Archives For racial reconciliation

The Briefing

How do we find meaning in yet another mass shooting?
Al Mohler asks that question following the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why? We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories.

Gov. signs HB40 into law; Baptists deeply disappointed
Gov. Bruce Rauner ended months of speculation last week when he signed legislation allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. Reaction has been swift and strong.


So. Baptists, others release letter on ‘alt-right’ to Trump
A letter drafted by a group of Southern Baptists and others has called on President Trump to denounce clearly the racism of the “alt-right.” The letter commends the president for signing a joint congressional resolution rejecting white nationalism and supremacy, but it tells him the country “needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves.”

Pew surveys governments on religion
More than 40% of the world’s countries have an official or preferred state religion, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center. The most common official state religion is Islam, which is named in the constitutions or basic laws of 27 countries. That’s 63% of the 43 countries that officially designate a religion. Thirteen countries list Christianity as their state religion—nine in Europe, two in the Caribbean, one in Africa, and one Pacific island nation.

Sources: AlbertMohler.com, Springfield State Journal-Register, Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today

The Briefing

TX churches sue FEMA over Harvey relief funds
Three small churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey and made its way through the Houston area sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency in federal court, seeking access to relief funds for nonprofit groups. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Rockport First Assembly of God in Aransas County, Harvest Family Church in Harris County and Hi-Way Tabernacle in Liberty County claims the government’s disaster relief policy violates the Constitution by denying faith groups the right to apply for funds.

Free abortions offered to women affected by Hurricane Harvey
Whole Woman’s Health, a reproductive health care organization, in collaboration with other groups, is offering free abortions to women affected by Hurricane Harvey. At least 74 women have already taken the organization up on the offer, or have scheduled an appointment for the procedure. The price will be fully covered, as will the cost of transportation and accommodations, the group said.

Illinois abortion bill still in limbo
The bill, known as HB 40, that would extend the availability of taxpayer-subsidized abortions to state workers and Medicaid recipients, still has not been sent to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk. Lawmakers approved the legislation back in May.

Protestant unity is new confession’s focus
A confession of faith aimed at expressing “interdenominational unity” among Protestants on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has drawn endorsement from professors at all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and staff members at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The “Reforming Catholic Confession” also has been signed by professors from at least eight colleges affiliated with state Baptist conventions and by Southern Baptist pastors including Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, and James MacDonald.

Gaines: Memphis Confederate monument should be moved
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines is among about a dozen Southern Baptist signatories of a letter requesting that a Memphis statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest be moved from a public park “to a more historically appropriate site.” In all, 169 clergy members representing 95 congregations and other institutions signed a Sept. 13 letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission in support of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s request to move the statue.

Sources: Houston Chronicle, Fox News, Springfield News Channel 20, Baptist Press (2)

Talking with kids…about race

ib2newseditor —  September 18, 2017

Parenting conference takes on serious discussions

parenting panel

Steven Harris (left) moderates a panel including the ERLC’s Trillia Newbell and Texas pastor Jason Paredes on how to help children view diversity like God does. Photo by Kelly Hunter

Is it ever too early to talk about race with your children? Panelists at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Aug. 24-26 conference on parenting said no, resoundingly.

“You should not wait,” said Rachel Metzger, an educator and mother of two. “Because waiting seems like a secret, or something you don’t want to talk about.” Metzger joined four other parents and church leaders for a panel discussion on how to raise children with a biblical view of racial unity.

Coming less than a month after deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., the panelists addressed the topic at a time when America’s racial divides are glaringly apparent. But, “this is not just something that we need to be talking about because something in the culture happened,” said Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach for the ERLC. “It’s something the church needs to be on top of, ahead of, because it is ultimately a biblical topic.”

Newbell is the author “God’s Very Good Idea,” a new children’s book about the diversity inherent in God’s creation. The book calls families to celebrate differences because they are, after all, God’s doing.

“That’s what’s missing in our culture—we don’t celebrate our differences; we politicize them,” Newbell said during the panel. “And we should celebrate. This is God’s good plan. It’s his idea.”

With kids, celebrating differences means acknowledging them. Newbell told the audience in Nashville that her son identified early on the difference between his mom’s skin color and his own. As her children have gotten older, open conversations about skin color have evolved into discussions about the realities of racism, division, and ethnic pride.

“It is heartbreaking, but it’s something that we have to be talking about,” Newbell said. “But even with that, we are sharing the full picture of the gospel that unites.”

