Friday, August 29, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 8/29/2008

Associated Baptist Press
August 29, 2008 · (08-82)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Citing Scripture on historic day, Obama accepts DNC nomination
Social conservatives express delight at McCain's pick of Sarah Palin
Baptists aiding after Georgia crisis; Russians seek talks
Hawaii hosts WMU's first-ever co-ed student-missions event

Citing Scripture on historic day, Obama accepts DNC nomination
By Robert Marus

DENVER (ABP) -- Forty-five years to the day after a Baptist preacher shamed America into living up to its own creed, Barack Obama cited the epistle to the Hebrews in becoming the first African-American to accept a major party's presidential nomination Aug. 28.

"America, we cannot turn back; we cannot walk alone," the Illinois senator said, speaking to an estimated 85,000 revelers in a football stadium on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. "At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise -- that American promise -- and, in the words of Scripture, 'hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.'"

Obama's speech came on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. Obama's rhetoric, subtly echoing King's in calling America to fulfill its promise, culminated one of the most faith-soaked Democratic conventions in recent memory.

Convention events included party-sponsored forums featuring many evangelical, Catholic and other religious leaders discussing the proper intersection of religion and politics, regular references to religious voters by convention speakers and plenary sessions that opened and closed with prayers from leaders such as evangelical author Donald Miller and megachurch pastor Joel Hunter.

In fact, religion was so prominent in Denver that some advocates for strong church-state separation expressed doubts about the Democrats' methods.

"You and I know that being a public figure doesn't mean denying your faith or beliefs. But in America, it does mean not imposing them on anyone else, and it means part of your job is preserving the boundaries between religion and government, to protect the integrity of both," said Interfaith Alliance President Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister, in an Aug. 28 e-mail to supporters.

Obama's acceptance speech featured a laundry list of specific policy goals and promises and generous dollops of the nominee's signature lofty rhetoric.

"We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight," he said, alluding to increasingly unpopular Bush administration economic and foreign-policy policies. "The fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that is the promise we need to keep. That is the change that we need right now."

Obama focused on many long-standing Democratic priorities -- such as universal healthcare and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. He also gave a nod to middle-ground solutions to contentious social debates.

"What has also been lost [in American political debate] is our sense of common purpose -- and that's what we have to restore," he said. "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.... I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and live lives free of discrimination."

The event also featured the nomination of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as Obama's vice-presidential running mate. Biden, a practicing Catholic, has drawn fire from some traditionalist Catholics because he supports keeping abortion legal.

"Barack Obama has re-opened a wound among American Catholics by picking a pro-abortion Catholic politician," said Brian Burch, president of Fidelis, a conservative Catholic group, in a statement on the Biden pick. "The American bishops have made clear that Catholic political leaders must defend the dignity of every human person, including the unborn. Sadly, Joe Biden's tenure in the United States Senate has been marked by steadfast support for legal abortion."

But in Denver, many Christians -- including some who describe themselves as Republicans -- focused on other moral issues. In a benediction to end the convention, Hunter asked for God's wisdom for voters and the candidates.

"Almighty God, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us a reverence for all life. Give us a compassion for the most vulnerable among us -- the babies, the children, the poor, the sick, the enslaved, the persecuted. For all of those who have been left out of the advantaged world," he said.


Social conservatives express delight at McCain's pick of Sarah Palin
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- John McCain's surprise Aug. 29 pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate was met with positive reviews from groups that oppose abortion rights and gay rights.

"Sen. McCain made an outstanding pick from the choices that were on the table," said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, in a press statement released shortly after McCain's pick became public. "Gov. Sarah Palin is an outspoken advocate for pro-family policies that energize social conservatives. She has a record of advancing the culture of life at every opportunity including championing a ban on partial-birth abortion and promoting parental consent for minor abortions."

The Idaho Values Alliance -- a conservative Christian group in the state where Palin was born and raised -- released a statement calling the Palin pick "an inspired choice" and noting that she supported, in 1998, one of the first state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

Palin, a former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, was elected governor in 2006 in a contentious primary battle that pitted her against the Republican incumbent and, later, a former Democratic governor. She has earned a reputation as a reformer in a state that has been dominated by Republicans in recent years and beset by several political-corruption scandals, including the recent indictment of its long-serving U.S. senator, Ted Stevens (R).

However, she is also under investigation by the Alaska Legislature for her role in the firing of a former state employee.

While social issues are rarely election-deciders in libertarian-leaning Alaska, Palin has expressed strong opposition to gay rights. Besides supporting the same-sex-marriage ban, she also said, during her 2006 campaign, that she disapproved a recent Alaska Supreme Court ruling that the state had to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of government employees.

While Palin later signed legislation that enforced the decision, she said she would support a ballot initiative that would effectively overturn the court ruling by banning gay spouses from state benefits.

"When you can't even support giving our community the rights to health insurance and pension benefits, it's a frightening window into where she stands on equality," said Joe Solmonese, president of the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign, in a statement denouncing the Palin choice.

However, at least one moderate GOP group greeted McCain's decision as a step forward for gays in the party. Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Sammon released a statement saying Palin is "a mainstream Republican who will unite the party and serve John McCain well as vice president. Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters."

Palin has also expressed support for the teaching of alternatives to evolution in public schools. According to the Anchorage Daily News, in response to a question on teaching evolution versus religious theories during a 2006 gubernatorial debate, Palin said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

The Supreme Court has ruled against the teaching of creationism in public schools, and other federal courts have extended that to a ban on teaching "intelligent design," a newer theory that states life is so complex that it necessitates the existence of an intelligent creative force of some sort.

Palin later, according to the newspaper, modified her position on public schools' teaching such theories. "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class," she said. "It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."


Baptists aiding after Georgia crisis; Russians seek talks
By Vicki Brown

TBLISI, Georgia (ABP) -- Baptists around the world continued to respond with prayer and humanitarian aid to people displaced by continuing conflict between Georgia and Russia Aug. 29. Meanwhile, Russian Baptists have invited their Georgian counterparts to discuss the future.

Russia has been slow to remove its troops from Georgia after a cease-fire was declared Aug. 13. Thousands have been displaced in the conflict that began earlier this month when Georgian authorities attempted to regain control over the breakaway territory of South Ossetia.

The province is regarded by international law as officially part of Georgia, but many of its residents consider themselves Russians and hold Russian citizenship.

The province of Abkhazia also stepped up its continuing effort to break away from Georgia. Leaders of the former Soviet Union had made Abkhazia part of Georgia, and Abkhazia has fought for independence since the USSR's collapse in 1991. Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 1992 but has not secured international recognition.

Russians sent thousands of troops into Georgia to assist both provinces on Aug. 7 after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili launched an assault in South Ossetia. The Baptist World Alliance estimates that more than 158,000 individuals have been displaced by the fighting.

