Melissa PhillipsSpringfield | A faithful and remarkable servant of Jesus Christ went home Thursday night. Melissa Wootton Phillips died July 2 after battling cancer for almost a year. During that time she continued to serve Illinois Baptists admirably in her capacity as Associate Executive Director of the Church Cooperation Team of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA).

“Melissa’s service to the Lord, and to the churches and staff of IBSA over the past 35 years, has been truly immeasurable,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Her professional competence and sacrificial work ethic were always wonderfully complemented by her sweet spirit and servant heart. Whether it was managing finances, personnel policies, our major building renovation, our IBSA camps, or a host of other operations, Melissa served IBSA tirelessly and with great integrity.”

Melissa is survived by her husband, Doug, and two daughters, Laura (who is married to Caleb Adams) and Melinda (who married Adam Holler on June 13), her parents, James and Mary Lou Wootton, and four siblings. Melissa and Doug have been vital and active members of Springfield Southern Baptist Church.

At her passing, Melissa is being remembered as a woman of great faith, a missionary heart from her upbringing as the daughter of missionary parents serving in South Korea, and for her contribution to Southern Baptist work in Illinois.

IB Family Photo

Melissa (far right) and her family, who served as missionaries in South Korea, were featured in a December 1974 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

“While many of us at IBSA travel the state every week to serve churches, Melissa has been the executive who has made that possible by supporting and administering our work from the home office,” Adams said. “Executive Directors have come and gone, but Melissa has been a rock of stability and consistency on which our IBSA staff family and the churches we serve have always been able to depend.

“On a personal level, not everyone probably knows that in 2013, Melissa’s oldest daughter, Laura, married our oldest son, Caleb. So to me, Melissa became more than capable executive or even close work friend. She became family to my family, and our families are now lovingly intertwined. “So on many levels, and in many ways, I will miss her more than words can express. I believe we all will,” Adams said.

Visitation is Monday, July 6, from 4-7 p.m. at Staab Funeral Home in Springfield. The funeral service is Tuesday, July 7, at 11 a.m. at Springfield Southern Baptist Church, with Pastor Mike Keppler and Nate Adams officiating. Additional visitation time at the church will precede the service from 10-11 a.m. Burial will follow at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Springfield Southern Baptist Church Building Fund.

Columbus_SBC_blogNEWS | Lisa Sergent

The signs up at the Greater Columbus Convention Center read, “Welcome Southern Baptist Convention,” while banners on the lampposts declared “Gay Pride Festival.” With only a day separating these gatherings, their juxtaposition—and shared subject matter—was especially noticeable.

Awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that will likely determine whether same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, SBC leaders and messengers talked marriage and a host of other issues that threaten to isolate the gospel from the people who need it.

Columbus_blog“Whatever happens in the culture around us,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, reminded attenders at the Pastors’ Conference, “it does not take one bit more gospel to save the people protesting us than it took to save us, the people who were once protesting God.”

But there weren’t a lot of people protesting Southern Baptists in Columbus. In fact, for several years now, the controversial conversation has been inside the hall rather than parading the sidewalks outside, with messengers taking up issues—such as same-sex marriage and ministry to transgender people—that would not have been handled so candidly a decade or two ago.

“For most of this last century Southern Baptists have been comfortable in the culture in their soft cocoon,” Moore said in his convention report. “Some said that the Southern Baptist Zion was below the Mason-Dixon Line. Those days are gone, and not a moment too soon. Those days are over, thankfully.”

Southern Baptists are taking on hard issues.

Firm positions, softer hearts
“The mission of the church isn’t to un-gay people. The mission of the church is to win people to Christ,” Houston pastor Nathan Lino said at a breakfast hosted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He challenged churches, asking why they try to “run off” homosexuals and transgendered people. “Do you realize that it’s a miracle they are there? It’s because of God and it’s glorious.”

Former lesbian, now pastor’s wife Rosaria Butterfield agreed that salvation comes first. “I was not converted out of homosexuality, I was converted out of unbelief and then God went to work.” She spoke as part of a panel called “The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future.” The panel was the first of its kind staged during a convention business meeting. Some panelists reinforced a fortress mentality for churches. Others introduced a new kind of missionary to the culture. Moore observed that Butterfield is probably the “Lottie Moon of the 21st century mission field, a Presbyterian ex-lesbian sitting right here.”

SBC President Ronnie Floyd framed the field this way: “The Southern Baptist Convention has not moved, the culture has moved. We stand on the Word of God that abides forever, always has been, and will forever be.”

‘Bonhoeffer moment’
On the final day of the convention, Floyd and eight past SBC presidents held a press conference stating their commitment to biblical marriage. The statement, endorsed by Floyd and 16 living past convention presidents, served notice to the nation and to the Supreme Court that they “will not recognize same-sex ‘marriages,’ our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.”

