RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Twenty-nine Southern Baptists were appointed as missionaries to the nations during the International Mission Board’s trustee meeting Feb. 28-March 1 near Richmond, Va. Trustees also heard numerous reports and recognized 63 missionaries who retired or died within the past year.
During IMB’s Sending Celebration service, new missionaries represented churches that cooperate with 11 state Baptist conventions. The missionaries will take the Gospel to peoples in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Newly appointed missionary Carter Finley* of North Carolina said God is providing unprecedented opportunities for her to serve Him among the nations, and “with a degree in fibers, fabrics and handcrafted textiles, along with a desire to take the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, the Lord is allowing her to literally and figuratively weave the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of Central Asians.”
Aaron and Melissa Stormer of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., are being sent to the American peoples. Aaron said they are going “because we know that God’s heart is for all people to know His name.”
Melissa noted she realized God’s heart for the nations while sharing the Gospel in a small mountain village in Haiti.
“I felt Jesus whispering, ‘I died for them as well as you,'” she said during the March 1 celebration. Her husband felt God calling him to the mission field while walking the stone-lined streets and surrounded by blue tiles and the lost people of Porto, Portugal.
“God has called us to go and carry out His mission in order that the lost may be found and His truth proclaimed,” she said.
Jim* and Pam Smith* expressed thanks that Southern Baptist churches work together through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to send and support missionaries. Jim said it was as a young Royal Ambassador (a Southern Baptist missions discipleship program) at a church in Virginia that he became aware of God’s heart for the nations. From Panama to China, short-term mission trips were formative in turning his heart toward the nations.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid in Colorado and Virginia, Pam felt God used short-term mission trips from the bush of Kenya to the busy streets of Turkey to awaken her desire to go from short-term to full-time missions. The Virginia couple will share the Gospel in South Asia.
‘A day of wide open doors’
During the trustees’ plenary session, IMB President David Platt implored trustees to lead Southern Baptists away from the deception, diversion, distraction and division that have dominated news not just in American culture, but also in the church, and specifically the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather, Southern Baptists should be looking at what the apostle Paul refers to as a “wide door for effective work” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
“We are living in a day of wide open doors here and around the world, and it is high time for Southern Baptists not to divide, but to join together — not to be distracted, but to be resolutely focused on the purpose for which we came together in the first place: the spread of the Gospel in a world of urgent need … a world of urgent need and unprecedented opportunity,” Platt said.
Sharing a video story about Abuk, a young refugee from Africa who obediently answered God’s call to return to Africa to make disciples, Platt praised God for a Southern Baptist church in Amarillo, Texas, that reached out to the immigrant family.
“We hear those words “refugee, immigrant” today, and they’re so politically charged, and if we’re not careful, we can start to picture immigrants as problems to be solved, not people to be loved,” Platt said. “Brothers and sisters, there are wide open doors to love people right around us in a way that leads to love for people all around the world.
“This is a story of a refugee turned IMB missionary! And that’s possible — why? Did you see the news headline in that video? ‘Baptists come together despite barriers.’ Oh, may that be the commentary on our cooperation in this day of wide open doors.”
This story was compiled by Baptist Press staff with reporting from the International Mission Board and is reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
* Names changed.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Amid continuing discussion of churches’ escrowing or withholding Cooperative Program funds, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee launched two efforts to study the issue at its Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville.
The EC’s actions related to CP came less than a week after it was reported that Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” See related story. Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.
In light of such reports, the EC’s CP Committee unanimously adopted a motion “that the chairman of the Cooperative Program Committee form a subcommittee … to study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting.”
Adoption of the motion followed extended discussion, in which EC members and other attendees urged the committee to take action.
CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade told Baptist Press the “concern of the committee is anything that’s negatively impacting the Cooperative Program,” Southern Baptists’ unified channel for funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.
“We need to know about” such challenges, said Slade, pastor of Meridian Southern Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., “and be on top of creating redemptive solutions.”
The ad hoc subcommittee likely will be appointed by Feb. 25, Slade said.
During a Feb. 21 plenary session, EC member Tony Crisp requested that EC officers “monitor the activities of our various Southern Baptist entities since our last convention … in relation to how those activities might adversely affect” CP and “our churches and other stewardship structures of Southern Baptists.” He requested a report to the full EC at its June 12 meeting in Phoenix.
EC chairman Stephen Rummage responded that the request was “certainly within the purview and responsibilities of our officers … so we are glad to comply with that request.”
Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told BP the two efforts to study CP challenges — by the CP Committee and the EC officers — are “complementary” and will “help inform” one another.
