News

Here you will find the very latest news from the Baptist Press (BP), NAMB (North American Mission Board) and IMB (International Mission Board). Each entry includes the title, source and date of the article and a brief summary.

You can also select a specific news source (i.e. Baptist Press) from the News drop-down menu to read only a specific news feed.

Click on the title to view the full article at the external website.

 

BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 5:46pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Thousands of students each summer attend camps held at Baptist conference centers across the U.S.

But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, event leaders are facing difficult decisions. Because the landscape of the pandemic is constantly changing, many camp leaders are still undecided about this summer's events.

Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said leaders there hope to make a decision about their summer camps -- most held at Falls Creek Conference Center -- by the end of this month.

"We want to wait as long as we can to make sure we have current data," Dilbeck explained. "We're working with our health department and government officials. We'll be safe and responsible. We're praying that God would allow us to have camp -- at least a partial camp, because it's so important to us."

Nathan Lorick, executive director of Colorado Baptist General Convention, said his team is still waiting to make a final decision because of how vital camps are to the spiritual health of students who attend.

"It's not about numbers," Lorick said. "It's really about those kids who are going to go and encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who are going to be called out to ministry."

Lorick said the greatest tragedy would be for those students not to have the opportunity to experience the Gospel.

Kevin Perrigan, camp manager of Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport, Tenn., said the primary factor influencing any decision to close the camps is the safety of the campers.

"The emerging situation and the potential risks to our campers are the primary factors in determining how we'll proceed in the future," Perrigan said. "As of now, we have not made sweeping decisions about cancellations for the summer. We are quite literally monitoring the situation on a daily basis and making decisions based on the most reliable information available and with the health and welfare -- both physical and spiritual -- of those who come to camps in mind."

Brian Hobbs, communication director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, also said the No. 1 priority is the well-being and safety of guests and campers. Leaders at Falls Creek Conference Center, which hosts camps and events for thousands of Oklahoma Baptists each year, are carefully weighing all the best information available and remain hopeful that the summer ministry will be able to continue, if only partially.

Dilbeck said ministry will continue regardless.

"We are confident that God is more than able to lead and guide us to ministry with or without those weeks of summer camp," he said.

Russell Klinner, executive director of Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Alabama, said one of the hardest parts of the current situation is seeing the camp's grounds empty.

"We have 800 acres, and it's a beautiful setting," Klinner said. "The azaleas are blooming, and the dogwoods are covered up, and our grass is perfect, and nobody's enjoying it except me and our staff. It's eerie. It's this weird, serene feeling to walk campus. And usually right now we'd be covered up with guests in the springtime and hosting lots of events on the weekends."

Perrigan also noted the frustration that can come with a blossoming conference center being empty at one of its peak times.

"They are sacred places where countless people through the decades have come to Christ, been called into ministry and simply met and spent time with God away from the dissonance of the world," Perrigan said. "We do what we do to serve churches and people, with the goal of creating irresistible places for unprecedented transformation. We look forward to getting back to providing that ministry."

The conference centers are currently being maintained and upheld by a few essential staff and groundskeepers, in hopes to have them ready for events to begin again soon.

Perrigan said when churches emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, they may need a refreshing environment for a time of renewal. He hopes Carson Springs can be such a place.

"As you can imagine, maintaining large facilities like ours is a full-time job, but fortunately one that allows our employees to accomplish those needed tasks while maintaining distance," Perrigan said. "We have worked hard the past few years to improve our facilities so that those attending our two conference centers have unforgettable experiences that allow them to focus on spiritual formation and recreation."

The staff of Shocco Springs normally numbers around 170, but currently only 25 employees remain on site, including residential employees like Klinner. The camp is shut down until April 30, but Klinner expects that period to extend.

Shocco Springs is currently operating with 50 percent of its typical income and has faced approximately $3.5 million in losses. Drawing from emergency savings has allowed operations to continue. But Klinner said it is important to recognize that not all camps and conference centers are able to cover their losses.

"A lot of camps and small conference centers are not in the same boat," Klinner said. "They're struggling to make payroll; they've laid people off. They're trying to figure out where their summer's going to be and how they're going to keep doors open."

Perrigan said it is vital right now to carefully steward resources, and to pray for leaders to make the right decisions about whether and when to hold camps.

it is vital to be stewarding resources well and praying for leaders to make the right decisions.

