessarily going to change. The women will most likely face seasons of suffering and trials for a long time, and hope can be as elusive as permanent resettlement.

“If you have hope that you’ll feel differently, or you have hope that you’ll find healing, then you can get through it. And so, knowing what [Estere] had been through and hearing her say that she was strong by having hope was a real encouragement,” Darlene explained.

All the women who attend the seminars have gone through trauma on their journey to Europe, and it is common for trauma survivors to have a disconnect in their brain that is a coping mechanism, Darlene said. The women need mental health education and to learn healthy coping skills.

“They also need Jesus,” Darlene said. “We’re sharing the gospel, we’re sharing the mental health education, we’re hopefully providing therapy opportunities and exercise classes and the things that can help people work through their depression and anxiety and at the same time point them toward Christ.

The women use a seminar program developed by the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute.

There are 11 core lessons in the seminar, which dive into how to help rape victims or women who have experienced domestic abuse, attempted suicide or developed a drug addiction.

The lessons have been translated, adapted and geared toward Muslims. One of the sessions in the seminar focuses on shame and guilt.. The curriculum provides stories about circumstances women in similar situations have experienced.

“When people can talk about someone else’s story, they can process their own feelings without admitting that it’s their own story also,” Darlene said.

Referring to the example stories allows the women to avoid the shame of sharing their trauma.

The seminar also delves into grief and how to healthily process what they’ve experienced.

“I think it’s really important for refugees to talk about what grief is. It’s not just losing a person because, for refugees, they have lost so many things,” Darlene said.

Darlene and the other Christian workers launched a website with videos from their seminars for women who cannot attend or live in distant camps.

The women Darlene’s team have met recently struggle with varying degrees of depression and anxiety. Some of the women cut themselves, and others have attempted suicide multiple times.

Darlene’s friend Liana* invited several friends to the same trauma seminar Estere attended. Liana is a Christian and is from a refugee population who are not as devout in their faith in Islam. The Lord developed a heart in both Darlene and Liana for reaching a refugee population who are more devout in their faith.

After the seminar, Liana called Darlene bawling and told her it was difficult hearing the women share their stories. Liana implored Darlene to let her know when she did any more outreach with this people group.

Liana invited women from this more devout people group over to her home and shared the gospel.

“That was really beautiful,” Darlene said of Liana sharing her faith through their shared pain.

Though the journey to their permanent home and their journey to emotional healing are often long roads, the refugees have hope and the promise of an eternal home and healing that comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia.

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FIRST-PERSON: Afghan pastors ask for prayer

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

As Taliban forces have swallowed up Afghanistan and even now the capital city of Kabul, pastors in the country have been emailing and messaging me over the last few days, even hours, anxious for prayer.

Pastoring just a short flight away in the United Arab Emirates, I’ve had the opportunity to build partnerships with these men over the last decade. One house church leader sent me a picture of the small room he was hiding in with his family. He wrote, “This is where I am living. We are hidden right now in different areas.”

Another pastor wrote, “We can’t go out like normal. It’s dangerous. We moved to one of my friend’s houses, but it’s not safe at all.” Mindy Belz at WORLD reports that pastors say the Taliban has contacted them saying they are coming for them.

Here are specific ways they have asked for you and your church to pray.

Physical protection and provision

I asked one brother if he was presently in physical danger. He replied, “Not only me but my family too … because of me.”

We need to pray that our sovereign God would physically protect our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Boldly go to the throne of the universe and plead with our God to restrain evil and confuse the plans of evildoers.

Pray also for physical provision. One brother asked that we would pray “for financial issues because no one can take out money from the bank and ATMs are empty.”

A number have specifically asked that we would pray for visas to get out of the country. So let me throw in an additional request to you, dear reader: Is helping secure a visa something that you or someone you know are in a position to help with? If so, do what you can.

Regardless, you do have access to the throne of the universe, and you can ask our heavenly Father to provide. Pray for physical protection and provision.

“Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.” (Psalm 109:1-2)

Spiritual provision

Every church leader who has emailed or texted me has asked that we would pray for the Lord to strengthen them in their faith – that they would “stay strong in the Lord, who is the Sovereign King,” as one put it.

“Pray for me to be strong in my faith. It is really hard to stay here,” another said.

If you are reading this, you have the opportunity to ask God to protect and even increase the faith of our brothers and sisters in the Afghan church. They don’t know what today – much less tomorrow – will bring. But they can be certain that our God will supply every need of theirs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 4:19)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might. …” (Colossians 1:11a)

Gospel advance

One brother described these days as “dark” and said they feel like a “storm.” Then he asked that we pray for “revival.” What faith! Here is a man whose life is in danger asking us, who enjoy so many privileges and freedoms, to pray that God would open the eyes of the spiritually blind and give life to dead hearts.

Wouldn’t it be like our God to work in these horrible circumstances to make His great name known? While our Afghan brothers and sisters face terrible uncertainty, we should be like the believers in Acts 12 who themselves faced serious threats and persecution but, without ceasing, offered up earnest prayers to God.

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

“Our hope is not in politics, but in Jesus”

Over the past weeks, U. S. missions agencies have pulled out their workers. I have had the great privilege to minister the Word to some of them as they have processed their own grief and confusion. I’m grateful they could get out. Pray for them as well as for any who chose to stay.

But pray especially for the Afghans who have no choice but to stay, such as one brother who has already spent time imprisoned for his faith in Afghanistan. He has assured me again and again, “We can trust that our Lord is mighty and will care for His children.” And: “Our hope is not in politics but in Jesus who is the King.”

This is not escapism. This is biblical faith when all earthly prospects are completely bleak. Don’t you know that such faith brings great glory and joy to our Father in heaven?

While these days are dark and tragic, remember that God sits on His throne in the heavens. He holds the rulers of this world in derision. He promises to make the nations his Son’s heritage, the ends of the earth His possession (Psalm 2:4, 8).

Southern Baptists begin assessment, response to Haiti earthquake

NASHVILLE (BP) – A massive earthquake that struck Haiti Saturday morning (Aug. 14) and has left more than 1,200 dead has spurred Southern Baptists to coordinate relief efforts.

