Friday, March 21, 2008

Bible Trivia - 3/21/2008

Question: Which book contains the assurance that God will not allow a Christian to be tempted beyond what he can endure, without also providing a way out for him?

Answer: I Corinthians (10:13).

Comments: One of the great promises of the Bible is that God will not let anything come at us that we cannot handle, in one way or another.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13, NASB)

Regarding this verse, Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) said, “I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.”

Word of the Day - 3/21/2008


Sinistral means of, pertaining to, or on the left side; left-handed.

Ehud, the second of six major judges in the book of the same name, succeeded largely due to his being sinistral. The Israelites were under the subjection of Moab and Ehud received an audience with the obese king Eglon under the auspices of paying tribute. He fashioned a double edged sword and bound it on his right thigh. This allowed him to conceal it as the right-handed person would carry their weapon of choice on their left side. Presumably, Eglon’s men did not frisk Ehud’s right side. When they left the two alone, Ehud imbedded the sword into Eglon’s rotund physique and escaped before anyone knew of the assassination. (Judges 3:15-30)

Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin, who evidently were known for being sinistral. The only other instance in which the expression “left-handed” is used in the entire NASB refers to seven hundred Benjamite soldiers. (Judges 20:15-17)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/21/2008

Many thanks to anyone who prayed for good weather in Charleston on Thursday. The atmosphere could not have been more cooperative as there was not a cloud in the sky. I almost felt guilty having such a pleasant Maundy Thursday.

I awoke before sunrise to the site of surfers out of the balcony door. I had the brilliant idea of sleeping with the door open to hear the sound of the ocean. The effect was nice but the sub-freezing temperatures were a little much, even for me (especially since I volunteered to sleep on the floor). It worked out well as we wanted to get an early start during our one full day in Charleston. My initial groggy thought was - those swimmers are the darkest people I have ever seen. As it turns out, they were just wearing wetsuits.

PAT awoke shortly after I did. After we had showered (separately I might add), we began the difficult task of awakening JTH. PAT initially tried beating him with pillows. Though PAT swung with great force, the blows had little impact. He then tried to rouse him by laying with him. This too did not seem to phase his slumber. Finally, JTH awoke to badgering. I think this might be a textbook case of a rude awakening.

We gave JTH an hour to prepare for the day while we ran errands. We went to the Folly Beach Wal-Mart to procure three items. I needed a Flash Drive as my laptop’s wireless service failed and this device would allow me to transfer my blog to PAT’s computer. (Have I mentioned how ineffective Vista is?) We also wanted to buy some IBC Cream Soda and a water gun. The water pistol has been a tried and true method of awakening JTH and we wanted to be prepared for the following morning. (When he gets married, this will be his wife’s wedding gift.)

While these are all items Wal-Mart typically carries, this franchise failed us miserably. They did have a Flash Drive, though I had to buy an expensive model that holds 1G as they did not feature the smaller, less expensive model. They did not carry the other items at all. What kind of Wal-Mart does not carry poorly made plastic water guns?

Fortunately, a Piggly Wiggly was able to meet our needs several miles down the road. I never thought I would be so happy to see a Piggly Wiggly. Do we have these in Knoxville?

PAT and I also went to investigate two local landmarks that have received facelifts since our last visit. The beach house, owned by First Baptist Church of Charleston, that has so often provided our lodging has been given a much needed paint job. We opted not to use the key I had made to inspect the interior. When one has limited time, breaking and entering must be brushed aside for more noble pursuits, few though they may be.

As noted in Wednesday’s blog, our beloved local dive, the Anchor Line Restaurant has been closed. It has since been remodeled, but is not yet open for business and the establishment looks as though it will take on a new name. The once powder blue building has been repainted with a red roof and a base hue that PAT described as either avocado or olive green. I will take his word for it. I am glad we knew ahead of time that the restaurant was no longer in existence as it softened the blow.

It is amazing what one can get done before JTH wakes up.

We returned to the hotel and rejoined JTH. After I published my blog for you good people, we ventured out at 10 am. Since everyone in the ocean was also in a wetsuit, we opted to pass on a morning swim. Instead, we made our way downtown.

En route, we first stopped at Folly Beach’s Goodwill. I was highly disappointed as this may be the first Goodwill I have entered that did not have even one Jim Nabors (aka TV’s “Gomer Pyle”) record on vinyl. I may have no interest in ever buying or listening to a Jim Nabors album, but it has always been reassuring that they are a reliable constant in a world of change. What is the world coming to?

I did find a navy blue t-shirt featuring the defunct World Championship Wrestling so the trip was not made in vain.

We then made our way downtown, complete with our obligatory inadvertent detour through the projects. It is amazing how often we have visited Charleston and how little to grasp its geography. After the brief delay, we found our way to Market Street.

We ate at a Charleston staple, A.W. Shucks. I ate Shuck’s “Award-Winning” Stuffed Shrimp (which I have every trip) as an appetizer and their casserole (which I had never had before) as an entree. The shrimp are one of the place's trademarks - three plump shrimp, butterflied, stuffed with Carolina deviled crab, wrapped in bacon and deep-fried to perfection. I am not sure that anything would not taste good deep-fried and wrapped in bacon.

We then shopped at the Market. The Market reestablished order in the universe as it is always dependable. It never changes. The girl we bought jewelry from informed us that her boss had occupied the same booth since 1981. I would not doubt that his product had not changed since then either.

Before returning to Folly, JTH made his mandatory visit to the QuikSilver store. Unable to find parking, PAT and I let him out and circled the block. Due to predictable communication mishaps, we repeated this process dozens of times before reconnecting with our friend. To add insult to injury, he bought nothing.

After crossing the bridge again, we shopped at the Children’s Cancer Society Thrift Store (located at 835 Savannah Highwayon James Island). If the previous thrift store was mildly disappointing, this one was a smashing success as I made four purchases:

  • 1. A black Applebees Carside To-Go shirt. This is a type of confession as I acknowledge my obsession.
  • 2. A green 2006 Hilary Duff Crew shirt form her 2006 tour. Hilary is one of my guiltiest pleasures.
  • 3. A grey t-shirt advertising the World Adult Kickball Association. How could i not support a kickball group?
  • 4. A Mandy Patinkin CD titled “Oscar & Steve.” The CD is composed of the Princess Bride (and more recently “Criminal Minds”) actor singing the songs of Oscar Hammerstein II and Stephen Sodheim. Both him singing and the CD’s concept seemed surreal. Dare I say, “Inconceivable!”? I now know what we will be listening to on the road home...

Each item was priced at a mere $2.99. How could I resist?

We then returned to the hotel, and where I watched Marquette defeat Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament (and napped) while JTH and PAT perused the beach.

We ate that night at the Charleston Crab Shack (the location at 145 Wappoo Creek Dr on James Island). I had never eaten there, though JTH had. One of the first things visitors notice is that the restaurant’s sign is mounted upside down. Evidently a show called “Flip This House” was filmed there and left the inverted sign to remember them by.

I ate a combination platter of shrimp, a crab cake, and crab legs. I would be remiss if I did not say, “The crab cakes are phenomenal!” (Read: Wedding Crashers reference.) I had not eaten crab legs in years and I remembered why. It is not because I do not like the flavor, but rather because I do not find them worth the effort. It was worth ordering crab legs just to see how much pleasure JTH derived from playing with them.

We took one last night beach walk in the cold before returning to our room to watch the NCAA Tournament’s first round and get some rest. For the record, I picked 14 of 16 first round games in my Yahoo bracket. That is better than I normally do. I did have USC in the Elite Eight, so my futility has been ensured.

One more addition to the record: In two days, JTH has exceeded 100 text messages. Extend your plan soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bible Trivia - 3/20/2008

Question: What was the third sign Moses gave to the Israelite leaders to convince the, he had come from God?

Answer: He changed water to blood. (Exodus 4:9)

Comments: Moses was given three signs to validate that his mission from God. His staff could transform into a serpent (Exodus 4:3), his hand could become leprous (4:6), and water taken from the Nile could be converted to blood (4:9). Moses asked for a sign and received three.