The presidents also stressed the need for churches to be prepared by having clear bylaws and constitutions that say what it means to be married in their churches.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, urged Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries to do the same. He said he could see a time when accreditation would be withheld from Christian educational institutions that do not approve of same-sex marriage or transgenderism.

Patterson said what concerns him most are the churches “that have never thought through their bylaws and constitutions. Challenges will probably come to those small churches that are ill-prepared.”

At the same press conference, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, concurred: “We want to challenge pastors and church members. This is coming and it’s coming now. The trajectory is on breakneck speed…We encourage Christian leaders everywhere to make some noise and to be a voice.”

Other threats to religious liberty were also highlighted at the convention:
Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran spoke at the Pastors’ Conference. Cochran was fired from his position for stating on one page of his 160-page book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” that homosexuality is sinful. “There are self-inflicted sufferings and the ones God allows,” Cochran said. “What I’m experiencing is a God-allowed suffering that has nothing to do with me, but that God is using in and through me.”

And Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, made an appearance during the ERLC report. She lost her case and is in danger of losing her home and business. After Moore shared her story, she came to the stage for prayer.

“This is a Bonhoeffer moment for every pastor in the United States,” Floyd warned in a sermon citing the example of pastor and Nazi-fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “We will not bow down nor will we be silent. We will hold up and lift up God’s authoritative truth on marriage. While we affirm our love for all people, we cannot deviate from God’s Word.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

All 50 states have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Baptist Press reports, even those in which officials disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

The_Briefing“We don’t have a choice but to comply,” said Louisiana Governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, “even though I think this decision was the wrong one.”

In Texas, the state’s attorney general said “numerous lawyers” are willing to defend officials who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and therefore could face lawsuits and fines. Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains intact.”

Read the full story at And here’s a state-by-state update from CNN.

The Supreme Court’s decision continued to dominate headlines over the weekend, as Christian leaders and others offered a range of perspectives on what the country now faces:

In other news:

Six people were arrested after heckling Houston pastor Joel Osteen during a church service Sunday.

Among Barna’s findings on women and church: While only 5% name church or religious activities as their top time commitment, 22% say that’s the area of their life they’d most like to improve.

Almost the same number of Americans believe Islam is a threat to religious liberty at home and abroad, LifeWay Research reports in a new survey.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Nate_Adams_June29I am writing this just a day after returning from the 2015 South­ern Baptist Convention in Columbus, and four days before my wife, Beth, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. So, as unromantic as it may sound, I find myself reflecting today on both the past three days with more than 5,000 other church messengers, and the past 30 years with the one woman God gave me for life.

They’re not entirely dissimilar. To both my wife and to the Southern Baptist Convention, I have made deep commitments that, by God’s grace, are standing the test of time. With both I share impor­tant beliefs and values. And with both I share purpose and direction that allow us to walk together joyfully.

That’s not to say we agree a hundred percent of the time on a hundred percent of the ques­tions or issues we face. There were times this past week in Columbus when I read or heard something and thought to myself, “Why on earth would we want to do that?” or “Don’t you see what needs to be done over here?” or “I’m not sure he’s the best person to entrust with that.”

But the truth is Beth and I have both asked those kinds of questions of one another over the past 30 years too. In fact, a few years ago when James Merritt was President of the SBC, I remember him saying that he and his wife had agreed long ago that he would make all the major decisions in their marriage, and that she could make all the minor decisions. Then he quipped, “And I’m proud to report that in 25 years of marriage we’ve never actually had a major decision.”

There’s quite a thread of truth in that silly exaggeration. When you share a deep commitment to someone over time, you simply don’t allow relatively minor disagreements to threaten either your relationship or the overall pur­pose you’ve embraced, whether it’s raising a healthy family or obeying the Great Commission. You defer to one an­other whenever possible, and you reserve strong words for truly important subjects. Then, most of the time, you move forward by consensus rather than casting ballots, or stones.

That’s why I was able to spend at least as much of my SBC time out in the hall­ways, or exhibit area, or in collaborative meetings, as I did in the voting sessions, most of which went forward smoothly and without dissent. And I noticed I was not alone. As important as the main sessions were to those attending, it was the hall­ways, restaurants, and hotels that were the settings for countless informal reunions and meetings, for prayer, for collaboration, for counseling, or simply for much needed encouragement.

There certainly are occasions during our long commitments over time when we need to gather in big meetings to confront big things. And there are times when we need to come together for celebrations and worship, or for special efforts like the Tuesday night session in Columbus when thou­sands of us gathered to pray for awakening and revival in our land.

But most of our long commitments over time are lived out between big anniversaries and annual sessions. We believe the Bible together, we serve our churches together, we send missionaries and support missions projects together, and we worship together. And so my deep commitment over time to the imperfect yet wonderful Southern Baptist Convention continues.

