Saturday, March 8, 2008

In Memory of Bill Eubank

William Donald Eubank (May 10, 1970 - March 6, 2008)

One of the members of my Bible Study (ever so briefly) died far too young on Thursday after nobly battling cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

EUBANK, WILLIAM DONALD (BILL) - beloved son, brother, uncle, friend went to be with his Heavenly Father March 6, 2008, after a two-year battle with cancer. Born May 10, 1970 in Dearborn, Michigan, he graduated from Dearborn High School, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas. Bill's heart was missions, serving with the International Mission Board in Edmonton, Alberta, and Paris, France, in addition to many volunteer mission trips all over the world. In December 2005 he moved to St. Jacob, IL to begin a new work with Bridge the Divide Ministries, a non-profit therapeutic riding program that exists to immerse young people with special needs in the unconditional love of God through horses. Three months later he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and returned to Knoxville for treatment. As health permitted, he volunteered and interned with students through Baptist Collegiate Ministries on the University of Tennessee campus until December 2007. Cards, calls, and emails from around the world these past two years attested to hid genuine love and friendliness to those around him and his faithfulness and dedication to the Lord. He is survived by his parents, Jack and Barbara Eubank; sisters, Jennifer(Scott) Moreland and Rebecca(James) Whitehorn, all of Knoxville; brother, Jay (Cheryl) Eubank of Collierville, TN; nieces and nephews, Shannon, Paige and Sydney Eubank of Collierville, TN, Allie, Ben, Crista Moreland of Knoxville; Zachary, Andrew and Lindsey Whitehorn of Knoxville. "Uncle Beel" was always a hit of family get-togethers, as his adoring nieces and nephews loved to hear his songs and stories. Special thanks to Dr. Tim Pannella at UT Cancer Institute and his very caring staff, especially Ruth and the Chemo nurses; and the doctors and staff at Exodus Chiropractic in Farragut for their prayers and tender touch. A graveside service will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday at Highland Memorial Cemetery. In case of inclement weather the committal service will be held in the Chapel of Highland Memorial. Funeral and celebration of life service at 2:00 PM Saturday, First Baptist Church-Knoxville, 510 Main Street. Receiving of friends and a reception will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, the family request memorial contributions be made to the UT Baptist Collegiate Ministry, 1811 Melrose, Knoxville, TN 37916 or Bridge the Divide Ministry, 1729 State Route 4, St. Jacob, IL 62281. Bill's quest book is available at for those wishing to share their thoughts. Highland Memorial is honored to serve the Eubank family. (588-0567)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Prayer Blog - 3/7/2008

SRM & BEBM are pregnant with baby #2. Pray for great health during the pregnancy and the child’s future. It already has a good head start with great parents.

As an aside, is there some fertility supplement in the water in the CBC young married class?

Bible Trivia - 3/7/2008

Question: How many times was Samson married?

Answer: Once. (Judges 15)

Comments: Samson was married, but his wife was not the notorious, Delilah. He merely “loved” her. (Judges 16:4)

Word of the Day - 3/7/2008


A paean is any song of praise, joy, or triumph.

Regardless of their subclassification, all 150 psalms are paeans. The Hebrew word for psalm is Tehilim, (תהילים), or "praises."

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/7/2008

Thursday night marked my much anticipated trip to the circus. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus® was in town presenting “Boom A Ring”at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. KLTW, KJW, RAW and I attended. As you can tell from this picture en route to the event, KJW’s expectations were very high.

We planned the trip several weeks ago. The discussion began with me noting my desire to take the child but that I had been advised, at 20 months, she was too young to go. RAW noted that she was his child and that he would decide what she was too young for. KLTW then chimed in that she had never been to the circus. With that, there was no doubt - we were going to the circus.

Before recapping the night, I must first vent about the cost. I paid $15 a seat for four seats in the bleachers. This is reasonable. The service charge was $17! There is something wrong when the service charge exceeds the cost of a ticket.

I had not been to the circus in years. The renowned elephant, King Tusk, who was thought to be the largest land mammal traveling the face of the earth while he was performing, was the big attraction the last time I went (1987).

The circus has seen better days. The three rings have been scaled down to one and the high wire was not even over the center ring. I think my living room has a greater diameter than the wire. The performers did not even use a net and I do not think it was because they were that well trained. The circus was so much bigger when I went as a child. I realize that part of the reason is that I am bigger, but they have definitely lost a step. RAW and I blame PETA.

KJW largely enjoyed the experience. The endless flashing lights captivated her. She ate popcorn and funnel cake for the first time. To say that she savored them would be an understatement. She liked the animals as well, especially the elephants. Unfortunately, the portion of the show we viewed was not animal centered.

She had little to no interest in the string of clowns, gymnasts, trapeze artists, tight rope walkers, etc. that paraded in front of us. Not to be cruel, but the child’s knowledge of gravity is severely lacking, which limited her appreciation. The acts were also one trick ponies that stayed on stage too long.

After a ridiculously long intermission (for the sole purpose of hawking overpriced merchandise), like most of the children in attendance, KJW was done. We stayed to watch the tigers briefly, but we left very soon after intermission. So the critics were right. She was probably too young. But, she enjoyed it and besides, we wanted to go.

What was her favorite part of the circus? Honestly, I am pretty sure it was crawling up the stairs and around the muck that littered the floors during intermission. We'll call it "exploring" the arena Oh well. We’ll back in two years. (It did seem like four was the optimum age for circus attendance.)

After KJW briefly visited my parents (who love her) I was off to hang out with JTH. We ate at Applebees with Couple X. It was there that we learned why JTH had ordered the wrong meal earlier in the week. If you remember, he had been bragging on a chicken dish and convinced me to get it as well. When the food arrived, it was not what he had expected. Well, we now know it was Applebees’ Fiesta Lime Chicken® that he loves. This explains why we ordered the wrong meal on Monday. We were at Chilis.

While at the Bees, we had the unexpected pleasure of seeing RLN. He told us that while he had only eaten at the restaurant three times in a year, we had been there each time. Maybe we do eat there too much...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/6/2008

Associated Baptist Press

March 6, 2008 (8-26)

Judge rules in Windermere’s favor, against convention
On March 4, Catholics boost Clinton; evangelicals can’t save Huckabee
Journalist Moyers’ son recounts journey from addiction to faith
Baptists Today to honor Knight at 25th anniversary celebration
Opinion: The battle for power and the spirit of Christ

Judge rules in Windermere’s favor, against convention
By Vicki Brown

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- Windermere Baptist Conference Center acted legally when it changed its articles of incorporation, Cole County (Mo.) Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan ruled March 4.

The ruling was the latest action in a lawsuit the Missouri Baptist Convention filed against five formerly related entities -- Windermere, the Baptist Home retirement-home system, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and the newspaper Word & Way -- more than five years ago.

The convention plans to appeal, according to MBC lead attorney Michael Whitehead in an article on the website of the convention’s in-house newspaper, The Pathway.

“We are very thankful for Judge Callahan’s decision,” Windermere President Dan Bench said in a March 5 written statement. “After carefully considering the merits of the case, the judge made the decision we have always believed was right. We look forward to putting this unhappy event behind us and to have all the Baptists of Missouri rejoicing and serving together.”

The convention first filed suit Aug. 13, 2002, in an effort to force the five institutions to rescind changes they had made in their corporate charters. The Baptist Home changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. The other four agencies took similar actions in 2001.

The March 4 ruling centered on two aspects of the convention’s argument: corporate membership and a contractual relationship with Windermere. The judge ruled that the Missouri convention is not a member of Windermere’s corporation and that no contract exists between the two entities.

Until August 2000, the convention had governed Windermere through its executive board. Messengers to the 1999 MBC annual meeting approved a reorganization plan that included incorporation of Windermere and Word & Way as separate entities. Windermere’s charter, drawn up in 2000, noted the new corporation would have no members.

The Missouri convention has acknowledged that the original incorporation articles declare that Windermere has no members. But attorneys argued that because Windermere had granted the convention permission to elect the center’s trustees, the action made the convention, de facto, the only member of Windermere’s corporation.

Callahan said Missouri law dictates that individuals can participate in election of an agency’s board without becoming a corporate member of that organization. A corporation without members does not become a corporation with members just because it grants limited rights to a third party, he ruled.

The first judge in the case, Thomas Brown, ruled on the Missouri Baptist University’s behalf in 2003. Brown lost his bid for reelection in 2006, and the case was subsequently assigned to Callahan.

Windermere also has the right to change its charter without convention approval, Callahan said. “The ‘rights and privileges’ given to the MBC and/or its messengers under Windermere’s original articles were not ‘fixed, unalterable, irrevocable’ rights, but were rights or privileges subject to amendment by Windermere,” the judge wrote.

