Archives For diversity

For some Christians, immigration concerns at odds with battle for religious liberty
The Washington Post reports that while some denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, have publicly spoken against the separation of families at the border, the current crisis is a complex issue for many conservatives weighing it against cultural issues like abortion and marriage.

Baptist church receives donation from First Daughter
Ivanka Trump pledged $50,000 to a Southern Baptist church in Texas whose pastor tweeted about their desire to help children and families at the border. Prestonwood Baptist Church pastor Jack Graham, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said members of his church will travel to McAllen and Brownsville to assess needs for the immigrant children, and how churches should respond.

Related:

Religious restrictions on the rise—again
More than a quarter of 198 countries studied by Pew Research Center have “high” or “very high” levels of religious restriction, according to data released June 21. This is the second consecutive year that overall restrictions have increased in the countries studied, Pew reported.

Russian churches work around evangelism ban for World Cup outreach
Evangelistic outreach around this summer’s World Cup will have to get creative as a result of the host country’s anti-evangelism regulations, Christianity Today reports. Across Russia, churches will open their doors for viewing parties and other events to share the love of God, and soccer.

More Americans belong to multiethnic churches
Diverse congregations are on the rise, according to new research from Baylor University that found nearly one in five American worshipers now belong to a multiethnic church.

Sources: Washington Post, The Christian Post, ERLC, CNN, Pew Research, Christianity Today (2)

Updated May 23, 2018

By The Editors

As with most things in Texas, this gathering of Southern Baptists promises to be a bit bigger than usual, both in attendance and in the scope and possible impact of the issues likely to be discussed.

Generation and direction: The two announced candidates for SBC president are markedly different, both in age and theology. While recent conventions have concluded with some attempt at conciliation and commitment to work together, this two-man race serves to highlight the differences. Its outcome will likely be interpreted as a shift in direction.

This presidential election is marked by an increase in campaigning by the candidates’ supporters. Young and Reformed J.D. Greear was the candidate who stepped aside two years ago, rather than force a second run-off election and risk deepening divisions between younger leaders beginning to take their place and their parents’ generation, and between Reformed Southern Baptists and those who would call themselves “traditionalists” on the topics of salvation and election.

The elder Ken Hemphill’s experience in a variety of SBC leadership roles positions him as a statesman candidate. A number of other SBC leaders support him as a defender of traditional theology and the Cooperative Program.

The need for assurance: Messengers will arrive in Texas feeling some fallout from Frank Page’s departure as head of the SBC Executive Committee due to personal moral failure. And David Platt announced his intention to step down as International Mission Board president earlier this spring. Both entities have search committees working to fill the vacancies.

The search for new leaders has generated conversation about diversity among denominational leadership. One pastor said it’s “imperative” that at least one of the two roles be filled by a minority candidate (see our report from MLK50 on page 10).

Diversity: The SBC’s process for nominating trustees for its entities is in the spotlight for a lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. According to the “SBC This Week” podcast, the announced group of 69 nominees to serve on SBC boards is made up of 58 men and 11 women; 67 are Anglo, one is African-American, and one is Asian-American.
Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin tweeted in response to the report, “We have got to do better than this. Our trustee boards must reflect the WHOLE SBC.”

The report from the Committee on Nominations is still a work in progress (the group generally has to fill 5-10 spots that come open prior to the convention). Chairman James Freeman said the committee initiated measures at their March meeting to increase diversity, a decision that he said was reinforced by the social media discussion.

ERLC AND social justice: Racial justice and unity may be raised again in Dallas. Throughout his tenure, ERLC President Russell Moore has galvanized younger Baptists with his brand of compassionate activism. Others, though, bristled at his harsh words for supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump, and have since questioned whether the ERLC’s policies reflect the majority of the SBC.

Last year the convention voted on a Moore-led resolution condemning “alt-right racism.” Now Moore has raised the issue of race again at an April conference that ERLC hosted commemorating the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The ERLC’s report to the convention is, like last year, near the end of the meeting agenda. Moore will be among the last leaders heard from before Baptists leave Texas.

Paige Patterson: The man who led the conservative reclamation of the SBC starting in the 1970s is scheduled to preach the convention sermon in Dallas and many are calling on him not preach the sermon. On May 23 at a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth he was removed as president and appointed president emeritus.

It comes after comments he made in 2000 about domestic abuse recently required a statement from the seminary offering clarification 18 years later. In the comments, which resurfaced last month, Patterson said his counsel to a woman being abused by her husband would depend “on the level of abuse to some degree.” He said he never counseled divorce, and at most temporary separation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Patterson’s full statement is more stunning today. Fellow Texan Beth Moore, who will speak at an event for pastors’ wives in Dallas, was among the hundreds who tweeted in response, posting “We do not submit to abuse. NO.”