In the midst of conflict, Russian Baptists are seeking to restore friendship with Georgian Baptists, according to Vitaly Vlasenko, director of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists' department for external church relations.

In an Aug. 24 statement, Vlasenko called on believers to "rise above the fray; rise above narrow, selfish political partisanship."

He acknowledged that Baptists in the two countries had "grown distant" in the past 15 years, laying part of the blame on propaganda efforts. He called on both sides to recognize their part in the conflict and the results of war.

Vlasenko extended an invitation to Georgia and to "other nations and peoples who were once part of the Eastern Bloc" to talk about the area's past and future.

"How can we who once lived in the Soviet sphere become a great force for peace?" he wrote. "We by no means want to fall back into the ways and conditions of the Cold War.... Together we evangelical Christians can help reverse the present trend which is leading us down the path of a renewed Cold War."

Vlasenko said monetary donations can be sent through the North Ossetian Mission of Christian Compassion (, which primarily assists children, or through the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia's Betheli Humanitarian Association (

In an Aug. 28 press statement, Baptist World Alliance President David Coffey and General Secretary Neville Callam called on Baptists worldwide to pray for peace in the region.

According to the release, Baptist World Aid, BWA's humanitarian arm (, has sent funds, including a contribution from the German Baptist Union, for relief efforts in Georgia.

International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA has designated a $7,500 emergency grant. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has given $5,000 for relief efforts, with its Georgia state affiliate, which has a partnership with the former Soviet country, sending $2,000.

CBF of Georgia has partnered with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia since 2006, according to a CBF statement. Georgia CBF supports several ministries in its partner country, including a care center for the elderly, an orphanage, a theological school and a women-in-ministry organization.

Southern Baptists sent a four-person team to the Georgian capital, Tblisi, Aug. 18 to assess needs. They were scheduled to begin remodeling a building in the devastated Georgian city of Gori on Aug. 25.

A Texas Baptist disaster-relief feeding team headed to Georgia Aug. 27, and teams from the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma are scheduled to go next week, according to Jim Brown, stateside director of Baptist Global Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board's aid arm (


Americans act as Georgian Baptists call for aid, end to conflict Hawaii hosts WMU's first-ever co-ed student-missions event
By Stephanie Blackmon

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- From June 28 through July 4, waves of close to 150 volunteers hit the shores of Oahu, Hawaii, for the first-ever co-ed student-missions event sponsored by Woman's Missionary Union.

The event, dubbed "Collide/Lima Kokua," drew high-school students of both genders to the Aloha State "to give them the opportunity to make a difference in the world for Christ," said Suzanne Reece, national WMU ministry consultant for the student team.

The Southern Baptist Convention's women's auxiliary coordinated the event in conjunction with Hawaii WMU and the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

In partnership with 17 island churches, students and leaders served at 17 ministry sites and participated in ministry projects, such as vacation Bible school for homeless children, backyard Bible clubs, painting, trash pick-up, church information distribution, prayer-walking and other projects.

The week-long event was originally called simply "Collide," but both national WMU and Hawaiian organizers wanted a name that would reflect their partnership and goals. Lima Kokua, Hawaiian for "helping hands," became part of the name as a result.

The name was particularly fitting for Rogelio Maciel, 13, of First Baptist Church of South Houston, Texas. "This was my first time doing a missions trip, and I went to help out with other people and show many people about Christ," he said. "The thing that meant most to me was seeing the kids in VBS learn about Christ. And when they grow up, they will teach others."

"I got to play with the kids and teach them about God. It was amazing to hear their answers and comments about God," Alicia Esquivel, 16, also from the South Houston church, said. "I enjoyed learning from the kids that I was teaching."

In addition to hands-on missions projects, Collide/Lima Kokua participants also enjoyed a Hawaiian dinner, group worship experiences and cultural education. They had the opportunity to listen to the music of Ikaika Higa, an Hawaiian who serves as a semester missionary with Baptist Campus Ministry at the University of Hawaii.

Volunteer leaders called this first event well-planned and organized. "All the groups had the opportunity to connect with the churches they were assigned to work with ahead of time, making the week more productive and familiar," said Diane Miinch, a group leader from First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Mo.

"Collide 2008 was the most inspirational missions trip I have ever been on," said Allison Jackson, 14, from Beulah Baptist Association in Roxboro, N.C.


Prayer Blog - 8/29/2008

JTH is spending Labor Day weekend in Kennesaw, Georgia, visiting PAT. Please pray for safe travel and a pleasant visit.

Bible Trivia - 8/29/2008

Question: Which book in the Bible quotes from the book of Enoch, considered apocryphal by the Protestant Church?

Answer: Jude. (Jude 1:14)

Comments: In its argument against apostasy, Jude incorporates many allusions and citations. Included is a quote from the apocryphal book of Enoch, attributed to the holiest man of the antediluvian world and one of two Biblical figures to avoid natural death. (Genesis 5:18-24)

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones," (Jude 1:14, NASB)

The quote is from I Enoch 1:9.

Word of the Day - 8/29/2008


A cataract is a descent of water over a steep surface; a waterfall, especially one of considerable size. In ophthalmology, it has come to mean an abnormality of the eye, characterized by opacity of the lens.

In the Book of Revelation, John describes God as having a voice that sounded like a cataract.

His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. (Revelation 1:15, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/29/2008

Thursday marked the first day of the college football season. The fact that this has not been declared an official holiday is neglectful on the part of our government. In spite of the oversight, I spent the night celebrating with several groups of friends.

I met SMA and CST at Litton’s for supper. Our tradition of registering under the name of a retired professional wrestler continued. On this night we were the “Wyndham” party. CST purposely misspelled the name (Barry Windham) to insure that it was pronounced correctly. We learned that all members of the party must be present to be seated at Litton’s. Why do restaurants do that?

CST had spent much of the week schmoozing clients in Gatlinburg. He endured a long discussion from a drunken reindeer farmer. (I could not make that up.) The man also collects antique sleighs. Evidently, there are some good deals on eBay. So if you happen to be in the market for an old sleigh, check them out.

In an update on Tuesday’s riveting cake story: SMA baked the trial cake. On the plus side, a dab of red food coloring mixed with yellow does indeed produce orange. The cake also tasted good. The problem was that we bought two different brands of cake which cooked at different intervals. As such, the cake looked appetizing, but not like a checkerboard. Another cake will be made for Monday. Don't get too excited.

After stopping to chat with JTH at MoFoS and pick up this week’s new releases, I watched football with KLTW, KJW, and RAW. KJW had her toenails painted earlier in the day. She had spent the day at David’s Bridal where she tried on her “princess dress” that she will be wearing at AC’s wedding on October 4th. There was some concern that altering a dress six weeks in advance might be too early, but seeing as how the child still wears clothes labeled at 18 months (she is 26 months old), I think they will be okay. KJW will also be wearing a crown as flower girl. (Note: In this picture, she is wearing my shoes.)