He added that while the law protects the convention’s rights, trustee election is merely a privilege that Windermere’s original incorporating articles had granted to the convention. He also noted that as a drafter of the original charter, the Missouri convention could have clearly spelled out the rights to be granted.

The judge dismissed the idea that Windermere’s articles of incorporation and the MBC’s governing documents -- its constitution and bylaws, its business and financial plan, and the executive board’s articles of incorporation and bylaws -- created a contract between the two entities. The charter, he said, constitutes a contract only between the center and the State of Missouri.

The court also noted that a binding covenant agreement did not exist between the convention and Windermere because the agreement did not list obligations for both parties. The convention could change the agreement unilaterally simply by changing its governing documents, and the convention had the right to terminate a covenant agreement at any time, Callahan said.

Furthermore, Callhan said, no mutual obligation between the two existed because under the governing documents’ provisions, the convention was not obligated to support the center and could withdraw any support it provided at any time. The convention withdrew Cooperative Program funds because of the charter changes.

Judge Callahan recognized control as an underlying issue.

“Plaintiffs argue, without factual support, that the MBC only released control over the assets, operations and/or funds because it knew it would retain some degree of control; that it would make no sense for the MBC to enter into the arrangement unless the right of continued control was perpetual; and that the MBC believed it would retain some degree of control,” he wrote.

The court noted that any contract “depends on what is actually said and done … not upon understanding or supposition.”

Judge Callahan denied the convention’s request for a permanent injunction against Windermere. The injunction would have banned the center from any construction work, from borrowing funds or from selling or encumbering its assets.

The court has 30 days in which to make any changes to the order or to withdraw it. The convention will have an additional 10 days in which to file an appeal.

Whitehead said the convention is disappointed that the Windermere case did not go before a jury. Representatives from the Missouri convention said they plan to ask the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District to offer a ruling rather than to return the case to the circuit court.

In 2005, appellate judges sent the case back to Cole County Circuit Court after the state convention appealed Brown’s dismissal of legal action against the university. Brown had ruled that the MBC Executive Board and six Missouri Baptist individuals who filed the original lawsuit did not have the legal right to do so. The appeals court overruled the Cole County judge on the board’s standing and upheld Brown’s decision.

The Windermere case does not directly affect the other four institutions because each are listed as individual defendants.

“Windermere Baptist Conference Center is very pleased with Judge Callahan’s well-reasoned … judgment ruling in favor of Windermere and against plaintiffs with respect to each and every claim and issue raised in the lawsuit,” the center’s lead attorney, Jim Shoemake, said in an e-mail statement. “Windermere is confident that Judge Callahan’s judgment will be upheld by the court of appeals.”


On March 4, Catholics boost Clinton; evangelicals can’t save Huckabee
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- In the March 4 election contests, Hillary Clinton reestablished her previous support among Catholic Democrats while continued evangelical support wasn’t enough to keep Mike Huckabee in the GOP race.

The upshot of religious voters’ effect in the elections may be a continuing racial and religious divide on the Democratic side and a continued lack of enthusiasm for the party’s presumptive nominee among Republican evangelicals.

Exit-poll data show that the New York senator and former first lady returned to her previous strong support from Catholics in the four states that voted -- Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. Her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, had begun to cut into that bloc with a string of wins between the Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” states and the March 4 contest.

Obama had managed to erase Clinton’s advantage among Catholics -- or whittle it down to insignificant amounts -- in sates like Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin.

But those gains seemed to be reversed in the March 4 primaries. In Texas -- the biggest prize of the night -- Clinton walloped Obama among Catholics by a 65-33 percent margin. Among Protestants, the split was even at 49-49 percent, more reflective of the overall picture of a state that Clinton won by less than three percentage points.

Clinton was likely helped by her overwhelming support among the state’s significant Latino population, who are mostly Catholic. Catholics make up 33 percent of Texas’ Democratic voters.

In Ohio, Clinton’s margin among Catholics was similar, at 63-36 percent. Catholics make up 23 percent of the Democratic electorate in that state. Among the overall population, she beat Obama more handily in Ohio than in Texas.

In both states, when voters’ preferences were sorted by how often they attend religious services, the Democratic candidates tended to be close in most attendance categories. However, there were two significant exceptions.

In Texas, the most regular worshipers -- those who said they attend church more than once a week -- supported Obama over Clinton 54-43 percent. That is in line with most previous states, where the most frequent church attendees have tended to favor Obama over his rival.

But in Ohio, Clinton beat Obama by 21 points among those who said they attend church only “a few times a year.” That category, at 31 percent, is the largest worship-based grouping among the state’s Democratic voters.

On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain clinched his party’s nomination by winning Texas. In response, Huckabee -- the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister -- withdrew from the contest.

“It's now important that we turn our attention not to what could have been or what we wanted to have been, but what now must be -- and that is a united party,” Huckabee said in his concession speech.

But continuing ideological and stylistic fractures in the party were evident from the returns and the exit-poll results. In both states, even though for weeks it has been clear that it is mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win enough delegates to contend for the party’s nomination, he still won at least 31 percent of the vote.

In Texas and Ohio, Huckabee beat McCain by, respectively, 7 and 8 percentage points among GOP voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians. He also beat the senator in both states among voters who said the most important factor in determining their vote is supporting a candidate who shares their values. And, in both states, Huckabee won among the most frequent church attendees.

But McCain won Catholics by significant margins in both states. In Ohio, he beat Huckabee among Catholics by a significantly larger margin than he did in the general population.

In Texas, where McCain was criticized for courting the endorsement of a prominent evangelical pastor many consider virulently anti-Catholic, he nonetheless won Catholics 59-25 percent.

The endorsement by John Hagee, a prominent television preacher and Religious Right leader, may prove crucial for McCain. The Arizonan has had an uneasy relationship with many conservative evangelical opinion leaders regarding issues ranging from his stance on embryonic stem-cell research to passing an anti-gay-marriage amendment for the federal Constitution.

McCain was raised as an Episcopalian, but he regularly attends a Southern Baptist church when he is home in Phoenix.


Journalist Moyers’ son recounts journey from addiction to faith
By John Hall

SAN ANTONIO (ABP) -- William Cope Moyers grew up believing the prayer his parents taught him: “God is great. God is good.”

But when his childlike faith in a good and great God died in a flash, he sought to fill the void in his soul with drugs and alcohol.

Moyers described his long struggle of recovery from substance abuse -- and recovery of his faith -- at the Texas Baptist Christian Life Conference March 4 in San Antonio. The meeting was sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Growing up, Moyers recalled having everything most children want. As the son of acclaimed journalist and Lyndon Johnson aide Bill Moyers, he considered his childhood idyllic. His parents loved him. They provided for all his needs physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

In return, he was everything most parents want. He excelled in school. He was active in his community and his church.

“I lacked for nothing growing up,” he said. “I had it all. I led a comfortable life.”

That changed in an instant on July 18, 1971, a date he describes as the day “God let me down.” While he and his family were vacationing in the mountains of New Mexico, he saw a lightning bolt strike a tree, travel through it and hit a nearby family. It killed the entire family and Moyers’ faith simultaneously.

“That was my introduction to death and the end of life, and the death of my faith,” he said. It also signaled the beginning of “questions that would haunt me for decades.”

Moyers struggled to rationalize how a God he understood to be “great” and “good” could allow -- or worse, cause -- something like that to happen. He tried desperately to reclaim his faith, even going to the extent of getting baptized, but felt no different. He would fall asleep whispering, “God, where are you?”

As the search went on, he began struggling with a sense of unworthiness and his imperfect faith. At 15, Moyers found what seemed to fill what he described as “the hole in my soul” -- marijuana.

“I developed a faith in a power greater than myself,” he said. “That was the marijuana that I voluntarily ingested in my body.”

At 18, he began drinking (which, at that time, was legal). In time, Moyers was binge drinking and addicted to hard drugs, including crack cocaine. He became more distant from others, including his family. He didn’t take care of himself physically. He was no longer active in a church.

“I was a walking wreck,” he said. “Alcohol and drugs stole my soul and hijacked my brain.”

At age 30, he hit bottom in a Harlem crack house. When his family discovered the extent of his addiction, they were shocked.

“My wife never saw it coming,” he said. “My parents were stunned.”

After three weeks in the psychiatric ward of a New York hospital and an extended stay at a residential treatment center in Minnesota, Moyers began the recovery process, but looking back, he sees it only as a tentative beginning.

“I began to make my dance with God again, but it was a dance to a tune I composed and sang -- a dance on my terms,” he said.

Moyers forthrightly described the false starts and relapses he has experienced. He reached a turning point during a major relapse that left him on the floor of another crack house, this time in Atlanta.