And as Beth and I continue to make the bed together, raise the kids together, pray together, serve churches together, and face the challenges of life together, my deep commitment over time to her continues as well, now for 30 years and counting. May the Lord bless you as He has me, with a life of deep commitments over time.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Church_blogNEWS | Following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Christian leaders quickly weighed in on how churches should respond to the ruling.

“The challenge for Christians now is to speak the truth in love & to speak love in truth. Love of neighbor means we cannot lie about marriage,” tweeted Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, released a statement calling himself a “conscientious dissenter” from the Court’s decision.

“Despite this ruling,” Moore continued, “the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast. We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot. To minimize or ignore a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed down to us, and we have no authority to do this.

“At the same time, now is not the time for outrage or panic. Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. Marriage in the minds of the public may change, but marriage as a reality created by God won’t change at all. The church must now articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage and work to rebuild a culture of marriage.”

Moore also issued a statement Friday along with other evangelical leaders, opposing the ruling and offering six “points of engagement” for churches:

1. Respect and pray for governing authorities.
2. Teach the truth about biblical marriage.
3. Affirm all persons are created in God’s image and deserve dignity and respect.
4. Love our neighbors regardless of disagreements over marriage.
5. Live respectfully alongside those with whom we disagree.
6. Cultivate a common culture of religious liberty.

Other leaders who signed the statement include Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, author and radio host Nancy Leigh DeMoss, pastors Tony Evans, David Jeremiah and Matt Chandler, and theologian J.I. Packer. For the full statement and a list of signatories, go to

Prior to the Court’s decision, several past SBC presidents at the June 16-17 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, signed a statement vowing they would not participate in same-sex unions. The presidents also stressed the need for churches to be prepared with clear bylaws and constitutions that say what it means to be married in their churches.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said what concerns him most are the small and medium-sized churches “that have never thought through their bylaws and constitutions. Challenges will probably come to those small churches that are ill-prepared.”

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention said Friday in a statement that while it will likely take weeks to determine the impact of the decision and next steps, “In the meantime, churches should work with their legal and accounting advisors to determine whether their governing, employment, building use and other documents or policies need to be reviewed in light of the expanding definition of marriage.”

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, “GuideStone remains committed to advocating for the churches, ministries and pastors we serve during these days and will share information to help churches remain compliant in their health care and retirement plans.”

Springfield, Ill. | Illinois Baptist pastors and leaders shared what they will say Sunday to their congregations following Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

Fear and anger are responses that reflect lack of faith. Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ can all people find identity, hope, and peace. We as the church have our priorities set: Love the LORD your God…and love your neighbor…Nothing has changed about that. In fact, our opportunity is greater than ever. Now let’s continue our purpose of making, baptizing, and teaching disciples.
Scott Nichols, Crossroads Community Church, Carol Stream

Exactly what Dr. Ronnie Floyd said at the SBC Annual Meeting—love them, show them Jesus, but in no way will I or our church be involved in a same-sex union. We must not compromise God’s Word, even if it means lawsuits and jail time.
Bob Stilwell, First Baptist Church, Paxton

This is a matter that I have addressed before, especially in light of the fact that Illinois had previously declared same-sex marriage to be legal. I have spoken clearly from God’s Word about how and why it is wrong. I have spoken privately with numerous persons in my church family about this issue. I have discussed the potential ramifications for our church ministry and pastoral leadership.

Through it all, I have repeatedly reminded people that to declare this act as sin does not mean we don’t love those who practice it. God’s call to holiness leaves no sin untouched or insignificant. We are heartbroken by this decision from the Supreme Court. We pray for God’s mercy upon our nation and, as always, we seek to be messengers of God’s reconciling message of grace.
Odis Weaver, Friendship Baptist Church, Plainfield

Psalm 33:10-12 says that God’s purposes will always prevail no matter what. The very ruling of the Supreme Court will be used by God to further his purposes. We do not need to throw our hands up and think that God did not know this was going to happen.

Our very faith says that the worst possible legal decision [was] handed down by both Jewish and Roman courts to accomplish the salvation of God’s people. If God accomplished that much through the legal proceedings that sent our Lord to the cross, then we have no reason to fear any decision from any court under heaven. God reigns over every legal decision ever handed down so let us rejoice in our sovereign God who has his way in the whirlwind.
Phil Nelson, Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale

We will continue to teach God’s design for marriage and we will agree with God and call any activity that falls short of his design what the Bible calls it: sin. Since the Bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (NKJV), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” we will love those who disagree with God’s design the way Jesus told us to love them, we will share with them how to receive His grace and redemption in Christ, and we will teach them to embrace God’s design by turning from what they want to what God wants.
Bob Dickerson, First Baptist Church, Marion

At Delta, we are going to use our pastoral prayer time to address all that has taken place today. We are going to shepherd our people by guiding them on what to do/not do and how to think/not think. We will point to Scripture as to the goodness of marriage and God’s design in how it relates to the gospel (Eph. 5). Then we will point our people toward the gospel, pointing out that it is all-sufficient even in times such as these, and that the gospel compels us to love our neighbor. We will look to the scriptures for encouragement on how all this holds together and then pray.
Jonathan Davis, Delta Church, Springfield

I understand it, I believe that we should love other folks, people that believe in same-sex marriage. I believe that we should love them and try to share the gospel with them just like we would anyone else. But when a person rejects the word of God, there’s nothing else we can do.

