Archives For May 2014

COMMENTARY | Eric Reed

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore June 10-11, the staff of the Illinois Baptist will preview the annual meeting in “Baltimore Oracles,” a series of columns about SBC elections and key issues.

When there was but one candidate for SBC president, attendance at the Baltimore gathering seemed of little consequence in the outcome of the proceedings. The analysts would comment on the demographics and decline.

But now, with three candidates in the running, the convention promises a bit more of a horserace. And the headcount becomes more important.

The 2011 annual meeting in Phoenix is the lowest-attended in recent history, with only 4,814 messengers registered. Many would attribute the sad nadir to distance from the Southern-states home base – faraway conventions are rarely well attended.

And since 1985’s peak of 45,519 messengers in Dallas when Charles Stanley was elected president, there hasn’t been a political debate or theological wrestling match to draw ordinary church members in large quantities. Only the stalwarts have continued to make the annual trek, no matter how far from home the host city may be.

Attendance has declined steadily over the past two decades. When 7,484 registered in New Orleans in 2012, Fred Luter’s election as the first African American SBC president was the big draw and debate over renaming the convention received second billing. The following year, when it was thought the simmering dispute about Calvinism might boil over, only 5,103 showed up in Houston.

If the proponents of Reformed theology had put forth a candidate this year, then location and attendance could have significantly swayed a genuine two-man race. Location and attendance were big factors in Stanley’s win, when busloads of messengers from nearby states traveled to Texas to raise their ballots and secure conservative control of the denomination.

But after Southern Seminary president Al Mohler said he would nominate megachurch pastor Ronnie Floyd, it appeared there would be no duel over theology and no need to rally support from the Reformed bases near Baltimore. Convention attendance, except as a measure of personal investment,
wouldn’t be an issue.

Now, however, attendance becomes a factor with the announcement by Jared Moore that he will run against Floyd. With registration expected to be near record lows, a relative unknown running on a “small church” platform could muster a respectable showing when ballots are raised. And the late entry of Maryland pastor Dennis Kim makes every vote – cast in his home state – even more important.

It’s been a long time since the convention elected a president who wasn’t the pastor of a megachurch. Mississippi businessman Owen Cooper served two terms starting in 1973 with a win in Portland, Oregon, and only 8,871 messengers registered.

With the denomination’s recent voting history, such a dark-horse win seems unlikely. But the race for SBC president just became interesting.

COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore June 10-11, the staff of the Illinois Baptist will preview the annual meeting in “Baltimore Oracles,” a series of columns about SBC elections and key issues.

Leaders of smaller Southern Baptist churches will be watching closely in June as the SBC Executive Committee considers a change to the denomination’s constitution. The article in question (Article III) governs how many voters – known as messengers – individual churches may send to the Convention’s annual meeting.

Here’s how Article III stands now:

  • Churches in friendly cooperation with the SBC can send one messenger to the annual meeting, as long as the church contributed any amount to SBC causes the previous year.
  • Additional messengers may be sent for every 250 members, or for each $250 given to Convention causes.

Under the proposed changes:

  • Churches may send a minimum of two messengers, provided they meetthe guidelines for friendly cooperation (including undesignated, financial contributions either through the Cooperative Program, toward Convention causes, or to Convention entities).
  • Additional messengers are based on contributions (one for every $6,000 or full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts, whichever results in more messengers).

Whew. What does all that math actually mean for churches? In the March issue of SBC Life, Executive Committee Chairman Ernest Easley explained the thinking behind the changes: The new version adjusts for inflation. The $250 figure was adopted 126 years ago. And the proposed wording is an opportunity to “lift up Cooperative Program as the preferred model of giving to Convention work.”

But what about smaller churches, some asked. Won’t the new giving standards make it more difficult for them to send additional messengers?