The final sign is the only one that he did not act out when it was bestowed as he was not near the Nile River. Evidently, Moses used all three of these signs to enlist the Israelites but it is unclear if this was necessitated by the first two proving ineffective (4:28). Thus, it is unknown if the third time was the charm or not in this case.

Word of the Day- 3/20/2008


Bibulous means fond of or addicted to drink.

Proverbs warns against being bibulous.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,/And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1, NASB)

Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,/Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;/For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,/And drowsiness will clothe one with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/20/2008

On Wednesday, JTH, PAT and I embarked on a trip to Charleston. If you thought the trip I made to Atlanta last week (which was interrupted by no less than a tornado) was a fiasco, it had nothing on our Charleston endeavor.

The morning started routinely enough. I accompanied JTH to the Verizon Wireless store so that he could add text messaging to his plan for the sole purpose of texting a specific young lady. Gasoline to the store - $3.14. Five hundred monthly text messages - $10.00. The Verizon saleslady mocking JTH - Priceless.

The visit also proved advantageous as the aforementioned saleslady taught us to use the T9 function on the phone. This program enables the phone to guess the words being typed based upon the letter sequence as opposed to the repeated pressing of individual buttons. Its accuracy is uncanny and the feature will reduce time considerably. This will come in handy both times a year I send a text message.

After one day with text messaging capabilities, I can already predict that 500 monthly messages will not be enough for JTH. (Note the rare stark determination on his face.)

It was while at the Verizon store that we realized the trip would not go according to plan.

PAT originally planned to be in Knoxville by Wednesday morning. Then a meeting was rescheduled for 11 am in Atlanta. It was to last only fifteen minutes. It lasted more than an hour and a half. Then traffic postponed the trip significantly further. To end a painfully long synopsis, PAT did not arrive in Knoxville until after 5. This is why I do not plan trips.

In the meantime, I joined RAW and KJW for lunch. I fed KJW grapes and Doritos. No, this was not all her daddy fed her. She had a sandwich too, but it was too mangled to be of any use by the time I arrived.

I always feel like a bird when I feed her grapes as I eat half and give the other half to her as a whole grape is too large a portion. I have also learned to give her one chip at a time as chips in front of her within her grasp are not near as appetizing as the chips in the bag. I guess even at her age, the grass is greener on the other side.

After the meal she escorted me into the living room to watch a few scenes from Newsies. Why is it that she always wants to hold my hand when hers are disgusting (remember the Doritos)? Though I have never seen it, Newsies must be good as it is the only musical her father tolerates. She seemed to enjoy it too and even applauded some of the musical numbers.

When PAT arrived, we decided to eat with JTH’s girl CB_ and her seven-year old daughter, K at the Great American Steak & Buffet Company. Why rush to Charleston when nothing would be open when we arrived anyway?

The kid was hilarious. The highlight for me came when JTH used his self-deprecating humor by commenting that he looked like a horse. I never know how to respond to such statements. I did not have to as K quickly retorted, “Yeah, you do.” I really hope he was not fishing for compliments...

At JTH’s request I will refrain from posting images of “the family.”

We finally hit the interstate at 7:08 pm. SRM called and when we told him of our itinerary, his response was, “Are you serious?” Yes, we were. I honestly was as shocked as he. We drove to Charleston (12 hours round trip) to essentially spend a day there. It’s not the stupidest thing I have done this month. It is close though.

The trip went smoothly though we encountered intermittent storms throughout. This was Chanana II’s first trek to Charleston and she performed admirably. We also had the rare treat of driving through two tunnels. (I probably ought not take pictures while driving, huh?)

PAT and I had a very meaningful conversation for much of the trip in which much Scripture was referenced and I even broke out my Hebrew. Meanwhile, JTH texted and slept in the back seat. He did chime in once that I would look good in a yarmulke. I have no idea how to take that.

As is JTH’s and my Charleston tradition we played “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie on repeat for over three hours. It never gets old. We also listened to Afroman in homage to MBR and past Charleston trips.

We arrived in Folly Beach at around 1 am and checked into our hotel. We had an oceanfront room at the Charleston on the Beach Holiday Inn. When we got to our room, we were greeted by an incessant beeping noise. Though it was incredibly annoying, it was worth it to see JTH completely enraged. Security handled the issue and discovered the alarm clock next door had been triggered. Since the noise had emanated from the outlet, we originally tried to fix the outlet. Since outlets do not tend to make noise, the alarm clock scenario explained a lot.

JTH was enamored of the workman who defused the clock for the remainder of the night. You may think that would not account for much time but we were wired and up past 3.

We are in Room 528 if you need us. We probably will not be there. It might be best to call my cell phone. I probably won’t answer though. In short, contacting me is pretty much the same as it would be were I home.

Please pray for favorable weather. Charleston is one of mine and JTH’s favorite vacation spots while PAT has never been there. Last year marked the first year since 2000 that I had not made at least one trip to Charleston. We are hoping for good weather to best show PAT “our” fair city.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/19/2008

Associated Baptist Press
March 19, 2008 (8-30)

Pastor’s role in Obama campaign spotlights race, pulpit freedom
Jim Smith named CBF head of global-missions field teams
British Baptist leader to head U.S. seminary
Opinion: The utilitarian temptation

Pastor’s role in Obama campaign spotlights race, pulpit freedom
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- While the political consequences of Sen. Barack Obama’s March 18 speech on race have occupied much of the chatter on cable-news channels, the whole episode is noteworthy for another reason, according to experts in religion and politics.

For the first time in modern American history, a presidential candidate’s pastor and congregation are the cause of a major campaign controversy.

Also, according to experts on the African-American tradition of prophetic preaching, the division over the Illinois Democrat’s former minister casts light on the difficulties black and white Americans still have in understanding each other’s religious culture.

“I just can’t come up with a good example -- a good analogy -- of one church, one pastor, even one sermon having this kind of effect on a candidate,” said Laura Olson, a Clemson University professor and expert in religion and politics.

Asked to think of a parallel situation in American presidential politics, Ouachita Baptist University political scientist Hal Bass had to reach back nearly a century. “Back in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century, when anti-Catholicism was hot and heavy in the United States … there were frequently allegations that the Catholic candidates for president -- like Al Smith in ’28 -- were in the pocket of the pope,” he said. But, he added, comparing that to the present situation was like comparing “apples and oranges.”

Obama’s campaign has been assailed for weeks because of comments that Jeremiah Wright, who recently retired after 36 years as senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, had made in several past sermons. Snippets of the messages -- containing comments that some have interpreted as anti-American and anti-white -- have been posted on YouTube and publicized by innumerable media outlets.

Obama has been an active member of the predominantly African-American congregation for more than 20 years, and has credited Wright with helping bring him to Christ and being a spiritual mentor. The pastor married Obama and his wife, Michelle, and baptized the couple’s two daughters. His campaign autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, is named after one of Wright’s sermon titles.

In response to the uproar over Wright’s comments, Obama delivered a speech in Philadelphia in which he denounced his pastor’s most controversial statements. But he also asked those offended by Wright to understand the context in which a black preacher raised under the oppression of segregation might feel compelled to make controversial statements about race and a United States whose founding ideals were, as Obama put it, “stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery.”

Nonetheless, the candidate added, Wright’s words “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic, that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America.”

In that sense, Obama continued, “Rev. Wright’s comments weren’t only wrong, but divisive -- divisive at a time at which we need unity.”

But to African-American ears, those divisive words can ring pretty true, according to Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School.

“In many ways, Jeremiah Wright exists in a community that both expects and needs him to wear the prophet’s mantle in ways that sound very painful in the public square -- to the principalities and powers that occupy the public square,” said Leonard, who is white but has been an active member of historically African-American Baptist congregations for 16 years.

“And by that I mean, at least in the context of African-American preaching as I have experienced it for many years now, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos and Elijah and their very painful message to their culture is a living, breathing reality in African-American pulpits.”