Not only will the child be adorned with a crown, but her aunt PWC also has purchased a dress for her beloved Frannie Bear. (Yes, it is plush toy.) I was taken aback by this. KLTW said she was too, noting that Frannie Bear is a boy and will be cross-dressing for the wedding. That was not what I was going for.

KJW is still not potty trained. Earlier in the week after soiling a diaper, she took it off and presented it to her mother noting that it was “yucky.” A child who can do that should also be able to be potty trained. She grasps the concepts involved she is just being obstinate. She comes by that honestly.

On this night, KJW called me several times on her father’s phone. She hits 5 often and that is my speed dial number. Despite making a connection, she eventually wanted to talk to me on her very own princess phone.

KLTW, already addicted to Project Runway, informed me that this season of America’s Next Top Model will have its first transgender contestant. This is a photo of 22-year old Isis. Can you tell?

KLTW often threatens me with a “sweatpants intervention”. I may do a modeling reality show one for her.

KJW spent the night at her aunt PWC and uncle RSC’s house for the first time. She was picked up as they were in the area. Otherwise they would have had to pick her up at 8 the next morning. This allowed RAW and I to focus on South Carolina’s 34-0 defeat of NC State. The score is not indicative of the quality of the Gamecocks’ performance. They ran away late and NC State was just that bad. Though it is hard to believe it is here, I am glad college football is back.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bible Trivia - 8/28/2008

Question: Which chapter in the Bible is known as the "love chapter"?

Answer: I Corinthians 13. (I Corinthians 13)

Comments: The thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians is one of the best loved and most well known chapters of the Bible. It has been dubbed the "love chapter" as it gives the reader a beautiful description of godly love. Paul uses it to remind the struggling Corinthian church that all of their actions should be motivated by love. Its thirteen verses concludes famously:

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13, NASB)

Word of the Day - 8/28/2008


To depute is to appoint as one's substitute, representative, or agent.

Shortly before his death, Moses deputed Joshua to be his successor and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:9, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/28/2008

On Wednesday night, I completed the second week of my class “Survey of Adult Education” (EP 520). We had no one either drop or add the class, so it appears our group of nine will constitute the roster. We will also remain in the Humanities Building, despite initial reservations from RGB.

We covered the readings from our text book, The Profession and Practice of Adult Education: An Introduction, which RGB co-authored. We also watched a video from 1987 with three pioneers in the field: Malcolm Knowles (1913-1997), Burton Kreitlow, and Cyril Houle (1913-1998). My contributions to the discussion included referencing both Britney Spears and Beyoncé. I considered it a good night.

In all seriousness, I have been very pleased with the program, though I am behind the curve in regards to familiarity with theorists. I am not comfortable in that role and am trying to catch up. I have been pleased to learn that I am indeed an adult educator and believe the material I will learn could be of great benefit to the church. I am even contemplating attending the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) conference in Denver from November 11-14. Keep this opportunity in your prayers.

Two notes from my travels on Wednesday: 1. Best Buy has all television DVDs on sale for 25% off this week. If there is something you have been looking for, now is a good time to buy. 2. Mr. K’s Used Books in Oak Ridge’s windows have been covered with a collage of various pictures. This one stood out to me. It is a photo of 1980s wrestling tag team The Rockers! The blonde is the now legendary Shawn Michaels.

Finally, I did learn some bad news on Wednesday. While reading Wednesday’s Daily Beacon I learned that sophomore defensive back Brent Vinson is one of two UT players suspended for the season opener for failure to attend class last semester. Naturally, “Cousin Brent” is a family favorite. I could not get too upset. I am sure he did not miss as many classes as I did as a freshman.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 8/27/2008

Associated Baptist Press
August 27, 2008 · (08-81)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
ABP Executive Editor Greg Warner to step down, citing health reasons
Reports: Several dead in India after Hindu-Christian clashes
Former IMB leader takes Kansas City DOM post
Family vacation centers on missions and serving
Opinion: Torture: A moral issue

ABP Executive Editor Greg Warner to step down, citing health reasons
By Robert Marus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (ABP) -- Greg Warner, who has shepherded Associated Baptist Press since its infancy 18 years ago, informed the agency's directors and staff Aug. 26 that he would be stepping down for medical reasons.

Warner, 53, has been the independent Baptist news service's executive editor since 1991. On Aug. 28, he was scheduled to undergo his seventh spinal surgery since 2002. Afterward, he said in a letter, he would begin a 90-day sick leave that would, he expected, transition into permanent disability.

"[Y]ou are aware that my chronic back condition is increasingly limiting my ability to work and travel," Warner wrote to directors. "The inevitable day has come when I must tell you I am no longer physically able to do my job. I cannot give ABP the performance that it expects of its chief executive or I require of myself."

The surgery -- a fourth lumbar spinal fusion -- is the latest of more than a dozen medical procedures that Warner has undergone in an effort to relieve back pain that surfaced in 1998. Despite temporary improvements following some of the procedures, he said, his condition has degenerated to the point where he is in constant and significant pain requiring large doses of prescription pain-killers.

"For more than 10 years, I have continued to do my job despite degenerative-disc disease and failed-back syndrome," Warner wrote. "Chronic, intractable pain now prevents me from sitting or standing for more than a few minutes at a time. For the past year and a half, your encouragement and cooperation has allowed me to continue in this role while working from home. Despite those accommodations, my health has continued to decline, now resulting in cognitive impairments and depression that only amplify the effects of chronic pain."

He continued: "The surgery I face may temporarily slow the degeneration of my spine, but my doctors tell me the natural course of this disease will produce only worse symptoms and more limitations. So I am making the tough decisions now that will put me in the best position to manage the pain and give me the best chance to reclaim a healthy lifestyle."

If his health allows, Warner said, he hopes eventually to work part-time as a consultant or freelance writer, perhaps for ABP.

In e-mail and telephone interviews, ABP leaders, current and former colleagues, and friends expressed both dismay at Warner's circumstances and admiration for his role in journalism and in the Baptist movement.

"The Associated Baptist Press board of directors is deeply saddened by Greg's health issues that are forcing him to seek full disability," said ABP board chair Dan Lattimore, a University of Memphis dean and journalism professor. "Greg has provided the leadership to give ABP a solid foundation and to prepare the organization to move forward in the ever-changing world of journalism and religious media.... We know he will continue to support our work, and someday we hope he can again write for ABP."

Marv Knox, editor of the Texas Baptist Standard and a member of ABP's board, said the announcement was especially difficult for him because Warner is not only a beloved peer and business partner, but a long-time friend.