"We take stewardship very seriously, so we have sought God's wisdom for how best to manage our fiscal resources," Perrigan said. "Looking more into the future, we are challenging ourselves to transform our operational strategy to include programming and events that meet newly recognized needs created by this current crisis."
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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 4:47pm
KENNER, La. (BP) -- Lexie Green was still a few months shy of her two-year anniversary as a nurse at Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, La., just outside of New Orleans, when she found herself serving in the intensive care unit in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few weeks into the crisis, which has struck the New Orleans area particularly hard, Green started feeling ill herself. When she discovered she was running a fever, her supervisor sent her home. She later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

"I think it's the sickest I've ever been in my life," Green said by phone from her rental home, where she continues to recover.

The weeks leading up to her diagnosis had been some of the most trying of her life, and to help her deal with the anxiety and stress, Green, whose full first name is Alexa, began making a video diary.

"I originally made the videos to help me cope with everything," Green said. "Every time I talked to my family, I didn't want to burden them with the things I was seeing. So, I just started recording myself talking and praying and talking to God."

Green had seen some patients with other illnesses die without family nearby due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Then, her first patient passed away from the coronavirus. Through it all, she kept up her video diary, even after she learned that she had contracted the disease.

In quarantine, Green found a Gospel opportunity.

"When I got sick, it was the first time I had seen everything on social media," she said. "There was so much negativity, but I wanted to share some of my story and share hope."

She pieced together some of the videos and posted them to Facebook. The timeline began when she first began grappling with the trials she and her coworkers were enduring and continued until she was quarantined with symptoms of COVID-19. She ended the video with an invitation for viewers to reach out if they wanted to know more about the peace and hope that comes with a relationship with God.

"I have been completely overwhelmed by the response, in a good way." Green said. "I never expected it to touch so many people, which I think is the Lord working. I've had several people, even people I don't even know, message me to say that they had either been struggling in their faith or were having a very difficult time. They said the video encouraged them to seek out God and reminded them of His faithfulness and His love for them."

Some of her coworkers have started asking her deep, theological questions as well about what God could possibly be doing in the middle of the pandemic. Green has made herself available to talk, listen and pray when her coworkers complete their shifts.

Having this sort of impact, being able to serve and help people, is precisely what Green envisioned when she selected nursing as her vocation.

"I feel like one of the gifts the Lord has given me is the gift of mercy. I have a heart for people who are suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually," Green said. "I have always been interested in the medical field, and nursing is such a caring profession. It was an opportunity to use my gift of mercy to practically share the love of Christ."

After growing up in rural north Alabama and entering the University of North Alabama's (UNA) nursing program, Green's dream was to work at a hospital in nearby Huntsville. But a mission trip to New Orleans with UNA's Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) altered that trajectory.

"It was spring break of 2017," Green recalled. "Immediately when I got back from that trip, I thought, 'I have to go back to New Orleans. If there is any way for me to go back, I am going to go.'"

So, that summer she wound up on a GenSend summer mission team through the North American Mission Board (NAMB). There had been one more opening on the team going to New Orleans to spend two months living and serving in the city.

"It was one of the most life-changing experiences I ever had," Green said. "My relationship with God grew exponentially, and I got a great sense of what it's like to live on mission."

The next March, during her senior year in college, she visited New Orleans again with the BCM. She already had a sense that she would end up in New Orleans again, eventually, but encounters with NAMB missionaries led her to spend more time in prayer that week.

Green applied for the job at Ochsner Medical Center while there, but before hearing back from the hospital, she received an offer for her dream job in Huntsville, Ala.

"Without knowing anything about my other job, I turned it down because I felt like I needed to be in New Orleans," she said.

Now, she has seen that dream play out under extremely trying circumstances, but she says she cannot wait to get back to work.

"Knowing that somehow, in everything that's going on, I was able to make a difference in people's lives, that's what's drawing me back to the hospital." Green said. "That's what kept me going -- knowing that I was able to love on and minister to people as a nurse."

Watch Green's video diary here: https://www.facebook.com/alexa.k.green/videos/10215267634198930/
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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 3:45pm
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Southern Baptist leaders have commended a federal appeals court decision in support of a Texas order that includes abortion as a nonessential medical procedure suspended during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an April 7 ruling, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a federal judge's opinion that removed all abortions from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order postponing nonessential procedures through April 21. In rejecting the arguments of abortion-rights advocates, the 2-1 majority said the order "regulates abortions evenhandedly" with all other medical procedures.

Texas and some other states have included abortions among non-imperative surgeries or procedures that are delayed during the pandemic to free medical supplies for hospitals and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have challenged such orders and, in some cases, refused to abide by them. Other states have exempted abortions from orders suspending nonessential procedures.

The Fifth Circuit Court "made the right decision," Travis Wussow of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told Baptist Press.