Among the most inflammatory of Wright’s comments were ones taken from a 2003 sermon in which he discussed the U.S. government’s historically inequitable treatment of African-American citizens.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no. God damn America -- that's in the Bible -- for killing innocent people,” Wright exclaimed. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

A message Wright preached the Sunday after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also has drawn significant fire. In it, he noted that Americans seemed shocked and bewildered that anyone would want to visit their country with violence.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” he said in the Sept. 16, 2001, sermon. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.”

Olson, the Clemson political scientist, said one has to note the ministry context in which Wright made such statements. Trinity is a large congregation -- the biggest in its denomination, which is overwhelmingly white. It has a tradition of social activism and operates multiple ministries for the disadvantaged. It is located in one of the poorest and most crime-ridden parts of Chicago’s South Side.

“So, you have to think a little bit about what the target audience is,” Olson said. “In a sense, if you’re Jeremiah Wright … you’re trying to inspire and you’re trying to give people hope and you’re trying to rile people up and get them to see things in a way that they maybe wouldn’t have seen things, and that you’re maybe trying to shake people out of a cycle of hopelessness. I mean, you’re not trying to tear down white America; your comments aren’t meant for that purpose.”

Many commentators have denounced Wright’s comments as “racist” or “anti-white.” In March 18 comments on MSNBC, former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan -- himself no stranger to racially charged language -- accused Wright of “hate speech” that is “anti-American” and “anti-Christian.”

But many African-American preachers -- and a handful of their white colleagues -- have defended Wright vigorously.

Alfred Smith, pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif., and an early leader in the civil-rights movement, has been one of the most outspoken.

Wright’s white critics, Smith said, are “living in privilege in suburbia where a suburban gospel is preached. And we’re living in the inner city, where the cry of the cross is perennial. And we have to give hope to people where the hope, unborn, has died.”

The main reason people are upset with some of Wright’s comments, Smith added, is because he believes “America is in denial of the fragility of her humanity. America believes that she does not sin. America believes that she is saintly. Therefore, instead of saying, ‘God bless the world,’ we have to say, ‘God bless America.’”

Critics have also denounced Obama for not leaving Trinity, saying they would have walked out on any pastor who made such comments. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, once President Bush’s head speechwriter, asked in a March 19 column why, if Obama disagreed with Wright’s more controversial comments, he remained an active member and supporter of the church for two-plus decades.

“Obama’s excellent and important speech on race in America did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor,” Gerson wrote. “Barack Obama is not a man who hates -- but he chose to walk with a man who does.”

But Obama said Wright is a more complex man -- and Trinity a more complex congregation -- than has been represented in the recent media uproar.

“I confess, if all that I knew of Rev. Wright were snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop” on TV news programs, and “if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures that have been peddled by some of the commentators, there is no doubt” that he would leave, he said.

But, Obama continued, “Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety…. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and -- yes -- the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America. And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Rev. Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.”

Leonard said that’s a common sentiment in churches -- such as historically black ones -- that place a strong emphasis on the value of a free pulpit. “Jeremiah Wright won the right to talk straight with this people because he married them and buried them and was there when they were sick and hurting. And so, a great many people … because their preacher has been a pastor to them, are willing to let their pastor, in a free pulpit, let he, she say whatever … they feel led to.”

Bass and Leonard both said the Wright episode also shows that many in the mainstream news media still have a difficult time understanding Christianity in all its forms.

“In spite of all the religious conversation that has gone on, often growing out of the evangelical participation in the public square … the public media still, in general, does not know what to do with Christianity, left or right, with the rhetoric and the commitments and the contexts of Protestant preaching and culture,” Leonard said.

By comparison, Leonard noted, that two GOP presidential contenders this campaign cycle -- former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain -- had closely associated themselves with controversial San Antonio preacher John Hagee.

“Hagee is on television every day talking about the need to nuke Iran as a part of his view of biblical eschatology, and nobody has raised apparently any question about” Huckabee preaching at Hagee’s Cornerstone Church or McCain seeking, and getting, Hagee’s endorsement before the Texas primary, Leonard said. “Jeremiah Wright didn’t want to nuke anybody. And so I think there’s a great deal of rhetoric, left and right, going on that grows out of context.”

Bass said that, while he was not trying to “establish an equivalence” between Wright’s comments and those of many conservative evangelicals, when taken out of context, evangelical preachers are often misunderstood by those outside their own context in the same fashion that Wright may have been interpreted.

“I think we all are, shall we say, victims of selective perception -- we hear what we want to hear, we disregard what we don’t want to hear,” Bass said. “I think, after natural disasters [and] in anticipation of natural disasters, you’ve seen prominent conservative-oriented religious leaders speak of God’s judgment on parts of America or America as a whole. And I think there was outrage expressed [by politicians] without necessarily disengagement from their support for them or appreciation for them.”

Nonetheless, he added, Wright’s “statements themselves, out of context, do sound outrageous and do need to be rejected.”

Leonard said churches also need to be aware of how such comments could be perceived in the wider public in the YouTube age.

“Pulpit rhetoric in Protestant churches, left and right of center, in the context of most churches … sounds like prophetic conviction,” He said. However, “in light of American pluralism, when it gets on CNN, it sounds like bigotry. And religious communities have to understand that.”

He noted infamous comments from former Southern Baptist Convention president Bailey Smith. In 1980, the Oklahoma City-area pastor became the center of national controversy after declaring, at a highly publicized meeting, that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

“How many times did Bailey Smith say that across Oklahoma, and he always got an ‘amen’” before getting criticized for it in a different context, Leonard asked. “That’s what religious communities have to know about sound-bite theology in the public square.”

To Alfred Smith, though, the criticism of Wright smarts very personally for him and other black preachers, because the African-American preaching tradition has, of necessity, been uniquely prophetic.

“My white peers who have gone to seminary and sat beside me in class go back to a church that requires them to preach a muzzled gospel -- a domesticated gospel,” he said. “And I believe that Jeremiah Wright is a paradigm of the liberation pulpit, the prophetic African-American church -- and it was not so much an attack on him as it was an attack on all of us.”


Jim Smith named CBF head of global-missions field teams
By Patricia Heys

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Jim Smith has been named the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s director of field team ministries for CBF global missions.

The position was previously held by Jack Snell, who died in October after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Smith currently lives in Berlin and serves as CBF’s associate coordinator for mission teams. As director of field team ministries, he will supervise CBF global-missions field personnel and support mission teams.

His new responsibilities will begin Oct. 1, and he will be based out of the CBF Resource Center in Atlanta.

“Jim Smith brings a wealth of experience to this significant position, including a long career in mission engagement in Europe,” said Rob Nash, the CBF’s coordinator for global missions. “The Smiths are held in high esteem by European Baptists, who have often spoken to me of their appreciation for the contribution the Smiths have made in that part of the world.”

Smith’s wife, Becky, will continue to serve CBF as an area coordinator. In their current positions, the couple has provided guidance to the Fellowship’s field personnel in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Smiths have served as liaisons between field personnel and the CBF national office, and helped connect missionaries with local churches and other partners. Before beginning work with CBF in 1993, the Smiths’ missions service included working in Germany and Austria.

“I am honored to be asked to do this job,” Jim Smith said. “It is a challenge to be an advocate for field personnel spread around the globe and working in difficult places. I am humbled at the sacrifices made by our field personnel and hope to support their efforts in every possible way. CBF's ethos of collaboration and partnership with others in carrying out the Great Commission requires our people to juggle many roles.”

A native of Martinsville, Va., Smith is a graduate of Averett College in Danville, Va., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.


British Baptist leader to head U.S. seminary
By ABP staff

CHICAGO (ABP) -- The head of British Baptists’ mission agency will become the head of an American Baptist seminary, according to the Baptist World Alliance.

Alistair Brown, general director of BMS World Mission since 1996, has been selected to be the 10th president of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago.

The school’s trustees elected Brown in early March, while he attended a BWA meeting in Hawaii.