"This plain hurts," he wrote. "Saying Greg is a respected colleague is only the start of it. For almost our whole adult lives, he's been a traveling companion, confidant, soulmate and fellow baseball fan. I can't imagine doing this work -- especially going to big Baptist meetings -- without him. I just love the guy."

Knox -- whose newspaper has entered into a publishing and Internet partnership with ABP, the Religious Herald of Virginia and Missouri's Word & Way -- noted some of the highlights of Warner's three-decade-long career in Baptist journalism.

"He's always been after the stories that explain faith, and life and doing church," Knox said. "Whether it's covering Baptists' initial response to AIDS -- one of his early, ground-breaking news packages -- or church architecture, the 'Baptist battles' or the impact of changing worship styles, Greg has helped all of us understand the context in which we share our faith. We can't repay the debt we owe him."

Warner began work for ABP May 1, 1991, as the agency's first permanent employee. The organization was created July 17, 1990, as a result of bitter fighting between fundamentalists and moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention. The struggles engulfed the nation's largest Protestant denomination for two decades beginning in 1979.

After fundamentalists gained a majority on the SBC Executive Committee in 1990, they ousted the two top editors of the denomination's news service, Baptist Press. Concerned editors of the most prominent Southern Baptist state-convention newspapers almost immediately joined together to form a news collective that would carry on BP's tradition of independent Baptist journalism, adhering to the same ethical standards as respected secular news sources.

Warner took the helm and built a fledgling organization into one that now has multiple editorial and administrative staff positions and a $500,000 annual budget; operates news bureaus in Washington, D.C., and Dallas; and enjoys widespread respect among religious and secular journalists.

Warner "helped ABP to emerge at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention's news service was no longer willing or able to provide the kind of reliable news that Baptists expected," said Baptist historian Walter Shurden, a professor at Mercer University. "He has made a difference in religious journalism."

"Greg shaped a press organization that has achieved excellence in detail and thoroughness," said historian Bill Leonard, dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University. "He exercised great courage in guiding a new organization out of the fragmentation of denominational controversy and schism."

ABP remains the only independent, daily news agency that reports on and for Baptists. Others are either periodicals or are controlled and funded by denominational organizations.

Charles Overby, president of the Freedom Forum and Newseum and Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger, was chairman of the first ABP board, which hired Warner. "Greg has demonstrated what good journalism is all about," he said. "He is aggressive, fair and -- above all -- honest. He defines Christian journalism. He showed a Baptist can report about Baptist affairs with credibility. His leadership gave ABP a large national following. He is the reason that ABP has survived and succeeded for all these years."

Others agreed. "Greg Warner has played a historic role within the Baptist family as the founding editor of Associated Baptist Press," said Daniel Vestal, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. "His commitment to a free Baptist press and to journalistic integrity has been a valuable and valued contribution."

Likewise, prominent secular religion editors and reporters praised Warner's work and character.

"From the time I first started on the religion beat, Greg was a great source and informative guide to the world of Southern Baptists," said Mark Pinsky, former religion editor for the Orlando Sentinel and author of several books on faith and culture. "In his soft-spoken way, he provided insight and humor to what was often a rancorous story. Over time, he became my friend as well."

Gustav Niebuhr, a professor of religion and media at Syracuse University and former religion reporter for several prominent newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, said he would miss Warner's byline.

"I consider Greg to be a paragon of ethical, enterprising and courageous journalism. He is one of the people who has really stood up for the free flow -- and fearless flow -- of information about religious affairs in this country at a time when that is oh-so-necessary, as it will continue to be," he said. "I believe he has made a great contribution to journalism in establishing Associated Baptist Press and that will be an institution that I think will define him for many of us who have had the good, good fortune to know him."

Adelle Banks, a reporter who covers Baptists for Religion News Service, said she would miss his presence at denominational meetings. "I have learned from his stories and appreciated his professional presence in the newsroom of the annual Southern Baptist Convention," she said. "I admire his ability to meet the demands and necessary diligence of journalism as he dealt with a most difficult condition, and am sorry he has reached a point where he feels that is not currently possible."

Although Warner was born in Upstate New York, he was raised in Lakeland, Fla. He graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland and earned master's degrees in divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and in journalism from the University of North Texas.

He began his journalism career while still in college, with one foot in each of the worlds of secular and Christian journalism. He worked in photography for the Florida United Methodist Conference, but also worked as a sports reporter for the Lakeland Ledger, his hometown newspaper.

While in seminary at Southwestern, Warner was a news writer in the school's public-relations office. In 1980, he became news coordinator for the now-defunct Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, also in Fort Worth.

In 1985, he moved back to his home state to become associate editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, based in Jacksonville. Warner held that position until he was hired to head ABP, which is still headquartered in Jacksonville.

His wife, Cheryl, is the rehabilitation manager for Baptist Health Systems, which operates four hospitals in the Jacksonville area. Their two adult children are both students. Dane, 25, lives in Jacksonville, and Shawn, 22, is in Austin, Texas.

The Warners are longtime members of Jacksonville's Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church.

ABP leaders said the organization is already moving forward with creating a new position -- executive director -- to handle Warner's administrative and development duties while creating a separate managing editor's position to oversee daily operation of the news side of the agency's business.

"As sad as it is to leave this ministry, I truly am excited about the future of ABP," Warner said. "The proposed staff structure and our new partnerships are just what ABP needs to make the most of our opportunities. And I'll do anything I can to ensure that success."


Reports: Several dead in India after Hindu-Christian clashes
By ABP staff

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- At least six people have died in clashes between Christians and Hindus in the Indian state of Orissa, Reuters reported Aug. 27.

However, accounts coming into the Baptist World Alliance claim the death toll in ongoing violence triggered by the death of a Hindu leader has reached at least 25.

The BWA also reported Aug. 26 that, in the region, more than 600 churches have been demolished and about 4,000 Christians have been forced to flee from their villages.

Laxmananda Saraswati and four others were killed in an attack that reportedly took place Aug. 23. Police have said the attackers were Maoist insurgents, but some Hindus in the area blamed Christians. The government has closed schools and imposed a curfew in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, where most of the violence has taken place.

According to the BWA, the insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack. But that claim has not stopped Hindu fundamentalists from retaliating against Christians in the area. Saraswati and his followers reportedly were connected to the World Hindu Council and had been leading an effort to draw Indians away from Christianity.

News reports indicate that mobs have set fire to Christian churches and prayer halls. A nun died and a pastor was hurt when fire swept an orphanage in the Bargarh District. Apparently none of the 21 children housed there died.

In an Aug. 26 e-mail to the BWA, Swarupananda Patra, General Secretary of the All Orissa Baptist Churches Federation, said, "All Christian villages [are] empty in Kandhamal as Christians, old and young, sick and pregnant mothers [are] hiding in forests exposed to the non-stop monsoon rains without food."