As the trustees met the Washington Post released an article about an incident at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Patterson was president in 2003. A former student said she told Patterson she had been raped and he urged her not to go to the police, but to forgive the student who was alleged to have committed the crime. Southeastern is investigating the report.

The cost of unity: Perhaps what will mark the Dallas convention isn’t which difficult conversations will be had, because there will certainly be some, but how we Baptists emerge from them. Will the meeting be marked by willingness to stand in unity because what unites us is the gospel? Or will our differences over the nature of gospel itself, and how God brings people to salvation, make the divide, largely generational, even clearer and wider?

Also read #SBCtoo: What we forgot to report may also be forgotten after the convention

– The Editors

The Briefing

‘Great Commission’ lacks great understanding among churchgoers
51% of churchgoers say they haven’t heard of the Great Commission, according to new research from Barna that also shows only 17% say they know the meaning of the Scripture passage where Jesus tells his followers to make disciples of all nations. But the data doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t sharing their faith, say the researchers.

“The data indicates that churches are using the phrase less, which may reveal a lack of prioritizing or focusing on the work of the Great Commission, but may also indicate that the phrase, rather than the scriptures or the labor, has simply fallen out of favor with some.”

FBC Sutherland Springs set to rebuild
The church massacred by a gunman’s attack last November will launch a new building project in May with the “primary goal…to lift Jesus up in the community,” said Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The North American Mission Board, a missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, will accept donations for the project and cover any remaining costs for the construction of the church’s new worship center and education building, Baptist Press reports.

SBC Executive Committee calls meeting to address leadership transition
Following Frank Page’s exit as president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, Baptist Press reports the entity’s chairman has called a special meeting April 17 whereExecutive Committee members will have the opportunity to discuss interim leadership matters and elect a presidential search committee. Page announced his retirement from active ministry March 27, citing a “personal failure.”

University event aims to combat ‘Christian Privilege’
Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.” The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”

Churches trending—slowly—toward diversity
The vast majority of Protestant pastors say their churches are still composed predominantly of one racial or ethnic group, according to data from LifeWay Research. But the percentage is lower than four years ago.

Sources: Barna Research, Baptist Press (2), The College Fix, LifeWay Research

 

 

 

SBC candidates

The slate of nominees for Southern Baptist Convention offices to be elected in Phoenix represent a push toward greater diversity in SBC leadership.

Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be nominated for the role of first vice president (currently filled by Illinois pastor Doug Munton). Strickland also teaches theology and operates a consulting agency to assist churches and organizations with diversity-related issues.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the Kingdom of God and Heaven itself,” said Georgia pastor James Merritt, who will nominate Strickland. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually, and personally.

“Walter Strickland meets both of these needs perfectly and I am excited about nominating him for the position of first vice president at our upcoming annual meeting in Phoenix.”

Also to be nominated in Phoenix is Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami, Florida. Abella, one of the preachers at this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference, planted the bilingual congregation in 2010.

“Jose is a loving picture of what Southern Baptists are working to become,” said Georgia pastor Michael Lewis in a news release about the nomination, “effective in an urban context, multiplying churches, reaching different generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

A third SBC leader, John Yeats, will be nominated for office in Phoenix. Yeats is executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and will be nominated for his 21st term as SBC recording secretary.

First elected to the post in 1997, Yeats designed the process currently used to get information from the convention floor to the platform at the Committee on Order of Business, Baptist Press reported.

Yeats said he and his wife, Sharon, who serves beside him on the convention platform “are deeply honored by Southern Baptists to serve our Lord in this role.”

Steve GainesSteve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, will be nominated for a second one-year term as SBC president by his son Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines was elected last year after North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear pulled out of the race before a second run-off election.

For more information about the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

Michael Allen

In a complete revamp from any year in memory, the 2017 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference features pastors of average-sized SBC churches who will preach through one book of the Bible—Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago and a former president of IBSA’s Pastors’ Conference, is one of 12 pastors who will take the stage in Phoenix June 11-12. The group also includes David Choi, pastor of Chicago’s Church of the Beloved.

Allen spoke with the Illinois Baptist about his upcoming message and what pastors like him contribute to the SBC family:

Q: What passage will you preach in Phoenix?

A: I’ll be preaching Philippians 3:17-21. This passage gives us a reminder of our citizenship in heaven, and helps the church distinguish itself from the world in how we think, act, and live. And then it also reminds us that it is the resurrection power of Christ that changes us both inside and out.

Q: What do you think is unique about what smaller or average-sized churches (and their pastors) add to SBC life?