“In the aftermath of the 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti, Send Relief is working with local partners on the ground to assess needs,” the group announced on Twitter hours after the earthquake struck. “Join us in praying for the people of Haiti.”

SBC President Ed Litton retweeted the update from Send Relief, adding, “I am grieved over the dozens of lives lost due to the massive earthquake in Haiti. Will you join me in praying for the people of #Haiti and for our @SendRelief teams as they begin to serve and minister to those affected?”

Send Relief President Bryant Wright echoed those comments and noted at least one other factor in the recovery effort: “The infrastructure within Haiti makes this very challenging.”

Saturday’s epicenter was located on the country’s southwestern peninsula. The last time Haiti experienced a quake on this scale was Jan. 12, 2010. That one measured 7.0 and was located closer to the capital of Port-au-Prince, a densely populated area. More than 100,000 fatalities were attributed to the 2010 quake, but some Haitian authorities place the number of dead at three times that amount.

To compound the situation on the ground, the country remains unsettled after the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moîse and is bracing today (Aug. 16) for heavy rain from Tropical Storm Grace.

Soon after the 2010 earthquake, Roland Norris and his wife Mary helped found Baptists4Haiti. Over the years, Norris has organized mission teams to the country as the organization has maintained a consistent presence through a mission house as well as another house located on three acres. Since 2019, civil and political unrest has prevented mission teams from traveling to Haiti, but in that time the group has broadened its reach to other areas such as Belize and the Bahamas, resulting in a name change to Look to the Nations.

Eight full-time employees remain in Haiti, however. Norris, a member of First Baptist Church in St. Mary’s, Ga., told Baptist Press Sunday night that while those staff felt the earthquake, they were 100 miles away from its epicenter and personally escaped its destruction. However, several have family in the affected areas who experienced severe damage to their homes.

When praying for the Haitian people, Norris urged Southern Baptists to consider the trauma experienced by those who lived through the 2010 earthquake and have now experienced another just as powerful.

“One of my guys told me that he’s not going to sleep inside for a long time after this,” he said. “In 2010, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, and this one was strong enough to remind them of that. Pray for peace for those who are living with that mental pain.”

Instability from the presidential assassination adds to that stress, Norris said, adding that he is praying a peacekeeping force such as the United Nations can enter the situation and bring a measure of peace.

“From what I understand, gang activity is also becoming more common in areas so that people are unable to travel freely and do what they need to do,” he said. “If this could end, it would deescalate things to where we can begin bringing teams in again.”

Jerry Chandler, the head of Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency, said at a news conference that damage was concentrated in the cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes. Those areas are less populated, but also more remote for rescue and cleanup efforts. Homes, churches, hospitals and hotels are included in the more than 13,000 buildings destroyed.

Send Relief representatives said more updates will be provided in the coming days. Gifts for the effort can be sent to Send Relief’s International Crisis Response Fund.

Continents apart, connected by culture

Global Missionary Partner Minjae Kim leads a Bible study with students at Zambia’s Copperbelt University.

At first glance, Korean and Zambian cultures don’t share many similarities.

But IMB missionaries Daniel and Grace Kim notice the commonalities. Originally from South Korea, Daniel spent 23 years and Grace spent 14 years in the United States before going to Zambia as missionaries in 2000. Now they are hosting other Koreans who are serving in Zambia. Shingi Kim, Minjae Kim, and Hoieon Jeong are Hands On volunteer missionaries from the Korean Foreign Mission Board serving as Global Missionary Partners during 2021.

These students relate well to the Kims because their cultural background is the same. And like the Kims, they have assimilated into Zambian culture well because of the similarities of this African nation and their Asian nation.

“[Koreans] don’t ask, ‘How are you?’ We ask, ‘Did you sleep well? Did you eat? Did you wake up well? How was last night?’” Daniel explained. Zambians exchange greetings in much the same way – warm and familiar. They ask specific questions, instead of the general “how are you.” This type of greeting expresses genuine care that is common in both cultures.

Additionally, the GMPs, though all in their 20s and early 30s, see parallels in the type of Christianity that characterizes Zambia and the Christianity that was dominant in Korea’s past.

“We are a young generation, but 20 or 30 years ago, in South Korea, our Christianity was weak, because there were many false doctrines and heresies [in the church],” Shingi shared. The state of the Zambian church is so similar, with many professing Christ but buying into false doctrine. Because these doctrines are familiar to the young missionaries, they focus on not just doing evangelism among the students at Copperbelt University, but really teaching the new Christians doctrine through discipleship.

The three Hands On students have been pouring into the students at Zambia’s Copperbelt University. They regularly evangelize on campus, but with heightening COVID-19 restrictions, they’re now focusing on discipleship and evangelism at the boarding house and among their neighbors.

Despite the weaknesses in the Zambian church – exacerbated by false doctrine – generally Zambians are hungry to learn about Jesus, Daniel explained.

Daniel’s ministry focuses on strengthening the 63 churches in the Copperbelt Association by helping their leaders and pastors with training and theological education. Daniel helps local leaders “focus on how to evangelize effectively, intentionally, and as a lifestyle,” he shared.

The Hands On Global Missionary Partners fit into his vision well, as they focus on the students at Copperbelt University.

“Zambian students are very open to anybody that would bring the Word of God,” Daniel explained. “They are hungry. But not many people teach them. So they welcome them. They want to learn; they want to listen.”

“We didn’t have the chance or time to go into CBU, even though it’s right here where we live,” Grace said. “Those three people who came, they were there until the school was closed because of the COVID situation. We prayed for people to come and do that work. We are glad that these three [Hands On] missionaries are here to do the work.”

Daniel and Grace Kim, veteran missionaries to Zambia, are hosting Hands On Global Missionary Partners (back row left to right: Hoieon Jeong, Minjae Kim, Shingi Kim) for a year.

These young men have what Daniel describes as a 1:3:5 vision.

Each week, during their year in Zambia, they seek to:

Train one lifestyle disciple
Produce three effective lifestyle evangelists
Lead five people to Christ

The Hands On GMPs share the gospel mainly in English, a common language in Zambia. They are also taking language classes in Cibemba, Zambia’s native language. Shingi, Minjae and Hoieon “evangelize anywhere, the street, when we go to the market,” Minjae shared.