The panelists shared several suggestions for fostering in children a biblically-based appreciation for racial diversity and unity:

1. Educate yourself. Dive into what the Bible says about the nations and the image of God, said Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., and president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention. “You need to know for yourself first of all what it is that you believe, and why you believe it, so that you can better then explain it to them.” Day noted two helpful Scripture passages: Genesis 10 and Revelation 7.

2. Point to real-life examples. Adoption is such a part of the culture on his church staff, said Pastor Jason Paredes, that if an outsider were to try to match parents with kids based on skin color, it would be impossible. In that environment, said the pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas, identity is based less on looks and more on family bonds, giving parents a real-life way to talk to their kids about God’s view of racial unity.

3. Lay a biblical foundation. Pastor Afshin Ziafat recalled seeing an interview with a white nationalist in the aftermath of protesting in Charlottesville. The man’s angst, Ziafat remembered, seemed ultimately to be about protecting himself.

The root of racism is the sin of self, said Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. “With our children, I want to teach them that all are made in God’s image, but I also want to make sure I’m teaching them that life isn’t about you. Philippians 2 is what I want to teach them: Count others more significant than yourselves; put the interest of others before yourself.”

4. Invite people in. Get to know your neighbors, Newbell advised. Ask God to give you eyes to see color and culture, and invite the people around you into your family’s life.

Ziafat said mission trips have motivated his church members to get to know the people around them. “As we’ve gone on mission trips and our people have gone to other cultures and come back home, I’ve seen them have a heart to now want to go meet my Indian neighbor who I’ve never even talked to, because I just got back from India. I think tharat’s been a huge thing for us too.”

5. Start now. Newbell acknowledged some listeners probably feel the guilt of not having had these kinds of conversations with their kids. “It’s never too late to talk about the glory of God and Imago Dei. If you’re listening and thinking, ‘Well, I didn’t do that,’ start today.”

The Illinois Baptist’s Meredith Flynn was there. Watch for more articles from Meredith from the conference.

The Briefing

NY Times op-ed spurs discussion of race & the SBC
A black Oklahoma minister’s New York Times op-ed “renouncing [his] ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention” has drawn responses from a range of African Americans who say they will continue to cooperate with the convention as it pursues racial reconciliation. Meanwhile, the op-ed’s author, Lawrence Ware, explained his views in an interview with Baptist Press, noting he does not believe Southern Baptists by and large are intentionally racist. He also said he likely would have “softened” some of his language against the SBC if given an opportunity to rewrite the op-ed.

Bible studies at the White House
Some of the most powerful people in America have been gathering weekly to learn more about God’s Word, and this Trump Cabinet Bible study is making history. They’ve been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history – men and women who don’t mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible. They’re all handpicked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Democrat boss says no abortion litmus test
Democrats will not withhold campaign funds from pro-life candidates running for elected office, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chairman of the Democrats’ House campaign arm, told The Hill. “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” Luján said. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Toy makers blurring gender line
Like wildfire, the transgender revolution appears to be consuming, changing and confusing everything in life as people used to know it. Now the confusion has extended to the choice of toys for children. Hasbro, one of the biggest U.S. toy-makers, has announced that it has changed its thinking regarding certain toys being geared toward particular genders. In a recent interview, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said his company has found that a significant percentage of boys are interested in My Little Pony, traditionally more popular with girls. Conversely, girls are taking a liking for Star Wars products marketed more at boys.

Christians & non-Christians Agree: College is about getting a job
Despite the abundance of Christian learning institutions and campus ministries in the U.S., American Christian adults, including evangelicals, are no more likely than the religiously unaffiliated — or religious “nones” — to list spiritual growth as one of the reasons for going to college (9%). And evangelicals are less likely than both religious “nones” and the general population to include moral character development among the reasons for seeking a postsecondary education (10% vs. roughly 14%).

Sources: Baptist Press, CBN, World Magazine, Christian Post, Influence Magazine

New task force to explore baptisms decline, ERLC complaints fail to materialize at Annual Meeting

Prayer begets

If we took a selfie in Phoenix, this would be it. Busy days framed by prayer are represented in this photo from the Phoenix Convention Center during the June 13-14 SBC Annual Meeting and the week of meetings, preaching, and witnessing that preceded it.