It’s not about us, it’s just about the Word of God. And I think it’s very plain and simple that [the ruling is] against what he says. I’m not concerned about how politicians feel about it, or the president, or the Supreme Court, or even [church members]. It’s just against the Word of God, and we are people who believe in the Word of God.

I know a lot of Christians may have different points of view on it, but that’s our take on it.
Marvin Parker, Broadview Missionary Baptist Church

This is just one more attempt to undermine God’s authority. But God will not be mocked. Keep praying to Jesus; and continue reaching out to the individual and show God’s love anyway we can to save them from an eternity in hell.
Jerry Higdon, New Hope Baptist Church, Coal Valley

While we may be outraged and angry about the Supreme Court’s ruling…our response must follow the biblical mandate to do what is honorable in the sight of God and thus the world. Anger only begets bitterness and eventually hate.

The church needs to steadfastly stand firm for biblical marriage and simultaneously demonstrate godly love, mercy and grace towards those bound up in sexual immorality and racial hatred by being light in the darkness.
Kevin Carrothers, Rochester First Baptist Church, who’s finishing a series of messages from Romans 12 on “Elevating Others”

The world around us is changing, but our God is unchanging and his Word stands forever. As a pastor, I would want my congregation to know that what God identifies as sin we must also identify as sin. Marriage in the Bible is the union of one man and one woman and is described in the Book of Ephesians, by the Apostle Paul, as a picture of Christ and his bride.

Therefore, I would declare before my congregation that if it meant being sued, fined, prosecuted or ultimately jailed, I WOULD NOT perform a same-sex marriage or allow the church to be used for such a union. And once I made that public statement, I would stand on my conviction, just as the early apostles did when it says in Acts 4:18-20, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'”
Pat Pajak, Illinois Baptist State Association

On Sunday: Culture may change; views may change; laws may change… but our calling has not changed. This is the time for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand on the authority of God’s Word and speak with clarity and do so with great compassion. There is much, much brokenness in the LGBT community–and we need to be ready to minister.
Joey Krol, Southtower Community Baptist Church, Dawson

It’s a sad day in America when five of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. While the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, they are not the final nor supreme word on this subject.

Long before there was a U.S. Supreme Court, there was and is and ever will be The Universal Supreme Court of Heaven which has the final and most supreme word on this subject. Here it is:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,b and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ (Gen. 1:26-28, NIV)

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” (Gen. 2:18, NIV)

“So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:21-25)

May God add His blessing to the reading and obedience to His word.
Michael Allen, Uptown Baptist Church, Chicago

Court_columnsSpringfield, Ill. | Following the 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the Illinois Baptist State Association urged measured and thoughtful action by church leaders to protect their congregations’ religious liberties.

“This split decision by the Supreme Court is indicative of the increasingly split moral fiber of our nation,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “In times like these, it is reassuring to remember that God is neither surprised nor anxious about decisions made in human consciences or human courts. We must be resolute in trusting Him and in obeying in His word.”

The Court’s ruling comes after several years of argument over the legalization of same-sex unions and a shift in public opinion toward approval by a slight majority of Americans. In that time, Southern Baptists have taken stands defending a biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Illinois Baptists opposed legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois with a 2013 resolution approved by messengers at the IBSA Annual Meeting.

“For a few years now, leading up to the time ‘same sex marriage’ became legal in Illinois, IBSA has been seeking to inform and resource churches regarding steps they can take to protect their freedoms of speech and religious exercise,” Adams said. “In light of this latest Supreme Court ruling, we would again urge churches to be vigilant in pursuing the recommended steps in their constitutions and policy manuals to help protect those freedoms. On this issue, as on others before it, the local church and churches banding together in unity and cooperation are likely to be the primary opponents of laws that threaten religious freedom.”

IBSA offers several marriage-related resources at, including:

  • sample bylaws on marriage and church membership
  • a sample facilities use agreement
  • the 2011 and 2013 resolutions on marriage approved by messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has published “Protecting Your Ministry,” a 44-page booklet designed especially for churches. The free guide may be downloaded at

A number of Southern Baptist leaders have said the marriage issue would prove to be a dividing line among evangelicals.

“Even churches that have not been actively engaged in the defense of marriage issue must now be vigilant in defending their freedoms of speech and religious expression,” Adams said.