The former journalist and ordained minister was born near Edinburgh, Scotland. Brown first worked as a church planter in Livingston, and served for more than 10 years as senior pastor at a church in Aberdeen, Scotland.

“Walking by faith never ends, so exploring this role is part of my faith journey,” he said, according to a seminary press release. “Christ is more real and more precious now than ever before, and my determination to know and do his will controls all my decisions.”

Announcing the move to the mission board’s staff in Didcot, England, Brown said, “It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to work for BMS. But nothing in this world is forever and I believe God has called me to something new, and for that reason, and only that reason, I’m willing to leave.”

The new seminary president holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s degree in business from the Open University.

Brown is chairman of the BWA’s membership committee. He is also a member of the general council, executive committee and several other panels and workgroups for the worldwide umbrella group for Baptists.

He is expected to begin his tenure at Northern Seminary at the beginning of the school’s fall term.


Opinion: The utilitarian temptation
By David Gushee

A few weeks ago, I was reminded in a news article that Judge Paul Pressler had actually said, at the beginning of the Southern Baptist controversy, that his side must “go for the jugular.” This is an image of slaying the enemy, of doing whatever you must do to win. The theme came up again as I was reading about internal debates in the Obama campaign over whether to “hit” Hillary with attacks. Hillary has opened the door with her own “hit” jobs on Obama during this protracted struggle between the two candidates.

The same kind of issue is raised in the ongoing national debate over torture. Is it permissible to torture to protect national security?

The moral philosopher in me sees in all of these issues the means-vs.-ends problem in ethics. Is it morally permissible to employ any and all means to accomplish a goal one considers worthy? Do the ends, in fact, justify the means? Or are there moral rules or principles that set limits on what we might do even to accomplish laudable ends?

Those who define what is moral primarily by the goals or consequences of an action are called utilitarians. Few Christian ethicists formally embrace utilitarianism because of its obvious problems, mainly its lack of binding moral rules governing actions in all circumstances. And yet especially in moments of stress and conflict, Christians are among those who are tempted to slide into utilitarianism. To win the denomination, win the campaign, or win the “war on terror,” we must do what is necessary, right?

Actually, no. At least not if we are Christ-followers.

Martin Luther King faced this issue when considering whether to revert to violence in the struggle for basic civil rights for black Americans. Certainly he and his movement experienced many provocations to violence, and he could have cited a long moral tradition of justified revolution in endorsing such violence to redress centuries of injustice.

Instead, like Gandhi before him, and Jesus before both, King was convinced that means and ends are inextricably intertwined. King often argued that we cannot accomplish just goals using unjust means. The descent into violence would compromise the nature of any “victory” attained. It would irreparably damage the relationships between black and white Americans. And it would do harm to the character of those inflicting the violence.

One might say that King believed that just goals can only be accomplished by just means employed by persons of just character whose actions preserve the conditions of a just community. So what are often treated as four separate moral considerations (goals, means, character and community) in the end cannot be disentangled.

Ironically, this reality recoils back on any utilitarianism because, in the end, acting as if one can use immoral means to accomplish moral goals has profound negative consequences. King saw this pattern as one evidence of a God-given moral structure of the universe.

There are theological and not just philosophical issues raised by the utilitarian temptation. For Christians, most fundamental is our willingness to disobey the concrete teachings of Jesus Christ in order to pursue what we believe to be a righteous goal.

This amounts to the belief that we know better than Jesus the Incarnate God what pattern of behavior is the right one in the “real” world in which we live. And it suggests that we do not trust in the justice of God. We take matters into our own hands in order to determine the outcome in a way pleasing to us. In its starkest and most terrible form, we disobey God in order to do what we believe to be God’s will. Not even a philosopher can make that work.

The result is predictably disastrous. The winner ends up losing. Everyone ends up losing. “Going for the jugular” (in a denomination, a presidential campaign, or a “war on terror”) invariably involves the employment of tactics that violate the concrete teachings of Jesus Christ and in some cases the most obvious demands of a civilized moral code. These tactics at times prove “effective,” but the use of unjust and ungodly means damages the individual and collective character of the community, whether it is Baptist, Democratic or American. It elevates into positions of leadership and influence persons who gain power because they are effective practitioners of the dark arts of mortal combat rather than having more appropriate qualifications for their roles.

In the end, the means-and-ends connection that King noticed proves true — always. And the descent into utilitarianism introduces unanticipated spiritual toxins into the community’s bloodstream that take a long, long time to flush out.

This is why we need a commitment to Jesus Christ above all. And it reminds us of why we also need both moral rules and civil laws that set boundaries on our actions. These are absolutely necessary to prevent the evils that always result from our descent into utilitarianism but which we usually ignore as we pursue the goals that are so precious to us at the moment.


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

Bible Trivia - 3/19/2008

Question: Which book in the Bible contains the following verse, “His head and his hairs were white like wool as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.”?

Answer: Revelation. (Revelation 1:14)

Comments: Many people of African descent have taken comfort in the fact that the texture of Jesus’ hair as presented in Revelation 1:14 is most descriptive of African hair despite the common images of Jesus in popular culture.

Jeremiah W. Wright explains, “Almost every Black Christian knows or should know Revelation 1:14-15. It is the only passage in the Bible where a physical description of Jesus is given...He was a real man from Africa. The African who shaped our faith more than any other African was, of course, Jesus.” (Wright, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith, Chicago: Urban Ministries, 1995, p. 141)

I must note that I disagree with Wright’s assertion that Jesus was from Africa, though he did spend time in the African nation of Egypt as a child. There is a bigger issue at stake though.

This discussion reminds us that everyone wants Jesus to look like them. Humanity tends to surround itself with people like themselves and this is a way to lay claim on Jesus. In arguing for a black Jesus, Wright is making a claim on Jesus, who had years been excluded from his culture. The separation was perpetuated in part by white images of Jesus.

In all likelihood Jesus was probably neither black nor white. He still loves each of us. As such, we can all claim Jesus.

How do you picture Jesus?

Word of the Day - 3/19/2008


Anthropophagi are eaters of human flesh; cannibals.

Critics of early Christianity accused Jesus’ followers of being anthropohagi. The charge of ritual cannibalism was probably based on confused accounts of the Christian Eucharist.

and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (I Corinthians 11: 24-25, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/19/2008

Tuesday flew by. I guess that means I must have had fun...

One day after sending out my resume, JW, the associate and interim pastor at The Church at Sterchi Hills called. Believe it or not, I actually answered the phone!

The good news is that he was impressed enough by my resume to call the day he received it. The bad news is that he has little influence on who gets hired and is not even on the search committee. It was still encouraging. I will meet with him next Tuesday at 2 pm and I look forward to (hopefully) making a new friend.

The bad news is that it looks like I will be getting my first haircut of 2008 pretty soon. Yes, I know no one else thinks that is bad news.

I spent a lot of the day preparing for Wednesday’s trip to Charleston. I ran errands, like getting gas and having the oil changed at Valvoline Instant Oil Change. I even printed out directions and our hotel confirmation number. I feel so responsible. I would feel even more so had I packed.

In the course of planning the trip, I made a horrifying discovery. JTH’s and my favorite Charleston/Folly Beach restaurant, The Anchor Line Restaurant, closed down shortly after we last ate there. (We hope the two events were not connected.) It seems there were plans to reopen at the same site but it was difficult to determine if this had happened yet from the online reports. We will report our findings from Charleston.

I spent Tuesday night with my parents at the Silver Spoon. I wanted to see them (and eat queso) before I left. I also received the added bonus of running into CEP and SP. SP is now a sophomore at West High School. He is following in his mother’s footsteps and is a fine tennis player. It is hard to believe that he is now taller than me or that I was once his nanny. Come to think of it, it was hard to see me as a nanny even then.

After dinner, I spent two hours at the MoFoS with JTH. That entire time was spent listening to JTH attempt to tell a single story. Part of this was due to his tangential "style" and part of it was because it was very busy. It was more because of JTH though. He did finally finish the story though and it was important. I'd have to say it was time well spent.