“We call it lifestyle evangelism. When we’re out, we just go out and evangelize and make disciples.”

Minjae explained that this vision for evangelism is exactly what they’re trying to instill in those they’re discipling, so when they return to Korea, the work at Copperbelt University can continue.

Currently, they are doing discipleship with 40 individuals.

“I’m very happy, because these people welcome missionaries,” Shingi said. “When I ask, ‘if it is ok with you, can I share about Jesus Christ?’ almost always, people agree about that.”

“When I share about Jesus Christ, we invite them, ‘Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior in your heart?’ A few people refuse, but many people don’t. We pray, and after that, we ask some questions,” Shinji continued.

He emphasized the need to instill proper doctrine in the minds and hearts of the new converts. Inevitably, they will encounter more false doctrine. For those who are interested in learning more about the Bible, they set up a time for discipleship.

The young missionaries are excited about the “lifestyle evangelist disciple” they’ve already made in Georgie, a Zambian friend they led to the Lord.

“Every day he goes by himself and evangelizes and makes disciples. This story is very interesting to us. He is now teaching eight people Bible studies,” Shingi excitedly shared.

“We are so happy to see this movement. The Holy Spirit has really opened doors for them and is working through them. I can see so many people come to the Lord,” Daniel said.

“They are very hard working,” Grace expressed of her young mission partners. “They bring a lot of positive influence to the Copperbelt University students. They are ready to do whatever it takes.”

Myriah Snyder is senior writer/editor for the IMB.

The post Continents apart, connected by culture appeared first on IMB.

Downloadable Tech Backgrounds for July 2021

Remember to pray for missions with these custom backgrounds for your computer and mobile devices. Using IMB photos from around the world, you can focus your attention on an area of the world in need of prayer. Check each month for an updated background and pray for the unreached and for your missionaries throughout the year.

Calendar Background
Calendar Background (Unbranded)
Affinity Background

Calendar Background

Click to download to your device:
Desktop Windows | Desktop Mac | iPhone X, 11, 12iPhone 6, 7, 8iPadSamsung Galaxy

Calendar Background (Unbranded)

Click to download to your device:
Desktop Windows | Desktop Mac | iPhone X, 11, 12 | iPhone 6, 7, 8 | iPad | Samsung Galaxy

Northern African and Middle Eastern Peoples

Affinity Background

Click to download to your device:
Desktop Windows | Desktop Mac | iPhone X, 11, 12 | iPhone 6, 7, 8 | iPad | Samsung Galaxy

The post Downloadable Tech Backgrounds for July 2021 appeared first on IMB.

SEBTS prison ministry program bears fruit as graduation nears

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — A single bar of soap was all he needed to survive. Either give a fellow incarcerated person a single bar of soap to square a debt behind prison walls, or suffer the violent repercussions his debtor threatened.

A fellow prisoner enrolled in the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Field Minister Program saw the entire dispute unfold in the prison unit. The student “created an image of God” by interjecting himself into the dispute and offering a solution, SEBTS Director of Prison Programs Seth Bible told Baptist Press.

“He said, ‘I have a bar of soap. I will settle his debt, but you have to promise me that there will be no violence,’” Bible said of the student’s intervention. “A long time ago I realized that Jesus paid a debt for me that I’ll never be able to repay,” the student reasoned, “and I’ll never be able to do what He did for me. But I have a bar of soap and I can change this situation. I can pay this debt. … Please let me do that. And the guy accepted it. And there was no violence.”

The student who intervened is among 26 incarcerated men on track to comprise the first graduating class of the SEBTS field ministry program at Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, N.C. A COVID-19 outbreak in the prison in the fall of 2020 shut down all forms of instruction for months, delaying until Dec. 15 the previously scheduled May 2021 graduation. The 26 men are earning bachelor degrees in pastoral ministry that they will use even as they complete their individual prison sentences. An additional 66 men are enrolled.

The Nash Correctional student’s ministry through a bar of soap in Jesus’ name a few months ago is among many such examples of how SEBTS students are already employing new skills to help restore lives inside prison walls. The two prisoners with the dispute had previously agreed upon a bar of soap as payment, but the pandemic prevented the inmate from earning the pennies per hour in prison labor that would have allowed him to buy a bar of soap in the prison commissary. The student had an extra bar of soap only because a church held a “soap drive” and donated the items to SEBTS students at the Nashville facility.

“Those are the little kinds of humane things that very rarely happen in that context,” Bible said, “but the power of that is what has given him an opportunity to speak the Gospel now to all of the individuals involved in that situation. … It spoke the Gospel both in deed and in language in front of a watching group of people that now have a very different idea of what it means to live out somebody’s faith.”

Despite the pandemic, SEBTS launched a program for women in August 2020 at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW) in Raleigh. A dozen women are enrolled in the program, which offers two- and four-year degrees in philosophy, politics and economics, with a minor in entrepreneurship. The program, created at the request of the correctional facility with the same core curriculum as the Nash Correctional degree program, is designed to increase participants’ chances of employment upon release.

All men enrolled in the program at Nash Correctional facility contracted and survived COVID-19 during the prison outbreak that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said killed four inmates.

Deanna Kabler, SEBTS associate director for prison programs, said the pandemic exacted its toll on the students despite their survival.

“The stress of constant change in the prison, the fear of getting sick, congregant living environment, and loss of volunteer programs such as chapel services, negatively impacted student’s spiritual and psychological well-being,” Kabler said.

“When COVID spread through the prison at the end of the year, most of our students were sick. Thankfully, they all recovered and are getting back to a sense of normalcy in the classroom,” Kabler said. “Maintaining hope with the ever-changing COVID restrictions remains a constant challenge for people in the program. Students are concerned with new prison requirements to receive the vaccine for continuation in the program. Additionally, there are a lot of unknowns and changes that make program management difficult.”

She encourages Christians to pray for those incarcerated and to participate in such ministry outreaches as pen-pal programs.

Bible, who also serves as SEBTS associate dean for leadership and administration, said incarcerated people often respond to challenges in ways similar to those in the larger population, but in a different context.