“I went there to die. I had been swallowed alive by the black hole of despair,” he said. The malt liquor and cocaine Moyers was consuming were no longer having the same affect on him, he added. They “were no longer the shield of deniability that I was going down.”

As suddenly as the lightning strike that began his downward spiral, a bolt of hope literally came knocking on the door of the crack house. A voice, Moyers said, called for “the white guy.”

“It was not me getting up off the floor,” he said. “My legs were moving, but it was not me moving my legs.”

“I said, ‘I’m done God, have me,’” he recalled. “In that moment, I was broken. And in that moment, I was delivered.”

From that point forward, Moyers has been on the road to recovery -- one day at a time, one step at a time.

He continues battling, saying that the recent days have been extremely tough and noting he’s “hit rock bottom” sober.

Asked to explain what that means, Moyers described it as “a painful moment when you realize how difficult life is.” But he insisted he is learning to “deal with life on life’s terms” without relying on drugs and alcohol.

In the recovery process, he rediscovered his faith. He’s betrayed his faith on occasion since becoming sober, he acknowledged, but he’s clung to it, as well. He trusts God will pull him through, a day at a time.

“Belief is one thing and trust is another,” he said. “I had to trust God could do for me what I could not do for myself.”


-- Ken Camp contributed to this story.

Baptists Today to honor Knight at 25th anniversary celebration
By John Pierce

MACON, Ga. (ABP) -- Walker Knight, founding editor of Baptists Today, will be honored April 3 as part of the independent news journal’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Knight launched the national publication first known as SBC Today in 1983, shortly after he left the editorship of the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board’s magazine, Home Missions.

Members of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., where he has been a member since 1959, supported his endeavor, and 45 fellow church members -- 12 with journalism experience -- offered their time and talents to the fledgling publication.

Oakhurst provided office space and $5,000 to purchase the needed equipment to begin publication. In 1983, Knight published the first issue of the journal. It aimed to serve moderates in the struggle over control of the Southern Baptist Convention, which in 1983 was at its peak.

Knight grew up around the newspaper business in Henderson, Ky., and worked as a reporter at night while completing high school.

After military service, Knight graduated with a journalism degree from Baylor University and worked as editor of a county newspaper in Marlin, Texas. In 1950, he became associate editor of the Baptist Standard, the Texas Baptist newspaper.

He finished his tenure as editor of what became Baptists Today in 1988, when Jack Harwell began a nine-year tenure as editor. Knight continued as publisher during the early part of Harwell’s service and returned as interim editor in 1997.

The April 3 award celebration will be in Atlanta. Daniel Vestal, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, will speak at the event.


Opinion: The battle for power and the spirit of Christ
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- In various ways I have been trying to pry open some space between our Christian understanding of the mission of the church and the work of earthly politics -- without creating such a gulf that we retreat entirely from civic engagement.

One of my foundational “anti-texts” for this emphasis is the statement by Jerry Falwell just after George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004: “The church won the 2004 election. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.” My burden is to help Christians come to understand how desperately wrong that kind of statement is at a theological and ecclesiological level.

Perhaps a shift to the other side of the political world -- the current struggle between Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) for the Democratic presidential nomination -- can help illuminate my meaning.

We have in this contest quite a rare situation in recent American politics. Not since 1976 have two candidates from the same party endured such a long-fought race for their party’s nomination. There is no sign that this contest will end soon. It may last until the Democratic convention.

There is something amazingly primal about this struggle. Both of these people really, really, really want to be president of the United States. Who can say what drives them? Surely it is some combination of personal ambition, moral ideals, policy goals, life experiences, and psychological attributes. Surely it is a mix of the thirst for power and significance combined with the desire to make this country and the world a better place.

All other Democratic candidates in this race have been defeated. Just two remain. Their policy differences are relatively trivial. Therefore they have to manufacture picayune campaign issues to argue about. Each day their contest continues makes the ultimate victory of either one in November a bit less likely. But those who think either one of them will step aside now for the good of the party do not understand human nature.

It’s like a cage match. Hillary and Barack are locked in a cage, and neither can leave until the other lies defeated on the canvas. If the survivor ends up a bloody mess and in no shape to take on Arizona Sen. John McCain, will it have been worth it? Is it better to go down in history as the (losing) Democratic nominee than never to have been that nominee at all?

In the long weeks that remain until the next major primary in late April, both of these candidates locked in their cage will have to decide how dirty they will fight. How dirty, how mean, how low, will they go -- in what they say about each other openly, in what they signal to their surrogates that they want them to say, in what promises they offer to superdelegates, and in what they do about the remaining disputed issues, such as what to do about Florida and Michigan’s lost primaries? Will either unilaterally “disarm,” even if it costs them the nomination? Not likely.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

He also said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And Paul said that Christ Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” He also said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Greg Boyd is right when he argues that there is something fundamentally different about this “power-under” Kingdom compared to the kingdoms of this world. It is true that the earthly kingdom centered in Washington, D.C., holds power that affects the well-being of all humanity, and therefore the decisions made there do have significance and relevance to the Reign of God. But the scrap for earthly power, with all of its vanity, pride, ambition, anger, low blows, and verbal (sometimes physical) violence, can never be identified with the mustard seed advance of the peaceable Kingdom of God.

I look back over these words of analysis related to the fight for power between Barack and Hillary. I think of the recent history of Baptists in the South. And I understand a little more clearly how deeply damaged our people became by the importing of the tactics and spirit of the earthly kingdom into institutions commissioned by Christ to advance the Kingdom of God.

No wonder some among us can identify the work of the church with the election of a favored politician. The difference between these two kingdoms had been lost long before.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

By ABP Staff

There was an error the March 4 ABP story, “Kidnapped worker, Afghan driver apparently dead in Afghanistan.” Baptist Global Response did not found the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center or the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, but is led by a man who ran both organiztions. Please change the 19th paragraph to read:

According to an April 10, 1997, BP story, the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center, led at the time by Palmer, launched ARLDF, which Palmer heads, in 1988.


Separated at Birth?

I saw a Brady Quinn advertisement for his sponsor EAS. My initial thought was - “What is Jason Ritter doing advertising exercise products?” Jason Ritter (right) is a promising young actor and son of the late John Ritter. Quinn (left) is a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

View from 315A

The Tennessee basketball team scored a huge victory at Florida on Wednesday night and clinched its first SEC championship in 41 years. The 27th win of the season set a new school record. The previous record was held by the 1999-2000 Vols who posted a 26-7 record.

The game mirrored the game with the Gators on February 5 in Knoxville. In that game, Florida jumped out to a 13-point lead before Tennessee ran away, 104-82. In Gainesville, Florida was up by as many as 16 before losing 89-86.

Florida hit its first nine shots of the game (including three three-point buckets from Walter Hodge) en route to shooting 68% in the first half. The Gators played well, shooting 60% from the field and 81% from the line during the game. Tennessee’s first lead did not come until 70-69.

Seniors JaJuan Smith (23 points) and Chris Lofton (21) led Tennessee. The duo combined to shoot 15 of 26 from the field, including 8 of 15 from 3-point range. Tyler Smith added 13 points and 8 rebounds, including a put back of a JaJuan Smith missed free throw that gave Tennessee the lead for good.

The game would have been Senior night for the Gators, except for the fact that all four of their would-be seniors are now playing in the NBA.

Some random game thoughts:

  • I do not know why Wayne Chism had athletic tape on his shoulder, but since the 49% free throw shooter knocked down both ends of a clutch one-and-one offering, I say keep it.
  • I would love to know what Florida’s Marreese Speights (yes, that is the correct spelling) said or did to Tyler Smith to merit the stare down he received in the second half.
  • I thought it was incredibly ironic that Duke Crews, of all people, was restraining Smith and playing the peacemaker. This was definitely not typecasting.
  • Florida freshman forward Chandler Parsons besmirches my name. I looked older in elementary school than he does now. Then again, I was shaving. Is he?
  • Not since Zack Morris has someone used as much hair product as Florida guard Nick Calathes. I must admit, the guy is a great player. He finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds.
  • At one point the announcer said, "JaJuan Smith is all over Nick Calathes" but it sounded like he said "JaJuan Smith is all over the ladies." This would have been far more interesting.
  • The obligatory Tim Tebow reference was made in the Florida game. I am just grateful that Verne Lundquist was not the commentator. Had he been, Tebow would have overshadowed the game and Lundquist would have asked him to don a jersey (or at least a cape) to win the game.

Bible Trivia - 3/6/2008, #2

Question: How old was David when he became king?

Answer: 30 years. (II Samuel 5:4)

Comments: Perhaps not coincidentally, David began his reign as king at the same age (30 years) as his descendant, Jesus, began his public ministry. (Luke 3:23) Hope for late bloomers everywhere: Great people often start great things at the age of 30. At least, that is how I choose to interpret these facts...