Debate over a resolution condemning “alt-right racism” took the spotlight, but lesser reported actions at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention will address another serious issue facing the denomination, an ongoing decline in baptisms and membership. And a matter some anticipated would make headlines failed to produce debate, complaints against leadership of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

SBC President Steve Gaines announced plans for a year-long study on evangelism in the denomination, and the presentation of a plan for more effective soul-winning by SBC churches and pastors. Gaines’ effort comes after another year of baptism declines and a decade of shrinking SBC church membership.

“I was not prompted by any man to get this done,” Gaines said in Phoenix, “but the Lord laid this on my heart to emphasize prayer last year, and to emphasize evangelism this year.”

The Memphis-area pastor, who was re-elected to a second one-year term, named 19 pastors, professors, and seminary presidents to a task force, which will bring

2018 convention in Dallas. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, a proponent of traditional personal evangelism, will chair the panel. And Illinois’ Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon will also serve.

Gaines asked North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell to present the motion creating the task force. Ezell outlined the troubling situation among SBC churches: The SBC has seen a steady decline in baptisms since 1980; 80% of SBC churches baptized 9 or fewer people in the most recent report of Annual Church Profiles, 50% reported two or fewer baptisms, and 25% baptized no one.

“I don’t think any pastor in the room would say they don’t have a passion for the lost, but I do think there is a practice problem,” Ezell said.

After the Phoenix meeting, Gaines urged continued prayer for renewal in our churches. “We must make prayer, evangelism and discipleship the priorities of our lives. We must jettison our selfish agendas and focus on Christ’s Great Commission,” Gaines said.

The Gaines

Donna Gaines prays fervently for her husband, SBC President Steve Gaines, just before he preaches during the opening session of the Annual Meeting. Gaines made prayer the focus of his first one-year term, and announced evangelism as the emphasis of his second term.

ERLC reports as usual
An anticipated debate over the ERLC did not materialize at the convention. Leaders had worked since January to heal strained relations between ERLC President Russell Moore and some pastors who objected to his comments about candidate Donald Trump last year, and also to his stance on a controversial religious liberty case involving construction of a mosque in New Jersey.

Moore would not comment on recent published reports that characterized the conflict as unresolved, positioning it as a generational tug-of-war between older Southern Baptists and younger leaders new to their positions. One report also said the ERLC is having difficulty accessing the Trump administration. Southern Baptists have been represented by Texas pastors Robert Jeffress and Jack Graham at recent White House functions involving religious freedoms.

Moore told the Illinois Baptist at a news conference that he saw the annual meeting as a “family reunion” of people who together advance the gospel.

The ERLC report was the last item on the convention agenda, when attendance in the hall is usually low and time for questions is limited. One motion to defund the ERLC was ruled out of order, as the SBC budget had been approved early in the opening session.

Moore restated the ERLC’s commitment to represent Southern Baptists on issues of marriage and family, sanctity of life, and religious liberty. “We are committed to be the Paul Revere, going ahead, speaking to churches, speaking to the officials, speaking to the public square… speaking to the watching world with a different word,” Moore said.
Moore interviewed Chicago pastor Nathan Carter about his church’s lawsuit against the city, which has blocked their purchase of a building in the University District because of parking rules.

‘Alt-right’ and other resolutions
Moore was at the table at a news conference on the first day of the convention, when the chair of the Resolutions Committee, former ERLC Vice President Barrett Duke explained why the panel did not bring the proposed resolution on racism and the alt-right supremacy movement to the floor for a vote. Moore was reportedly involved in the late-night writing session that produced a new resolution on the issue. And he addressed the proposal as a messenger from the floor.

“Southern Baptists were right to speak clearly and definitely that ‘alt-right’ white nationalism is not just a sociological movement,” Moore later said, “but a work of the devil.”

The resolution “on the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy” urged messengers to “earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

Another resolution addressed “the importance of moral leadership.” That resolution was a repeat of one passed during the Clinton administration’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. When asked whether the resolution was directed toward the Trump administration, Duke pointed out that neither the 1998 resolution or this one mentioned the president by name. We need moral leadership at every level, he said.

The resolution urged messengers to pray “that God will help us and all our fellow citizens to embrace the biblical moral values that will honor our creation in God’s image and bring God’s blessing on our nation.”

Ten resolutions in all were passed.

  • One on gambling specifically named it as a sin.
  • A statement reaffirmed the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement—which says Jesus took upon Himself in His death the divine punishment due sinners—“as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race.”
  • And a resolution on campus ministry “urged our fellow Southern Baptists to devote considerable prayer,” among other resources, to “evangelistic and discipleship endeavors” on college and university campuses.