“…If the perception is that it will hurt small churches, this is DOA,” Executive Committee President Frank Page told EC members at their February meeting. “My heart is with small churches, and I don’t want anything that even seems to be in some way pejorative toward their involvement.”

The EC meets just prior to the Convention and will decide whether to bring the amendment to messengers for a vote during the meeting June 10-11.

Any debate surrounding the proposal, especially if it makes it to the convention floor, could have some bearing on the race for SBC president. Ronnie Floyd pastors a megachurch, while Jared Moore is from a smaller, rural congregation. Dennis Kim’s Maryland congregation of around 1,700 is somewhere in between.

If the conversation about messenger representation swings the momentum in favor of smaller churches or those in regions with fewer Baptists, Moore or Kim could gain some extra visibility at the Convention. If the measure doesn’t come up for a vote or passes without much debate, Floyd would remain the better known candidate with the most SBC leadership experience.

Math may make a difference when Baptists meet in Baltimore.

Previous Baltimore Oracles columns:
The Southern Baptist Convention’s new ‘traditionalists’
What a single-candidate election could mean for the SBC
Why geography matters

 

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states to approve same-sex marriage after judges struck down their states’ same-sex marriage bans May 19 and 20.

An Oregon appeals court denied a request to stay the ruling, and no appeal has been filed in Pennsylvania. In both states, the attorney general has said she would not defend the ban.

Layout 1Earlier in May, Arkansas became the first southern state to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Arkansas joined the list of states in limbo between a judge’s decision and current law. In Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, the debate is over whether to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Only one same-sex marriage bans remain unchallenged – North Dakota – after lawsuits were filed late last week in Montana and South Dakota. The Minneapolis attorney who filed suit in South Dakota told the Post he will do the same in North Dakota within six to eight weeks.

Same-sex marriages were scheduled to begin June 1 in Illinois after the passage of SB10, the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” But many counties began issuing licenses after Attorney General Lisa Madigan gave clerks the go-ahead in March.

According to a Gallup poll released May 21, 55% of Americans approve making same-sex marriage legal, including 78% of those in the 18-29 age bracket.

More news:

Baptist seminary criticized over admission of Muslim student
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson faced criticism this month when a blogger reported the school had admitted a Muslim student to its Ph.D in archaeology program. Patterson told the Southern Baptist Texan that the student “had had no other options for Ph.D. work in his field,” and that he hoped to win him to faith in Christ. Patterson also said, “We required that the student would agree with our moral standards while a student at Southwestern. It was no problem for him.”

The decision, which Patterson said he is responsible for, was debated online after Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson published the report on his blog. Trustee chairman Steven James said the board will discuss the issue at its scheduled meeting in September. According to the Texan, Southwestern’s website includes requirements for graduate-level courses including “a mature Christian character” and “desire for Christian ministry.”

Boy Scouts president stands by decisions made last year
Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, said he supports the organization’s decision last summer to include openly gay participants, and would have extended the policy change to include adults too. But Gates, a former U.S. Defense Secretary, also said it’s time to let the issue rest, according to a report on ChristianPost.com.

“Given the strong feelings – the passion – involved among our volunteers on both sides of this matter,” Gates said at the organization’s annual meeting May 23, “I believe strongly that to reopen the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement with the high likelihood that neither side would survive on its own.”

Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting to focus on prayer, revival
Restoration, revival and prayer are the themes of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, scheduled for June 10-11 in a city known for its place in American and Baptist history. And baseball and crab cakes.

SBC President Fred Luter will preside over his final annual meeting as his second one-year term draws to a close. He told Baptist Press this year’s meeting theme is similar to last year’s – revival – with added importance given to prayer. The meeting also will include a Tuesday night revival service. “…We just come for worship and the word,” Luter said. “That’s it. No business will be conducted.”

Three candidates will reportedly be nominated to succeed Luter: Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas; Dennis Manpoong Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington, and Jared Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky. Read more about the SBC Annual Meeting at BPNews.net.