Kandhamal is the hardest hit, with at least eight Christians killed and almost all Christian homes demolished, he reported.

"I appeal to the governing authorities in India to intervene to save the lives of the many who are being victimized in the current crisis," BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said in a press release. "Respect for the principle of religious liberty and the sacredness of human life requires nothing less.

"I also appeal to all Baptists worldwide to pray God's protection for our brothers and sisters in Orissa."

Orissa has been the site of significant sectarian violence in recent years. In December 2007, approximately 90 churches and 600 homes were burned in several attacks, some of which took place on Christmas Eve. Approximately 10 people were killed in the incidents.

In 1999, an Australian Christian missionary and his two children died in Orissa when Hindu militants set fire to their vehicle.

Orissa, which lies along the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, is overwhelmingly Hindu, but also is home to one of the largest Baptist communities in Asia. In the state, several Baptist conventions and unions affiliated with the BWA claim nearly 500,000 baptized believers and approximately 3,500 churches.


Former IMB leader takes Kansas City DOM post
By Vicki Brown

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- A former high-ranking International Mission Board leader who resigned over policy concerns has accepted an associational director's position in Missouri.

The executive board of the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association called Rodney Hammer as the organization's fifth executive director Aug. 19.

In May, Hammer resigned after eight years as IMB's regional leader for Central and Eastern Europe. He cited disagreement with controversial guidelines the board enacted in 2005 regarding new missionary candidates.

The guidelines prohibit appointment of those who acknowledge engaging in a "private prayer language" -- a version of speaking in tongues -- and require candidates to have been baptized in a church with an understanding of baptism identical to that in most Southern Baptist churches. The IMB will not recognize believer's baptism by immersion if done in a denomination with a differently nuanced baptismal doctrine.

In a letter to missionaries in his region at the time, Hammer said he disagreed with the "unnecessary, extra-biblical narrowing of parameters for Southern Baptist cooperation in the Great Commission [the guidelines] represent."

His resignation triggered a group of current and former missionaries, former board trustees and pastors to issue a statement calling for the IMB to reverse its stand.

Hammer was appointed in 1990 as strategy coordinator for China with Cooperative Services International, the IMB's former relief and development arm. He was named as regional leader in 1999.

He and his family are in the process of relocating from Prague, Czech Republic, and have not set a specific date to begin his service in Kansas City.

Hammer earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a graduate degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. While in Kansas City, he served on staff at Maywood Baptist Church and was a church planter for the neighboring Clay-Platte Baptist Association, which includes churches in the parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area that lie north of the Missouri River.

Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association includes about 130 churches.


Family vacation centers on missions and serving
By Sue Sprenkle

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (ABP) -- Four families packed a church van and headed on summer vacation. Although they only drove a few hours to Kansas City, Kan., this was no ordinary vacation for these Missourians.

This vacation was about sharing God's love through mission projects.

"What more can you ask for? You get to have fun and tell people about Jesus at the same time," 8-year-old Matthew Black said. "It makes you have such a joy in your heart. I'd do it again -- any time, any place."

Black and his family joined more than 100 other volunteers at FamilyFEST, a hands-on missions opportunity for families sponsored by Woman's Missionary Union July 21-26. The volunteers, ranging in age from 4 to 72 and representing 10 states, did everything from painting and construction to servant ministries to backyard Bible clubs in the Kansas City area.

With rising gas prices, Gena Brown said her family knew they would need to stay close to home this year. So, four families -- almost half of their small church in Richland, Mo. -- decided to pool their vacation money and do something as part of God's work.

Brown admits that she was not sure how taking young kids would work on a mission trip.

"I was afraid they'd get bored or tired," she said. "But they've loved every second of this. The older kids are already talking about what we can do back home for mission projects in our own community.

"That's exactly what we had hoped for," she continued. "We wanted to open the kids' eyes, as well as our own, to God's will for us to serve others and share his love."

Twenty-one members of Osawatomie (Kan.) Baptist Church took vacation time as well to cross the state line into Missouri and repair a church. Melissa Cooke, an Osawatomie member, said her congregation decided to participate in FamilyFEST as a way to "give back" what they've received.

Almost a year ago, floods flowed through the Kansas town. Soon after, volunteers came to assist. Cooke said volunteers helped at the church, and the church served as a host site.

"Those volunteers were a good example of service to us. They planted the missions seed in our congregation," she said. "When FamilyFEST came to our area, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us to give back. The appeal of this particular missions trip was that it was aimed for families."

Cooke's three children worked alongside her and her husband, Brian, throughout the week. Eleven-year-old Shelby Cooke and her dad joined the youth group to paint hallways and stairwells.

"Dad, I bet the church people are surprised when they see this," Shelby said, while painting the stairwell a vibrant red. "I think they will feel loved just like we felt loved."

Many FamilyFEST projects centered around fixing old church buildings or giving them a facelift. Donnie Simpson, director of missions for the Kansas City, Kansas, Baptist Association, said projects such as these are vital for small churches.

"Ministering to our churches is vital. There are not a lot of Baptist churches in this area ... and they can use all of the encouragement they can get," Simpson explained. "Many of these small churches don't have the resources or manpower to paint or do door-to-door visitation.

"Just by interacting with church members, FamilyFEST volunteers offered encouragement and blessings. The volunteers did things the churches only dream of being able to do," Simpson added.


Opinion: Torture: A moral issue
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- We live in a time and culture in which genuine moral discourse is rapidly disappearing --swallowed up by partisanship, spin, politics and self-interest.

By "moral discourse" I mean conversation between persons of good will about the rightness or wrongness of an action or policy, independent of all other considerations. By extension, Christian moral discourse would be conversation between Christian persons of good will about the rightness or wrongness of an action, independent of all considerations other than those deriving from our shared commitment to Jesus Christ.

That applies to torture.

For two years, I have led an evangelical human-rights organization that primarily exists to foster moral discourse about the rightness or wrongness of the United States' treatment of detainees held in our nation's military and security efforts since 9/11. Those of us involved in this effort became persuaded two years ago that numerous aspects of U.S. detainee policy were morally wrong. The most important thing that was wrong with that policy was that officials within the United States government had decided to authorize the cruel and abusive treatment of at least "high-value" detainees. This determination was rooted in the questionable belief that this was the best way to get important information out of them during interrogations.

Published accounts of the particular kinds of harm inflicted on detainees have now emerged from a variety of credible sources -- including government investigations, the Red Cross, previously secret government records and interviews with those who witnessed what happened. In a number of cases, detainees were treated so cruelly and abusively that -- by any recognizable historic definition -- they were tortured. These judgments were made at the time by dissenters within the government with firsthand knowledge of what was occurring.