More Midwest voices
The Executive Committee brought a $192-million Cooperative Program allocation budget for next year. Messengers approved it. They also granted permission for the EC to sell its current building in downtown Nashville, should they receive a good offer. A building boom in the city has made the property very valuable, as was the case with the massive LifeWay publisher’s facilities which were sold last year in order to downsize. Proceeds after relocation would go to missions, EC President and CEO Frank Page said.

Another motion brought more Midwest representation to the Executive Committee. Four regions were given representation, even though they have too few church members to apply under the provisions of SBC Bylaw 30. The recommendation amended Bylaw 18 to list the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana conventions as each being entitled to a single EC representative.

With this Annual Meeting, Illinois representative Wilma Booth completed two four-year terms on the EC. She will be succeeded by Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills. And Sharon Carty, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, will replace Charles Boling of Marion.

Messengers at the 2017 convention totaled 5,018.

The 2018 SBC will be held in Dallas.

-Eric Reed with additional reporting from Baptist Press

Broadview | Whatever happens in the general election, preach the Word—and stick to the Word—speakers at the 2016 IBSA Pastors’ Conference exhorted their audience. The first day of the meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago coincided with the concluding games of the World Series, so several of the speakers got in on the Cubs banter, but ultimately the stuck to the Word.

david-sutton

David Sutton

“We think about what’s going on in our world today,” said pastor David Sutton of Bread of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, who also served as president and organizer of the event. “So much grief,” he said, referring to a record number of shootings in the city the previous weekend. “When I think about this being an election year, it seems to further exacerbate things—there are so many things we can allow to divide us—even where we live, if we live in a rural town or a large community.”

The theme for the conference is “Crossroads, our pathway to reconciliation,” building on the “Cross Culture” theme of the IBSA Annual Meeting which will follow the pastors’ gathering.

“I believe God has called us together for such a time as this, even as we stand together in such a divided time,” Sutton said, pointing out the dichotomies of Illinois’ geography and population. “We come from so many different groups and backgrounds, [but] even in our differences we can come together…. I heard one preacher say we may not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t walk together hand-in-hand.”

The featured preachers built on that theme, repeatedly igniting the crowd of pastors from Northern and Southern Illinois, black and white and Hispanic and Asian, in cheers and applause.

fred-luter-2

Fred Luter

“If God can change you and me, the same God can change their lives,” said Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, speaking of lost people, particularly those engaged in drugs, gang activity, and a litany of sinful lifestyles he enumerated.

“In your B.C. days, in other words, in your ‘before Christ’ days, what did it take to change you? Before you stopped drinking, before you stopped shacking up, before you stopped using the N-word, before you stopped going to casinos and playing the lottery (I hoped you stopped!)… you heard the gospel! You heard the gospel of Jesus Christ! You were transformed by the power of the gospel…. The same gospel can change our city and can change those knuckleheads in our streets!”

Luter, who served as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged the crowd: “Come on preachers, let’s preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! Come on teachers, let’s teach the gospel of Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, Jesus saves!”

scott-nichols

Scott Nichols

Illinois pastor Scott Nichols of Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, said “reconciliation is painful, hard work” but it’s our calling for “those in the grip of sin…because God’s done reconciliation in my life. Our purpose is not growing our church. The purpose is making us like Christ. The purpose is winning the world to Christ,” Nichols said.

Politics was overshadowed by Gospel in the preaching and in the breakout sessions. “Leave the political stuff alone, that is only going to divide,” said Ron Gray, pastor of The Connection Church in Chicago, in a breakout session.

“With all this is going on around us, someone should be asking ‘Is God trying to tell us something?” said H. B. Charles, Jr., a skilled expositor and pulpiteer from Jacksonville, Florida.

hb-charles3

HB Charles, Jr

“God speaks by his actions, but God also speaks by in his inactions.” There is the wrath that is due man’s rebellion, “and there is the wrath of abandonment” for those who persist in the sins listed in Romans 1, as God turns them over to the outcomes of their sins.

As several speakers said, whatever the outcome of the election on November 8, the next day God will still be on the throne and in charge. “I was tempted to label this sermon the unelected and unimpeachable king!” Charles said. “His almighty Son has already been appointed King, and he is not up for re-election.”

“Thank you, Lord!” came the reply from the pews.

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