I also got to see MLM as he came to pick up an order he had JTH filling. MLM has been raving about a movie called Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling. It presently has a lofty IMDB ranking of 7.9 as well so MLM is not alone. It will be released on DVD on April 15th and I will probably review it shortly thereafter. The movie is still playing in Utah, Sarasota, FL, and Lansing, MI, so if you happen to be there, check it out.

Tuesday was my high school friend ALD’s 31st birthday. "Big Al" had the best butt fake in basketball I have ever seen. Happy birthday.

Finally, I am sad to report the death of one of my wrestling heroes growing up. WCCW manager "Playboy Gary Hart" died very unexpectedly on Monday at the age of 66 as the result a heart attack. He had just returned to his home in Euless, TX, from an autograph session in Pennsylvania. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Prayer Blog - 3/19/2008

AMTT's boss S's 88-year old mother M (aka "Peepsie") is in the hospital with four illnesses, the most serious of which is pneumonia. Her prognosis is not good.

This is difficult on many levels as S and her mother are especially close. Her father left when she was 3. S has never been engaged and depends on her mother to drive her to work as she has never learned. Keep this family in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 3/18/2008

Question: What were the first four words God said to man?

Answer: Be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:22)

Comments: The first words God’s spoke to humanity were a command - "Be fruitful and multiply." This may be the only command humanity has ever obeyed.

Word of the Day - 3/18/2008


Parturition is the process of bringing forth young.

Egytpian midwives refused to comply with the Pharaoh’s edict to kill all Israelite male children. When confronted, they informed him that Hebrew women were simply too vigorous when it came to parturition. (Exodus 1:19) The babies arrived before the midwives!

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/18/2008

Monday marked a very productive St. Patrick’s day. I, however, did forget to wear green. I realized after I was dressed and was too lazy to change. I have it on good authority that my natural Irish appearance exempts me from this tradition.

My Bible Study discussed the concept of heaven. MLM’s daughter has expressed her issues with the concept of eternity and at MLM’s request we spent this week discussing the Biblical concept of heaven. While I do not think we broke any new ground, we did have a good discussion.

MLM and I discovered we have a mutual need that is more pressing. You may remember last week that during my teaching evaluation, I discovered that I overuse the word “basically.” MLM’s wife has chastised him for his similar frequency of the expression “the bottom line.” This is important as ministers use summary statements more than most to draw their typically wandering audience into critical points. If you can come up with any alternatives to these, feel free to let us know. We will be making a list.

CMU commented that my long hair and beard made me resemble country music singer Toby Keith. I never would have used that in my “Separated at Birth?” feature. RAW simply calls it “terrifying.” I think he is more accurate.

After the study I mailed off 18 resume packets complete with personalized cover letters and a CD of a sample sermon. (SMA wanted me to send my famous “I Have a Dream” sermon...) Many thanks to DAT (aka “The Big Cheese”) for professionally producing and labeling these CDs on short notice.

The list of churches is here.

I was at the post office for some time. There were only two employees and one lady occupied one of them the entire half hour I was there. She spent a great deal of time unpacking her package and then more time trying to shove its contents into a Priority Mail box when it was obvious they would not fit. Eventually, she had the clerk try to cram it in before they came to the conclusion that they needed two boxes. You think? She drew the ire of everyone there. (I know someone I know will know this lady.)

While taking this picture, the lady behind me glanced at my return address and recognized my name, though not my appearance. Evidently, she was not expecting me to look like Toby Keith. She was SOB (yes, her real monogram), a former church member and mother to my childhood peer, MB. Now a member of FBC-Concord, I had not seen her in years. MB is now living in Orlando and his older brother CB in San Antonio. Both are working in logistics and transportation. It was good to catch up. So I actually benefitted from the lady’s sheer incompetence.

I also got to see the always delightful PTD there. Maybe I should go to the Post Office more often.

Monday night, I attended JTH’s basketball game. His team had only five players and struggled. They rallied from a 25-5 deficit to only lose 43-27. That is quite a comeback. I got to catch up with SDSH and AMTT as well. (It bothers me that I sit with player's wives...) Naturally, I was enlisted to do the devotional and told of my experiences at the Georgia Dome.

I then went to RAW’s where there he made a campfire by the creek. I have no idea what prompted this but I do know it was planned, as KLTW obtained police approval for the fire. KL (aka “Sunshine”), MP, KLTW, KJW, MPW, and RAW all showed up. Hot dogs were roasted and S’mores were made. It was a terrible night to be on a diet. I showed great restraint by eating only my grapes. I did get to reference picking out the seeds and stems while throwing the stems in the fire. It takes so little to please me.

KJW seemed to enjoy it. She picked up a flashlight that weighs more she. She looked like she was about to tell a ghost story as she held it beneath her chin. Inevitably, she dropped the weighty item on her daddy’s foot. I felt guilty laughing.

My favorite moment came when she randomly said, “toot.” KLTW asked, “Did you toot?” She replied with confirmation, “Uh-huh.” She was very proud of herself for knowing the word. Priceless.

Most importantly, I completed my NCAA Tournament Bracket. I am in MBR’s bracket at Yahoo Sports Pick ‘Em, “Potty Trained & Potty Mouthed.” We already have 16 partipants. I do not know why I love it so much. Regardless of how much basketball I watch, I always finish last in any pool I am. Let the Tournament begin!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/17/2008

Associated Baptist Press

March 17, 2008 (8-29)

IRS scrutiny of Obama’s denomination may signal political-speech crackdown
Prominent music minister faces molestation charges
Nabors resigns as BGCT chief financial officer
IABCU taps Tenn. Baptist educator for top post

IRS scrutiny of Obama’s denomination may signal political-speech crackdown
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- What is the IRS thinking? That’s the question that many church-state experts asked themselves when news broke in late February about the Internal Revenue Service’s investigation of Sen. Barack Obama’s denomination.

By all accounts, this is the first time the IRS has investigated a denomination. The agency is scrutinizing a speech that Obama -- an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for more than two decades -- gave at a denominational meeting last year.

Officials of the United Church of Christ announced they were under federal investigation for potential violations of tax law. Federal law prevents most churches and other tax-exempt groups organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code from endorsing political candidates or parties.

But, after learning the details about the event, many experts in the area of political activity of churches have wondered why the IRS is investigating a denomination for a potential violation that is, at best, unclear. Some UCC supporters have even gone so far as to suggest the investigation may be politically motivated. The body is generally considered the most liberal major Protestant denomination in the United States.

Several church-state experts consulted for this story said they doubted the IRS would bow to political pressure in a church investigation. But the UCC case and other recent ones suggest the agency is cracking down on potential violations of the law during the 2008 campaign season.

“I think that the one message that is clearest in this election cycle is that the IRS is taking its responsibility more seriously than ever to investigate this [or] any allegations of illegal political activity,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn’s organization frequently files IRS complaints against churches and other religious organizations that appear to violate tax laws by involving themselves in partisan politics.

In a letter dated Feb. 20 and received by church officials Feb. 25, IRS official Marsha Ramirez said “a reasonable belief exists” that the UCC violated the law with the Obama speech.

The agency’s concerns “are based on articles posted on several websites” that described Obama’s June 23 appearance at the denomination’s biennial General Synod meeting in Hartford, Conn., Ramirez continued. The senator -- by then an announced Democratic candidate for president -- spoke to about 10,000 church members, according to the denomination and news accounts.

But UCC officials said they took pains to ensure that the speech was not perceived as a campaign event or an endorsement of the candidate.

Church officials invited Obama as a church member rather than in his capacity as a candidate and asked him to speak a year before he declared his intention to run for higher office, a UCC news release said. Obama was invited “as one of 60 diverse speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise.”

Prior to the speech, a church official told the crowd that the appearance was not intended to be a campaign event and that campaign-related material and other forms of electioneering would not be allowed inside the event venue.

The IRS letter claimed that “40 Obama volunteers staffed campaign tables outside” the Hartford Civic Center, where the event was held. Church officials said they barred any campaigning inside the venue but could not prevent Obama’s campaign workers from setting up on the city street outside.