Our shared identity as Christians and shared commitment to following Christ is what drove Evangelicals for Human Rights toward taking a stand on this issue. As evangelical Christians, committed to Jesus Christ and seeking to live out our faith in him, we could not remain silent. We could not square living for the tortured and crucified Savior with supporting the torture of human beings. Nor could we accept that we should remain silent, because silence signals acquiescence.

For us, torture became a moral issue, and remains a moral issue. It is a moral issue if it happens in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Syria, Cuba, Zimbabwe or in any other of the 190 or so countries on the planet. It is a moral issue if it is being inflicted by our citizens or upon our citizens, by our fellow-believers or upon our fellow-believers. We dream of a world -- and therefore work for a world -- in which no one ever tortures anyone for any reason ever again.

Since the beginning of our effort we have faced critics who could not accept that any group could take such a stance without an ulterior motive. Rarely willing to offer full-throated defense of torture, our critics most often tried to attack our motives, charging that we were politically motivated -- simply leftists in Christian clothing, peaceniks unconcerned with American security.

Such attacks do not fare well when one considers what has now been revealed about the bitter internal struggles within most executive-branch agencies, the intelligence community and the military about the slide into abusive and cruel interrogation practices after 2001. Large numbers of Republican political appointees, together with career military officers of high rank and long-serving non-partisan civil servants, rose up in resistance against this decisive turn against American values.

This story is told extraordinarily well by Jane Mayer in her critically important new book, The Dark Side. Every American, every Christian, should read it. It was encouraging to me to know that at the very same time that "Christian" critics were charging evangelical human-rights activists with being unpatriotic leftist peaceniks, military and civilian officials within the Bush Administration were declaring in fierce arguments that what was happening was torture and that torture is simply immoral.

I leave it to those Christians who defended -- and still defend -- such policies to explain themselves before God and man.

A representative group of those who have stood against torture will be gathering at Mercer University in Atlanta for a national summit on torture on September 11-12. Hosted by the university, Evangelicals for Human Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and a dozen other co-sponsors of various faiths and perspectives, our conference will explore "Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul." Almost 50 conference leaders will reflect on our nation's wrong turn and the steps needed to return us decisively to our core national values. Registration closes September 1 and seating is by now extremely limited. Review the program lineup and register at .

Hopefully, this particular issue will soon pass from the scene. But when the next one comes up, will Christians be any more equipped than the last time to deal with a moral issue for what it is, precisely as a moral issue demanding a faithful Christian response, rather than default to the diatribes offered on talk radio?


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

Prayer Blog - 8/27/2008

I have agreed to fill the pulpit at Southside Baptist Church in Newport, Tennessee, during both (morning and evening) services on September 14th. I last preached there on June 8th. Please keep this opportunity in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 8/27/2008

Question: What was the third plague brought upon Egypt by Moses?

Answer: Lice. (Exodus 8:18)

Comments: The third plague that waylaid Egypt was kinim, translated most commonly as "Gnats" (CEV, ESV, HCSB, Message, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV) or "Lice" (AV, KJV, NKJV). God instructs Moses to have Aaron strike at the dust with his staff, which results in a mass of gnats/lice that the Egyptians could not get dispose of.

They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:17, NASB)

The plague of lice was the third of ten plagues brought upon Egypt. It was the first which Pharoah's magicians could not replicate.

Note: This illustration is "Aaron Strikes the Dust" by Ted Larson.

Word of the Day - 8/27/2008


Picayune means of little value or account; small; trifling.

Jesus' affirmed a widow's picayune gift because she gave all that she owned.(Mark 12:42, Luke 21:2).

Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." (Mark 12:43-44, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/27/2008

On Tuesday night, my parents took KLTW, KJW, RAW, and I to eat at Calhoun’s. Upon arriving, KJW instructed her parents to look at the dinosaurs. Evidently, a group of trees was configured like dinosaurs, which she is familiar with from books. In her spectrum, all reptiles are either “dinosaurs” or “bugs.” This is a sure sign that they need to illustrate children’s books to scale.

As usual my mother was enamored of KJW. (Maybe it’s genetic.) In this photo, KJW (with her ever present Frannie Bear) is counting the chairs in the waiting area for my mother. For the record, there were five.

KJW’s parents are doing well. KLTW is lobbying to work at Fort Loudoun Medical Center in Lenoir City next quarter. It is the hospital closest to her house that offers her program. She is petitioning under the (accurate) pretext that the equipment at Morristown-Hamblen where she works is dated and she would like an opportunity to use newer equipment. Pray for this situation as a change in hospitals would greatly reduce her commute.

In her research, KLTW has also found a job opportunity she wishes me to seek. Evidently, ETSU is seeking a “mobile chaplain” for sororities.

On this night, RAW was also doing some lobbying. His uncle, RSC, alerted him to coyote outbreaks in the area. RSC is far from an alarmist, but he wanted to make sure KJW was protected. RAW is using this to push for buying a gun: a pellet gun “for now”. So far, KLTW is not budging. (To be honest, I hope she wins this one.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prayer Blog - 8/26/2008

Tomorrow morning, my grandfather, WCV, will have tests conducted in Knoxville. For details concerning his condition, read this Prayer Blog. Please keep him in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 8/26/2008

Question: For what request was Adonijah put to death by Solomon?

Answer: Requesting to marry Abishag. (I Kings 2)

Comments: Adonijah was the fourth son of David (II Sam. 3:4). After the death of his elder brothers, Amnon and Absalom, he became heir-apparent to the throne, but his younger brother Solomon was chosen instead. After the death of his father, Adonijah requested to marry Abishag whom had served as "the king's nurse and served him" (I Kings 1:4). The whole harem of an eastern monarch was considered part of the regal succession and as such it was treason for a subject to claim any woman who had once formed a part of it. Solomon interpreted his half-brother's request as an attempt to seize the crown and had him executed.

"Now therefore, as the LORD lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father and who has made me a house as He promised, surely Adonijah shall be put to death today." (I Kings 2:24, NASB)

Note: This image of the "Death of Adonijah" was first published in 1573 by an unknown master.

Word of the Day - 8/26/2008


An ennead is a group of nine persons or things.

While on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one expressed gratitude leaving Jesus to question the whereabouts of the remaining ennead. (Luke 17:11-19)

Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they? (Luke 17:17, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/26/2008

On Monday, SMA and I set out on a mission as only we could. SMA had recently seen the Wilton Checkerboard Cake Pan Set and it inspired him to make an orange and white checkerboard cake for a party celebrating UT’s football season opener. We set out to get the ingredients and the aforementioned set. Naturally, this took many, many minutes to do so.

We ate lunch at Soccer Taco and then the adventure began. Here are the stops along the way. If you know Knoxville, you know we made a large (and completely unnecessary) loop. Admittedly, this was done in part so I could visit thrift stores in between cake shopping. (Note: The photo is of topless doll cake toppers that were displayed at most of the stores we visited. They were very disturbing. Not quite as disturbing as my need to take a photo of them but problematic nevertheless.)