Bible Trivia - 3/6/2008

Question: Whose hair grew like feathers, and nails like bird claws?

Answer: Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 4:33)

Comments: The Biblical Nebuchadnezzar is known to history as Nebuchadnezzar II. He was a dominant monarch who reigned from 605 BC-562 BCE. He is still revered today as an historic leader in parts of the middle east.

His portrayal in the Bible is not always flattering. In Daniel 4, while boasting over his achievements, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God by the loss of his sanity for seven years. He subsequently lives in the wild like an animal.

he [Nebuchadnezzar] was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. (Daniel 4:33b, NASB)

Some scholars have claimed that the Nebuchadnezzar of Daniel is a composite character. One of the contributing figures, they assert, is Nabonidus, who was the paternal father of Belshazzar (depicted in Daniel 5). This role is assumed by Nebuchadnezzar in the Biblical text. The seven years of insanity would then correlate to Nabonidus' sojourn in Tayma in the desert. Evidence for this view is supported by some fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls that reference Nabonidus being smitten by God with a fever for seven years of his reign while his son Belshazzar was regent.

More conservative scholars have interpreted his behavior as evidence of the madness called clinical boanthropy or alternately porphyria, in which the victim believes she is an ox.

Others have gone so far as to speculate that Nebuchadnezzar suffered from a disease known as lycanthropy (i.e, "the change of a man into a wolf"). While I certainly do not advocate this theory, I love it as it implies that Nebuchadnezzar could very well have been the inspiration for teen wolf!

Word of the Day - 3/6/2008


To imprecate is to invoke or call down (evil or curses), as upon a person.

When Jesus was rejected while attempting to enter a Samaritan town, his disciples James and John asked if He wished them to imprecate the detractors, calling down fire from heaven. (Luke 9:52). No wonder Jesus dubbed the brothers “Boanerges” (“Son of Thunder”)! (Mark 3:17).

In Eckleburg’s Eyes - 3/6/2008

I spent the evening hanging out with KJW, MPW, RAW, and later KLTW. We ate and watched the Vols beat the Gators in basketball on television. MPW brought food from Arby’s. I put the bill on my tab. I had not owed him money in about a week and I now feel all is right with the world again.

In a respite from pink, KJW was wearing her mother’s favorite color - brown. Yes, that really is KLTW’s favorite hue. I did give KJW her red Cars t-shirt. Her other gifts will have to wait to be rationed at a later date. Left unchecked, Uncle Chan has a mild tendency to spoil the child. (By mild, I mean enormous.) Plus, each gift has a greater impact if it is the lone gift of the day.

KJW can now count to 12, though she habitually omits seven and eleven. Those are the only numbers with more than one syllable so we think she just struggles to enunciate them and instead of slowing down her rhythm, she just bypasses them. That or she does not like convenience stores. It’s a toss up.

Sadly, this is exactly how a good deal of people apply Scripture. They just leave out the portions they do not like. I will stop preaching now...

As evidenced by this picture, KJW has also learned to pick her nose. As can also be seen in the photo, we are so proud.

The highlight of the evening (outside of the Vol win) was when KJW asked MPW to show some skin so she could exclaim, “Woo Woo!” MPW, who would do anything for his niece, said promptly and stoicly, “I don’t ‘woo woo.’” Fair enough.

I did receive some bad news yesterday. Airborne appears to be a fraud! I have long taken the medication at the first signs of a cold to reduce its effects. My family and I have been supporters of Airborne since its inception. My mother especially wanted to support the fellow teacher who invented the drug. It appears we have all been duped.

A class action lawsuit alleged that Airborne Health, Inc. provided false advertising for the benefits of their product. The company claimed that their product provided the ability to cure or prevent the common cold as well as other therapeutic benefits. There is very little proof that the product works, leaving many customers to believe that they are paying money for a placebo.

Though the company technically has admitted no wrongdoing, they have lost a $23 million to suit. You can file an online claim against Airborne here. Being the Christian I am, I have opted to not file a claim. My Christianity and the fact that I am pretty sure walking around in shorts in winter does not help my health.

Finally, my beautiful baby cousin, ACN, turned 19 yesterday. This is her first birthday away from home as she is a freshman at UMass. I am quite proud of her (and all of my cousins). Unfortunately, I learned that she sustained a foot injury that prohibits her from her favorite pastime - dancing. Being the fine Christian minister I am, I offered to beat up the culprit who has curtailed her dancing. Unfortunately, she injured herself. So it appears I am obligated to beat her up. That is no good. Happy birthday, anyway. I will see you March 14 or soon thereafter!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Prayer Blog - 3/5/2008

DLNV received an e-mail today that speculates that her job at the University of Tennessee will be phased out next year as her tasks will be relegated to graduate assistants. She has held the job for roughly a decade. We all see this as a blessing as she has grown tired of the politics of the job. Pray that her bum son obtains a job soon that will relieve the financial burden from her family and that she will look at this situation as the blessing that it is.

View from 315A

Yesterday, Brett Favre announced his retirement from the NFL after 17 seasons. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and the only three-time MVP in NFL history. He had just completed a fabulous season, leading his Green Bay Packers to a 13-3 record en route to being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. In fact, it would appear that part of his rationale was that he did not feel he could top his last season.

He retires with a bevy of NFL records including, but not limited to, 5377 passes completions, 61655 passing yards and 442 touchdown passes.

In all of the reminiscing of his exploits on the football field, let us not forget his cameo in the 1998 film There's Something About Mary (where his name was memorably pronounced with two syllables as opposed to the correct “Färv") or the fact that his troubled sister is absolutely gorgeous (a former “Miss Teen Mississippi”). If I had a picture to post, believe me, I would. If you have a picture of her to post, send it to me. Seriously.

Bible Trivia - 3/5/2008, #2

Question: Name the first wife of Hosea?

Answer: Gomer. (Hosea 3:1)

Comments: At God’s command, Hosea marries the prostitute Gomer, the daughter of Diblatayim. Gomer’s marital unfaithfulness mirrors Israel’s infidelity to God. The story can be found in the Book of Hosea, one of twelve “Minor Prophets” featured in the canon.

Am I the only one who pictures Hosea’s wife looking like this? If so, I do not think she was a very prosperous prostitute...

Bible Trivia - 3/5/2008

Question: Who said, “We have found the Messiah.”?

Answer: Andrew. (John 1:41)

Comments: At the outset of the Gospel of John, Andrew tells his brother, Simon Peter, of his belief that the Messiah had been found. There is a subtle nuance in his profession. He does not claim, “I” have found the Messiah, but rather “we.”

Nowhere in the New Testament does Andrew utter the word, “I.” In telling his brother about Jesus, he effectively becomes the first home missionary in the New Testament and in telling the Greeks of Jesus in John 12:21-23, he also becomes the first foreign missionary. Nothing he did was ever self focused. To borrow a sports cliché, there is no “I ” in Andrew. His life was simply not about him. Perhaps this is why he was so effective.

Word of the Day - 3/5/2008


A heptad is the number seven or a group of seven.

The original deacons were a heptad of servants elected to distribute food to widows who were being neglected. (Acts 6:1-6) The original heptad consisted of “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.” (Acts 6:5, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/5/2008

My Tuesday morning was spent running errands. The only particularly fun chore was shopping for KJW’s clothes at Wal-Mart in Oak Ridge (my Wal-Mart). Her Nana and I are responsible for roughly 90% of her wardrobe. Yes, I do far better creating her ensembles than I do my own. (I know you were thinking it.) Besides, the kid looks good in anything.

Speaking of which, I had noticed that she has been wearing pink almost exclusively lately. While she does of course look pretty in pink (sorry, couldn’t resist), I set out to purchase apparel in a different color. So, I bought a blue Cars shirt and a red/pink Elmo 3-piece pajama set. She loves both Elmo and Cars.

I was alarmed when I was cutting the tags off of her clothes and found this warning label on the Elmo outfit. Evidently the manufacturers are highly against sagging as should the garment not “fit snuggly” it is more likely to catch on fire. That means that this scenario has happened. I would think that this would be a problem worthy of correction. I am going to fill so guilty if KJW spontaneously combusts! I am also thinking that this label does not absolve Wal-Mart of negligence either. Hopefully, I will not have to find out.

I also completed and filed my paperwork for HRC. Assuming there is no child molestation or felony activity in my criminal background check, I should start promptly. Though I have failed miserably in recent years, I am pretty sure I am good on those counts.

I ate dinner with my father at Calhoun’s while my mother attended the massive Women’s Event at our church. He asked me if I had any use for the $55 in Best Buy credit he had accrued and that was soon expiring. Does a fat baby poop? Needless to say, after dinner, I quickly used the credit, amassing a pre-tax bill of $54.97. I do not mean to brag, but this was masterful job, especially without the benefit of planning.