Obama’s speech, ironically, focused mainly on the proper intersection of faith and politics for Christians. At a few points in the oration, he lapsed into campaign-like language about policies he has advocated in the Senate -- or would advocate in the White House -- on moral issues such as health care. He also occasionally referred to his candidacy.

But, said a UCC attorney, the denomination shouldn’t be faulted for Obama’s occasional edging into campaign-like rhetoric.

“What the law requires is that the [tax-]exempt organization not engage in political activity,” said Don Clark, a Chicago lawyer who serves as the denomination’s national counsel. “The IRS has interpreted the law … that compliance would require restrictions not only on the behavior of the exempt organization, but on the behavior of the elected official. And so the issue that’s raised here is, if the organization controls its behavior, does everything that it can within its power, but the elected official does something … does the exempt organization, in effect, bear the brunt of the behavior of the elected official?”

The IRS conducts the vast majority of similar investigations into religious groups as responses to complaints filed with the agency’s regional field offices. The complaint that apparently spurred the IRS investigation, posted on a blog critical of the UCC’s leadership (, also mentions a denominational press release prior to the speech noting Obama was a presidential candidate who “has spoken often about his profession of faith, his membership in the socially progressive UCC and the need for Democrats to take seriously the concerns of religious Americans.”

But Lynn -- who is an ordained minister in the UCC -- said hanging the IRS case on that press release “is a pretty thin reed on which to base a claim that there’s something illegal being plotted when on the other side of the balance is just step after step to avoid this being given the appearance of a campaign appearance.”

Since the 2004 election, there have been several prominent IRS investigations of churches and leaders for political activity. In February, Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., announced he was under investigation for using church letterhead and a church radio show to endorse Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination.

Two large churches -- one liberal, one conservative -- were investigated for sermons delivered from their pulpits just prior to the 2004 presidential election between President Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Each sermon, critics said, while ostensibly about the candidates’ stances on certain moral issues, seemed calculated to recommend one over the other.

In the case of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., the IRS dismissed the complaint Lynn’s organization had filed against it and its pastor, Ronnie Floyd.

But the agency extensively investigated All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif. In that case, the church’s former rector delivered a pre-election sermon that acknowledged both candidates were sincere Christians and that fellow believers could support either one in good conscience. However, the homily went on to denounce Bush’s Iraq war forcefully.

The agency closed the case against the congregation last fall. IRS officials told the church that, although the agency would impose no penalties on All Saints, it still believed the sermon had violated tax law.

All Saints’ legal tab for defending itself ran well into the six-figure range.

After the case closed, the church attempted to find out more about why it had been investigated. Through Freedom of Information Act requests, the congregation found that there had been coordination between the IRS and the Justice Department on the investigation at a stage that an attorney for All Saints described as “extraordinarily early” for an IRS probe.

“Normally, the Department of Justice becomes involved [in an IRS investigation] when a matter is headed to court,” said Marc Owens, a Washington-based tax attorney who represented the church.

But in All Saints’ case, “the coordination with the DOJ began virtually with the beginning of the examination phase,” Owens continued, referring to the second phase of an IRS inquiry. He said that, judging from the documents they have received, the officials involved in coordinating between the agencies were career civil servants rather than political appointees.

Lynn said such a consultation might have come up so early because of the sensitive legal nature of disputes between the government and churches.

“If I were a bureaucrat [for the IRS] and I found out that somebody was really fighting back and they were in any way discussing their free-speech rights, I’d be on the phone with the Justice Department sooner rather than later,” he said.

Nonetheless, he added, “It did strike me as unusual, but it may be unusual only because other people [under IRS investigation] haven’t filed those [freedom-of-information] requests” to find out more about their investigations.

Both Lynn and Owens said they doubted that such investigations are politically motivated.

“I resist the idea that there’s some kind of a crackdown or politicization of the Internal Revneue Service; I just don’t see any evidence of that,” Lynn said.

The Internal Revenue Service, which usually declines to discuss individual cases, did not respond to requests for comment from Associated Baptist Press. A Justice Department spokesman said March 14 his agency had no comment on the All Saints case.

Whatever the motivation for such aggressive investigations, Owens said, there are consequences for the churches under scrutiny.

“The issue there is whether there is some sort of attempt to chill [free] speech. And what we’re talking about is literally speech, and many times religious speech,” he said. “And the alacrity with which the IRS is moving is suggesting some sort of effort to head off further interactions.”


Prominent music minister faces molestation charges
By Robert Marus

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- An Alabama music minister prominent in moderate Baptist life has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor while he was employed in an earlier position in Maryland.

Tim Mann, who has been minister of music at Shades Crest Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., since 2001, was released on $10,000 bond March 14 by a Jefferson County, Ala., judge, according to the Birmingham News. He was ordered to report to officials in Montgomery County, Md., by March 21.

Mann was arrested March 13 on a warrant from Maryland and sent to the county jail. Hoover is a Birmingham suburb.

Dennis Foust, the Shades Crest pastor, did not respond to an Associated Baptist Press reporter’s request for comment by press time for this story. But he told the Birmingham paper that the charges “involve alleged abusive actions of sexual misconduct in the 1990s which may have occurred while he served a congregation in Maryland.”

Mann was music and worship pastor at First Baptist Church of Gaithersburg, Md., from 1991-1998. He directed the music program at First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Fla., after his Maryland stint and before accepting the job in Alabama.

Foust told the paper that Mann passed an extensive background check when Shades Crest hired him.

He was not aware of any allegations of abuse against Mann in his current position, Foust said, “yet we are offering open conversation and counseling as needed to those who have been adversely affected by this alleged breach of trust by one of our staff members.”

Mann reportedly informed Shades Crest members of the Maryland charges March 8 and resigned from his church position. He also resigned from an adjunct position on the music faculty at nearby Samford University, one of the largest Baptist institutions of higher learning in the world.

Mann was reportedly highly regarded by his peers in music ministry. In 2004, he served as worship leader for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly, which was held in Birmingham. Shades Crest is one of the largest moderate Baptist congregations in Alabama.


Nabors resigns as BGCT chief financial officer
By John Hall

DALLAS (ABP) -- David Nabors has resigned as treasurer and chief financial officer of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The resignation will become effective April 15.

Jan Daehnert, BGCT’s interim executive director, said Nabors was not involved in any “illegal, unethical or immoral activity” but some leaders around the state had lost confidence in his judgment in the use of funds. Expenditure of investment funds was of particular concern, Daehnert said.

“We needed a change as it relates to the coming of a new executive director and moving forward to greater hope and possibilities,” Daehnert said. “We want to look forward to reaching people for Christ in effective and fiscally-responsible ways.”

Daehnert said Nabors’ resignation is a turn in Texas Baptist history. In recent months, convention Chief Operating Officer Ron Gunter resigned and Executive Director Charles Wade retired. Randel Everett will begin as the convention’s executive director March 31.

In a letter to Daehnert, Nabors expressed gratitude for his time on the BGCT staff.

“I cherish and thank the Lord for the six years I have been able to serve the Baptists of Texas in this calling,” he wrote. “Many life-long friendships have been made during my tenure, and I especially appreciate the staff for their hard work and support.”

Daehnert said he is working on plans for the transition period between Nabors and the next chief financial officer.


IABCU taps Tenn. Baptist educator for top post
By Mark Brown and Tim Fields

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- Board members of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities have elected Michael Arrington, provost of Carson-Newman College, as executive director. The position became effective March 1.

Arrington, 62, succeeds Thomas Corts, who in September was named by President Bush to coordinate education initiatives for the United States Agency for International Development. Arrington will retire as provost at Carson-Newman effective at the close of the academic year.

A Nashville, Ark., native who earned three degrees from the University of Arkansas, Arrington joined Carson-Newman as provost and vice president for academic affairs in 2001. He worked previously at Ouachita Baptist University and in education as a sixth-grade social studies teacher in Missouri.