The cake had better be good! Had we stopped at Michaels we would have hit the effeminate trifecta of A.C. Moore, Joanna, and Michaels. Thankfully, SMA saw only one person he knew on this escapade and he could not even remember that guy’s name.

We learned many things on our journey. Two lessons I will share: 1. We learned that Wilton has seemingly cornered the market on cake decorating and we thought about investing or at least reporting them as a monopoly. 2. We learned that even in Knoxville, Tennessee, orange food coloring is almost impossible to find. We settled for purchasing red and yellow in hopes of mixing them to produce orange. Both of us (chefs that we are) are both skeptical of this method. (There will be a sample cake before the party.)

Not only did we buy all of the necessary supplies, but we also found this wonderful Power T Silicone Muffin Pan. (Sure, they make this monstrosity and not orange food coloring!) It is surprisingly flimsy and we are fairly certain muffins would melt into the pan. Still, we could not resist the urge to purchase it. I will let you know how the cake and muffins work out. The season opener is on Labor Day.

On Monday night, I stopped by MoFoS before joining JTH and JDM (the former Mr. X) at Applebees. JDM brought his friend Amanda.

The one mystery that was not revealed in Monday’s dramatic edition of Eckleburg’s Eyes was the identity of Ms. X. She was JDM’s long-time girlfriend Amanda. They have since broken up. Hence she will heretofore be referred to as Old Amanda while the girl at Applebees on this night will be known as New Amanda until I know their last names. New Amanda’s best friend is also named Amanda so if and when I meet her, I may go to numbering Amandas. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

This was the first time I had met New Amanda. I liked her very much. She is a 21-year old Farragut High School graduate and current UT student who works at a daycare. She also plays handbells at St. Mark United Methodist Church. While this is very admirable, unfortunately the handbell choir practices on Monday nights making it difficult for her to attend our basketball games. I had high hopes of her captaining a cheerleading squad for the team.

Speaking of which, the league begins on September 8th and is actually on Mondays. (I had been given the wrong date and times by a source who shall remain nameless, only that he appears in this post.) This change makes us lose two players, including RAW, presumably our leading scorer. We have added SH, JDM’s best friend, but need one more player.

JDM has received some good news recently. He was awarded a substantial grant for his schooling. Also, his sister has discovered that she is expecting a boy. The child is due in December. JAH (the father) and JDM are already preparing a basketball regiment for the child. He should be tall given his genetics and whether or not he is athletic, he will be fundamentally sound.

Finally, the biggest news from Monday is that I paid MPW for our UT basketball season tickets. He has applied for a (minor) upgrade from last season. We may sit a few rows closer (we cannot sit farther and still be in the stadium) and perhaps closer to the center. I for one and hoping for a return to 315A.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Prayer Blog - 8/25/2008

Today I had the pleasure of hearing from one of my best friends from seminary, BKW. His wife is seven weeks pregnant with their second child. Please pray for a healthy pregnancy and their family during the process.

Bible Trivia - 8/25/2008

Question: Which books is composed of five poems, each a chapter in length?

Answer: Lamentations.

Comments: Lamentations is not only comprised of poems, but the first four of the five poems are also acrostics. Each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet taken in order. The first, second, and fourth have each twenty-two verses, the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The third has sixty-six verses, in which each three successive verses begin with the same letter. The fifth is not acrostic, but also has twenty-two verses.

Note: This image is a modern English acrostic of the word "Bible".

Word of the Day - 8/25/2008


Vaticination is an act of prophesying.

Before being anointed as the first king of Israel, Saul uncharacteristically participated in vaticination.

"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man." (I Samuel 10:6, NASB)

Note: This watercolour painting is James Tissot's (1836-1902) "Saul Prophesies with the Prophets".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/25/2008, Part 2

The remainder of my weekend was centered around the wedding of ALH and DKN. ALH is an old family friend and I was honored to officiate his wedding ceremony.

After procuring my textbooks at the campus bookstore, I set out for Hardin Valley where the wedding rehearsal was held. The couple could not reserve the wedding locale for the rehearsal so we conducted it at the bride’s grandmother’s house. The location was picturesque, with the house situated amidst many acres and a nearby lake. Though beautiful, without the combined help of Mapquest and my Garmin I seriously doubt I would have found it. It may the first time I have ever needed the GPS within Knoxville’s city limits.

I met the wedding party at the rehearsal. I am anal about not being anal at wedding rehearsals. My philosophy is that the purpose is to alleviate stress and as such it is not practical to be rigid. Besides, walking down an aisle and standing is not brain surgery. We completed the entire process in less than fifteen minutes.

With time to spare, I visited JTH at MoFoS before heading to Lakeside Tavern for the rehearsal dinner. We had a back room to ourselves which enabled me to meet the rest of the wedding party. I was officially positioned next to ALH’s uncle and his son Evan, both from Decatur, AL. I bonded with their cousins, as they are Indianapolis Colts fans who had recently toured the new stadium.

I also table hopped and got to know the wedding party better. I later learned that Travis Harris was the “Big Trav” whom I had heard about for years from other friends.

It was a good night. Being so close to their home, I felt it would be rude not to stop and visit with KLTW, KJW, and RAW before going to bed.

On Saturday morning, my parents and I ate breakfast at IHOP. This must be pretty popular place as we ran into TWC & BWC, JWD & KRC, and CDS.

That afternoon, I headed to the Butterfly Gap Retreat in Maryville, Tennessee, where the wedding and reception were held. It is a huge retreat center nestled in the foothills of the Chilhowee Mountain Range. Once again, the GPS proved invaluable. The wedding itself was held on the peninsula of a lake. This is the view from the cabin the groomsmen and I waited in before the wedding.

As you can see, we were blessed with a beautiful day for the outdoors wedding. Wedding guests received commemortaive mug holders and fans that doubled as methods of fighting off the heat. The wedding couple also took advantage of the outdoor setting by hiring a blimp to take aerial photos of the event.

This location presented a few unique obstacles for this minister. For one, I actually had to walk down the aisle as opposed to traditionally entering from the side. (I did suggest we sail over on a boat.) Another was that I was not wired with my microphone before the wedding. Neither of these proved to be too difficult. (Note: This photo is of the wedding's men anxiously awaiting the start of the wedding.)

Also unique was the fact that the wedding was actually held about a half-mile down a gravel road from the lodge where people parked. Fortunately a man named James from Chariots of Hire Limousine Services chauffeured spectators to and from the event. I had the theme from Chariots of Fire running through my head all day.