“They’re disconnected from their support groups in some ways, but in other ways our program … operates in such a way that (students) become a community in and of themselves,” Bible said. “In those really difficult times, those really dark days, they lean really heavily on one another, they lean really heavily on their faith, they lean really heavily on their training and education.

“In comparison to the other (prison) population, I think they probably fared a lot better in that regard.”

The SEBTS program prepares them, Bible said, to leverage their prison time to serve others.

VBS ‘primed and ready’ to begin post-COVID era

NASHVILLE (BP) – As COVID-19 fears ease, Vacation Bible School leaders are especially delighted, as well as thousands of children who will receive spiritual nurture through music-sparked worship, Bible studies, activities, games and crafts.

VBS leaders are yearning to move beyond “the heartbreak we had last year in churches that decided, ‘We can’t do it this year,’” said Melita Thomas, VBS ministry specialist with Lifeway Christian Resources.

Children at First Baptist Church Choctaw, Okla., had fun learning about Jesus through crafts, Bible lessons and songs at Vacation Bible School this summer. Photo courtesy of FBC Choctaw

“I think we’re in a season where we are primed and ready,” Thomas said. “People are hungry for hope. There is a truth that is absolute, a truth that is knowable. We know where to find it. When we go searching for truth with a capital T, we find Jesus.

“Our communities are hungry for that kind of knowledge,” she said, describing the summer of 2021 as “a great opportunity for VBS.”

Unique to this year, churches could choose “Destination Dig,” the 2021 Lifeway VBS resource with an archaeological theme set in Israel, or last year’s “Concrete and Cranes.”

For churches not ready to return to in-person VBS, or those opting for a hybrid of in-person and virtual outreach, Thomas said Lifeway has aimed “to help churches say yes to VBS” with aids for any approach that might be needed.

VBS is “significant kingdom work, which is always true, but especially this year. The time is now, the urgency is here,” she said. “It’s the No. 1 evangelistic tool for almost all of our Southern Baptist churches.”

At First Baptist Church in Nashville, kindergartners learn how to make their own clay pot as they learn about biblical archaeology using Lifeway’s VBS theme “Destination Dig.” Photo by Aaron Earls

A free, 19-page “Virtual VBS Directors Guide” is a key addition to the Lifeway materials for 2021. An updated “4 VBS Strategies” e-book, meanwhile, gives churches four options for hosting a safe VBS this summer – “Traditional VBS” (in church); “Neighborhood VBS” (hosted at homes); “Alternate VBS” (spanning several weeks or a weekend); and “VBS at Home” (livestream media, with home-delivered kits for parents to facilitate Bible study, recreation and crafts). Pre-packaged individual kits were offered this year for the first time.

Lynn Jordan, children’s ministry coordinator for the Capital Baptist Association in Oklahoma City, said VBS “is going to be different” this year, with frequent washing of hands and use of hand sanitizer, more spacing between kids, what games they play and how snacks are served.

Even so, VBS and summer camp often are when kids “understand that they need to make a personal commitment [to Christ]. Not having VBS, not having camp last year, we missed those harvest opportunities.”

Jordan also noted, “We often discover good volunteers during VBS. It may be the first time they’ve done that, and you see they really did a good job and might be willing to plug in to our weekly activities. We also missed that opportunity last year.”

Jack Lucas, leadership development director for the Illinois Baptist State Association, remembers talking to church VBS leaders last year and “the defeat in their voices when they decided against going forward.”

Two children attending Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church Nashville follow along with the motions from a Lifeway “Destination Dig” song. Photo by Aaron Earls

Now he’s hearing, “We can’t wait to get back, but we’re a little nervous because we know it’s going to be different – the world is different, and church life is different.”

VBS is “important on so many levels – evangelism being No. 1,” Lucas said, “but a lot of churches rely on Vacation Bible School to power and boost their kids ministry” toward the start of school.

One positive from 2020’s battle with COVID, he added, is “the creative juices” sparked in churches that had VBS in some form. “I think that’s going to flow into 2021, and we’re going to see churches being even more creative in taking Vacation Bible School to the next level.”

Shannon Meadors, children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Nashville, recounted talking with her church’s leader for pre-teen VBS, Renee Matthews, who said, “My hopes for VBS are that I would be a vessel of connection, that our leaders would be able to connect with our kids, that our kids would be able to connect with each other, and most importantly, that we would all connect with God.”

Melita Thomas, VBS ministry specialist with Lifeway, uses games from the “Destination Dig” VBS theme to teach children about Jesus’ birth at First Baptist Church Nashville. Photo by Aaron Earls

“Especially coming off a pandemic, we just need each other,” Meadors said. “We’re built for community. Kids learn best in relationships. They often connect with God the Father because we’ve made a connection with them – when we say God loves them and has a plan, it resonates with them.

“I’m just thankful to be in a church that knows the importance of VBS,” she said. “Our people get it, that we’ll have the kids for 20 hours. That’s months of Sunday mornings just to pour into them, love them and show them Jesus.”

To access the “Virtual VBS Directors Guide,” go to https://vbs.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/VirtualVBSGuide.pdf. To access the “4 VBS Strategies” webpage, go to lifeway.com/4ways.

Seminaries celebrate God’s blessings, honor alumni at SBC luncheons

NASHVILLE (BP) – The six Southern Baptist seminaries hosted luncheons for both alumni and friends during the lunch break Wednesday, June 16, — the second day of the two-day 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Seminary presidents addressed the crowds with updates from their respective schools, recognized distinguished alumni and welcomed guests.

Gateway Seminary

By Tyler Sanders

Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg recognized Gary Floyd, Charles Grant and Mitch Martin for their “distinguished careers of Christian service” at the seminary’s annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16.

Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg addresses the Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

The presentation of the distinguished alumni awards to these leaders was “an opportunity to not only congratulate them, but to inspire others to follow their example to come up to their level of leadership,” Iorg said.

Gary Floyd earned the master of divinity from Gateway in 1981. He served as SBC Disaster Relief director in the Pacific Northwest for 26 years. “He not only served with distinction on the Northwest Baptist Convention staff… but also served in significant ways in national roles with disaster relief for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Iorg said.  