 

Nate_AdamsCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

Just a few days ago, my wife, Beth, and I finally got around to doing something we had promised ourselves we would do for years. We updated our wills.

It’s only the second time in our married life that we have drawn up wills, and this time around it was quite different. For one thing, our young adult sons are now old enough to play significant, legal roles in matters such as our future healthcare decisions and finances. Frankly, it felt a little sobering this time around to assign those responsibilities to our children rather than our parents.

We also discovered that the people and causes to which we wish to entrust our earthly possessions at life’s end have, at least in some cases, evolved. Our confidence in the effectiveness of some ministries has increased, while in others it has decreased. Even within the ministries we have always planned to support with our estate, we now have more specific causes we want to empower.

But by far the biggest difference in updating our estate plan this time around was in the help we had doing it. This time we had a wonderful tool from the Baptist Foundation of Illinois called the “Life Stewardship Navigator.” And we had the expert help of our friend and BFI Executive Director Doug Morrow.

The Life Stewardship Navigator is simply a do-ityourself document that walks you through the different types of assets and decisions you need to consider as you form your estate plan. It helped us pull together our records and documents, and talk through key decisions we needed to make as a couple.

With that information in hand, we were ready to sit down with Doug and discuss the best ways to both
take care of our family and invest in Christian causes well beyond our lifetimes. Doug called it “taking
care of both the kids and the Kingdom.”

With Doug’s office here in Springfield where we live, having that conversation with him personally was easiest for us. But the Foundation also has qualified attorneys all over the state who make it relatively
easy for any Illinois Baptist to have that same helpful conversation.

Frankly, the hardest part of the entire process was not filling out the Life Stewardship Navigator, or
walking through the paperwork with Doug. The hardest part was simply sitting down as a couple and
making some of the biggest decisions of our lives about our life stewardship as disciples of Jesus
Christ.

Though we are lifelong tithers and seek to be generous with Kingdom causes beyond our tithe, we realized during this process that our estate plan would far exceed even our lifetimes of weekly giving
through our church. What we chose to do with the accumulated wealth of our lives, however large or
small that might be, would be our largest single opportunity ever to contribute financially to God’s
Kingdom on earth. So prayerfully, thoughtfully, we wrote out a plan that will care for our family, and that will support ministries that advance the Gospel and support Baptist churches and ministries, especially here in our Illinois mission field.

I realize now that the day I sat down with my spouse to outline our estate plan was, in effect, my own personal Memorial Day. It was the day I was able to intentionally choose the values that I want to
memorialize my life, and to stand the tests of time and eternity.

I know that my life is about far more than my material possessions. But I also know that where my
treasure is, there my heart is also. So I chose to communicate to God that the biggest giving opportunity of my life places His Kingdom as the top priority. We can all do that. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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

Dennis_KimNEWS | The SBC Voices blog posted late Tuesday afternoon that Dennis Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington, will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention when it convenes in Baltimore in June.

Texas pastor Dwight McKissic will nominate Kim, whose predominantly Korean church is the largest in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, according to a report by the convention’s communications director.

Kim is a past president of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, and recently served on a task force appointed by the North American Mission Board to study the SBC’s declining baptisms.

Dr. Kim’s heartbeat is evangelism and discipleship,” McKissic wrote in a letter announcing he would nominate Kim. “He has been faithfully serving as the senior pastor of this church for 23 years with a great passion for evangelism, discipleship and world missions. Fulfilling the Great Commission is the all-consuming passion of his ministry.

“…He is fully bilingual in Korean and English with a keen understanding of multicultural world views. If elected, he will be an ambassador for the Kingdom and Southern Baptists that’s well qualified.”

Kim joins Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Jared Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., in the election to succeed current SBC President Fred Luter.