“The issues behind churches escrowing funds have risen to a level of prominence that justifies us taking a special look” at what is occurring, Rummage said.
In other action, the EC recommended a 2017-18 SBC Operating Budget of $7,450,000.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for world missions ministries.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will yield: Gateway Seminary, 2.11 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 2.93 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.72 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.03 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.17 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 3.96 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)
The budget proposal designates 1.65 percent to the ERLC.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
PLANO, Texas (BP) — A Dallas-area megachurch has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds temporarily in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention causes.
At issue are what the congregation calls “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement the church released to Louisiana’s Baptist Message newsjournal.
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will escrow what would amount to $1 million annually, the Message reported Feb. 16.
In a text to Baptist Press, Message Editor Will Hall noted he had queried Prestonwood about its giving to SBC causes after pastor Jack Graham was interviewed in December by The Wall Street Journal. Graham told The Journal the church was “considering making major changes in our support of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
At issue, Graham said in the interview, was alleged “disrespectfulness” by ERLC President Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Moore, who publicly opposed Trump during the primary and general election cycles, said in a December blog post he never intended to criticize all evangelicals who supported Trump.
Graham is a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Some Southern Baptists also have criticized the ERLC for joining a friend of the court brief last May in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque. The International Mission Board joined the brief as well, and IMB President David Platt apologized Feb. 15 for the divisive nature of the action. See related story.
Graham, a former SBC president, told BP via text message Prestonwood is engaging in “an internal evaluation” of its giving, “and our desire is not to seek publicity so we can make the right decision for our church and Southern Baptists.”
Asked whether Prestonwood also will escrow funds for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention — the state convention with which it cooperates — Graham responded, “We’re evaluating everything.”
Graham told the Message he is “not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people, and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.” He wants Prestonwood to remain “a cooperating partner with the SBC as we have been for many years” but cited “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”
SBTC executive director Jim Richards told BP in a statement, “In our fellowship of churches, Prestonwood Baptist Church has been a faithful ministry partner for many years. We love Jack Graham and his people. It is our hope that these concerns can be resolved in a way that strengthens the kingdom work of Southern Baptists and honors the autonomy of the local church. We stand ready to assist as we have opportunity.”
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”
Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who serves on the ERLC’s Leadership Council tweeted following Prestonwood’s announcement, “I love and appreciate” Jack Graham “but am an ardent advocate for #ReligiousLiberty and for” CP. “I’m just heartbroken & conflicted.”
In related news, First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., announced last month it would escrow funds traditionally given through CP over concerns related to ERLC and IMB participation in the New Jersey mosque brief. First Baptist pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November over the brief.
Louisiana Baptist Convention executive director David Hankins and former SBC Executive Committee chairman Bill Harrell both told The Wall Street Journal they know of churches considering a diversion of funds away from the ERLC.
Threats to escrow CP funds have occurred periodically in SBC history. In the mid-1980s, some Southern Baptist conservatives threatened to escrow CP funds if moderates regained control of the convention presidency, BP reported.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.
by David Roach
ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — International Mission Board President David Platt has apologized to Southern Baptists for the divisive nature of an amicus brief the IMB joined last May in support of a New Jersey’s Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.
“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said Feb. 15 during a meeting with Baptist state paper editors in Ontario, Calif.
“I can say with full confidence,” he said, “that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”
Platt offered a similar apology to executive directors of Baptist state conventions, who met in the same location.
The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae — Latin for “friend of the court” — brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.
In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.
In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.
Going forward, Platt said, missions is “what I long for the conversation about the IMB to be focused on, for the sake of those who have never heard.”
Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”
In the future, a new process for filing amicus briefs is needed, Platt said, “that will involve my office and our trustees.” He pledged to discuss such a policy during a Feb. 28-March 1 IMB trustee meeting.
Platt also told editors, “Going back to at least 2010, so far before I stepped into this role, our … legal department has filed various similar briefs related to religious liberty. And since 2010, all of those matters have been handled by our legal department.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a former IMB trustee chairman, told Baptist Press Platt’s “remarks to state executive directors were very well received.”
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis told Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal, “I greatly appreciate the directness and humility that the leader of our flagship missions organization demonstrated in meeting with Baptist state convention executive directors. I saw the same spirit in one-on-one conversations with Dr. Platt.”
Davis added, “I am very comfortable from having spent some time with Dr. Platt that this will not be an issue moving forward and that it certainly will be with some level of involvement by IMB trustees.”
Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the Gospel.
Haun’s resignation was reported in several Baptist state papers last month.
Platt told BP in a statement last month, “As a result of discussions among IMB trustees and staff over recent months, we have revised our processes for our legal department filing any future amicus briefs.”