“In 2019, upon his retirement, [Floyd] received the Laddie Adams Service Award, which is the highest award given annually to someone who’s distinguished themselves for a lifetime of service in disaster relief.”

Charles Grant earned the master of divinity from Gateway in 1994 and planted New Life Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., in 1997, where he served as senior pastor for 10 years. From 2008 to 2020, he was a regional church partner for Lifeway. In 2020 he took a position as executive director for African American relations and mobilization with the SBC Executive Committee.  

“We are honored that God has placed this gentleman in national leadership prominence for Southern Baptists and on behalf of Gateway Seminary,” Iorg said.  

Mitch Martin earned the master of divinity in 1983 and the doctor of ministry from Gateway in 1994. He pastored churches in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Nevada and Tennessee. In the Pacific Northwest, he worked as director of missions of the Golden Spike Association in Utah and as a missions and leadership consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He then served as a bi-vocational ministry specialist at Lifeway for six years. He is currently the executive director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, Tenn., and is the founder and leader of the Century Associations Network, an organization that facilitates best practices for leaders or larger Baptist associations.

Additionally, Martin was president of the Northwest Baptist Convention when Iorg was appointed executive director of that convention.

“Mitch and I cut our teeth together in Baptist leadership; me as a young executive director and him as a young pastor serving as president of the [Northwest] convention,” Iorg said.

Following the distinguished alumni recognitions, Iorg shared an encouraging update on the school, saying God has blessed Gateway through strong enrollment, finances and harmony among staff. Most important, the Seminary is strong because of its mission fidelity.

Read the full story here.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Michael S. Brooks

The President’s Report, a presentation of the 2021 Alumni Distinguished Service Award, and a private concert by Nashville-based music artist Andrew Peterson highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16 at the Omni Hotel in Nashville.

Jason Allen addresses the MBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Eric Brown

Midwestern’s Senior Vice President of Institutional Relations Charles Smith welcomed nearly 1,000 attendees to the luncheon. Lee Roberson, chairman of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, led the gathering in prayer before President Jason Allen delivered his report.

Allen expressed optimism regarding the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting before sharing positive news related to the growth of Spurgeon College’s undergraduate programs, updates on the seminary’s For the Church Institute online training resource and significant additions to the seminary faculty.

Following his report, Allen invited retired pastor Michael Catt to the platform as the recipient of Midwestern’s 2021 Alumni Distinguished Service Award.

Catt attended Midwestern in 1975 and recently retired from pastoral ministry after 32 years of service at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. Catt has also served as executive producer of Sherwood Films, an independent film company based in Albany that has produced major Christian motion pictures such as Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous, among others.

“When I came to Midwestern Seminary nine years ago, we were reviewing the possibilities to award an Alumnus of the Year award at a gathering such as this,” Allen said. “Pastor Catt’s name was one of the first names that came to mind, but I was disappointed to find out the seminary had previously recognized him as Alumnus of the Year. However, this year, we could not let Pastor Catt’s ministry transition pass without honoring him.

“This award is given to Pastor Catt based on his many decades of faithful service to the Lord, Jesus Christ, as pastor of one of our convention’s leading churches, his stellar reputation as a man of God, and his commitment as a spiritually mature and spiritually-minded man. Pastor Catt’s impact has emanated far beyond the congregation he has pastored, and we are delighted to present him with this year’s award.”

Catt said he was honored to receive the award, though it was unexpected, and he announced a forthcoming personal donation to Midwestern Seminary’s Spurgeon Library, saying, “I did not expect this, but I am grateful for it, and I am grateful for all that God is doing at Midwestern Seminary.”

Catt indicated his intention to donate a first edition copy of Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography, along with a personally signed letter written by the famous Baptist preacher’s wife, Susannah Spurgeon.

Following the award presentation, Peterson concluded the event with a private concert. The quick-witted Peterson delighted event attendees with playful banter and a setlist composed of several of his most well-known songs, including “In the Night,” “Dancing in the Minefields” and “Is He Worthy?”

Read the full story here.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

By Gary D. Myers

A capacity crowd of 700 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College alumni and friends gathered during the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting to fellowship and celebrate what is happening at the seminary.

“I’ve watched every day as God has shown up and been faithful to us,” Jamie Dew told NOBTS alumni and friends. Photo by Robin Jackson

NOBTS and Leavell College President Jamie Dew utilized the June 16 luncheon to share his vision for the school. He started by sharing what he had learned about the “School of Providence and Prayer” when he first arrived at NOBTS.

“As an outsider, I knew that’s what we were called, but I could not give an account as to why,” Dew said. “It’s been two years now; I don’t need anyone to explain it to me anymore. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve watched every day as God has shown up and been faithful to us.”

Dew said the brokenness and lostness throughout the world should guide all the efforts of the seminary and the churches the graduates serve. Dew pointed to a “haunting” statement by International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood – every day, 155,000 people die without Christ.

“It puts everything that we do at the seminary in perspective,” Dew said. “When you see that need, it causes me to approach every single thing we do with a great vision and a greater passion – that is to bring the light of Jesus Christ into that darkness.

“We are either going to do that or die trying.”

Dew said the opportunities for NOBTS and Leavell College are vast, and they are uniquely equipped to training ministers for the urban setting, for missions, for mercy ministries, for evangelism and for church planting.

“Southern Baptists need NOBTS and Leavell College to be distinctly herself,” Dew said.

To close his time with alumni, Dew challenged them to give, send students, and to pray.

He introduced two new giving opportunities for alumni and friends – the new Alumni Association, which offers discounts, library access and other benefits and is designed to foster community, and the Providence Society.

Dew closed his time with a call to prayer – not for growth or expanded programs, but that the seminary family would honor God and be a part of His mission.

The alumni also heard encouraging updates from other seminary and alumni leaders.

Stephanie Lyon, women’s life coordinator, shared about the new Prepare Her initiative at NOBTS and Leavell College. Prepare Her focuses on academic training, spiritual formation, skill development, and fellowship.

George Ross, church planting professor and a North American Mission Board Send missionary, shared about the immediate impact of the new church planting center on the seminary campus. Ross said the center has already hosted hundreds of church planters and missions and is being used as a training base for future missionaries and church planters.