Read more about Kim in this article from BaptistLIFE, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

Where_Was_God_posterTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Film documents storm recovery
One year after a tornado killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma, survivors are sharing their stories in a new documentary film. “Where was God? Stories of Hope After the Storm” was produced and promoted in partnership with several churches and faith-based groups, including the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“We want to remind people that God is always near, no matter what,” said pastor and executive producer Steven Earp. “There is not a single thing that we could ever go through that our heavenly Father does not understand, and there is not a single dark place that He has not already walked.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Sudanese woman won’t recant, faces death sentence
A Sudanese doctor was sentenced to death after she refused to reject her Christian faith. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, was convicted of apostasy April 30 and given 15 days to recant. “I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim,” she told the judge, according to Morning Star News. Ibrahim, who is due to give birth soon, is married to Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian who also is a U.S. citizen.

Her sentence, set to be carried out two year’s after her child’s birth, is representative of “increasing Islamization” of Sudan sparked by the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Christianity Today reported. Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

Americans inflate church attendance
It’s easier to be honest online, at least about church attendance. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found Americans inflate their levels of religious participation, especially when answering questions about it over the phone. For example, 36% of Americans who took PRRI’s telephone survey said they attend services weekly or more, compared to 31% who answered an identical question on a self-administered online survey.

Among white evangelical Protestants, 9% answering over the phone said they seldom or never attend services, while 17% reported the same on the online survey. PRRI reports young adults, Catholics and white mainline Protestants are most likely to over-report their church attendance. Read more at publicreligion.org.

‘Gay Christian’ publisher out of National Religious Broadcasters
WaterBrook Multnomah resigned this month from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) network over a controversial book published by an affiliated imprint, Convergent Books. “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines theorizes that Scripture doesn’t condemn monogamous same-sex relationships.

Though WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent are separate entities with the same leader, employees of both companies are reported to have worked on the book. According to a Christianity Today report, NRB President Jerry Johnson wrote in a letter to his board, “This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it.”

Baptist history gets hip-hop treatment
“Now this is a story all about how the Baptists became what they are now…” Rapping seminary study Ashley Unzicker took the outline from one of her classes and set it to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song, creating a 5-minute ode to Baptist history that starts with religious persecution in England, and concludes with the election of Fred Luter as the SBC’s first African American president. Now, that’s fresh. Watch the video on YouTube.

Blessed bikers

Meredith Flynn —  May 19, 2014
Rainy weather

The annual Blessing of the Bikes April 27 in Decatur went on despite stormy weather.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

It wasn’t a great weather day for the annual Blessing of the Bikes in Decatur, Ill. Gray clouds piled up in the sky on Sunday afternoon, April 27, and then came a downpour, just as hundreds of motorcyclists made their way to and from the Harley-Davidson store to be prayed over by volunteers in orange vests.

Every spring, riders gather in Decatur and at the Bald Knob Cross in southern Illinois to be blessed. Over the sounds of revving engines, pray-ers put their hands on the shoulders of each rider and ask God for a safe motorcycle season.

It’s a tradition IBSA’s Pat Pajak has kept for several years, including the most recent blessing. He hustled home from a preaching engagement that Sunday afternoon to change into his Harley shirt, blue jeans and leather vest. On the way to the blessing, he stopped to help a couple whose bike had hit a pothole and slid down an embankment.

“After patching up a cut on the wife’s chin and helping her husband wrestle the bike out of the mud and wet grass, I shared how the Lord had watched over them,” Pajak said. “Our discussion led to the Blessing of the Bikes, which they were headed to, and ultimately the Gospel.

“Standing on the side of Highway 51 in the rain, I had the privilege of leading both of them to Jesus Christ.”

Pajak was 30 minutes late by the time he got to the Harley-Davidson parking lot, but he – and his new brother and sister in Christ – had already been extraordinarily blessed.

F.A.I.T.H Riders is a ministry for motorcyclists who want to use their passion for biking to share the Gospel. For information about how to start a chapter in your church, contact Pajak at (217) 391-3129.