"The abortion industry has once again shown its disregard for human life, that even during a global pandemic, it places its profit motive before any other consideration," said Wussow, the ERLC's general counsel and vice president for public policy, in written remarks. "We are thankful their operations are halted for now. This moment demands that we work to save as many lives as possible."

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said in a written statement:

"While our convention has from its beginning championed the sanctity of human life from birth to natural death, this decision is more than pro-life in its effect. Abortion providers sought to classify their grisly work as more essential than most medical procedures.

"In light of the need to conserve limited medical resources during a crisis, this decision supports ordinary prudence. I'm grateful for the court's support of our state leadership as they prepare for the strain we expect on our healthcare facilities."

In his March 22 order, Abbott required the postponement of "all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient's physician."

When Planned Parenthood centers and other abortion-rights organizations challenged Abbott's action, a federal court described his order as "effectively banning all abortions before viability" and issued a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The Fifth Circuit Court temporarily stayed enforcement of the TRO March 31 before the three-judge panel rejected in its April 7 opinion the federal judge's description of the order as an "outright ban." The order "only delays certain nonessential abortions," judge Kyle Duncan wrote for the majority. The order is temporary and includes "an emergency exception for the mother's life and health," he said.

"The bottom line is this: when faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have at least some 'real or substantial relation' to the public health crisis and are not 'beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law,'" Duncan wrote.

Planned Parenthood, the country's No. 1 abortion provider, decried the Fifth Circuit ruling. "This is unconscionable," said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in written remarks. "Abortion is essential, it's time-sensitive, and it cannot wait for a pandemic to pass."

Planned Parenthood performed more than 345,000 abortions and received $616.8 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its 2019 annual report. Planned Parenthood and other organizations have also challenged orders similar to that of Texas in Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma, according to Newsweek. Acting April 6, a federal court halted enforcement of the Oklahoma order.

Meanwhile, governors in many states, including Michigan and Virginia, have excluded abortions from orders barring medical procedures that are not essential.

Attorneys general in 21 states asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration in a March 30 letter to lift limitations on medical/chemical abortions and permit their use through telemedicine, National Right to Life reported. Telemedicine abortion involves a doctor holding a videoconference with a woman in a remote clinic and then dispensing an abortion drug to her.

On March 24, ERLC President Russell Moore and more than 50 other pro-life leaders urged public health officials to act to prevent the promotion of abortion during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, they said Planned Parenthood and other organizations are promoting and performing abortions while other elective procedures are being delayed. According to the letter, by discontinuing abortions, Planned Parenthood would make medical equipment that is in limited supply available as the coronavirus spreads, protect women who may require care from an overtaxed health-care system after post-abortion complications and reduce the burden on emergency rooms.

In a March 25 Baptist Press article, Moore said, "We must take every measure necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, and that includes stopping Planned Parenthood from exploiting vulnerable communities in danger now from a potentially deadly virus on top of their already violent actions."

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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 2:44pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week's Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies for Life curriculum.

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Discussion Question: When have you been an eyewitness to an exciting event?

Food for Thought by Mary Jo Sharp*:

Christians celebrate two great events each year. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, God coming to earth. At Easter, we remember the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection on the third day. We couldn't remember Christ's death and celebrate His resurrection if He had not come to earth to live among us. But Christmas would be absolutely meaningless if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

No other doctrine is more critical to Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This great moment changed everything. Without the resurrection, the death of Christ loses its power and significance. Without the resurrection, we have no hope and our faith is meaningless.

To many outside the Christian faith, a resurrection sounds outrageous. But in 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul highlighted several key facts that point to the actual, physical resurrection of Jesus. But he didn't stop there. Paul also showed us what that resurrection means for us.

The resurrection of Christ is the singular event in history that changes our lives, for eternity. For most of us, national or global news stories are just that: stories we saw or read in the news. It may be a once-in- a-lifetime experience, but on rare occasions we may be able to say, "I was there!"

Of course, none of us was there at the momentous event that changed everything -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ -- but we joyfully celebrate it every spring. But do we embrace the resurrection as an actual historical event or simply regard it as spiritual folklore?

Many people favor the latter view. Others see the resurrection as an "inspiring story" about a great teacher named Jesus, but they do not believe He is the true Messiah who was resurrected for all mankind. Jesus is just someone unenlightened people used to believe in. Critics might say the resurrection sounds like a fairy tale to soothe those who are afraid to die.

But Paul surely would not have called it a fairy tale. Far from it. He wrote a little bit later in this passage that if Jesus wasn't raised from the dead our faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). Throughout 1 Corinthians 15, Paul made an objective truth claim: Jesus did physically rise from the dead, and many people could attest to that. They could say, "I was there!"