I bought Family Ties Season Three ($34.99), The Remains of the Day on DVD ($7.99) and the Pogues’ CD “Rum Sodomy & The Lash” ($11.99). The title alone merits purchase. The Pogues are a long standing Irish band (my people) that play traditional Irish folk with some influence from the punk movement. More importantly, they use the Irish verb “rove” in many songs. I highly recommend them.

After my shopping triumph, I headed to MoFoS to hang out with JTH during his shift. This proved problematic as JTH was working in the kitchen during the Women’s Event and did not arrive until around 9:30 pm. The store closes at 10! Yes, he still came in for about a half an hour. I had fun spelling JBT, who had worked open-close for the second consecutive day.

Afterwards, JTH, JBT and I were joined by GAB at Applebees. JTH and I had planned not to eat, but as usual when JBT is ordering, there was an excess of food. JBT and I served as human garbage disposals.

JHT noted the striking resemblance our waiter had with former ’N Sync band member, Lance Bass. This naturally put the waiter’s sexual preferences into question. I actually question ours as all four of us knew who Lance Bass was.

Quote of the night, from JBT: “I don’t know why she bothers coming to church. She is such a slut!” Maybe that’s why she should be in church. I’m just saying...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/4/2008

Associated Baptist Press

March 4, 2008 (8-25)

Kidnapped worker, Afghan driver apparently dead in Afghanistan
Catholics, others denounce McCain for courting Hagee

Kidnapped worker, Afghan driver apparently dead in Afghanistan
By Hannah Elliott

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (ABP) – A kidnapped aid worker from a Baptist background and her Afghan driver are believed dead, according to the agency that supported them.

Cydney Mizell, 50, and Muhammad Hadi, whose age is unknown, were taken at gunpoint Jan. 26 while working in Kandahar, Afghanistan. While their employer, the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF), has not been able to confirm their deaths, a spokeswoman said the organization has received “credible reports” of the news.

Mizell and Hadi were abducted together in a residential neighborhood while on their way to work. No suspects have been named in the case, and a Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press he could neither confirm nor deny his group’s involvement in the kidnapping.

A statement from George and Peggy Mizell, Cyd Mizell’s parents, said they were “heartbroken” to receive news of the apparent death of their daughter and Hadi.

“While these reports remain unconfirmed, we are beginning to accept that the hoped-for outcome may no longer be possible,” the Feb. 28 statement said.

Mizell was an English teacher at Kandahar University and taught embroidery lessons at a school for girls. She also helped women start projects to generate income for their families, according to the foundation’s website.

The initial capture sparked a rare protest by more than 500 Afghan women, who asked local officials to find the pair. The 90-minute demonstration included prayers and speeches calling on government leaders -- or the captors -- to act, according to reports.

Rumors that a Southern Baptist missionary had been kidnapped in Afghanistan spread around the Internet in the days following Mizell’s disappearance. The overwhelmingly Muslim country does not allow Christian missionaries, and several Christian aid workers have been murdered there in recent months.

“Cyd knew before she went to Afghanistan that it could be a dangerous place, but she went because she loved the Afghan people and dedicated her life to serving them,” George Mizell said in the statement. “We are trying to understand why someone would kill a gentle, caring person who came to their country to help the poor. Many of the people of Kandahar came to love her almost as much as we loved her, and all of us share her loss.”

A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate, Cyd Mizell also briefly attended Baptist-related Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Both schools released press statements noting her disappearance.

She spoke Pashtu fluently and was wearing a burqa when she was captured, according to ARLDF. The California native was not accompanied by any form of armed guard when she was taken.

Hadi, also known as Abdul, had worked as an ARLDF driver for two years. Updates from the group described the father of five as “quiet and unassuming but very protective of the employees he works with.” His family had received daily visits and support during the crisis, foundation officials said.

Hostage-taking in Afghanistan has increased in recent years. In the last year alone, 23 Christian aid workers from South Korea, two German construction workers and two Italian journalists were kidnapped. Two of the South Koreans were killed. Many foreign governments end up paying ransoms to free citizens kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Citing security reasons, ARLDF spokespeople declined requests for interviews about the case. But, according to a Jan. 29 statement from ARLDF International Director Jeff Palmer, Mizell was the first worker from the organization to be taken hostage.

“She loves the people of Afghanistan, and she has devoted her life to meeting their needs and helping them rebuild their nation, which has experienced violence and suffering for many years,” Palmer said.

According to ARLDF’s website, the group is a non-profit organization that works with the poor in 12 Asian countries. It supports food-for-work projects, development of irrigation systems and rehabilitation and health-care centers.

ARLDF was founded by a Baptist organization with ties to the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. Representatives from the IMB have said there is no relationship between their organization and ARLDF.

However, Palmer, in addition to serving as ARLDF’s international director, also is the executive director of Baptist Global Response, which is run by Southern Baptists. According to a Dec. 12, 2007, article by Baptist Press, the SBC’s news division, Baptist Global Response contracts with the International Mission Board to administer SBC world-hunger funds. The denomination’s president, Frank Page, sits on the Baptist Global Response board of directors.

Baptist Global Response formed the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center, also led by Palmer, according to an April 10, 1997, BP story. In 1988 the Mindanao Baptist Center, in turn, launched ARLDF, which Palmer heads.

According to BP, Baptist Global Response is headquartered in Singapore with an office in Nashville, Tenn., where the SBC is headquartered.

ARLDF representatives, citing a fear for Mizell’s life if news of her abduction appeared in Christian news outlets, requested that those organizations refrain from reporting on it. Several, including Associated Baptist Press, agreed to hold the news until her fate was determined.


-- Greg Warner and Robert Marus contributed to this story.

Catholics, others denounce McCain for courting Hagee
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain may have imperiled his chances with one important religious constituency by appealing to another.

Democratic leaders and conservative Catholic groups alike have criticized the Republican presidential candidate for courting an endorsement from Texas evangelist John Hagee. The San Antonio-based pastor and media mogul backed McCain at a Feb. 27 news conference where the senator appeared.

Hagee has been harshly critical of the Roman Catholic Church in the past, referring to it as “the great whore,” a “false cult system” and “the apostate church.”

Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, said McCain should follow the example of his Democratic counterpart, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and denounce and repudiate the endorsement of a “bigot” like Hagee. Obama has denounced an unsolicited endorsement of his presidential campaign offered by Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan.

McCain’s campaign offered a statement Feb. 29 seeking to distance the senator from Hagee’s views on Catholicism.

“[I]n no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not,” McCain said.

Donohue responded March 4 by saying it was a step in the right direction, but he wished McCain would be more specific in denouncing Hagee’s views.

“McCain’s latest response is helpful, if disappointing,” Donohue said in a press release. “I expected more from the self-described ‘Straight Talk’ presidential candidate. Why couldn’t he have spoken specifically to the Catholic-bashing record of John Hagee?”

Donohue contrasted McCain’s response to then-candidate George W. Bush’s response to similar criticism in 2000, following a speech he gave at Bob Jones University. In a letter to New York Cardinal John O’Connor, Bush categorically rejected “the anti-Catholic and racially divisive views associated with” the conservative evangelical school in South Carolina. The then-Texas governor added, “Such opinions are personally offensive to me, and I want to erase any doubt about my views and values.”

For Hagee’s part, in a March 3 statement released to the Christian Broadcasting Network, he claimed he is not anti-Catholic. “I have always had great love for Catholic people and great respect for the Catholic Church. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the mischaracterization of my views on Catholics,” the statement said.

However, Hagee’s statement did not specify how he believed the news stories and criticisms of McCain had “mischaracterized” his past comments about Catholicism.

Crucial primaries are being held in Texas, Ohio and two other states March 4. While McCain has the GOP nomination virtually locked up, he has long had an uneasy relationship with conservative evangelical leaders such as Hagee. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, has stayed in the race, often polling far better among evangelical Republican voters in previous primaries and caucuses than McCain.


Bible Trivia - 3/4/2008

Question:What did Rebekah and Tamar have in common in respect to childbirth?

Answer: Both had twins (Genesis 25:24-26; 38:27-30).

Comments: Rebekah gives birth to the first set of twins in the Bible, fraternal twin brothers Isaac and Esau. Her grandson Judah also has twins as the result of an illicit affair with Tamar.

On the surface, Rebekah and Tamar support the conventional wisdom that twins not only run in families, but they also skip a generation. Though this claim is often taken as common knowledge, it is not entirely true.

There is a gene that can predispose women to hyperovulation, or the releasing two or more eggs in a single menstrual cycle. When both eggs are fertilized, the resulting siblings are fraternal twins. Because this gene is hereditary, the tendency to have fraternal twins can run in families. This is not the case with identical twins, as this occurs randomly when one fertilized egg splits.