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former SBC president, spoke about the joys and challenges of being a pastor – especially pastoring in a unique place like New Orleans. Luter concluded that NOBTS and Leavell College are uniquely positioned to prepare pastors to serve anywhere God calls.

Read the full story here.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Lauren Pratt

The Alumni and Friends Luncheon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) was filled to capacity on the last day of the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting June 16.

J.D. Greear, Ed Litton and Johnny Hunt join Daniel Akin on stage at the SEBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Abby Duren

Hosting nearly 800 alumni, friends and supporters, SEBTS President Danny Akin welcomed the attendees from the stage with a past, present and the newly elected president of the SBC. The crowd paused for a moment as all attendees joined Akin, Johnny Hunt, and J.D. Greear to pray for SBC President-elect Ed Litton.

Akin then shared updates about Southeastern, including the addition of the Sam James Church Planting Endowment as well as Great Commission stories of alumni who have served in ministry for more than 100 combined years.

The Sam James Church Planting Endowment, announced by Akin and Greear during the luncheon, will enable SEBTS to recruit, train and send more church planters around the world. Akin and Greear urged those in attendance to consider giving to endowment with the goal of raising $1 million to train ministers to fulfill the mission. The fund is named after a longtime International Mission Board missionary, who served more than 50 years in 115 countries.

“We want to honor [Sam James] because of his passion for the Gospel and his love for Southeastern,” Akin said.

Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership with the North American Mission Board, said based upon his background of poverty and lostness he never imagined he’d one day have a part in raising up the next generation of scholars to lead churches.

“I would have never dreamed that there would be a Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching,” Hunt said. “I’ve never considered myself a scholar. … I’ve considered myself a hot-hearted, Gospel preacher my entire tenure, and I still feel the same.”

Hunt encouraged attendees to consider giving to the mission of SEBTS, so that more students can be trained to share the Gospel and lead churches around the world.

Litton celebrated the Great Commission DNA that makes up SEBTS and encouraged alumni to continue giving to the work of equipping leaders to fulfill the mission.

“Because of the people who lead this institution, you have ‘go’ in your DNA, and it will never leave. It’s who you are… and you’re changing the world for the glory of God,” Litton said.

The luncheon also featured video testimonies from missionaries, including James as well as Dr. George Braswell, who, along with his wife Joan, served as the first missionaries to Iran in 1968.

The lunch concluded with a time of music led by award-winning artist Ellie Holcomb. 

Read the full story here.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Jeff Robinson

Two longtime pastors were named alumni of the year Wednesday afternoon, June 16, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s alumni luncheon during the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler announced David Dykes and Josh Manley as co-alumni of the year.

Dykes holds both a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry from the seminary. He has served as senior pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, since 1991 and will retire on August 31.

Dykes also did post-doctoral studies at Cambridge University, focusing on biblical art from the Renaissance period. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from East Texas Baptist University.

He also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Gardendale, Alabama, for many years and was one of the first conservative trustees at SBTS who helped bring about the recovery of orthodoxy at the seminary in the 1990s.

He is the author of 19 nonfiction books including: Handling Life’s Disappointments and Do Angels Really Exist? David has also written a trilogy of action novels: The Cloudstrike Prophecy, The Jerusalem Protocol, and The Masada Proposal.

David and his wife, Cindy, have two grown daughters, Jenni Holman and Laura Grace Dykes, and four grandchildren.

For the past eight years, Josh Manley has served as senior pastor of RAK Evangelical Church in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Manley graduated from SBTS in 2011 with a Master of Divinity and again in 2013 with a Master of Theology in New Testament. During his years at SBTS, he served as an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church and as producer of the Albert Mohler Program, the radio precursor to Mohler’s current podcast, The Briefing. Manley joined the luncheon via livestream from UAE.

Prior to entering vocational ministry, Manley worked as an aide in the U.S. Senate. He is married to Jenny, and they have five children: Reeves (13), Caroline (11), Miriam (9), Harper (5) and George (2).

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Ashley Allen

A capacity crowd of 700 gathered at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 16, to honor three distinguished alumni, announce plans for a newly endowed chair, hear from newly-elected SBC president and SWBTS alumnus Ed Litton and hear updates from President Adam W. Greenway.

Ed Litton and Steve Gains join President Adam W. Greenway at the SWBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon. Photo by Adam Covington

Litton, a former member of the board of trustees of Southwestern Seminary who earned a Master of Divinity there in 1986, addressed the gathered alumni.

In his introduction of Litton, Greenway said, “Dr. Litton, we are excited for your service over this next year, and I want you to know that in any way and in every way Southwestern Seminary can serve you and serve our Southern Baptist family, as Jesus said, ‘You have not because you ask not.’”

Litton said he will “never forget the loving care I received from my professors like Roy Fish, Malcolm McDow, people who loved us through our difficulties and our trials.”

Steve Gaines, a two-time graduate of Southwestern and the most recent alumnus to serve as SBC president, led the group in praying for Litton. Gaines prayed for Litton what Gaines’ wife prays for him, that God would “wear him like a glove.”

In honoring distinguished SWBTS alumni – D. Hance Dilbeck, Jr., Thomas J. Nettles and Roy J. Fish – Greenway said, “One of the highest honors our seminary can bestow upon one of our own is to name that person a distinguished alumnus.”

Dilbeck, president-elect of GuideStone Financial Resources, earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the seminary and later served as SWBTS trustee chairman. He also served as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and pastored churches for 27 years.

Nettles co-authored Baptists and the Bible with L. Russ Bush in 1980, a 40th anniversary edition of which was released in 2020 by Seminary Hill Press. The book proved Baptists’ historical commitment to inerrancy of Scripture as Southern Baptists passionately debated the issue.

In a video tribute to Fish, the audience heard from the late Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor in his own words. Fish said part of the training at Southwestern Seminary “is the training to share one’s faith. You may not have the gift of evangelist, but you have the role of witness. Every Christian has the role of witness.”

Greenway said he “is part of a generation … where you can’t ever think of Southwestern Seminary and not think of Roy Fish.”

“If Roy Fish is not a distinguished Southwesterner, then no one is,” Greenway said.