With reporting by Baptist Press editor Shawn Hendricks and Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.
Throng of about 90 attacks prayer meeting of 80.
NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern Uganda and eight other Christians are missing two weeks after a Muslim mob attacked a church prayer meeting, locked the congregation in, beat several members and raped 15 women, sources said.
The approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda, in Katira village, Budaka District at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks, area sources said. Previously Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation, villagers said.
At the evening service, about 80 members were present, and among those who escaped before the doors were locked was a Christian who heard one of the assailants shout, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity,” a church leader said.
Pastor Moses Mutasa had been outside questioning some visitors unknown to the church when several others arrived shouting, “Away with the pastor,” and he fled, said the Rev. Musa Mukenye, who oversees several churches in the district’s Iki-iki County.
“We do not know what has happened to our pastor, Moses Mutasa,” Pastor Mukenye told a meeting of local officials, police and other security officers. “He might have been killed or has been kept hostage.”
The assailants locked about half of those in attendance inside the building, beat the men and tied them up while they raped women, said a church elder stationed outside the building who escaped. About 50 men and 30 women had attended the prayer meeting, and most of those locked inside were women, sources said.
Muslim assailants positioned outside the church building also beat men and raped women as they tried to escape, a church elder said.
“Women’s clothing was found inside and outside the church building,” he said.
The abused women received treatment at a clinic in Katira.
Police arrived about two hours after the assault began, sources said. Several church members were also injured as they were trampled in the rush to get out of the building. Much church property was damaged, especially chairs.
The assailants were Muslims from the area, which is predominantly Muslim, sources said.
When police arrived, the attackers fled. Two days later, church members found leaflets accusing the pastor of converting Muslims and threatening more attacks, villagers said.
On the morning after the attack, some church members intent on retaliating gathered, and as tensions mounted police intervened, convening a meeting with Christian, Muslim and local political leaders on Jan. 22.
Christians were planning to destroy the village mosque in order to send a message that they were not cowards, but Pastor Mukenye pleaded for them to adopt an attitude of forgiveness, and they refrained, he said.
Pastor Mukenye told Morning Star News that Christians should leave justice to authorities.
“This act is evil, and police should not relent until the attackers are arrested and charged in a court of law,” he said.
The assault was the latest in a series of incidents of persecution against Christians in eastern Uganda. On Jan. 2 Islamic extremists ambushed a church leader in eastern Uganda after a sheikh they had sent to assassinate him at a Dec. 4 church service instead became a Christian, sources said.
At a New Year’s celebration in Bugayi village in Pallisa District, Muslim relatives of a young woman who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison, she said. On Christmas Day, Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.
On Dec. 8, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, were trying to gather cassava at 10 a.m. on the homestead he had been forced to abandon in Bufuja village, Butaleja District, after Muslim relatives threatened to kill him if he returned.
Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he publically confessed having embraced Christianity, managed to escape the fury of those who arrived at his farm on Dec. 8 while he and his mother were trying to harvest something to eat, he told Morning Star News.
Namutongi became a Christian after visiting her ostracized, injured son on Nov. 26 and listening to his faith journey, a local source said. He has continued to receive threatening messages, he said.
On Oct. 20, 2016, Muslims in Kobolwa village, Kibuku District gutted the home of a Christian family for housing two boys who had been threatened with violence for leaving Islam. Stephen Muganzi, 41, told Morning Star News that the two teenaged boys sought refuge with him on Oct. 16 after their parents earlier in the month learned of their conversion, began questioning them and threatened to kill them. The two boys, ages 16 and 17, had secretly become Christians nearly seven months before.
On Sept. 18, 2016, a Muslim in Budaka District beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service, sources said. Hussein Kasolo had recently married Fatuma Baluka, 21-year-old daughter of an Islamic leader in a predominantly Muslim village, undisclosed for security reasons.
On Aug. 10, a Christian woman in eastern Uganda became ill after she was poisoned, she said.
Aisha Twanza, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, ingested an insecticide put into her food after family members upbraided her for becoming a Christian, she told Morning Star News. She and her husband, who live in Kakwangha village in Budaka District, put their faith in Christ in January 2016.
In Busalamu village, Luuka District, eight children from four families have taken refuge with Christians after their parents beat and disowned them for leaving Islam or animism, sources said. The new-found faith of the children, ages 9 to 16, angered their parents, who beat them in an effort to deter them from sneaking to worship services, and on June 29, 2016 the young ones took refuge at the church building, area sources said.
About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another, but Christians in eastern Uganda are suffering continual attacks by non-state figures.
© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.