The assumption that twins always skip a generation is a myth. The illusion may have arisen because men who inherit the gene from their mothers are unaffected by it (clearly, they do not ovulate), but can still pass it on to their daughters, who, in turn, will have an increased likelihood of conceiving twins. Thus, twins can run in families, but do not necessarily bypass generations.

Source: The New York Times, 10/2/2007.

Word of the Day - 3/4/2008


An unguent is an ointment or salve, usually liquid or semiliquid, for application to wounds, sores, etc.

Ecclesiastes asserts that a good name is better than a good unguent. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

In Eckleburg’s Eyes - 3/4/2008

On Monday, I interviewed with the Hope Resource Center (HRC). This is a crisis pregnancy center located on Painter Avenue, (relatively) near campus. As a volunteer, I will be counseling men who think they either have obtained an STD or have gotten someone pregnant. In one briefing, my vocabulary has already been enhanced significantly based upon STDs alone.

In their groups’ assertion that it is her body and as such her choice, Pro Choice groups have often neglected the important role that men play in the abortion process as the man tends to have a strong impact on the woman’s decision. I hope counseling these men will be an outlet in which God uses me to positively impact people in crisis.

My previous conversations with HRC had been by phone with LPQ, but on this day she was occupied. In her absence, I had the pleasure of meeting with LEB. She observed my McAfee hat and noted that she had worked for years in summer camp with my old linguist friend from seminary, WMA. It was nice to have the connection. I reminisced that my first memory of WMA involved his massive Backstreet Boys CD collection, complete with imports. She did not seem surprised.

It was nice that, for once, being a male actually benefitted me. There is a shortage in male counselors and for obvious reasons, advisors work with people of the same sex. So, no Mom, this is not a good way to meet women!

I spent the night supporting JTH and company in the slow break basketball league at church. On this night, they did not need any support. JTH actually outscored the opposing team in both halves! The halftime score was 35-12 led by JTH’s 14. The game mercifully ended with a final score of 62-19. JTH finished with 22. He often camped at his spot in the corner and hit his first five three-point attempts. (I love this picture because it looks like one of his teammate’s wives is photographing his gluteus.)

The other team actually asked me to play for them. You know things are going badly when I am called in for help! In fact, this may be one of the signs of the Apocalypse...

More important that JTH’s great shooting performance was the fact that he recreated one of the great moments in church league basketball history by “doinking” KWL. “Doinking” is the act, nay art, of grabbing another man’s nipple unexpectedly whilst saying “doink.” Years ago, JTH did the same thing to an aghast KWL during a game, and was prodded to relive the moment by a fan in the stands. That fan shall remain nameless.

I love going to the games to fellowship with everyone. On this night, I especially enjoyed RLH’s devotional during the second game. He spoke of his work with Vine International, a mission organization that sends medical supplies to Guatemala. He recalled a time that, despite packing supplies tightly one box just would not seem to fit. Undaunted, he waited until he was able to cram the final box in. When he crossed the border, he was delayed. The moratorium was to take 2-3 days but ended up only taking 8-9 hours. While stalled, he met a young Guatemalan man who happened to be in need of formula for his newborn child - the contents of the crate that almost did not make the trip. The story was uplifting, especially due to the sincerity of the man who told it.

Afterwards, JTH and I met at Chili’s. We ran into JTH’s old church friend, ES who was as friendly as ever. JTH had been raving about a specific chicken dish he previously eaten there and convinced me to try it. So he ordered one for both of us. Unfortunately, having forgotten the name of said dish, he ordered the wrong meal. The grilled chicken was still great though.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/3/2008

Associated Baptist Press

March 3, 2008 (8-24)


Follow the money: Church budgets reveal priorities, but which ones?
Follow the money: Cash receipts present challenges for churches
Grassley targets ministries’ alleged abuse of tax laws
Circumcision: Cutting out the sign of the covenant?
Signs of stability in Kenya mean mission trips resume

Follow the money: Church budgets reveal priorities, but which ones?
By Ken Camp

DALLAS (ABP) -- Most observers of congregational life agree: A person can tell a lot about a church by looking at its budget. But exactly which conclusions can be drawn about a church’s priorities remains an open question.

“It’s a question I’ve raised with students in my classes for years,” said Bill Tillman, who teaches Christian ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary. “The whole matter of economic and financial stewardship is such a vital part of the practice of the Christian life, whether for an individual, a family or a congregation.”

A church’s budget reflects its priorities. How much a church spends on ministries inside its walls and how much it devotes to ministries beyond itself offers one measure of those priorities, but Tillman warns against rushing to judgment.

“What happens always has to be held in tension and viewed in context,” he said. “For instance, we can’t say a church never should build a new facility. A new building may be what is needed in a particular community.”

At the same time, a church should ask whether its financial decisions are shaped more by biblical teachings or by cultural values, he stressed.

“The larger culture says we should spend money to make things comfortable for us,” Tillman said.

Churches should ask what lessons are being taught to families as they look at the congregation’s budget, he said. And church leaders should not shy away from talking about money.

“That conversation is difficult,” Tillman acknowledged. “One of my basic assumptions is that the world of money is one of the last points where conversion and redemption happen.”

Each church not only needs to keep in mind the legitimate needs of its own members but also extend its vision to include God’s work in the world at large, he said.

“It all should be qualified by the question of whether what we are doing is kingdom work,” Tillman said.

Members of Cross Lanes Baptist Church, near Charleston, W. Va., decided five years ago the best way they could do “kingdom work” is by devoting a larger percentage of undesignated offerings to mission work.

When Seth Polk arrived as pastor, the church gave 7 percent of undesignated receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program unified budget and 3 percent to its local association. Polk challenged the church to increase its mission-giving incrementally each year.

Now, Cross Lanes gives one-fourth of its undesignated receipts to missions -- 11 percent to the Cooperative Program, 4 percent to associational missions and 10 percent to other mission causes.

Those causes range from local benevolent ministries and church-starting initiatives to global initiatives like Children’s Emergency Relief International’s work in Transnistria and Moldova. Children’s Emergency Relief International is the global arm of Baptist Child and Family Services.

“We believe that as a church becomes more outwardly focused, God will bless that church at home,” Polk said.

While the church increased the percentage of offerings it devotes to missions and increased giving to seasonal missions offerings and world-hunger relief, it also entered a $3.5 million building campaign.

Cross Lanes, which leads the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists in total missions giving, has doubled in worship attendance and undesignated giving over the last five years.

“We want to focus on what really matters to God,” Polk said.

A clear focus and sense of purpose help a church make wise decisions when it develops its budget -- and make adjustments when receipts don’t match the budget, said Roger Hall, a retired chief financial officer and treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“A church needs to know its purpose, its goals and what it wants to accomplish. The budget is a plan of action to get there,” said Hall, who serves part-time as business administrator at First Baptist Church in Waxahachie, Texas.

No one-size-fits-all rules apply for all churches in terms of establishing percentages for different areas of the budget. Just adding a few of the often-cited maximum percentages for various categories -- 50 percent for personnel, 35 percent for debt service and 25 percent for administration -- makes the numbers already exceed 100 percent, he said.

“Take that approach, and ministry is often what gets crowded out,” he noted. And if ministry and missions are the professed focus of the church, the problem becomes apparent.

Trouble develops when a church fails to define its purpose, deviates from its purpose or neglects to follow proper procedures in making financial decisions, he said.

A church’s budget or finance committee should begin the budgeting process by reviewing historical records for past receipts and expenditures, he suggested. Then, the committee should look at other factors such as anticipated growth or decline as it considers what may be realistic giving goals for the upcoming year.

Next, Hall recommended, the committee that is working on the budget should announce its schedule of budget preparation to the church, solicit budget requests from staff and committee chairs, and set a budget hearing meeting to allow people who are making requests to present their rationale and prioritize their requests.

“The budget should not be a product of just one committee. It should not be the product of just the staff or pastor’s recommendations. It needs ownership by the entire congregation,” Hall said.

That sense of ownership grows out of communication each step of the way, not just from an annual vote in a church business meeting. And the congregation’s “buy-in” of the budget has both ethical and practical implications, he noted.

“When the budget is understood and owned by the congregation, members have a sense of rightness about it,” he said. “And if they feel like this is a good plan and they are confident in the processes, they are more apt to support it with their tithes and offerings.”


-- This is the first in a three-part series about church finances.

Follow the money: Cash receipts present challenges for churches
By Ken Camp

DALLAS (ABP) -- When it comes to church finances, donations in cash form present one of the greatest challenges for churches, experts say.