As several generations of Fish’s family, including his wife of more than 50 years, Jean, made their way to the platform to receive his award, Greenway asked those in the audience who had Fish as a professor to stand. More than half of the 700 attendees stood.

The luncheon concluded with updates from Greenway regarding the seminary. Noting the challenges COVID-19 had on the seminary, Greenway commended “the resiliency and the incredible work of all of our faculty and staff.”

Greenway said Southwestern Seminary at its best has always been known for a great faculty, noting the faculty had gone “above and beyond” during the pandemic. Greenway expressed thanks for the leadership of David Dockery, Southwestern Seminary’s interim provost and distinguished professor of theology.

Greenway also reported that applications for the upcoming fall semester are double what they were at the same time last year.

Reflecting on the strong attendance at the luncheon, Greenway said, “When you look around this room, dear friends, this is the big tent vision. This is the one Southwestern vision. … Southwestern Seminary at its best has always been the seminary able to bring Southern Baptists together around the things that matter most.”

Southwestern Seminary’s seventh president, Kenneth S. Hemphill, concluded the luncheon in prayer.

Read the full story here.

Christian worker responds to SBC resolution with prayer guide for Uyghurs

A Uyghur family prepares dinner over an open fire.

Editor’s note: Delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 15-16, 2021, passed a resolution concerning the Uyghur people and calling churches to pray for them. The following article explains how you can pray for this hurting people.

Life for Muslims in the province of Xinjiang in Northwest China has changed drastically over the past four years, and the transformation has been heartrending. To hear about the persecution is agonizing, but to be living in the middle of the suffering is unimaginable. While international awareness has grown, the Uyghur [WEE-ger] people have seen little change or relief from oppression. They continue to live as captives, both physically and spiritually.

The Uyghur are a Muslim people group of Turkic background. Although scattered all over the world, at least 10 million Uyghur live in Xinjiang. Of these millions, most have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel. Because of their belief in Islam, they seek to do enough good works to outnumber their sin so that on judgment day they might have a chance of entering heaven.

Throughout history there have been fruitful seasons of Christian witness among the Uyghur in Xinjiang, but seasons of persecution and government restrictions have seemingly extinguished the small beginnings of a church among them. This season is one of the latter.

Since 2017 at least 1 million Uyghur have been detained and held in reeducation centers, separated from family and suffering horrible atrocities. Their language and culture are slowly being erased as the Chinese government hopes to assimilate the Uyghur into Chinese culture. At times it seems that darkness has won. Hope seems lost.

The Uyghur long for freedom — freedom from constant surveillance, imprisonment and suffering. Freedom to speak their own heart language, to be at home and with family, to work the job of their choice. Freedom to practice their religion — even to simply speak the name of God or to pray. They long for a physical deliverance from very real suffering and captivity.

They also hunger for deeper freedom, though most of them don’t consciously understand their spiritual state before God. They need deliverance from seeking to earn their salvation through good works, from the hold of fear, from sin, from being separated eternally from the one and only, true, Creator God.

Most Uyghur don’t know that Jesus offers them spiritual freedom. Most have not heard that He wants to give them life. They wait in darkness.

Uyghur women pick cotton in fields on the Kyrgyzstan and China border.

We know that God sees the suffering of the Uyghur people. He knows each person being held against their will in a camp or prison. He sees every cruel act and every injustice. He sees the location of every Uyghur man, woman and child — even if their family cannot see them or does not know. He sees how very lost they are.

And God cares. He cares for the orphans, separated from their parents and being raised in dorms at schools. He cares about the Uyghurs’ fears that keep them awake at night. God is concerned about their mistreatment. Every tear that is shed is seen and stirs the heart of a caring Father who hates injustice and loves the precious people He created. He does not want them separated from Him eternally because of their sin.

God wants to deliver and save the Uyghur people, and He wants to give them eternal freedom.

Please pray that the current evil being done to the Uyghur would be stopped, and that they would be rescued from their oppression.

Pray for Uyghur everywhere to have an opportunity to hear about the Deliverer who was sent to the world and that the Spirit of God would cause them to believe the truth they hear.

Pray that hope would replace fear in the lives of the Uyghur, as we believe God’s Word is true: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

The post Christian worker responds to SBC resolution with prayer guide for Uyghurs appeared first on IMB.

6 reflections from SBC21

There has already been a lot of ink spilled on the events of SBC21. But before we close the  book on a very good annual meeting, I thought I would take the opportunity to set forth a few highlights and offer my own perspective about the state of the SBC as we move forward together.

Few of us knew what to expect heading into this year’s annual meeting. From the messenger pre-registration numbers, we could tell it was going to be a capacity crowd that shattered attendance records from recent years. The number of anticipated messengers continued to climb in the weeks before the meeting, and as they did, curiosity and concern about what would happen rose along with them.

Would the annual meeting be a fractured and contentious two-day civil war? Would the debate over CRT reach a boiling point? Who would be the next president? And how would we feel when it was all over? Those were just a few of the questions being kicked around ahead of our time together in Nashville. 

Unity 

But when the day finally arrived, something amazing happened: Southern Baptists came together. We didn’t just meet together physically; we came together under the banner of Christ. 

At the outset, I found myself sitting next to two men, older saints whose views and preferences (even clothing) in many ways certainly did not match my own. But we stood shoulder to shoulder and prayed next to one another. We sang praises to God together. At several points, we cast votes the same way. And when we didn’t, we simply turned to one another to discuss the reasons why. Honestly, it was wonderful. 

There is something special about being together in the room. For too many of us, two years without an annual meeting and the coldness of online discourse allowed a defensive posture to develop. But from my vantage point, that largely dissipated once we were in that room. I don’t mean that every person in the room was totally unconcerned about our differences. But I do mean that I think most of us felt grateful to be there together and proud of the faith and practice we hold in common.

Among the two big stories coming out of the annual meeting, our shared sense of unity is certainly one of them. Looking at the final tallies from the presidential runoff, you might think the two candidates being separated by less than 600 votes represents a deep divide. But if you were there, you know that one vote doesn’t tell the whole story, because on so many occasions, the room overwhelmingly expressed the same opinion on a range of issues. For my part, I could not be more grateful for the sweet spirit of unity that permeated so much of those two days.