Joe Bill Sloan, president of Carson-Newman and associate provost under Arrington until he was named interim president last year, says his colleague is "an ideal fit for the IABCU."

"Mike’s support, advice, and wise counsel have been invaluable as we have moved through a period of transition," said Sloan. "And, though the IABCU appointment is a great recognition of his abilities and skills as a Baptist educator, I think our member institutions will quickly find him to be a visionary leader and proactive servant."

IABCU, which has offices in Nashville, Tenn., is owned and operated by 51 Baptist-related institutions of higher education. Arrington's wife, Pam, is an associate professor of education at Carson-Newman. They have a married daughter and one grandchild.


-- Mark Brown is director of news and media relations for Carson-Newman College; Tim Fields is director of communications for IABCU.

View from 315A

On Sunday, Georgia won the SEC basketball tournament. They won four games (three in two days) to win the event. This is remarkable as they had only won four games in conference all season prior to the tourney! They were ranked fifth out of six teams in the SEC Easy. With the win, they received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, due to the tornado, they won the championship on their arch rivals’ home court.

Absent from the NCAA tournament field are last year's two finalists, Ohio State and two-time defending champion Florida. The Gators are the first defending champions to fail to qualify for the tournament since Kansas in 1989. The Jayhawks were on probation.

Tennessee’s loss in the conference tournament dropped them to a #2 seed. UNC is the #1 overall seed and since the Vols are in their region, this implies that the committee viewed the team as the eighth best in the nation. This was disheartening. Hopefully this will inspire the team.

UT entered the day still hoping for the school’s first ever #1 seed. Despite their loss to Arkansas, the Vols were still ranked first in the RPI rankings. This makes them only the fourth team in fifteen years to hold that distinction without also meriting a 1 seed. UT also claimed the nation’s toughest strength of schedule and non-conference RPI in addition to compiling a 12-4 record against the NCAA tournament field and a 6-2 mark against top 25 opponents.

Tennessee finished fifth in the final AP Poll. The only schools to hold the #1 ranking at some point during the season were UNC, Memphis, and UT.

The good news is that this was a disappointment. Just three years ago, when the Vols received their only other #2 seed in school history, it was a time of great celebration. The fact that this same ranking is now a disappointment shows just how far the program has come.

Tennessee was the #5 seed last year, in Bruce Pearl’s other season as coach.

UT’s opens the NCAA tournament Friday in Birmingham, Ala., against Patriot League champion American. The Vols are 2-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament action in Birmingham, having defeated Louisiana-Lafayette and Connecticut in 2000 en route to a Sweet 16 appearance.

The American Eagles (I am not kidding) are 21-11 and making their first NCAA tournament appearance. With a win, the Vols face the winner of South Alabama (26-6) and Horizon League champion Butler (29-3) on Sunday at 2:30. MPW and I spent the night contemplating getting tickets, but the fact that the Vols play on Easter ultimately will keep us in Knoxville.

Bible Trivia - 3/17/2008, #2

Question: What action of David offended his wife Michal?

Answer: He danced (in praise of the Lord). (II Samuel 6:16)

Comments: Of all the things that David did - not the least of which was being a polygamist - it was dancing that offended Michal! Either he had absolutely no rhythm or she was a Baptist...

Actually, she thought that his demonstration of worship was undignified for a king. (II Samuel 6:20) The text concludes on the note that Michal was barren for the duration of her life, with the implication that her condition was directly related to her criticism. (II Samuel 6:23) Whether God "closed her womb" or David stopped sleeping with her is left for the reader to decide. I choose the former as abstinence does not seem to fit David’s character.

Bible Trivia - 3/17/2008

Question: What two Greek gods did the people of Lystra think Paul and Barnabas were?

Answer: Mercury and Jupiter. (Acts 14:12)

Comments: On Paul’s “first missionary journey,” the people of Lystra (in Asia Minor) mistook he and Barnabas for Hermes (Mercury) and Zeus (Jupiter) respectively after a healing miracle. (For whatever reason, this card labels the Greek gods by their Roman names.)

The people identified Barnabas as Zeus, the superior (“father”) deity. In the wider Hellenistic world, as the messenger of Zeus, Hermes is the paradigmatic angel. As Paul was the “chief speaker,” he was selected as Hermes.

The miscalculation was natural as the two deities were linked in their mythology. In Ovid (43 BCE-17 BCE)’s Metamorphoses (viii.611-724), the poet relays a well-known story of these two deities anonymously descending to earth and eventually receiving hospitality from the elderly couple Philemon and Baucis. The two are subsequently rewarded for their cordiality. This myth was common and the locals’ analysis may have drawn from it.

Word of the Day - 3/17/2008


A paroxysm is any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion.

As Jesus exorcized an unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue, the spirit caused a paroxysm on its way out. (Mark 1:26)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/17/2008

My weekend was spent with SMA in Atlanta, watching the Vols play in the SEC Tournament. Naturally, the year that we decided to go to the event would be the year a tornado affected it - an event so unforeseeable that there was no contingency plan.

After a pleasant, but late, Thursday night, SMA and I set out for Atlanta bright and early on Friday morning. Fatigue was clearly a factor as SMA forgot his lap top, cell phone, and the tickets to the event. You read that correctly. Fortunately, we discovered that the tickets were missing while still in Knoxville. We did not realize the loss of the other items until we reached Atlanta. I brought my laptop, but without his, we could not position the two back-to-back and pretend to play Battleship. It was a big loss.

One thing SMA did not forget were his retro striped Tennessee warm up pants that the Vols brought back in the season opener against Temple. One man turned to him and said only, “You should be ashamed.” That was a more favorable response than we anticipated when he checked into our highfalutin Buckhead hotel wearing the loud pants.

We arrived in Atlanta hungry, just before noon. We actually tailed sports columnist Tony Barnhart to the arena. It was a great feeling to go to a game having already secured tickets.

We ate at the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center. The seemingly endless building has a food court with kiosks from all over the world, including Greenland! With the world to choose from - we chose Georgia Barbeque. Despite not particularly branching out, the food was good.

I must also note that an establishment whose sign read simply “Idaho” appeared to sell only potatoes, confirming my suspicions that there is nothing else in that state. What were the odds of me referencing Idaho twice within a week?

After eating, we made our way to the Georgia Dome for the first game of the day - Tennessee vs. South Carolina. Surprisingly, neither of us had ever been there before. We had almost gone in July 1999 to see Goldberg defeat Hulk Hogan, but were deterred when we learned that despite SMA’s insistence, flying standby was not free. It is a true story. Ask CST.

We were both surprised by the appearance of the sixteen-year old building. It somehow seemed older. The large structure serves as the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The size that would have made it impressive was negated as half of the stadium was cordoned off for basketball.

Despite being unimpressed by the stadium’s look, SMA’s primary concern was that the dome’s dimensions would negate Tennessee’s depth perception and as such, our shooting would be greatly affected.

Tennessee had a strong contingency there. We sat amongst them. Kentucky fans arrived en masse for the event, far surpassing all other schools. Tennessee and Mississippi State had the next largest following. It was very impressive to see everyone wearing their team’s colors. It felt as though we were participating in a good version of color wars.

Our seats would have been wonderful football seats, but unfortunately we were there for basketball. We were behind the goal and on the aisle. The aisle was very significant. We played the first of four games, meaning fans from other games continuously walked up and down the aisles painfully slowly, impeding our view. It was miserable. We moved to a higher level at the half.

Making matters worse were my splitting headache from sleep deprivation and the fact that the Vols were not playing well. Had they lost, we would have been heading straight back to Knoxville. Fortunately, a clutch three-point basket by Chris Lofton sealed a victory. My thoughts on the game are posted under a “View from 315A.”

Afterwards, we went to SEC Fanfare. We were pleasantly surprised to find free passes in our ticket book. FanFare is a sponsored event which features games and attractions for fans. It comes across superbly on television, but falls flat in person. We admit the event was a great attraction for children, but for adults (and even us) it would not have been worth paying for. Thankfully, we did not.