Since Christ actually rose from the dead, His resurrection triggered monumental implications for humanity. All of us can point to life-changing historical events on some level. But the death, burial and resurrection of Christ stands apart as an event that gives us hope now and for eternity. And just as important for those of us who are followers of Christ, the resurrection of Christ affects us on a personal level as well. It continues to make an impact in our lives and the lives of those we reach with the Good News.

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God's Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at www.biblestudiesforlife.com.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.
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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 12:59pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) -- Pastors, church staff and church members have held to tradition and familiarity so tightly.

Imagine what would have happened three months ago if a pastor had proposed holding church services only through livestreams. Imagine if a Sunday School leader had proposed to his or her pastor that their group stop meeting together for a while and meet via Zoom meetings. Imagine what the church would have thought of a pastor to students who suggested moving Wednesday night Bible studies to videos posted on YouTube.

Those proposals, if pursued, would have caused church splits. They would have angered members and caused rifts between generations. They would have stalled a congregation's Great Commission mission. They would have stifled the Gospel. Just imagine it.

Even as COVID-19 ravaged China and upset official Christian congregations and house churches in that country, those ideas would have torn American churches apart. They would have fragmented God's people. They would have seemed preposterous or outrageous. Who would even have considered such nonsense? Who would have proposed such things?

Now, nearly every congregation has embraced the outrageous. They have embraced the preposterous. The unimaginable has become normal. No one could have predicted the change. But all along, God was watching His people. He knew. He was prepared.

Instead of fragmenting the church, those nonsensical technologies have held churches together. Instead of causing divisions, they have fostered connections. Instead of splitting churches, church members are flocking to virtual meetings. Just imagine it.

Imagine what would have happened if a pastor had suggested that the church stop meeting inside the worship center for a while. Instead, he proposed, members should drive to the property, but remain in the parking lot inside their cars, with windows closed -- no one touching anyone. They would, he proposed, turn on their FM car radio and listen to the pastor as he preached from the church porch. And worship, he would suggest, would be led by a single person playing a guitar. Everyone would sing inside their cars.

Imagine a children's ministry leader proposing to the pastor and other church leaders that children stay home and watch Bible study videos through an app. They would play games in the app, she would suggest. They would interact with ministry leaders through the app and through social media. "It can work," she would plead. And everyone would have said, "No way."

Today, normal has changed. It seems that so many church ministries have been altered. And, after a time apart, technology seems less evil. People of every age and every race are watching on YouTube, Skype, Zoom and Facebook.

Just as offices closed their doors and sent employees to work at home (if they could), churches (most of them) closed their doors and sent people home -- for protection. The closures worried clergy and laity. The new normal is still difficult.

But God is working.

Pastors are hosting more Bible studies and prayer meetings than ever before. Less energy is focused on scrubbing the church bathrooms and vacuuming the church carpets. Pulpits have given way to desks and kitchen tables. And no one is complaining. Everyone feels blessed to have an option.

In the midst of all of that praying and Bible study, God's Word and God's people are more accessible to lost people than they have been in decades. And all of that is happening while Christians are hardly leaving their homes. People are praying for neighbors, running errands and delivering food. Saints are checking on one another. People are concerned for each other.

I hate COVID-19. But, I am unsure about how much I dislike what it has done for the church. We are learning more about ourselves. Christians are growing. Faith is flourishing. In reality, nothing is lost.
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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 12:50pm
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- This week, the International Mission Board's Sub-Saharan Affinity has committed to pray for and encourage missionaries serving with the North American Mission Board in the week leading up to Easter Sunday and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

Just as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports IMB missionaries, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering supports North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries. One hundred percent of each offering supports Southern Baptist missionaries.

This Monday, Daren Davis, the IMB leader for Sub-Saharan Africa missionaries, introduced their weeklong emphasis in a weekly devotional. Davis urged the group to keep their focus during this season on a gracious God who desires for the message of the Gospel to penetrate thoughts and actions. Missionaries were encouraged to read Galatians 6:9: "So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up" (HSCB).

Using the chapter and verse number, personnel in Sub-Saharan Africa were challenged to pray for NAMB missionaries at 6:09 each day. Leadership also encouraged missionaries to reach out, by email or phone, to a NAMB missionary to pray for and support them in the days leading up to Easter.

Many missionaries in Africa already had connections with NAMB missionaries. Those who didn't were directed to NAMB's website to find contact information.

Andy Pettigrew, the affinity stateside associate for Sub-Saharan Africa, said as fellow church planters, they want to stand in support and solidarity with missionaries in North America.