A: The conference choice of pastors who lead small and medium-sized churches helps the conference attendees better identify and relate to guys just like them. We know that most churches in America, regardless of denomination, are small (less than 100). It also highlights the fact that pastors of smaller churches can effectively handle the Word of God, even in big venues. The Scriptures remind us not to “despise small beginnings” (Zech. 4:10).

Q: The conference this year also is focused on diversity. In your opinion, what is the value of hearing from pastors of different ethnicities and backgrounds?

A: We all have a unique cultural background which colors how we see and experience life. Culture also is a lens through which we see and interpret God’s Word and God himself. So hearing from ethnically diverse preachers in our convention enriches us all, because God made us different and his intentions are that we learn from and complement each other.

Q: You represent both the Midwest and one of the country’s largest cities. What about your ministry experience in Chicago do you want the larger SBC family to hear and understand?

A: The SBC family needs to understand that the world continues to move into ever-growing metropolitan cities, making them more and more diverse—ethnically, socio-economically, religiously, and every other measurement of diversity. Therefore, we have a great opportunity to win the world to Christ without ever boarding a plane.

At the same time [increasing diversity] makes ministry more complex, and more resources are needed to do ministry here. Whatever strategy the International Mission Board is using to reach the world for Christ can and should be prayerfully considered to be employed in America’s rich and diverse urban centers. IMB and the North American Mission Board ought to continue to seek ways they can collaborate with each other for the glory of God in the salvation of souls.

The primary group of preachers at the Pastors’ Conference will be joined by four pastors who will give testimonies of how their lives and ministries have benefited from smaller membership churches:

  • SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis
  • J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
  • Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and former SBC president
  • Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, and former SBC president

For more information on the Pastors’ Conference, including a full schedule, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

A popular hotel chain is running a television commercial that cleverly depicts several groups of people trying to decide whether or not to attend a wedding. One is a group of bridesmaids, who clearly aren’t thrilled about the turquoise dresses the bride has chosen. Another group is former boyfriends of the bride, wondering why on earth they all got invited. And one sad lady simply doesn’t want to see Uncle Joe dance in public again. I think it might be Uncle Joe’s wife.

The musical background for the commercial is a rock song from the 1980’s. Over and over that song chants the simple question, “Should I stay, or should I go?”

Because Chicago is our state’s largest and most diverse mission field, we all need to get more familiar with, and comfortable in, this world class city.

As the November 2-3 IBSA Annual Meeting approaches, I imagine there are Illinois Baptists asking themselves that same question. For the first time in several years, the meeting is being hosted near Chicago, at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church. The drive will be quite a distance for those in other parts of the state, just as last year’s location in Marion was a long drive for northern churches.

And of course some will not want to brave the congestion and the traffic. In fact, I don’t know any Chicagoland natives who look forward to that part.

The message of the hotel chain’s commercial is that their comfortable, affordable hotels give even reluctant travelers reasons to go, rather than stay home. So let me suggest some reasons to go to the IBSA Annual Meeting this year.

We need to see and care about and partner with its churches.

First, the challenging theme of this year’s gathering is “Cross Culture.” The program will intentionally showcase the diversity of Illinois Baptists and also point to multiple cultures in our state that desperately need the gospel. There’s no better place in Illinois to receive the challenge to “cross culture” than in Chicago.

Second, because Chicago is our state’s largest and most diverse mission field, we all need to get more familiar with, and comfortable in, this world class city. We need more practice going there. We need to better understand its neighborhoods, its problems, its needs, and its people. We need to see and care about and partner with its churches.

Third, a lot of advance preparation has already gone in to making your stay in Chicagoland as easy as possible. Broadview is a wonderful, generous church, with lots of parking and lots of practice hosting large events. Catered meals have been arranged on site at the church to make the dinner hour easier and more convenient. Nearby hotels have provided very reasonable rates that include breakfast. And Broadview’s near west suburban location makes it a wonderful home base for seeing more of the city, either on your own or as part of two pre-planned vision tours.

Should you stay or should you go?

I could go on and on, but let me cite just one more reason, one that really applies to every Annual Meeting, regardless of location. It’s just very, very good for our Baptist family in Illinois to be together. Throughout the year, we as pastors and leaders and devoted church members work hard in our various local contexts to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus. As the year draws to a close, it is good for us to assemble, and network, and be inspired, and remember that we are not alone in this mission.

Should you stay or should you go? If at all possible, you should go. It may surprise you what the Lord has done across our state over the past year. And it may surprise you how he and the fellowship of your brothers and sisters in Christ will inspire you for the year to come. I look forward to seeing you there.