We also felt that somehow we had missed out on a lot of swag. We saw people carrying huge bags from the event and all we wound up with were a mini basketball, a shirt from Eckrich which read “summer grilling tour ‘07" (thanks for your trash) and a lanyard. While the lanyard proved valuable as we wore it around our necks to carry our tickets, we felt like our plunder was inferior in both quality and quantity than others. It will be interesting to see what use MLM will make of the shirts.

While at the event, our hands were given a green dot to gain readmittance. Fearing it might be the mark of the beast, I had the ticket taker mark my left hand (Revelation 13:16). (After viewing this photo, I may quit ministry to become a hand model.) My theory on the mark of the beast, you ask? MySpace!

After the letdown at FanFare, we went to cheer Arkansas to victory over Vanderbilt. We even “called the hogs”, or at least participated in the fun arm motions that accompany the cheer. Afterwards, we opted to stay in the area over braving Atlanta rush-hour traffic. So we went to nearby CNN Center and ate at the Don Juan Mexican Cantina. My burrito grande was good, but it was certainly no Soccer Taco. Afterwards, we shopped in the complex. While I scavenged for souvenirs for KJW, SMA entertained people with his skill at Family Guy pinball.

We returned to the Dome for the seemingly endless Alabama-Mississippi State game. The entire stadium seemed to collectively laugh at the absurdity of Alabama’s Mykal Riley hitting a dramatic three-point shot to send the game into overtime. We had already made the decision to leave after the game. That three-pointer may have saved our lives. At the evry least, it shielded us from a tornado.

Had the game not been extended, we would have been caught in the eye of the tornado that rocked the Georgia Dome. The structure’s support system visibly shook and debris fell in the overtime period. The game was stopped with 2:11 left on the clock. Fortunately, the debris fell in part of the arena that was not being used. As such, no one was hurt.

We wanted to leave, but the arena was put on lockdown. Eventually security acknowledged that they could not detain anyone. We spared ourselves a lot of trouble by leaving against their better judgement.

Though we were surrounded by debris and ambulances, we had little trouble getting to our shelter, room 419 of the Embassy Suites, in upscale Buckhead. Soon after arriving, SMA craved some Tylenol® PM. It was surreal asking the concierge where I could score some drugs. We proceeded on foot a neighboring Kroger. You know you are an opulent area when you pass two cigar stores before you get to a grocery store. Exhausted, we were in for the night by midnight.

We awoke the next morning to the news that we would not be attending Tennessee’s next game. Unfit for play, the Georgia Dome was no longer hosting the event. Adjacent Phillips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks was booked by a gospel concert. This meant, that the game was moved to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

The new venue had 40% of the capacity of the Georgia Dome. With the adjusted schedule and smaller venue, only student-athletes' families, cheerleaders, bands and other credentialed individuals would be allowed to attend the remaining games of the tournament. Why were cheerleaders there? There was no one to lead! I’m not bitter though.

SMA and I both envisioned the atmosphere resembling the Terry Funk-Jerry Lawler empty arena match. (I realize that virtually no one will get that reference.)

At this point, we had four viable options:

  • 1. Buy a Tennessee jersey with the #40 and claim to be relatives of walk-on Rick Daniels-Mulholland. Who else would own that jersey?
  • 2. Stand outside the Georgia Dome and try to find some really clueless fans and scalp our tickets.
  • 3. Storm the castle. We were one man short. We might pass for Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin but there was clearly no Andre the Giant on the squad. Besides, we also had no holocaust cloak to list among our assets.
  • 4.Leave.

We took the safe option and hit the road. So our plans of dining at the Cheesecake Factory and seeing my seminary friends were postponed.

The trip was still well worth making. All three games we watched were decided by six points or less, including two 2-point contests. We also left with a good story - the time UT blew the roof off at the SEC tournament.

We also took solace in the fact that Kentucky was the only team to send fans who did not see their team play even a single game. UK was also hurt the most by the realignment, as what would have been near a home game was eliminated when their fans were sent packing.

Plus, we both returned home to our favorite girls - his 21 years old and mine 21 months old.

After opting to pass on a long wait for an unimpressive complimentary breakfast, we left the hotel. We stopped at nearby Lenox Square. While there I ate my first Cinnabon. My big (and only) purchase was at Urban Outfitters. I bought a “Grow Jesus (because he is awesome!)” novelty item. It is the same premise as the sponge toys usually reserved for dinosaurs and the like. I am apprehensive to use the toy as I feel John’s inadequacy in baptizing Jesus (Matthew 3:14).

If interested, someone has posted an eight-day time lapse video of Jesus growing here.

On our way to the interstate we acknowledged that was is now a Ruby Tuesday franchise, was once the Houston’s restaurant where former Tennessee running back Jamal Lewis was busted for drugs in 2000. With that bit of Tennessee trivia behind us, we headed back to Knoxville, but our encounter with tornadoes was not yet over.

On the way home, we called the always reliable DBN to find a radio station so that we could listen to the UK-UGA game. As we listened, we learned we were driving directly into the heart of another tornado. The game’s broadcast was interrupted with safety protocol, including covering one’s face. Since we were in a car (a major no-no) and could not comply with the other suggestions, SMA put his new complimentary Eckrich t-shirt over his head. I honestly envisioned my cell phone and this picture found amongst the rubble and our corpses disgusting emergency technicians. I white knuckled my way through a terrible storm around Cartersville and it was smooth sailing from there.

The radio “experts” claimed that they may supply this year’s tournament ticket holders with vouchers for next year’s event in Tampa. This year we saw a tornado - next year a hurricane!

I returned in time to watch the Tennessee game on RAW’s big screen with he and MPW. Unfortunately, we lost and were eliminated from the tournament. My thoughts are posted under a “View from 315A”

I do have mixed emotions regarding not attending. On the one hand, I was not subjected to a loss and the subsequent awful ride home. On the other hand, had I been there, we may have won. The Vols have not lost with me in attendance - including three road games. Since my attendance is clearly a deciding factor - Bruce, get me tickets for the NCAAs!

KJW and KLTW’s arrival (just as we lost) softened the blow considerably. We grudgingly watched the Georgia-Mississippi State game as we talked with them. KJW seemed to appreciate the stuffed "New Hound" dog I had gotten her at the CNN Center. Even in defeat, it was great to be with my “family.”

KJW is now very adept with a computer. She calls it “Elmo” because she surfs Elmo’s site. Though she assumes the sole function of the computer is to play Elmo games, it is amazing how quickly kids acclimate to technology these days. That sentence really made me sound old.

The next morning, I spent Palm Sunday with my class at RAW’s house. Again, I used Bible Trivia cards to stimulate discussion. My favorite question of the day was the misspelled - “In what city did Rehab live?” I am guessing somewhere in California. (The minister in me cannot resist reminding you that Rahab was the prostitute who housed Israelite spies in Jericho.)

PAT was incredibly well dressed. I believe KLTW exact descriptor was “sexy.” The rest of the guys were wearing W.C. Vinson Ministries t-shirts! I was so honored. More noteworthy than MPW wearing the shirt, was his allowing me to photograph him in it. (Is it just me or have these guys been in a lineup before?)

WAM generously provided lunch for us all from Subway (without being asked). In addition to lunch, he brought his newest bumper sticker promoting In doing so, he taught me a new word - pwn. Evidently this is a slang term brought to us from the gaming community which implies total domination. It seems to have originated due to consistent misspelling of the word “own.” WAM always teaches me something.

The biggest news of the day was that KJW spent her first day in Sunday School! Though she was not particularly thrilled with the prospects of wearing a dress, all went well. She especially liked the church’s swing set. Who knew that would be a draw?

After a chaotic weekend, I spent a pleasant evening with KLTW, KJW, and RAW, eating pizza and coconut. The strange combination came from RAW's desire to buy a coconut after he had learned from Survivorman how to properly eat one. TV is educational after all. Speaking of which, on this night we watched "The Women of Ninja Warrior.” We especially cheered for Fukushima and Fukushita because we liked their names.