Sexual abuse

The other major story coming out of the annual meeting was the resolve of the messengers to continue to address with absolute seriousness the scourge of sexual abuse among us. The abuse of the vulnerable is heinous. And it is especially so when those being preyed upon are victimized in places where they are supposed to receive spiritual care and instruction. Ahead of the annual meeting, significant allegations surfaced about the potential mishandling of the SBC’s response to the issue of sexual abuse in some of our churches by certain members of the Executive Committee. 

In response to those allegations, Grant Gaines and Ronnie Parrott, local church pastors in Tennessee and North Carolina, announced their intention to call for the newly-elected SBC president to appoint a task force to oversee an independent, third-party investigation of these allegations. Gaines called for that action in the form of a motion on the first day of the meeting. But because it involved a specific SBC entity, under the convention’s rules that action was automatically referred to the Executive Committee. The following day, Gaines rose to speak to the issue and urged those to whom it pertained to treat such allegations with the utmost seriousness. But when another messenger requested a floor vote on the issue, the messengers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the motion to form the task force to oversee the investigation.

To be clear, the investigation is merely that. It is an inquiry to determine what, if any, wrongdoing occured in the course of the Executive Committee’s response to the issue of sexual abuse. But even this reflects a firm commitment on the part of the messengers, and the whole SBC by extension, to accept nothing less than our very best efforts to make our churches places that are safe for survivors and safe from abuse. 

Ed Litton

The vote for SBC president was probably the most anticipated vote of the convention. And it was close. The four candidates each represented a unique vision for the future of the SBC. Each man also had a particular emphasis about what the SBC needed most at this time. Ultimately, after a memorable nomination speech from former SBC president Fred Luter, the messengers narrowly elected Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile, Alabama. Providentially, Litton’s point of emphasis was unity. As a pastor, he has championed the ideas of racial reconciliation and worked with other pastors in his community to bring the body of Christ together and address points of tension and division. God willing, Litton will continue to lead efforts to pursue unity and reconciliation during his tenure as the leader of our denomination.

Sermons

One of the highlights of any annual meeting are the sermons preached from the stage in the main hall. This year, J.D. Greear delivered his final sermon as president of the SBC. And he held nothing back. In it, he addressed the issues of sexual abuse and race within the convention. He called for Southern Baptists to keep our eyes focused on our mission and to avoid allowing politics to create division. 

Similarly, pastor Willy Rice of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Florida, preached the convention sermon. Rice challenged messengers to embrace not only the teachings of Jesus but the manner of Jesus as well. Specifically, Rice insisted that Southern Baptists should not be jerks in the way we treat others and warned of the divisiveness that often emanates from discussions online. Both sermons are well worth (re)watching in full.

Events & exhibits

Outside of the business of the convention are dozens and dozens of ancillary events and a massive exhibit hall. If you’re not careful, you can spend most of your time simply wandering from booth to booth picking up free swag. We had an incredible time at the ERLC booth talking to folks, giving away t-shirts, and highlighting the work of our Psalm 139 initiative that places ultrasounds in crisis pregnancy centers around the country (and soon the world). This annual meeting also featured a number of incredible events including the Send Conference, the SBC Women’s Leadership Network gathering, the seminary lunches, and the B21 panel. But an unexpected highlight for many, many people was the hymn sing that happened in conjunction with the 9Marks events that were hosted at First Baptist Nashville.

Resolutions

This year’s Resolutions Committee was an all-star team. They brought forward nine important resolutions that the messengers approved including resolutions on Baptist Unity, the Equality Act, the Hyde Amendment, and Race and the Sufficiency of Scripture. Each one was careful and precise, and to the best of my memory, all of these resolutions garnered strong support in the room. (We wrote about the ones pertaining to the ERLC here).

But at the conclusion of the time for resolutions on Tuesday, a pastor made an earnest appeal for his resolution on the abolition of abortion to be brought to the floor (it was one of several dozen the committee did not put forward to the messengers). Southern Baptists, never missing an opportunity to oppose abortion, voted convincingly to bring that resolution to be debated on the floor. 

The following day, the resolution calling for the abolition of abortion was debated on the floor. I ended up speaking against the adoption of that resolution from the floor, not because I opposed its aim but because there were (and are) troubling aspects about this particular resolution. As originally written, it called for the total rejection of any law or statute to curtail abortion that fell short of total abolition. That would mean that the vital tools employed by the pro-life movement such heartbeat bills, pain-capable bills, informed-consent laws, and parital-birth abortion bans would be taken of the table. 

After I spoke, another messenger successfully moved to amend the resolution to reopen the door for these measures. But even so, in my view, substantial problems remain with this resolution, which have now been addressed by seven SBC professors and separately by a member of the 2021 Resolutions Committee. Simply put, even the amended resolution provides no exception for the physical life of the mother and seems to indicate support for the prosecution of post-abortive women, both of which represent significant departures from both the SBC’s historic approach to this issue as well as the consistent messaging of the pro-life movement. The enemy in the fight for life is not vulnerable women but the abortion lobby: doctors, lawyers, and activists who profit from the destruction of innocent human life. Though women who pursue abortions unquestionably commit a grievous sin, it is still critical to distinguish between these vulnerable women and the abortion industry that preys upon them.

Ultimately, I absolutely affirm the messengers’ desire to make a clear statement demonstrating their resolve to end abortion at the nearest possible opporunity. And honestly, I believe that is what most believed they were voting for: a resolution calling for the immediate abolition of abortion. Unfortunately, this resolution went further than that in ways that actually repudiate the efforts of the pro-life movement in which countless Southern Baptists labor every day. In any case, it presents an opportunity to potentially revisit this opinion next year at the annual meeting in Anaheim, California.

Conclusion

To wrap this up, I would simply say that for myself and so many others, this year’s annual meeting was a surprising and welcomed breath of fresh air. Regardless of which candidate we may have supported to succeed Greear, last week so many Southern Baptists were able to come together and remember how wonderful it is to partner with millions of other Baptist Christians through the SBC for the purpose of reaching and discipling the nations. From my vantage point, we were unified and filled with joy, and we left with confidence that the SBC has exciting days ahead of us.