For more information about the IBSA Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference, visit www.IBSAAnnualMeeting.org.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Come to Chicago

ib2newseditor —  October 3, 2016

Annual Meeting to focus on reaching across cultures—and opportunities in Illinois

am_2016_logoWhen the lawyer—trying to get out of his moral obligation—said, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response produced an even greater responsibility: be willing to cross cultures in order to help another.

The requirements of love in the story he told of the good Samaritan might seem excessive if Jesus himself had not already fulfilled them. The priest in the parable refused to cross the road to aid a dying man, yet Jesus chose to cross the border into forbidden territory to help an immoral woman.

For a faithful Jewish man, this was not one, but three violations of custom and law.

“Now he had to go through Samaria,” the apostle John records (John 4:4). Had to? In what way?

Good Jews avoided Samaria. They took the long way around on a trip from Judea to Galilee just to avoid their despised half-cousins the Samaritans. But Jesus felt some compulsion to travel through the forbidden region. It was there in the town of Sychar that Jesus met and spoke to the woman who was rejected by the rest of the town because of her bad behavior. First he asked her for a drink of water, then he offered her living water.

What compelled Jesus to go through Samaria?

The easy answer is love, but love is not always easy.

It’s not just ethnicity
The IBSA Annual Meeting in November will focus on cross-cultural ministry. Sharing the gospel across cultures to people of all languages, ethnicities, nationalities, and people groups is our high calling. But no one ever said it would be easy.

What better place to do this work of reconciliation than Illinois?

We live in a multi-cultural world. As the missiologists often tell us, the world is at our doorstep. Every race, religion, and people group is represented in America—and most of them, too, in Illinois. From the first beep of Telstar and the first flickering satellite images from another hemisphere, the world in our lifetimes has become a relatively small place. Figuratively speaking, and often literally, we live elbow to elbow with people very different from ourselves. The melting pot of America has become a stew bowl of people and beliefs, not mixing so much as existing side by side, sometimes peaceably, sometimes not.

If 2016 has taught us anything it is that bringing cultures together is complicated.

Misunderstanding is probable, real understanding is not. (Watch any newscast for examples.) But the Bible has taught us that bringing cultures together—in Christ—is the goal.

“There is neither Jew not Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And Jesus himself accomplished this, “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

What better place to do this work of reconciliation than Illinois?

With 13 million residents and at least 8 million of them without a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the call to be reconcilers and gospel ambassadors rings loud. But it is often drowned out by clashes of race and place, divergent views on social justice, and the widening economic divide. Add growing political arguments in an atmosphere of distrust, and we might say the task of spiritual reconciliation is as challenging in the 21st century as it was in the first. The main difference between then and now, between Samaritans and Illinoisans, is sheer volume.

Which was a neighbor to the man in need? “The one who had mercy on him.”

In Illinois our cultural divides are not only ethnic. There is the upstate-downstate dichotomy, Chicago versus everything south of I-80, Northside versus Southside, city verses suburbs, the political tug-of-war between red and blue, between Springfield and the rest of the state. And if we Christians aren’t careful, the prevailing social and political prejudices spill over into our attitudes—and even into our churches.

And one more observation: crossing cultures is not only reaching across barriers to other ethnicities and language groups. It’s also reaching out to people who hold different views on sexual and moral issues, those in lifestyles that Christ-followers believe are unbiblical. It means reaching across the back fence to neighbors who look and sound a lot like us, but whose lost condition characterizes their whole lives. For people who live in a Christian culture and try to behave in Christly ways, embracing anyone outside the church is a cross-cultural experience.

But that is our calling.

9-12-16-ib-facesWelcome to Samaria
When Jesus was telling the lawyer about eternal life, how a changed life produces love for one’s neighbors, he chose to make a Samaritan the hero of the story. “Samaritan” was virtually a curse word when it described the woman at the well. “Samaritan woman” was doubly offensive. The disciples were stunned to find Jesus talking to such an outcast, but none dared confront him on it.

Neither did anyone object when Jesus said it was a Samaritan that helped a Jewish man who had been robbed and beaten and left half dead. But they were surely surprised that the Samaritan was commended for his actions rather than the priest and the Levite who crossed the road to avoid the bloody, unclean wretch, and thereby kept the law. The invective “Samaritan” was redeemed and the merciful man made a model. The Good Samaritan.

What compelled the Samaritan to help a hurting man, likely an enemy of his people, a Jew? Love is the ready response, but Jesus pointed to mercy: that holy mixture of God’s grace motivated by unfailing love, extended to mankind.

Which was a neighbor to the man in need? “The one who had mercy on him.”

The 2016 Annual Meeting in suburban Chicago offers opportunity to see Illinois—our great mission field—with fresh eyes. This vast state with its world-class cities and fruitful, abundant plains calls for multiple approaches to ministry. One size doesn’t fit all our mission fields, but one calling does: Go.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist