Friday, November 21, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 11/21/2008

Associated Baptist Press
November 21, 2008 · (08-114)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Religious leaders protest violence against Christians in India (310 words)
Alleged church-offering thief helps nab himself with visitor card (390 words)
Opinion: Discipline as a form of care (850 words)

Religious leaders protest violence against Christians in India
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Two Baptists were among 24 prominent Christian leaders in the United States who recently signed an open letter to President Bush calling for action against anti-Christian violence in India.

Daniel Vestal of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and William Shaw of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., joined other religious leaders from Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal and African-American church bodies asking Bush to urge India's prime minister to enforce religious freedom guarantees in India's Constitution.

Recently Bush signed an arms-control and trade accord with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying it indicated that "nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behavior will find a friend in the United States."

In light of that, the leaders urged the president to hold India accountable for stopping violence carried out by extremist Hindu mobs that started in Orissa and has spread to six other states. Reports indicate that more than 60 people have been killed in recent weeks and 50,000 people have fled their homes, with many still in hiding.

The Nov. 7 letter said the attacks, targeting mainly poor Christians, amount to "religious cleansing" of Christians and other minorities.

The letter called on the president to "insist, in the strongest terms, that these reprehensible groups and the assenting local government agencies be brought into conformity with India's rule of law."

"Only if India agrees and acts with goodwill toward all its citizens will it continue to be viewed as a responsible global partner worthy of a place on the world stage with other democratic nations," the letter concluded.

In October Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, wrote a letter to Singh about "the grim situation facing Christians in Orissa. " It urged the Indian leader "to intervene, in the best traditions of the Indian sub-continent, to bring relief to the people suffering in Orissa."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Alleged church-offering thief helps nab himself with visitor card
By Bob Allen

LAKELAND, Fla. (ABP) -- In the annals of petty crime, it may not be the stupidest theft ever. But it's probably close.

Sheriff's deputies in Lakeland, Fla., tracked down a man charged with stealing the Nov. 16 offering from a Southern Baptist church with help from a visitor card he had filled out the previous Sunday. He had given the church his first name and his mother's address.

And the church treasurer from whom he allegedly grabbed the money just happens to be the county sherriff's stepmother.

Harold Williams, 28, was arrested Nov. 17 on charges of robbery by snatching, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, and disrupting a religious assembly, a misdemeanor.

Williams is accused of grabbing a portion of the offerings collected from about 70 worshippers at Crystal Lake Baptist Church from the church treasurer, then running away.

Ushers who had just collected the offering told a local television station they recognized the young man who followed them out of the sanctuary and grabbed the money. They recalled he had been a visitor the previous Sunday.

Initial news reports said the suspect had filled out a visitor card the Sunday before with the name Harold, along with a phone number and address that did not check out with detectives.

Updated reports after the arrest, however, said police went to the address on the card, and the woman who lived there told them she had a son named Harold. Deputies arrested Williams after spotting him walking on a street near the church.

Detectives reportedly found two checks -- for $120 and $40 -- made out to the church and discarded offering envelopes in bushes at a nearby elementary school. It was initially estimated that the thief took about $100. Williams reportedly told deputies he took $22 and threw everything else that was with the money on the ground.

The church member holding the money when Williams allegedly grabbed it was Shirley Judd, stepmother to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Six patrol units responded within minutes of the 911 call, followed by K-9 units and a helicopter.

A sheriff's department spokesperson told the Lakeland Ledger it wasn't unusual for that many units to respond, because when a suspect flees on foot there is always a possibility he is still in the area, and police respond accordingly.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Discipline as a form of care
By Beth Newman

(ABP) -- Not too long ago, someone shared with me an instance of attempted church discipline. A pastor, on his own initiative, had approached a church member who had left her family to pursue a relationship with her "soulmate." The pastor was informed in no uncertain terms that this private matter was no business of his or of the church.

I must admit to admiring the pastor's sense of his duty, but the story left me wondering whether church discipline has any place within the lives of the people called Baptists. It seems to fly in the face of much that we hold dear, such as the freedom of the individual conscience, not to mention the "priesthood of all believers."

More generally, most of us are instinctively hesitant to stand in judgment over one another. At least one Bible verse that is quoted by Christian and non-believer alike is "Judge not, that you be not judged," (Matt. 7:1). Furthermore, if "church discipline" conjures any sort of picture for a lot of us, it would be that of Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, the scarlet letter "A" emblazoned across her bosom, shunned by all around her.

From this perspective, church discipline seems to go hand-in-hand with self-righteousness. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:2)

Many of our Baptist ancestors, however, appeared to have no such qualms. Rather, they saw church discipline as ultimately redemptive. A Summary of Church Discipline, adopted in 1773 by the Charleston (S.C.) Baptist Association (later published in Wilmington, N.C. and Richmond, Va.), provides a particularly vivid example.

A pertinent section of the summary is titled, "Of Church Censures," and discusses three levels of church discipline: rebuke, suspension and excommunication. The rebuke is for a lesser offense: for example, when someone "exposes to others the infirmities of a brother." An example of an action calling for suspension would be when a congregant is a busy "tattler and backbiter," or "when he broaches unsound, heretical principles." And excommunication (done in phases) is reserved for "notorious and atrocious crimes."

The point of excommunication is restoration. All censures "must be administered in love and tenderness." If an offender, "even of the highest rank," gives clear evidence of evangelical repentance, then he or she should "by no means be excommunicated."

Such discipline no doubt sounds harsh to us, but this is due to the contemporary tendency to see discipline primarily as negative. Such a perspective blinds us to the fact that we are being disciplined every day of our lives. My children, for example -- especially when they watch TV -- are being trained to want the latest video games or to desire to look like the actresses on their favorite shows. This is not only true of children. Adults are trained to avoid "wasting time," or to see politics as essentially what the government does.

The question is not whether we are being disciplined, but how.

For this reason, I find it fascinating that A Summary of Church Discipline begins with the discipline of worship. The authors make the obvious (but, today, often-forgotten) claim that we do not gather ourselves. Rather, "Christ gathers to himself a people from among all nations." The church is not a voluntary organization, but a called people.

Further, the authors state a gospel church is "not national, but congregational." What separates church discipline from state discipline is, first of all, the determination to worship Christ in all things. The failure to separate church from state stems from idolatry. This is why A Summary can claim that the church is wider than the state, since worship joins the congregation with "the catholic or universal church, [which] considered collectively, forms one complete and glorious body...."

According to A Summary, the discipline of worship begins before members gather, with fasting (we are not told for how long). Worship proper opens with prayer, followed by a sermon, a time of testimony and inquiry (into the work of grace in the congregants' lives, their "soundness of doctrine," the "goodness of their lives"). The worshipers then subscribe to a written covenant "consistent to the Word of God." The service culminates with participation in the Lord's Supper.

James Leo Garrett Jr., in his introduction to a modern reprint of this treatise, relates the desire for a committed, disciplined Baptist church to other renewal movements within the church universal: Roman Catholic monastic communities, and (more recently) the Iona Community in the United Kingdom, the Taizé Community in France and the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.

Discipline presupposes a community that is both caring and committed. One might, for example, consider a so-called "intervention" where it is an act of love to confront someone with the consequences of his behavior. This is done not merely to "save" the individual from himself, but to ensure the well-being of the family. The absence of discipline does not speak of a broad-mindedness or generosity of the spirit. It is about an abandonment of responsibility and the failure of love.

-- Beth Newman is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

In Memory of Rev., Dr. Henry M. Chiles

Henry M. Chiles (1923-2008)

As reported in last night's prayer blog, my church's beloved pastor emeritus, Henry M. Chiles, passed away early on Thursday morning.

Here is Dr. Chiles' obituary as it appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:

CHILES, REV., DR. HENRY M. - age 85, of Knoxville, died Thursday, November 20, 2008 at Asbury Place in Maryville. A native of the Corryton community, he was the son of late Rev. L.C. and Creola Shipe Chiles. He received his undergraduate degree and later an honorary doctorate from Carson-Newman College. His post graduate studies were completed at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Rev. Chiles returned to Knoxville and in February 1951 began his ministry at Central Baptist Church of Bearden, where he remained until September 1972. He then served for ten years as Director of Missions for the Northern Plains Convention until his retirement in 1982. During his work in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana he was proud to have been a part of the establishment of 30 new churches which he often said could not have happened without the support of his Knoxville church family. Throughout his career in Knoxville, he was recognized as Jaycee Young Man of the year in 1953, served as chairman of the board of Baptist Hospital and Harrison-Chilhowee School, and chairman of the trustees of Carson-Newman College. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, L.C. Chiles, Jr., Clarence Shipe Chiles, and Noah Hampton Chiles, MD. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Roberta (Bobbie) Clark Chiles; daughter & son-in-law, Ann and Lewis Ridley of Rockford; son & daughter-in-law, Lynn Clark and Jan Chiles of Rockford; grandchildren, Lanna Edgemon and husband, Gary, Lucinda Krueger and husband, Todd, Jamie Cordes and husband, Ben, Jenna Thomas and husband, Clay; great grandchildren, Ayden, Bryce, Miles, Kate, and Blake; as well as several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Funeral service 7:00 P.M. Friday at Central Baptist Church of Bearden with Dr. Larry Fields, Rev. Mack Bingham, and Rev. Archie Fendley officiating. The family will receive friends immediately following the service. Family and friends will meet at the main entrance to Greenwood Cemetery Saturday for a 10:00 A.M. interment service. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Adult 7A Sunday School Class, Terry Ailor, Jay Claiborne, Paul Helton, Ted Johnson, Larry Lee, Carroll McGinnis, Mike Roberts, Don A. Taylor, Michael Taylor, Charles Towle, David Waldrupe, Bobby Walker, Max Conner, Paul Casteel and Frank Alexander. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Henry and Bobbie Chiles Mission Endowment, c/o Central Baptist Church of Bearden, 6400 Deane Hill Dr., Knoxville, TN 37919. Arrangements by Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel.

Bible Trivia - 11/21/2008

Question: In what year AD was the current new Testament given final sanction by the Christian church – 76, 106, 179, 248, 397, or 1566?

Answer: 397.

Comments: The current 27 books that comprise the New Testament canon were officially approved by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius (293-397), Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books and used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regards to them.

Note: This image is an icon of Athanasius.

Word of the Day - 11/21/2008


Appurtenance is something subordinate to another, more important thing; adjunct; accessory.

In one of the sections of Nehemiah written in the first person, the author made Hanan in appurtenance to Shelemiah, Zadok, and Pedaiah, in regards to maintaining the storehouses. (Numbers 13:13)

In charge of the storehouses I appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and in addition to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered reliable, and it was their task to distribute to their kinsmen. (Nehemiah 13:13, NASB)

Note: This illustration depicts Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/21/2008, Part 2

After a long day in court, I participated in a campfire at RAW’s home on Thursday night.

My night began at MoFoS where I ate takeout I had brought from Sbarro and briefly hung out with CTH and JTH. I also got to see KL and MPW, who were shopping at the store. In fact, they had to wait in line for quite some time while JTH processed my lengthy order despite the fact that I was eating (and as such not in a hurry) and they had only one item. That is the customer service that MoFoS is known for.

After a quick dinner, I met WAM, MP, KLTW, KJW, and RAW at the Waker residence where we used RAW's fire pit to make s’mores. For some reason, the smoke followed me wherever I went. Specifically, it went directly into my eyes. It was uncanny and I would have been more impressed if it was not so irritating. Does anyone have a scientific explanation?

KJW was asked if she would like s’mores and we were shocked when she declined. Then she was asked if she would like chocolate and she said, “yeah.” Then she was asked about marshmallows. She affirmed, “Marshmallows are good.” We were pleased that KJW likes s'mores even she doesn’t know what they were called.

Thankfully, KJW decided it was time to return inside before it got too late. I did not mind the cold weather. The smoke in my eyes, however, was not pleasant. We decided to watch Tropic Thunder on DVD, which I had picked up at the store earlier in the night. The film credits Ben Stiller six different times on its back cover. It made the group laugh at several points, and I would probably watch it again, but it was not one of my favorite films. There are a lot of un-advertised stars who appear in the film. I really enjoyed one in particular. I will not type more, lest you have not seen the film.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/21/2008, Part 1

After numerous postponements, my friend CMU finally had his day in court on Thursday. He was arraigned on Thursday afternoon in the Howard Baker Federal Courthouse. MLM and I were on hand to provide moral support. The court date remained in doubt all week. Last Thursday (November 13th) we learned that the hearing would be postponed yet again, likely until the new year, and then on Tuesday the appointment was reinstated. On the plus side, this limited the number of news outlets present. I pity the news crew trying to keep up with all of the rescheduling.

My day began at Ross the Boss where SEE, a multiple time Excalibur Award recipient, cut my hair. I wanted to look good for court. The salon has been under renovations and has just gotten drywall up. It looks very different. It is scheduled to be completed on February 1st. SEE expressed some healthy skepticism regarding this deadline.

After getting a stellar haircut, I met JTH, MLM, and CMU for lunch at 11:15 am at Calhoun’s on the River. We met at CMU’s request. He walked the considerable distance from his home. In this photo, MLM is eating his dessert. This is not unusual. What is odd is that he insisted it be delivered prior to his meal so that he would have room for it! I should not rag him too hard. His outreach budget paid for my meal. Thanks, MLM!

After eating, MLM, CMU, and I took advantage of an exceedingly beautiful day and walked to his attorney’s office, located on the 21st floor of the First Tennessee plaza, the city’s tallest building. Ironically, CMU had walked the same route while committing his crimes, often using the secluded pathways we took to ATMs. It was amazing how much he had changed since then.

We met with CMU’s attorney in a room with a beautiful view, decorated with Cas Walker memorabilia. CMU’s attorney was Ralph Harwell (REH). We also met his assistant, Kay, a fellow Baptist from Myrtle Beach. REH has been an attorney for 38 years and specializes in criminal defense. MLM and I were invited to sit in as REH debriefed his client. At one point he noted, “I’ve always believed if you can quote the Bible and Shakespeare, you can practice law in East Tennessee.”

For details of CMU’s case, see the October 28th Prayer Blog. For our purposes on this day, we learned that the Patriot Act mandated a minimum two year sentence for one charge against CMU. The other count CMU pled guilty to faced a sentence of 12-18 months. REH disagreed with the mandatory two-year sentence and felt that the judge might have the authority to minimize the second charge and shorten the sentence to just over two years.

REH’s strategy was two-fold. First, he would acknowledge CMU’s past history of mental illness and use a psychiatrist’s belief that he might regress if confined against his will. Secondly, he wished to present all of the good works CMU had been done since his arrest. Any conduct post-judgment is inadmissible in court but since CMU had yet to convicted officially, his maturity could be considered. Citing that sentencing is the least favorite aspect of a judge’s job, REH provide the judge with the key excerpts of numerous letters sent on CMU’s behalf. REH attempted to present CMU as an atypical defendant.

It was a rare glimpse behind the curtain, and frankly one I hope not to have in the future, either for myself or a parishioner. CMU’s request of my presence in this moment is one of the biggest honors I have received and one of the things I love about ministry.

We were eventually joined by CMU’s parents and then walked the short distance to the courthouse. I had never been to the building before and security was far more stringent than at the county courthouse. Our cell phones had to be checked at the door. Ironically, MLM and I were admitted as we knew the bailiff, IT, as he is a fellow church member. I did not realize until being stopped at a security checkpoint in another building after the trial, that I had carried my keys in, complete with a tool. I carried a not so concealed weapon into the courtroom. Oops.

The trial was slated for a 1:20 pm hearing but a pretrial case that preceded CMU’s delayed our admittance. The extra time allowed us to catch up with the many supporters CMU had. In fact, there would be sixteen people in his section of the room, filling nearly half of the courtroom. Among those from my church were LAC, MWS, and EAT. Sitting behind the government’s team was Knoxville News-Sentinel writer Jamie Satterfield, whom had written several pieces on CMU. Her position behind the government was telling.

Court finally convened in Courtroom 3C. CMU and REH sat to the right of the judge while Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton (FMH), U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector Wendy Boles (WGCB) and another man sat on the left representing the government. FMH, a tall young articulate man, was the only speaker for the prosecution.

The hearing went as expected before Judge Tom Varlan (TAV). The defense presented the strategy detailed above. REH opted not to call witnesses and let the letters speak for themselves. In state court, he would introduce the supporters, but he felt it was unnecessary in federal court. He read highlights of each letter. My letter was read last.

The prosecution countered that CMU’s case could not be isolated. He must be sentenced as a deterrent for future perpetrators. We also learned that CMU had been caught by a postal inspector who had noticed the same handwriting on too many change of address forms.

Hamilton called one of two witnesses in attendance from the 19 individuals and three companies that CMU had defrauded. JMF testified as to how his life was affected. The identity theft nearly cost him his job as the Assistant Director For Technology for University Housing. It was felt that security may have been breached and the system was overhauled in response. CMU had attacked him randomly. It was amazing to see the domino effect in action. (Note: This was CMU's mug shot as it appeared on WBIR in May 2007.)

At a recess, MLM spoke with each of the two victims in attendance. JMF, a resident of Dandrige, had just finished five years of another identity problem before this happened. A patient in a hospital with the same name had overdue bills. It took him nearly five years to correct the mistaken identity and clear his credit reports. The woman, who resided in West Knoxville, felt she had been personally violated. MLM assured her that CMU had repented and that the attack was anything but personal. He had created a system and she simply was part of it. CMU had asked MLM to contact them, but neither wished any future dealings. I cannot say that I blamed them.

After the lwayers finished their arguments, CMU read a statement and made the highly unorthodox move of apologizing to JMF directly. He faced his accuser. The judge then called for a fifteen minute recess to process the information. This was a long half an hour. What could we do? REH noted that the difference between a federal judge and God was that God does not think he is a federal judge.

The decision to be made was an issue of how much leeway the judge had. The defense felt he had a lot while the prosecution felt he had very little. The judge sentenced CMU to the minimum 12 months plus the concurrent 24 months for a three-year sentence. Though he agreed with the prosecution on both of the defense's arguments, he reasoned that since CMU had no previous criminal history he could function well in society. I felt his decision and his treatment of everyone involved was very fair.

After serving his time, CMU will be on probation for five years during which time he must not possess guns, alcohol, etc. (Note: This picture is of statute titled “Beloved Woman of Justice” that resides outside of the courthouse.)

REH speculated that he would serve 28-29 months assuming good behavior. CMU was also allotted 500 hours of drug rehabilitation. Though he does not presently have a drug problem, this would enable him to reduce his sentence by as much as a year. He has used drugs in the past and asked MLM about the ethics of taking this program. MLM equated it to the government throwing him a free carrot. There are so many variables to get into the program that it appeared unlikely that he would be admitted.

CMU was also fined but the fines break even with all that had been confiscated during the arrest.

It has yet to be determined when and where CMU will report but it was agreed that he can self report and is under the same bond that he has been since his initial arrest. He will be notified of when to report. This process takes an average of 3-6 weeks.

After the decision, CMU left to be fingerprinted. Evidently, his fingerprints have changed since he was initially booked... We began walking back to Chanana II and met CMU at Ruth’s Chris Steakhoue to return a change of clothes. He then walked home. (He did so because it was a beautiful day and he wanted to, not because we made him.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 11/20/2008

Associated Baptist Press
November 20, 2008 · (08-113)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Shooting on Ouchita campus ends with no injuries, suspects in custody (431 words)
Father, Son & Who? (770 words)
Trinity debate trickles down to gender roles (1,008 words)
Charismatic Southern Baptists see themselves as open to spiritual gifts (735 words)
On the Trinity, Baptists worship largely settles for two out of three (616 words)
Guest Opinion: Seasonal mood swings (593 words)
Guest Opinion: Dear Michelle (767 words)

Shooting on Ouachita campus ends with no injuries, suspects in custody
By Bob Allen

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (ABP) -- A shooting incident the afternoon of Nov. 19 on the perimeter of the Ouachita Baptist University campus didn't involve any students and ended with no injuries and three suspects quickly arrested, according to authorities.

The alleged assailants fired from a parking lot owned by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention-affiliated school, but apparently targeted a student at neighboring Henderson State University. The student was walking across the lot, which borders both campuses, while returning to a Henderson State dormitory.

Police in the town of Arkadelphia, where the schools are located, said none of three "people of interest" held after the shooting attended either school. One of the three was reportedly the intended victim's ex-girlfriend.

Henderson State President Charles Welch said he first learned of the incident about 3:35 p.m., right after Arkadelphia police were called. While discussing whether to implement the campus' crisis plan, officials learned that potential suspects had been apprehended off campus.

The Henderson State administration later sent an e-mail to faculty, staff and students notifying them about the incident and assured them that campus police believed the campus was safe. Welch told Little Rock ABC television affiliate KATV-7 that campus officers reported a "relatively calm scene" shortly after the shooting.

Ouachita President Rex Horne sent an e-mail to students, parents, faculty and staff that was posted on the university website shortly after 6 p.m.

"In the interest of open communication, I need to inform you about an incident that occurred this afternoon on the edge of the Ouachita campus," Horne said.

He said that while no one was injured and the incident involved no Ouachita students, at least one gunshot was reportedly fired. He said campus safety would provide an increased presence in the area for the next several days and urged prayer for everyone involved in the situation.

Keldon Henley, Ouachita's dean of students, said administrators chose to use e-mail and the OBU website to inform the campus community about the incident. They used that method rather than activating the school's emergency-alert system, he said, "because the individuals involved were already apprehended when Ouachita was informed of the shooting."

Ouachita, Arkansas Baptists' flagship institution of higher education, is located about 65 miles southwest of Little Rock.

Police declined to release the names of two women and a man stopped outside of town shortly after the shooting. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Nov. 20 that the intended victim was the ex-boyfriend of a woman trying to get money back after a breakup. The report said information is scarce, and police are still trying to locate witnesses.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. Trennis Henderson, Ouachita Baptist University's vice president for communications, contributed to this story.

Father, Son & Who?
By Vicki Brown

(ABP) -- "Ghost!" the 5-year-old screeched as he stood in the pew and clutched his mother's neck. "Mama, the preacher said there's a ghost in here!" Although most Baptists in the sanctuary laughed at the outburst, likely at least a few also wondered: Who or what is the Holy Ghost -- the Holy Spirit? And what difference does the Holy Spirit make in today's world?

Baptists profess to believe God manifests attributes and character through the Trinity, three distinct persons -- the Father as Creator, the Son as Savior and the Holy Spirit as Comforter.

But through history, some Baptist branches -- including those of the Southern tradition -- have leaned toward a form of Unitarianism, sometimes centered on the Creator and often focused on Jesus. Doug Weaver, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in Baylor University's religion department, believes Baptist biblicism -- the way Baptists understand the Bible -- explains the tendency to focus on Jesus.

"Passages about God and the Holy Spirit are surely there, but we will quote Jesus' 'I am the way' from John and Paul's 'we preach Christ crucified' before we quote anything else," Weaver explained.

The New Testament leads Baptists to a Trinitarian position, said Dallas Roark, a former professor at Wayland Baptist and Kansas State universities. For example, "John 1:1-18 [and] the words of Jesus in John 14-17 indicate the identity with the Father and the Holy Spirit," he said.

And, Roark believes, the New Testament leads to the Savior.

"The emphasis on Jesus is so strong because he is the mystery of God now revealed in history.... The central fact of God's revelation is in Christ, not the Holy Spirit," Roark added. "Jesus indicated that the Spirit would testify to him, not about the Spirit's self."

Baptists focus on the person of Jesus because they recognize him as central to personal salvation and Christian experience.

"Baptists are a conversionist movement; testifying to the personal experience of salvation made possible through Christ and signified by believer's baptism has always been the basis for our concept of 'believer's church,'" Weaver added.

The Enlightenment -- the social and cultural age that emphasized reason and intellect -- also affected Baptist understanding of the Trinity, Rosalie Beck believes. Beck is an assistant professor at Baylor, specializing in Christian history and missions and in women's studies.

"We are heirs to the Enlightenment and accept a growing emphasis on mentally describing and understanding everything," she said. "Other cultures have a more creative understanding of their world and explain it in terms that we have rejected because of our intellectual tradition."

Human form lends concreteness to the person of Jesus, while the Holy Spirit remains abstract. "When one reads through the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, the personality of Jesus shines through and we are given an image of a Person who is one with us," Roark explained.

"We don't have the same details about the Holy Spirit. The embodiment of the Logos [the Greek noun that the writer of the Gospel of John uses to denote God's the Son] gives us concrete details that we don't have about the Holy Spirit."

But that concreteness should not detract from the Holy Spirit's role, he added. The Spirit's presence is the constant reminder of what Jesus did for humankind. The Spirit penetrates "in a way that it is not conceivable in the seeming limited spatial body of Jesus," Roark said.

Sometimes Baptists have shied from emphasizing the Holy Spirit to distance themselves from the practices of other groups. A few Baptists participated in the holiness movement in the late 19th century, Weaver explained. "Holiness" Baptists adopted an understanding of sanctification that paralleled the Pentecostal approach.

"More recently, Baptists, like other Protestants and Catholics, have been influenced by what I call the 'pentecostalization of American religion,'" Weaver added.

"As the charismatic movement developed in the 1960s -- and the electronic church -- a few Baptists began to affirm the 'gifts of the Spirit,' though most Baptists -- especially in the South -- opposed the movement," he said.

Some Baptist groups, such as the Southern tradition, include the Spirit "through the back door, because Baptists emphasize the inspired aspect of the Bible." said David May, professor of New Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan.

But other Baptist groups express more open connection to the Holy Spirit, May pointed out -- and particularly in African-American Baptist traditions.

"I wonder if those who have felt marginalized have sensed the Spirit because the Spirit is kind of marginalized," he speculated. "Mainline churches have monopolized Jesus. The Spirit doesn't have a cultural look."

-- Vicki Brown is a freelance writer based in Jefferson City, Mo.

Trinity debate trickles down to gender roles
By Bob Allen

DEERFIELD, Ill. (ABP) -- There's a tempest brewing among evangelical theologians about the triune nature of God, with potential to spill beyond academic halls into relationships between males and females in the church and home.

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago recently sponsored a two-hour debate, broadcast live on the Internet, about whether relationships of submission and authority exist eternally between the Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit within the Trinity.

For non-theologians, the discussion may sound similar to, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" But the stakes grow higher when groups like the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, based on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., use it to buttress their claim that God built gender roles into the created order before the Fall. Critics say that instead of allowing the Bible to inform their beliefs on wifely submission, the "complementarians" are trying to establish theirs as the only acceptable view for orthodox Christians, while labeling those who promote equality of the sexes as heretics on par with people who deny the Trinity.

In a June sermon at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, included an argument for "eternal submission" of Christ in a list of 10 reasons "why we should affirm that God designed there to be male headship" in the family.

"If it's true that in the Trinity itself -- in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit -- there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father," Ware said in the sermon. "If that's true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority."

At another point, Ware also said one reason men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband's God-given authority.

At the Trinity debate, Ware, incoming president of the Evangelical Theological Society, said the three persons of the Trinity possess the same divine essence or nature but are different in role.

"The Father is the Father eternally, the Son is the Son eternally, and among the differences is authority and submission in relational structure between those two members of the Trinity," he said.

Wayne Grudem, Ware's partner in presenting the submission side of the debate, said the very names "Father" and "Son" imply a hierarchy of authority and submission.
Former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and now a professor at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona, Grudem added that by sending the Son, the Father revealed his headship in the relationship.

Both sides agree Jesus submitted himself to the Father's will while on earth, but Grudem noted that after his Ascension, Jesus is described as "high priest," an intermediary between God and humans, and as sitting at the "right hand" of the Father, a place of second-in-command.

All this worries theology professor Curtis Freeman, director of the House of Baptist Studies at Duke University Divinity School. Freeman believes Baptists have neglected the Trinity to the point they have become functional Unitarians -- elevating faith in Jesus alone to near exclusion of the Father and Spirit, or on occasion elevating the Father with subordinate roles for Son and Spirit.

While welcoming renewed attention to the Trinity, Freeman said he fears the current complementarian crowd is using it as "an end to justify" their views on the family.

In an e-mail posted on Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson's blog, Freeman labeled eternal subordination of the Son a "semi-Arian" doctrine not thoroughly examined and tested by the entire church.

Arianism is named after a cleric who taught in 4th century Alexandria, Egypt. Noting the Bible describes Jesus as "begotten" of the Father, Arius posited there must have been a time when the Son of God did not exist. Jesus, therefore, was not "one" with the Father, but rather subordinate and less than fully divine.

The controversy became so intense that in 325, the Emperor Constantine assembled bishops in present-day Turkey for the First Council of Nicea. It was the first of seven ecumenical councils that over time developed the historic creeds of the Catholic Church.

Church leaders at Nicea declared Arius a heretic and responded with the Nicene Creed, describing Jesus Christ as, "Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made."

While the whole argument may sound strange to modern ears, the late Southern Baptist theologian Dale Moody wrote in his 1981 book, The Word of Truth, that Arius' view was not far different from statements in the 19th century by J.R. Graves, founder of a theological movement among Southern Baptists known as Landmarkism.

Eternal submission of the Son advocates deny charges that they are tinkering with the Trinity. They counter that the ones guilty of innovation are the feminist theologians who argue for egalitarian relationships between men and women based on evidence of mutual submission among the Persons of the Trinity they find in Scripture.

Opposing Grudem and Ware at the Trinity debate, Keith Yandell, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, acknowledged the New Testament talks about Christ submitting to the Father's will (such as in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his Crucifixion) but they say submission resulted from -- and was in effect only during -- the Incarnation.

Other passages, like Philippians 2:5-11, portray the pre-existent Christ as fully equal to God, humbling himself voluntarily to die on the Cross, and afterward exalted to the name "above every name."

Tom McCall, professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity, said verses like Mark's description of the Spirit "driving" Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days of temptation suggest mutual submission.

McCall said "it's not entirely clear what motivates" his opponents' claim.

"What might motivate this claim?" Ware offered in his rebuttal. "Only the entirety of biblical revelation from God about himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Bob Allen is senior news writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Charismatic Southern Baptists see themselves as open to spiritual gifts
By Bob Allen

HIXSON, Tenn. (ABP) -- Suffering from burnout after a decade as pastor of Central Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in suburban Chattanooga, Tenn., Ron Phillips wrote his resignation letter on a portable computer on the way to a meeting at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in 1989. He never submitted it.

That night as he slept, he heard a voice calling his name. He went to the door, but no one was there. It happened again, and then a third time. He described the event in his 1999 book, Awakened By the Spirit.

"As I was awakened a third time, my room was filled with God's presence. It was the voice of my dear Savior. I wept as the glory filled the room, and I cried out, 'Lord, where have you been?'

"He said to me, 'I've been waiting for you.'

"I asked, 'Lord, where have you been waiting?'

"He replied, 'Read your Scripture for today.'"

Phillips read Psalm 92:10, "I have been anointed with fresh oil."

Soon, what he called a "baptism of power" came over him. He wept, sang, laughed, shouted and shook. He did not receive what many charismatic Christians call a "private prayer language" until three years later, but the moment changed his ministry forever.

Phillips' congregation, which today goes by the name Abba's House, describes itself as a "Spirit-filled Southern Baptist church."

On occasion, the church has experienced manifestations of God's power among the congregants such as trembling, crying, leaping, jumping and "falling out" in the Spirit. While not seeking such events, Phillips welcomes them as evidence God is moving among them.

As a well-connected leader in the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1970s, Phillips would have identified himself as a "cessationist" -- a Christian who believes miracles such as speaking in tongues and healings occurred in Bible times, but are not valid gifts for today.

Today, Phillips says he finds scant biblical support for the cessationist view. Instead, he believes the Bible suggests gifts will remain until the Second Coming of Christ.

Phillips thinks many SBC churches are more interested in appearing mainstream and acceptable to the intelligentsia than in being true to Baptists' free-church tradition.

Historical accounts of frontier revivals described loud worship, wild cries, falling out and other things embarrassing to the modern church. Rather than embracing their "brush arbor" roots, Phillips says most Baptists today seem to be more comfortable with the Reformed tradition that persecuted their Anabaptist forebears.

"Could it be that Baptists who believe in the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are more true to Scripture in their beliefs than some of those who are more comfortable with the formality of the Reformation?" Phillips wrote in an article for the May 2008 Theology for Ministry, a journal published twice a year by Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.

Abba's House recently was host for the 10th annual "Fresh Oil, New Wine" conference. Phillips counts more than 500 Southern Baptist churches in the network that open themselves to spiritual gifts.

A study last year by the SBC's publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources, found half of Southern Baptist pastors believe the Holy Spirit gives some people a "private prayer language," but those who practice it find themselves increasingly marginalized in the denomination's life.

In 2005, the SBC International Mission Board forbade missionaries to pray in tongues, even though the agency's president, Jerry Rankin, has acknowledged using a private prayer language in his own devotional life.

In 2006, Dwight McKissic, a prominent Texas pastor and trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, prompted controversy by saying in a chapel service that he also used a private prayer language. He eventually resigned from the board under pressure.

Phillips contends Southern Baptists have nothing to fear from those who embrace spiritual gifts, but should instead embrace them themselves. "In doing so, Baptists welcome the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit," he wrote.

"The fact remains that charismatic Southern Baptists exist, albeit a small minority. They are committed to historic Baptist identity and doctrine, but make room for the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit within God's people for ministry and proclamation.

"The question remains: Will the issue of charismatic gifts be a test of fellowship and cooperation? The process of making it a litmus test has already begun; let's pray and hope that brotherly love and toleration for differences on this issue may begin to prevail."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

On the Trinity, Baptist worship largely settles for two out of three
By Ken Camp

(ABP) -- Hymns sung in most Baptist churches historically have been "More About Jesus" than about either God the Father or the Holy Spirit, several church music experts agree.

"From a Baptist perspective, I don't think the hymnody has ever been Trinitarian," said Clell Wright, director of choral activities and Logsdon professor of church music at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

Baptist worship has been shaped to a large degree by the revivalist movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, he noted. "By nature, the focus is on Jesus and his redeeming work," Wright said.

Consequently, when it comes to Baptist understanding of the Godhead as reflected in congregational song, "Our Trinity is more two-point-something rather than three," said Terry York, associate professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University's School of Music and George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas.

"One way to gauge that is by looking at the index in the back of the hymnal under 'Holy Spirit.' Looking at the 1991 Baptist Hymnal [produced by the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing arm], for instance, there's not much there. And I was on the committee that put that one together, for crying out loud."

A quick glance at the recently released 2008 Baptist Hymnal reveals similar results, noted Lee Hinson, coordinator of church-music studies at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.

"It has not changed much," Hinson said. "We struggle with singing Trinitarian doctrine. There are several categories of things we free-churchers don't do well in worship.... Dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of them."

York agreed, noting lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit may reveal, in part, lack of clarity among Baptists about the Spirit's role and about the doctrine of the Trinity in general.

"Baptist churches divide themselves in worship according to which Person of the Trinity gets the most emphasis," he noted. Baptists who say they want to "worship the Father in the beauty of holiness" generally favor more formal, liturgical worship.
Baptists who want to "praise Jesus for who he is and what he has done" may tend toward a more revivalist and evangelistic worship style. Baptists who say they want "the Spirit to come down and bless us" often follow a less structured worship format.

"Generally, we are less than balanced," York commented. "Few churches stand in the middle."

Observers differ about whether the rising popularity of praise-and-worship music translates into increased attention directed toward the Holy Spirit.

Wright sees a shift toward greater "recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit" in praise music. "So much of it in the last 15 to 20 years seems very pietistic, with a strong emphasis on personal worship," he noted.

That emphasis represents a departure from the evangelistic and revivalist tradition that has marked Baptist worship, he added.

"Our Baptist heritage of music in the gospel tradition has defined who we are for a couple of hundred years," Wright said.

Hinson sees a greater emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in Baptist worship, but he believes it is restricted to the youngest worship leaders.

"Millennials [roughly defined as the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s] want their worship to be free," he said. Lyrics that stress the Holy Spirit exist, "but they're not sung where the Boomers are in charge. They're in the Wednesday night services where students lead worship."

York, on the other hand, sees praise-and-worship lyrics focused primarily on Jesus, but worship leaders stressing the role of the Holy Spirit in leading them.

"They attribute being caught up in worship to the work of the Holy Spirit, who helps lead in the worship of Jesus," he said.

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Baptist Standard.

Guest Opinion: Seasonal mood swings
By Jim Evans

(ABP) -- At midnight after Thanksgiving Day, the Christmas shopping season officially begins. Many shopping malls will actually open at midnight. And even in this tough economy there will be folks who will be there when the doors open. You should know that these folks don't just go and leisurely shop. They are more like shopping storm troopers battering down the doors of their favorite stores.

How is it possible to whip a crowd into such a buying frenzy? Do these people mistake the first shopping day of the Christmas season for the last shopping day ever? And is there anything in the story of Jesus' birth that would account for this mall madness?

I believe it has to do with seasonal mood swings. These mood swings are temporary emotional states brought on by holiday stimuli. When they appear they trigger certain behaviors, like shopping for example. But they trigger other things as well.

For instance during the brief period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are suddenly able to see the less fortunate in our midst. They carry blankets to the homeless or serve food in a soup kitchen for a day. They gather canned goods for the hungry and buy toys for needy children.

And all of this is great. Just as retailers count on Christmas shopping to flesh out their profits for the year, so do charities rely on this annual outbreak of kindness to round out their struggling budgets.

And of course the poor and the homeless appreciate it. It's the one time in the year when they have reason to believe that someone cares. Unfortunately, once the season is over, the poor and the homeless tend to revert back to their previous state of invisibility.

Seasonal depression is also likely a result of these annual mood swings. Christmas is supposed to be a magic time. It's all about family and joy -- at least that's what the commercials say. But reality does not always match the hype.

Unresolved personal issues, marital or financial problems do not suddenly get better simply because Christmas rolls around. In fact, sometimes they get worse. The financial pressures and burdens on families may actually increase during the season.
Seasonal depression is the disappointment that comes when the magic does not work.

There may be something we can learn from these holiday ups and downs. For instance, in spite of the fact that we already have more junk than we can use, we frantically shop at Christmas time to buy and have even more stuff. Is there some emptiness in our lives we are trying to fill?

And the poor are always around, as Jesus reminded us, and we can help them anytime we choose. Why only at the apex of our material pursuits do we suddenly notice our struggling neighbors? Could it be that our temporary bouts of charity are really efforts to atone for a life of meaningless consumption?

And I ask again, is there anything in the story of Jesus' birth to account for all this?

Christians believe that Jesus' birth marks the beginning of a new day for the whole world. What if, in an effort to celebrate that birth, we reversed the order of our values? Instead of shopping 'til we drop, why not share our wealth with the needy --and not just once a year, but as a daily discipline. It might be just the cure for our Christmas blues, but even if it's not, it will at least keep us from being trampled at the mall.

James Evans is pastor of First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

Guest opinion: Dear Michelle
By Amy Butler

(ABP) -- Dear Michelle: I'm probably supposed to call you something more important now that you'll soon be our country's first lady, but I'm not sure what I should call you exactly, and, anyway, we're not much for titles around here. I thought I'd write because I'm sure your husband is busy choosing Cabinet officials and all that -- and, when it comes to matters of your family's spiritual nurture, I suspect you'll be taking some serious leadership on the very important matter of looking for a faith community in your new town.

So, please consider this an invitation to you and your family to join us in worship at Calvary any Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

Honestly, I hesitated to write because, well, it's hard enough getting folks to come to church without metal detectors flanking the doors, and I've heard stories about how tough that can be from the folks over at Foundry United Methodist, believe me.

But despite all of that, here's why I'm writing. I suspect that you've been steadily transitioning from the optimistic, energized environment of the campaign to a whole new world where a lot of people around you wear shiny political façades; where policy decisions are often made with political expediency in mind; where ideals and dreams for change quickly become discarded detritus on the side of the road to greater and greater power.

Leading change in times such as these is going to take a heavy toll on your whole family, and the truth is, you're going to need a community that loves and supports you as people, not just as residents of the big White House down the street.

I've never gone to church with a president and his family before, of course, but I think you could find what you need at Calvary.

In a city where political posturing takes up most folks' waking hours Monday through Friday, come Sunday morning lots of people get up and do it again -- at church. And that just gets old really fast. Calvary is a place where we try really hard to get real. Our community works hard to be a place where everything each of us brings to the table -- our pain, doubt, joy, fear -- together they all become a shared experience, where the happy times are happier and the pain is a little lighter.

Even the president's family needs that, right?

I should warn you, though: there's not much easy, lukewarm religion around here. Like the community in which we live, our church is very diverse, with age and race, political persuasion and economic status -- even theological perspective -- varying from pew to pew. But we gather and we do the hard work of Christian community because we are serious about being followers of Jesus Christ, who knew that relationship with God could change us into people who love each other in ways that can change the world. This message, the message of a radical, transformational gospel, is what draws us together every week to worship and learn and serve together, despite our differences.

I figure if you live through the stress of a campaign and you're willing as a whole family to sacrifice what it will take to serve our country, then you must not be people of marginal conviction. And you may be able to flourish in a faith community where you are challenged all the time to live a faith that matters.

You know, I make it a practice to call or write folks who I know are moving to town to invite them to Calvary. I love this community and the ways in which living my faith in this place illustrates for me the deep gift of relationship with Jesus Christ. I can't wait to introduce people to this place where I know for sure they'll be loved -- and certainly that they'll be expected to engage meaningfully.

I've never invited anyone to church by writing a blog entry, but, truthfully, I just didn't know where to send a letter to you.

I'd love to talk more about why Calvary might be a great community for you and yours. I wish you the very best in all the transitions ahead of you, hope that you find good people in this town who will love, nurture and support all four of you, and find the courage and strength you need for the big tasks ahead.

And, if you ever want to hang out, grab some coffee or have lunch, I'm right down the street from your new house.

-- Very Neighborly Yours,

-- Amy Butler is senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., located just a few blocks from the White House. It was once the faith community to President Warren Harding, the first Baptist to fill the Oval Office. This column is adapted from a Nov. 13 post on her blog, Talk With the Preacher.

Prayer Blog - 11/20/2008

My church's pastor emeritus, Dr. Henry M. Chiles, died this morning at age 85. He was the church's pastor during one of its biggest stages of growth, from 1951-1972. On a personal note, he was always a great encouragement to me. Please keep his family and our church family in your prayers during this time.

WAM Quote of the Day - 11/20/2008

Tonight, many of my friends met at RAW's home where we had a fire and made s'mores. Part of the reason for this gathering was to see WAM, whom I had not seen since October 30th. I asked him what he had been doing in the interim. His reply:

"I've been playing Warhammer Online."

The thought of WAM playing a video game for three consecutive weeks amused me, though it did not especially surprise me.

Bible Trivia - 11/20/2008

Question: What offer did Goliath make to the Israelites?

Answer: To fight their best warrior and the loser’s people would become subjects of the other's. (I Samuel 17:9)

Comments: Twice a day for forty day, Goliath, a massive the Philistine champion, laid down the gauntlet to the Israelites. He challenged the Israelites to produce a representative of their own to decide the outcome of the battle in single combat. In single combat, the mightiest warrior of one army would fight the mightiest warrior of the opposing army as a substitute for all-out war. Goliath's proposal went unanswered for forty days.

He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, "Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me." (I Samuel 17:8, NASB)

In a now legendary battle, the future king of Israel, David, defeated Goliath with a shot from a slingshot.

Note: This drawing and watercolour, "Goliath cursing David" by William Blake (1757-1827), hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Word of the Day - 11/20/2008


Officious means objectionably aggressive in offering one's unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice; meddlesome.

After suffering many calamities, Job faced his officious friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and (eventually) Elihu.

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered,
"If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient?
But who can refrain from speaking? (Job 4:1-2, NASB)

Note: This painting of Job and his friends was painted by Gioacchino Assereto (1600-1649). It hangs in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/20/2008

Due to some creative scheduling, Wednesday marked the last session of my Adult Education class at UT. The class met an extra hour as part of that creative scheduling. It defies logic how long the extra hour seemed. The class ordered pizza from Papa John’s and settled in for a long night.

It is worth noting that I still have one final paper due in early December.

Both my professor RGB and CAD reported on the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) conference they had attended in Denver during the previous week. RGB provided some history on professional associations, detailing the NEADAE, AAAE (aka “Acubee, A3E), AEA of the USA (aka AEA/USA), the NASPAE (later the NAPCAE), and finally the AAACE. What I took from this is that adult educators really like acronyms.

Unfortunately, CAD could not report on the quantity or quality of single women at the conference. What was she doing there anyway?

As always, I walked my classmate JCP to her car. I have a theory: a rapist invented daylight savings time. I'll leave the research to someone else.

Why is that I can go all day with a modest amount of phone calls and then when I am in meetings, my phone blows up? I literally cannot count the number of calls I received during this class.

Finally, thanks to the Tennessee basketball team who provided lunch from Chick fil-A with their recent 90-point outings. I had never sampled a chicken sandwich and it was good. And it was free. That is a winning combination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 11/19/2008

Associated Baptist Press
November 19, 2008 · (08-112)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Activity reported on anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka (503 words)
Proposed resolution cites racial disparities in justice system (376 words)
Church start uses technology to reach Texas community (531 words)
Opinion: A changing religious and political landscape (777 words)

Activity reported on anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka
By Bob Allen

SRI JAYEWARDENEPURA KOTTE, Sri Lanka (ABP) -- Religious-freedom advocates worry that an anti-conversion bill making its way through Sri Lanka's Parliament could be used to justify discrimination against the nation's Christian minority.

Groups including the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty oppose the "Prevention of Forcible Conversion Bill," which was discussed Oct. 23 by the Sri Lanka Legislative Standing Committee and appears headed to the floor of Parliament within the next few months.

Introduced in 2004 by Sri Lanka's Jathika Hela Urumaya Party -- a political party headed by Buddhist monks -- the bill would outlaw religious conversions carried out by "force," "allurement" or other unethical means like taking advantage of a person's "inexperience, trust, need, low intellect, naivety or state of distress." Depending on how it's interpreted or enforced, faith-based humanitarian groups fear the law could be used to crack down on all evangelism and encourage violence against evangelical Christians.

JHU, roughly translated in English as National Heritage Party, has sought an anti-conversion bill since 2002. The pending bill, which has government support, has been held up in a committee since 2006 due to constitutional problems.

Fundamentalist Buddhists have long pressured the government to address the "problem" of the growth of Christian churches in rural areas. They accuse Christian organizations of using aid to entice or coerce vulnerable people to change their religion and claim that such conversions jeopardize the nation's Buddhist identity.

JHU leader Omalpe Sobhitha Thero has been quoted as saying the two greatest threats facing Sri Lanka are the Tamil Tigers -- a militant secessionist group branded a terrorist organization by 31 countries, including the United States -- and U.S.-funded Christian missionaries.

Anti-missionary sentiment intensified following the 2004 tsunami, which brought an influx of foreign Christian aid workers, some set on proselytizing.

Sri Lanka's Constitution accords Buddhism a "foremost place" but does not formally recognize it as a state religion. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court, however, has endorsed discrimination against non-Buddhist organizations and stated the growth of Christianity threatens not only the primacy of Buddhism, but its very existence.

The constitution gives members of other faiths a right to freely practice their religion, but the U.S. State Department has raised concerns about sporadic attacks on Christian communities. Some groups allege that the government has tacitly condoned harassment and attacks against Christians by inadequately enforcing the law.

Sri Lanka's population of 19 million is 70 percent Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 8 percent Muslim and about 7 percent Christian. Despite concern by some Buddhists about losing ground to Christianity in rural areas, the Becket Fund says the sizes of the various religious populations have been consistent for decades.

A forwarded e-mail reportedly from a Sri Lankan pastor expresses fear that, if passed, the law could be used to imprison pastors who share their faith and believers who convert to Christianity from other faiths. The message also anticipates faith-based aid organiztions like World Vision being forced to leave Sri Lanka if the law takes effect.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Proposed resolution cites racial disparities in justice system
By Bob Allen

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (ABP) -- A resolution on racial disparities in the criminal-justice system received a first reading at a Nov. 12-13 meeting of American Baptists' Board of National Ministries.

The proposed resolution, scheduled to receive a second reading in June, denounces "attitudes of racism, sexism and classism" found in the current judicial system. In addition, it says, the system often is motivated by vengeance instead of rehabilitation.

"A criminal-justice system shaped by these forces cannot achieve its purpose of protecting society and individuals from harmful or dangerous conduct," the statement says, "nor can it rehabilitate the offender so that he or she may return to society as a useful member."

The resolution says the system is unjust toward African-Americans, who represent a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, and the poor, who are unable to afford private counsel and thus tend to suffer worse outcomes in criminal proceedings than those who can afford their own attorneys.

It cites statistics showing suggesting that harsh sentencing schemes such as those used in anti-drug efforts also discriminate, with African Americans serving more frequent and longer prison terms than whites.

"While the thriving of an orderly society requires legal codes and their enforcement, followers of Jesus the Christ are charged with protecting the humanity of all people," the resolution states. "This requires a justice system that safeguards the dignity of all people (including those incarcerated), tempers justice with mercy and, above all, treats all those accused equally."

If adopted, the resolution would call on American Baptists to become active in groups that promote prison reform, increase awareness of unfairness in criminal laws and policies, support drug-treatment options, support increases in public-defender spending and find ways for churches to support victims, the incarcerated and their families.

In March the Progressive National Baptist Convention produced an 87-page resource titled What Shall We Then Do? Family Freedom Kit for Creating Healing Communities, to help congregations minister to members who are affected by the criminal justice system -- whether as defendants, prisoners, victims, people being released from prison or family members of all.

It is available free-of-charge on the National Ministries website.

A 2001 resolution by the General Board of American Baptist Churches USA advocated "restorative justice" as an alternative to incarceration.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Church start uses technology to reach Texas community
By Sue Poss

MANSFIELD, Texas (ABP) -- Patrick Moses has a long commute from his home in Mansfield, Texas, to his job with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

But that hasn't stopped the former Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leadership scholar from starting and growing Antioch Baptist Church in Mansfield, a suburban community Moses described as "upwardly mobile and extremely progressive."

Throw in a local barbershop and it's a combination tailor-made for a church whose evangelistic approach focuses on using modern technology to communicate the good news.

The Mansfield area -- located between Dallas and Fort Worth -- is growing, and Moses said many of the families moving in are not connected to any congregation. Moses' strategy is to use e-mail and text messaging as methods for attracting people who don't attend church regularly.

That's where the barbershop comes in. Most of the church's electronic contacts come from two members who operate the hair-care facility.

"Patrick contacted me last year with the hope of starting something new in Mansfield, an area with no moderate African-American churches," said David King, CBF's church-starting assistant. "We worked with him to develop his plan and also put him in contact with the Baptist General Convention of Texas."

Antioch was launched in December 2007 with support from BGCT, CBF, several local African-American Baptist churches and a group of pastors who serve as mentors to Moses.

CBF and CBF of Texas signed an official covenant of partnership with Antioch at the Fellowship's General Assembly this past June. While there are some financial aspects to the partnership, it also involves connecting Moses with other CBF church planters in Texas and beyond.

"CBF is committed to developing a strategy of church starting that is a partnership between national and state CBF leadership as well as new church starts," said Bo Prosser, the Fellowship's coordinator for congregational life. "This new church start has certainly benefited from this strategy. Patrick's energy for the work and his sensitivity to God's spirit are evident. We are pleased to partner in such an exciting setting."

Moses earned a bachelor of arts in political science and a master of public administration degree from Southern University. He was ordained in June 2005, just before he graduated from Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School with a master of divinity degree. He was introduced to CBF while attending Greater Saint Stephen's First Church in Fort Worth, a connection that helped him become a CBF leadership scholar.

Pastoring isn't Moses' first -- or only -- career. He is an 18-year federal employee, having worked in several government agencies in the Fort Worth area. In May he was recruited to serve in the Homeland Security position, where he has responsibility for the physical security of federal facilities located in the Washington metropolitan area.

Moses' wife, Ronda, is director of social services at Life Care Center of Haltom City, Texas, and recently earned a bachelor's degree in social work at Texas Woman's University. She is a part of the ministry team at Antioch.

"I love transforming people and I feel called to doing a church start," Moses said. "It is exciting to watch God create a new church -- a church with a new DNA."

-- Sue Poss is a writer for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Opinion: A changing religious and political landscape
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- Credit for most of the material in today's column goes to Faith in Public Life, which Nov. 13 released the results of a nationwide telephone poll of almost 1,300 voters. Key findings of their poll are in bold; my comments follow.

Religious voters want a broad agenda. Only 20% of evangelicals and 12% of Catholics say an agenda focused primarily on abortion and same-sex marriage best reflects their values.

The narrow understanding of a "family values" agenda may remain popular enough to keep Christian Right organizations alive for awhile, but it does not represent anything close to a majority of evangelical or Catholic voters. I have been among those arguing for a broader values agenda for some time, just because that broader agenda is more fully biblical.

A common-ground approach to reducing abortion is overwhelmingly popular. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals and Catholics believe elected officials should work together to find ways to reduce abortions by helping prevent unwanted pregnancies, expanding adoption and increasing economic support for women who want to carry their pregnancies to term.

The election of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress means that Roe v. Wade will not be overturned any time soon, if ever. Those who have placed all of their pro-life hopes on that goal remain sorely disappointed. But there is an actual opportunity now to take empirically grounded policy measures that can actually reduce abortion on the demand side. The best scholars, activists, and legislative minds need to get together to work on private and public initiatives that are proven to reduce the demand for abortion. Then the new Obama administration should set an aggressive abortion reduction goal (say, 25% in four years) and expend significant efforts to meet it during the next four years.

Twice as many Catholics believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace; evangelicals are split.

After World War II, the United States led the world not just because we were the strongest nation militarily, but also because we were the most effective diplomatically. The political structure of the postwar world was the result of our diplomatic leadership. As the Cold War ended and the Soviet bloc disintegrated, skillful diplomacy by the first President Bush and his team helped those events occur with as little bloodshed as they did.

Christians are required to be peacemakers. Diplomacy at its best is international peacemaking. That so many Christians have lost any sense whatsoever of the tragedy of war and the value of skillful diplomacy is a great scandal. But we are a nation weary of war after the long slog in Iraq and the deepening problems in Afghanistan. Let us hope that skillful problem-solving over the next few years will renew both a national and a Christian valuing of diplomacy.

All religious groups rank the economy as the top issue and blame institutions rather than individuals for our economic crisis. Asked who they think is responsible for the current economic crisis, 38 percent say corporations, 31 percent say negligent government and 25 percent say individuals who were careless.

Yes, it was all of the above. Greed and carelessness in the private sector, aided and abetted by negligent government oversight, contributed to the collapse of our economic house of cards. Free-market capitalism is a powerful engine of wealth creation, but one that devours itself without careful self-restraint, far-sighted corporate leadership and vigilant government regulation and oversight. We dare not look entirely to government for the answer to this crisis, which is as much a cultural problem as an economic or policy concern.

The Sarah Palin nomination resulted in a net loss for the GOP ticket. Her nomination increased support among fewer than one-third of white evangelicals, and decreased support among every other religious group and political independents.

This number may be the single best confirmation of my thesis that there is a (white) evangelical right, center, and left, with the center and left together being at least as large as the right, and often looking at politics and policy in very different ways than the right. Whatever else one may say about Gov. Palin, her nomination did not mobilize "evangelical" voters universally for the GOP. It mobilized one-third of them -- basically, a majority of the Christian Right. Everyone else was mobilized away from the GOP by her performance as nominee.

There is no evangelical vote, no single evangelical politics. Even just within the white population of the broader evangelical family, we are politically divided. No single person, group, or party can speak for all evangelicals. This election has once again confirmed this basic but important observation.

-- David Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University.

Prayer Blog - 11/19/2008

Tomorrow at 1:20 pm, CMU is slated to be arraigned before a federal judge. For details on his case, see the October 28th Prayer Blog. Please pray that the arraignment goes ahead as scheduled after numerous psotponements and keep CMU and his family in your prayers during this difficult time.

Bible Trivia - 11/19/2008

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

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

Comments: Rebekah and Tamar each gave birth to twins. Rebekah famously gave birth to Esau and Jacob while Tamar gave birth to the lesser known duo of Perez and Zerah. These are the only two sets of twins named in the Bible.

It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. (Genesis 38:27, NASB)

Not only did Rebekah and Tamar have twins, but in each case, the younger usurped the older and became an ancestor to both King David and Jesus.

Note: This image, "Rebekah with infants Jacob and Esau" was created by Phillip Ratner.

Word of the Day - 11/19/2008


An execration is a thing held in abomination.

The prophet Daniel predicted an execration which he called an "abomination of desolation" three times, all within the context of apocalyptic visions. (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11)

"Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice And they will set up the abomination of desolation." (Daniel 11:31, NASB)

In the "Olivet Discourse", Jesus adopts Daniel's terminology. (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14)

Note: This digital image, "The Abomination That Makes Desolate- The Profane Image" based on Daniel 11:31 was created by Ted Larson.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/19/2008

On Tuesday morning, I drove through snow flurries to work a brief shift at the Hope Resource Center. There was no medical staff on duty on this day which all but eliminated the possibilities for male clients and as such, my usefulness. I will now be on-call on Tuesdays. I did attend the morning prayer session and was pleased that my clockwise prayer rotation policy had been adopted. I felt standardization was needed as I was always confused as to when to voice my prayer. I now feel I have made a positive impact on the organization.

On Tuesday night, KL, MPW and I watched the Tennessee basketball team rout UT Martin 91-64 at Thompson-Boling Arena. We were running late and the game had been decided by the time we arrived. We walked in the arena with the score 16-4 with 15:42 remaining in the first half. By the time we sat down the score was 27-6 with 13:41 left before halftime. This should give you some indication of how quickly the Vols had the game in hand and just how high we sit in the stands.

Speaking of which, we moved down at halftime and sat in the lower level near midcourt. We learned that there are some seats in the stadium where players’ faces are visible. This is perhaps most evident as you can actually make out people in this shot from our seats.

JTH still had better seats than us, attending his first game in some time with RWW. ALK counted three times that he was visible on camera as she watched the television broadcast.

My thoughts on the game will be posted under “View from 315A”.

After the game, KL, MPW, and I met KL’s friends Josh and David (fellow Best Buy employees) at Applebees. We were later joined by TK, his girlfriend EA (aka “Sarah”), JTH and ALK. Until the party next to us moved we had nine people crammed around a hightop table. Thankfully they moved before the food arrived. Since KL’s friends selected the table, we did not have AFH as our waitress. I felt bad that we offended her but I suspect she might have repaid us.

It was unbelievably hot in the restaurant. How hot? ALK removed one of her many layers of clothing at 10:44 pm citing the heat. We documented this moment as it was so rare. ALK being warm is like me admitting to being cold. I wondered aloud if AFH had cranked the temperature. I do not really think she did but it would have been cool if she had.

ALK remained without her top layer for exactly eleven minutes. JTH had predicted five.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bible Trivia - 11/18/2008

Question: To whom did God ask the question: “What is that in thine hand?”

Answer: Moses. (Exodus 4:2)

Comments: God knew how to set up a magic tragic trick. This is the old, "what's that behind your ear?" bit. What was in Moses' hand? His staff. God made the staff transform into a serpent when it contacted the ground.

The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." (Exodus 14:2, NASB)

The visual was used to give proof to the Israelites, whom he would be leading, that Moses had indeed been selected by God for his task.

Note: This image of the transformation of Moses' staff was illustrated by Annie Vallotton.

Word of the Day - 11/18/2008


Continguity is the state of being contiguous; contact or proximity.

Each time's Lot's location is reported in the book of Genesis, his contiguity to the gate Sodom's is closer. (Genesis 13:12, Genesis 14:12, Genesis 19:1)

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. (Genesis 19:1, NAS)

Note: This image is of Lot parting ways with his uncle Abram (later Abraham). It was from this moment that lot inched closer and closer to Sodom.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/18/2008

On Monday night my parents returned from Nashville where they attended the Tennessee School Board Association’s annual conference. There, my father’s company won the state’s award for the best elementary school design for Mayfield Elementary School in Cleveland, Tennessee. Would it be blasphemous were I to refer to this as a “triumphal entry”?

We ate at Calhoun’s. The restaurant’s parking lot tends to be inexplicably packed despite countless open tables. Are there that many people at the bar? I project that I will be providing one fewer vehicle in the parking lot soon. They keep eliminating my favorite dishes. Our server informed us that there are no longer Rocky Top (barbeque) potato skins available as of 1 ½ weeks ago. They have also discontinued the twice baked potatoes, another of my favorites. I am a low carb guy.

After supper, I spent the night hanging out with KLTW and RAW. I must note that I was drawn with bait and switch tactics. KJW was to be there but it was decided that since she was to be at her aunt’s house the next morning at 8 am, she would spend the night. As such, there are no KJW photos to post. I did have fun with my friends. We watched Monday Night Football and South Park’s spoof of High School Musical (“Elementary School Musical: Fourth Grade”) while talking.

Finally, I learned on Monday, that it is best not to wear a hoodie when getting allergy shots.