Roger Hall, a part-time business administrator for First Baptist Church in Waxahachie, Texas, said the biggest risk involves cash before it hits the books.

When handling cash receipts, churches should remember that there is safety in numbers, Hall said. Two or more people should monitor offerings when they are taken from the church’s sanctuary to the church office, two or more should count the cash, and two or more should take locked moneybags to the bank for deposit, he said.

“Have the counting committee members bonded as money handlers,” said Hall, the former chief financial officer and treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Hall also recommended a division of labor in legal and financial matters. Legal officers of the church like trustees should sign legal documents on behalf of the congregation. The treasurer should provide financial reports at church business meetings, work with the financial secretary on financial matters, and oversee independent audits.

The financial secretary’s handling of money should be limited, Hall said. Ideally, the job has only a few specific responsibilities: maintain accounting records; prepare checks for signatures from authorized individuals; prepare financial statements; maintain individual contribution records; handle payroll and reports; and oversee petty cash.

When it comes to cash disbursements, Hall offered several other recommendations:

-- Use only church-approved bank accounts.

-- Have all checks signed by two approved parties, and designate back-up signers for when the principal signers are unavailable.

-- Use only pre-numbered checks.

-- Do not sign blank checks or make checks payable to “cash.”

-- Have approved invoices or documents available to review at the time checks are signed.

-- Reconcile bank accounts monthly. That task should be performed by a person other than the individual who prepares the checks.

-- Make sure checks are made out to approved accounts from which authorized funds are available.

Ultimately, Hall said, churches should keep in mind a clear sense of purpose: “to see that resources are handled properly, ensure accountability, and keep the church family informed.”


-- This story is the second of a three-part series on church finances.

Grassley targets ministries’ alleged abuse of tax laws
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Sen. Chuck Grassley insists he’s not trying to impose his Baptist theology on Pentecostal and Charismatic ministries; he simply wants them to obey the tax laws.

The Iowa Republican has drawn fire for using his position as ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee to investigate six ministries -- most of them embracing so-called “prosperity gospel” theology -- for their financial habits.

The ministries had already drawn scrutiny from former followers and media outlets for allegedly inappropriate spending habits. In an echo of the televangelist scandals of the late 1980s, the charges include using ministry funds to purchase private jets, multi-million dollar homes and a $23,000 marble-topped chest.

Grassley’s office sent letters to the ministries Nov. 6 asking them for information on their receipts, expenditures and holdings.

“The allegations involve governing boards that aren’t independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls Royces,” he said at the time. “I don’t want to conclude that there’s a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code.”

Grassley set a Dec. 6 deadline for response. While all of the ministries produced statements saying they complied with all tax laws, only the St. Louis-area Joyce Meyer Ministries provided the information Grassley sought.

Benny Hinn Ministries provided information Feb. 25, but Grassley's office said it would take time to look through the information and determine if it satisfied the senator's request.

At a Feb. 1 press conference following his appearance at a Baptist meeting in Atlanta, Grassley said his office planned to send a second round of letters to the ministries that were not cooperating, asking again for the information and threatening further action. However, the senator said at the time, “it would be a while before I would think about a subpoena.”

But leaders of several of the targeted organizations have vowed to fight Grassley, with some even going so far as to say they’d go to jail rather than answer a congressional subpoena.

“You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you,” said Texas-based evangelist Kenneth Copeland at a January pastors’ conference. “It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it, and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. So, just get over it. ... And if there’s a death penalty that applies, well, just go for it.”

Copeland’s remarks were taped and posted on the video-sharing site YouTube, as well as reported by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Copeland and other targeted evangelists have said the investigation is violating their religious freedom. While most nonprofits organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code have to file information about receipts and expenditures with the Internal Revenue Service, churches do not.

Religious organizations under investigation might be able to claim a First Amendment violation based on a theory of excessive entanglement in church affairs or discrimination based on religion -- if they can show they were targeted on the basis of their religious beliefs, said Holly Hollman, general counsel with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

“Of course, the stated purpose of the investigation is congressional oversight for the tax laws that govern nonprofit entities. The First Amendment certainly does not provide a blanket exemption from the tax laws that govern nonprofits, including many religious entities,” she added.

Grassley stressed he is not targeting churches per se but simply investigating whether they comply with laws that apply to them.

“Here’s the bottom line: The tax laws that apply to nonprofits, there’s no difference between those tax laws as a nonprofit or ABC church as a nonprofit,” he said at the Atlanta news conference, adding that the only difference between the Red Cross and a church is that churches don’t have to report in the same way to the IRS.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who is close to Copeland, has also criticized the investigation. In an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, the former Baptist pastor said it was “a little chilling” to him.

“Is Congress going to start going after nonprofit organizations?” he asked. “And if so, are they going to do all nonprofits? Are they going to start looking at [liberal group]”

But Grassley has repeatedly investigated secular nonprofits, including the Nature Conservancy and the Red Cross. At the press conference, he said he has almost always gotten cooperation from nonprofits whose finances he’s investigated.

“Except for Jack Abramoff and his nonprofits -- and he’s in prison now -- every time I asked nonprofits for information, I got it,” he said, referring to the disgraced former GOP lobbyist.

A former religious adviser to President Bush has said Pentecostals and charismatics view the investigation as an assault by more mainstream evangelicals like Grassley -- potentially driving a wedge between Republicans and part of their conservative Christian base.

Doug Wead, in a Feb. 16 Des Moines Register story, said, “the Grassley probe, by the time it is full-blown and the media does its job of attacking these ministries, will have Pentecostals feeling demeaned and helpless and dirty and targeted.”

Wead, a former board member of one of the targeted ministries, said the investigation would cause Pentecostals to feel that the media had been “used by a Baptist to settle a score.” In a blog entry, he accused Grassley and other mainstream evangelicals of elitism in pursuing the investigation.

Grassley, for his part, has repeatedly denied a theological agenda in the investigation.

“I’m not interested in what they’re preaching; they can call their gospel anything they want to,” he said in Atlanta. “This nonprofit investigation is nothing about Pentecostalism. … It’s about obeying the tax laws and being a trustee of the money of the people that contribute.”

He’s gotten some backing from at least one prominent charismatic source. Lee Grady, editor of the flagship magazine for charismatic and Pentecostal Christians in the United States, used his February column to call on such ministries to be transparent.

“Perhaps the Lord is offended that our beloved gospel of prosperity has created a cult of selfishness,” he wrote in Charisma magazine. “If so, our best response is to open our account ledgers and welcome correction.”


-- This story is the third of a three-part series on church finances.

Circumcision: Cutting out the sign of the covenant?
By Hannah Elliott

NEW YORK (ABP) -- The foundational symbol of God’s ancient covenant with his people is getting a lot less common in the United States, but medical and theological debates still rage about the propriety of circumcision.

Recent legal battles over whether parents can mandate circumcision for their children and new medical findings regarding the relative merits and risks of the practice have given parents reason to pause when it comes to deciding the fate of their son’s most sensitive organ. The debate, although originating in the religious realm, now deals mainly with social mores and the latest scientific consensus.

At the height of circumcision’s popularity in the mid-20th century, 90 percent of American males were circumcised. But the rate in the United States has declined steadily since the 1970s, according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey and other health organizations. In 2005, roughly 80 percent of all U.S. males were circumcised. That percentage is likely to decrease in the future, as recent annual statistics show that only 56 percent of male babies born in America are being circumcised.

Some Baptists who once understood the procedure to be an American standard rooted in biblical tradition are now taking a second look at it.

Catherine Bell did just that when she decided not to circumcise her son Nicolas, now 4. She had remained undecided about the procedure prior to her delivery, but at the hospital, when she happened to hear some recently cut babies crying, she opted out.

“My reasoning was, I just didn’t see the point,” said Bell, who attends First Baptist Church in Paragould, Ark. “I know there’s a very small risk of things going wrong, but why do it if you don’t have to?”

She’s not alone. According to Jennifer Lusk, a registered nurse in the pediatric urology department at Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital, ever-increasing numbers of expectant mothers are questioning the practice.

“It used to be that people would come in and say, ‘We want this done!’ Now it’s like, ‘We’ve done a lot of reading, the older kids are circumcised and my husband is circumcised, but … I’m not sure if we have to do this,’” Lusk said. “More people are figuring out that they don’t have to. They’re starting to ask questions about it.”

In some areas, it’s a slow change. Bell said Nicolas is a minority in their small city -- as far as she knows, he is the only boy with an intact foreskin in the two pre-schools he’s attended. And family members, she said, “laid it on thick” when they heard Bell and her husband, Jerry, decided not to have their son snipped.

Many of her friends are curious about her decision to forego the operation, she said, adding that ignorance is the main factor in the public’s reticence to accept it as “normal.”