The wedding went well and the rehearsal followed at the retreat center’s lodge. The event was catered by Calhoun’s. I sat by my parents and the Buchanan family, including their son Nate, an old friend from church. He is well and it was good to catch up with him. This is photo is of the traditional cutting of the cake.

My cousins were also naturally there as well as they are closer to the groom's family than I. In fact, my uncle REN was the event videographer. It was good to see everyone. I left shortly after the first dance. (Pictured)

The next morning Sunday School was held as usual at RAW’s. I debriefed the group on the passage from the previous week’s sermon (Matthew 15:21-28). It was a productive class. As always, you can find some advice from WAM in the WAM Quote of the Day.

I spent the rest of the day preparing fro the week ahead. I opted not to see William P. Young at the Bijou Theater. The event was free to the public. He was speaking about his book The Shack and since I have yet to read it (and the fact that I was exhausted), I decided to stay home. My parents did attended and noted that he was interesting and that his frineds call him “Paul”. There you have it.

Finally, we had to buy an extra internet extension as my books have made the walls so thick that the connection could not read the signal in my room. Me thinks I have too many books...

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/25/2008, Part 1

My weekend revolved around two significant events - a trial and a wedding. As such, for the first time, there will be two weekend "In Eckleburg’s Eyes" posts. I will begin with the unveiling of Mr. X.

On Friday morning, JTH and I met Mr. X at the City-County Building where he was meeting with his attorney, Russell T. Greene. A plea agreement had been reached and was to made official by a judge. JTH and I were the only supporters in attendance as Mr. X had not told his parents about his situation so as not to worry them. There was nothing they could do.

Mr. X is my good friend JDM. His identity has been concealed as he has been part of an ongoing legal investigation. While he was working at MoFoS, a sting was inacted on September 19, 2007. Target supplied the local police with numerous items (still in their packaging, including Target price tags) and sent an undercover policemen into the store to sell the merchandise. JDM had the misfortune of manning the register at this time. He sensed something amiss and had his manager SNS assess the situation. Not surprisingly, SNS completed the transaction.

The KPD believed that stolen goods were being unloaded at the store. JDM was clearly not the target of the investigation but he refused to roll on his friend and store owner JBT. (The two have not spoken since charges were filed as JDM quit his job and was legally not allowed to tell JBT of his predicament.) While MoFoS, like all secondhand retail stores does receive stolen merchandise, it was not near the magnitude the KPD assessed. We are unaware if they continue to investigate the store or if SNS was also charged as he suspiciously quit at approximately the same time as JDM.

The investigator in the case was T.A. Dunham (TAD) and the district attorney was Steve Garrett (SLG). As noted, JDM was represented by RTG. His brother-in-law, JAH, had worked at his his office complex (the First Tennessee Plaza) in the past and arranged the defense.

For the last eight months, JDM’s future has been up in the air. JHT and I were first aware of the charges on February 9th. We were strictly forbidden to discuss the issue until the trial was over.

Despite the deal being prearranged and signed, we spent the better part of the day waiting at the court house. The court room is great place for people watching. (We spent minutes contemplating a wrestling plancha on this bystander. We surmised that it would not help JDM's chances.) Being confined to the building, we ate at the C & C Cafeteria. I highly recommend the Friday special: a fountain drink, barbeque sandwich, and fries all for the low price of $5.15.

The proceedings were conducted in Criminal Court Division II. The judge was Kenneth F Irvine Jr. (KFI) who was sworn in on August 20th, 2007 after the death Judge Ray Lee Jenkins, KFI was named as his official replacement on October 31st.

We also had the opportunity to witness many other hearings. Most were brief. The most lengthy and interesting was the probation hearing of Ray Loveday, Jr. The Knox County Sheriff's Office arrested the South Knox County 21-year old on the morning of May 21st for allegedly violating the Community Alternatives to Prison Program. He was taken into with the Knox County S.W.A.T. team on hand, because officers believed Loveday could have guns in the house on Crescent Drive. No guns were found.

His lawyer essentially begged for his release as he had not seen his three-week old son. He had been clean except for being charged in a homicide! Seriously. (For the record, he was accused of a driveby shooting by a person who had a dispute with him. It appeared the charges had been dropped.) This is one of his supporters, who sported a “wife beater” t-shirt, baggy shorts, and numerous visible tattoos. Sadly this was the norm for courtroom attire on this day.

Eventually, KFI heard the plea bargains. JDM sat in a circle of eight as the plea agreements were done simultaneously. Questions were asked both individually and to the group at various points. JDM seemed way out of place. He was the only one with any college experience, dressed well, and had not done anything taboo. His seven peers were:

  • 1. A 58-year old African-American who had served as the lookout during a burglary.
  • 2-4. Eric Bradley, 33, Joshua Douglas, 24, and Tina Rogers, 25, who were charged with aggravated robbery of the First Choice Community Credit Union (9440 Mascot Rd.) on May 28. The bank was robbed at about 1:25 p.m. by a man (Douglas) armed with a knife, wearing a mask and grey hoodie. He got money in a paper bag and fled in a white minivan. They were apprehended after fleeing to Walhalla, South Carolina. We sat behind Douglas’ parents.
  • 5. A man charge with DUI who was asked to surrender his license on the spot. He was the only other person who dressed for court all day.
  • 6. A 22-year old man with three children who was dealing in methamphetamines.
  • 7. A cocky and loud plumber convicted of car robbery and who spent the proceedings laughing with his attorney.

JDM did not blend in. Thankfully, the judge treated him with dignity. JDM’s settlement has him serving one year’s probation, the least possible sentence given the charges against him. His charge was reduced from a Class D to Class E felony as it was changed from theft to attempted theft. (The estimated value of the merchandise was between $1,000-$10,000). Sadly, the courts show no distinction between what occurred and had JDM entered Target and walked out with the merchandise. Gratefully, his record will be expunged in one year.

JDM was to return to be processed (yes, including a mug shot) on Monday, August 25th. He returns after 45 days on October 2nd to qualify for his record being expunged.

It was a long day. As JTH astutely observed, “Time is not of the essence in court.” We did learn two valuable lessons: 1. If you choose to steal from a retail store, do not select Target. 2. Never, under any circumstances, opt for the public defender if given the choice. Plus, we were positioned near the Register of Deeds Office.

Seriously, keep JDM in your prayers. He has displayed tremendous character throughout this ordeal.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

WAM Quote of the Day - 8/24/2008

The always faithful WAM attended Sunday School this morning. While I was teaching, KJW retrieved my unattended phone and quickly realized that her picture is set as the wallpaper. She exclaimed, "Keira! Keira! On this phone!" WAM advised her:

"Keira, only famous actors and wrestlers can refer to themselves in the third person."

Note: I had WAM take a photo of himself with my camera phone. Evidently it did not take or he did not save it. This image is of KJW being sneaky as usual on the day in question.