“People think it’s unusual because of a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about why it’s even done,” she said. “People just do it because it’s what everybody else does.”

Everybody here, that is. Only 30 percent of males worldwide are circumcised, according to the World Health Organization. The procedure is most prevalent in Muslim countries, Israel, the United States, the Philippines and South Korea. Various tribes in Africa also use the practice, sometimes as a counterpart to female circumcision.

Though not mentioned in the Quran, the practice is discussed in the secondary collection of Islamic holy writings known as the Hadith, and Muslim scholars still debate whether it is mandatory or merely recommended.

And while most Christians associate circumcision with Abraham’s Genesis-based covenant with God, it was prevalent in the ancient world well before then, according to Jim Nogalski, a professor of Old Testament at Baylor University.

“Circumcision in the Middle East was a fairly common practice,” he said. “There are varying versions of where it came from and who did it first. Prisoners are often depicted naked [in ancient art], so you get a certain sense that there were circumcised people.”

Egyptians slit the foreskin and let it hang, and the Hebrews removed it entirely, Nogalski said. In each case of circumcision in ancient tribes, the modification was designed to ward off some form of evil, to act as a fertility rite of marriage or to mark a certain covenant.

After the Greeks conquered the known world, however, trends changed. The Greeks greatly admired the human form, had no problem with public nudity and considered circumcision to be mutilation of the body. The taboo against circumcision became so great that Jews were not allowed to participate in the Greek world’s (clothes-free) gymnasiums, and some underwent reconstructive surgery or attached copper weights to the remnants of the foreskin in an effort to stretch it back to its original size.

Among the earliest Christians, circumcision became a topic of heated debate. Paul and a faction of the ancient church known as the Judaizers debated the relevance of the procedure in light of the New Covenant. Some thought that in order to be Christian, a man had to be Jewish, which meant being circumcised, Nogalski said. Others thought no one should be circumcised against his will.

A third group, described mostly in the books of Luke and Acts, believed that Jews, but not Gentiles, who became Christians should be circumcised. A fourth group, most notably in Ephesians, believed a proper reading of Scripture showed that literal circumcision was no longer expected for anyone, Nogalski said.

Like their ancient counterparts, modern Jews attach significant symbolism to the circumcision ceremony, called a brit milah or bris. For Jews worldwide, it is one of the fundamental ways to identify with their faith.

A mohel is a Jewish leader specially trained to conduct the circumcision ceremony. New Jersey rabbi Mark Cooper, a Jerusalem-trained mohel, said circumcision celebrates the vitality of the Jewish tradition and expresses hope and confidence in the future of the faith.

“The ceremony is a covenant ceremony, and it serves the purpose of formally welcoming the child into the people of Israel with God,” said Cooper, who is a fifth-generation mohel.

The ceremony also serves the purpose of celebrating parenthood and committing to raise the child in the Jewish faith, said Cooper, who performs several circumcisions a month. It is not unlike a baby-dedication service for Baptists or an infant baptism for other Christians.

But while matters of faith and tradition dictate circumcision for Jewish males, social norms and the medical community have largely dictated its prevalence for non-Jewish Americans.

Experts in sexually transmitted infections called for universal circumcision as early as 1914, but the practice among Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the United States gained momentum in the 1930s from obstetricians and gynecologists who touted the medical advantages of the operation.

Most medical books around that time began to prescribe circumcision to relieve conditions ranging from epilepsy to chronic masturbation. And many thought circumcision led to improved personal hygiene.

What’s more, in the 1950s, American insurance and welfare programs began paying for the procedure, which removed any financial burden from having it done, noted Robert Darby, an Australian medical historian who maintains the site

The U.S. military was another important influence, according to Darby. During World War I, the military circumcised adult soldiers and sailors in order to make them less susceptible to diseases. Then, he said, when the fathers returned home, they approved the practice for their sons.

Indeed, several current medical studies seem to echo circumcision proponents who say it helps prevent urinary-tract infections, penile cancer and HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In 1989, a circumcision task force from the American Academy of Pediatrics justified the practice in part by citing circumcised males’ lower incidence of penile cancer. And in 2006, the National Institutes of Health released a report saying circumcised adult men may be half as likely to contract the AIDS virus through heterosexual intercourse as their uncircumcised counterparts. Other clinical trials in the 1980s cited a reduced risk as high as 60 percent.

Women also are protected by male circumcision, according to the November 2007 issue of BioEssays. Australian medical professor Brian Morris said that for women, circumcision of the male partner provides more than five times’ greater protection from cervical cancer and chlamydia, which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

However, a number of circumcision opponents have become increasingly vocal against the practice, which they consider unnecessary at best and mutilation at worst.

There are several anti-circumcision organizations, including one called Jews Against Circumcision. Circumcision opponents say the procedure causes extreme pain, decreases sensitivity during sex, and produces long-term psychological and sexual trauma. They also say parents have no right to make a lifelong decision for their young son, especially when the procedure risks complications like profuse bleeding and infection.

Others wonder about the economic side of the practice -- doctors push it, they say, because they get paid for performing a relatively uncomplicated procedure. And discarded foreskins are often sold for use in private bioresearch labs, the pharmaceutical industry and even beauty products.

Lusk, the Texas Children’s Hospital nurse, agreed that there is no medical reason to perform a circumcision.

“It’s an option right when the baby is born -- it’s done only if the parents want it done,” she said.

Darby said the argument that circumcision prevents diseases -- such as penile cancer -- that can be spurred by poor penile hygiene is disingenuous. “No unbiased physician would recommend an uncalled-for, risky surgical interference for preventing an exceedingly rare and trivial disorder, for which ordinary cleanliness suffices. …. One may just as well advise the excision of earlaps, for they may possibly get sore.”

But he also mustered a moral argument. “Circumcision is based upon the erroneous principle that boys … are so badly fashioned by Creative Power that they must be reformed by the surgeon,” Darby wrote.

He added that circumcising boys to lessen the risk of sexually transmitted infections could have the unintended consequence of encouraging promiscuity in circumcised young men. “The plea that this unnatural practice will lessen the risk of infection to the sensualist in promiscuous intercourse is not one that our honorable [medical]profession will support. Parents, therefore, should be warned that this ugly mutilation of their children involves serious danger, both to their physical and moral health.”

American medical institutions have taken more of a neutral stance on the issue. In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reclassified neonatal circumcision from a “routine” to an “elective” procedure.

Since then, 16 states have stopped including circumcisions in Medicaid plans, with more considering the option.

Texas Children’s Hospital offers the procedure as an option for parents, unless there are conflicting medical issues that require it. Typically, children under 10 pounds and one month old undergo an injection of local anesthetic and are given a sugar-soaked pacifier to suck on during the procedure, Lusk said. Others receive general anesthesia and get the operation done in a clinic.

The wounds (having been wrapped in gauze and petroleum jelly) usually heal within one month, she said.

Still, as a new mother, Bell couldn’t bear to think of her son undergoing the cut -- and she may be ahead of her time.

“It’s weird for me now to see boys who are circumcised,” she said. “Why cut on something you don’t need to cut on?”


Signs of stability in Kenya mean mission trips resume
By Analiz González

NAIROBI, Kenya (ABP) -- The signing of a peace agreement in Kenya -- and reports of stabilization throughout the area -- have led Buckner International to announce it will resume sending volunteer mission groups to Kenya this summer.

“This is a result of our U.S. missions staff listening closely to our staff in Kenya,” said Ken Hall, president of the Texas-based Baptist charity. “It’s an answer to prayer that Kenyans have recognized the need for peace and that our teams will be able to be the hands of Christ to a country that needs healing.”

The decision opens the opportunity for local-church missions teams previously scheduled to send volunteers to Kenya through Buckner to resume their trips. It will primarily affect summer trips planned by four churches: Valley Ranch Baptist Church in Coppell, Texas; First Baptist Church of Amarillo, Texas; Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, and Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo.

“We’ve been in constant contact over the last month with our Kenya staff, and things are much more stable now,” said Randy Daniels, vice president of global initiatives at Buckner. “A peace accord was signed … and all Kenya is celebrating. They anticipate stability, continued growth. The climate has dramatically changed over the last few weeks.”

Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, mediated a power-sharing agreement between rival political factions in Kenya after riots broke out following a disputed presidential election. President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed to the peace accord Feb. 28.

Buckner’s reinstatement of the trips will be an encouragement to the Kenyan children the organization serves as well as to its staff, Daniels said.

“Not going over there would be akin to not seeing your family for a year,” he said. “When Kenyans see us in their country, it reassures our staff that they have our support. We are with them, walking beside them. We won’t abandon them. I mean, we weren’t going to put people at risk, and they understood that in Kenya, but they will be celebrating our presence now.”


-- Analiz González is a staff writer for Buckner International.