"In times of great struggle, I can't help but think about the scene in 'Lord of the Rings' when the beacon of Minas Tirith is lit. When they sound the cry for help, the others around Middle Earth answered," Pettigrew said. "As co-laborers in other parts of the globe, we want to say that, as we labor for the furtherance of the church around Africa, we are with our fellow workers in North America as well."

IMB President Paul Chitwood echoed the need and desire to stand together.

"I am beyond thrilled to see so many of our overseas missionaries, of their own initiative, giving to the Annie Armstrong Offering, especially this year," Chitwood said. "Never has the need for the Gospel been greater in our nation and we are seeing evidence that [the coronavirus] is creating a new openness to the Gospel."

Stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic is opening doors to the Gospel are emerging from around the globe. NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the Gospel is advancing in virus epicenters in the U.S.

"Every day I'm hearing about how our missionaries are serving their communities and bringing the hope of Jesus in times of such uncertainty," Ezell said. "Many are at risk themselves because they serve in some of the virus hotspots like New York City and New Orleans. We are doing everything we can to support them and keep them on the field. ...

"It's so encouraging to hear about the prayers and support coming from brothers and sisters in Christ in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our Southern Baptist family is so incredibly faithful, and we are grateful for each one of them."

Pettigrew said though it might be tempting for Christians, both in the U.S. and in Sub-Saharan Africa, to look inward and tend to their own needs, the call to rally together and work toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission still remains.

"When we think about the spread of the Gospel among the nations, we believe that comes in and through the local church," Pettigrew said. "There has never been a greater time for collaboration."

Pettigrew recognizes it is hard for churches to meet, and it's even harder to think about launching a church when public gatherings are prohibited. But he said even though the pandemic presents many challenges to church planting, evangelism and discipleship, both in the U.S. and in Africa, incredible opportunities are opening.

Digital connectedness has made evangelism and discipleship possible. Even in these unprecedented times, God has a plan to advance His church and His Kingdom.

"Ultimately, we want to send the message that we do want to see the work of the Gospel propelled with even greater intensity during this time of great global challenge," Pettigrew said. "We believe that God wants the spread of the Gospel to take place in and through local churches. We're believing this will happen."

Southern Baptists have faithfully prayed and given financially during crises. Pettigrew said this pandemic is another historical marker where the Lord will use His church to advance His Kingdom both in North America and around the world.

Chitwood emphasized the importance of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

"Even in this difficult time, I'm praying that Southern Baptists will still give generously through the Annie Armstrong Offering to support mission work through the North American Mission Board," Chitwood said. "NAMB is no less dependent on the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering than IMB is dependent upon the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Because of the extreme generosity of Southern Baptists as they give through these offerings to see our nation and the nations reached for Christ, thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries are supported, and thousands of churches are planted in North America and overseas."

Learn more and give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to support Southern Baptist missions in North America.

*Name changed for security reasons
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BP News Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 12:11pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- While churches everywhere are adapting and learning how to disciple and evangelize in a post-COVID-19 world, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee created a space for Hispanic Baptists to ask questions and discuss ideas.

Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization with the Executive Committee, hosted a Facebook Live conference call Tuesday (April 7) asking "Are These the End Times?" He was joined by Bobby Sena, director of Spanish studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Evis Carballosa, author and speaker; and Efrain Salcedo, director of Hispanic initiatives and professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

More than 300 Hispanic Baptists joined the livestream. In two days, the recording had been viewed approximately 7,400 times.

Kicking off the livestream, Arriola asked the panel if the ongoing pandemic indicates we are living in the end times. Carballosa said that while in his opinion these are not yet the end times, the COVID-19 pandemic is a sign that they’re drawing nearer.

"While the church remains on earth, we will not see the Antichrist nor the judgments," Carballosa said. "The next step in God's plan according to His Word is to move His church out of this world."

Asked if the COVID-19 pandemic was punishment or trial, Salcedo said it was neither but rather a sign of what is to come and an opportunity for the church to mirror the love of Christ to a lost world.

"This is that the face of the earth may know that there is one God and that they may recognize how close He is," Salcedo said.

Questions poured in during the session from Hispanic pastors and believers. Some were concerned with their current financial situation after being laid off from work.

To encourage the participants, Sena shared his story. He grew up in a low-income family; many times he didn't know where his next meal would come from. Still, he said, his family never lacked anything, and his father taught him to always trust in God's providence.

Salcedo closed the question-and-answer session reminding pastors that the most important action they can engage in is to love.

"There are many people who are afraid, and as pastors we have to be the hands and feet of Christ and love on people," he said.

Arriola then shared the Gospel with viewers and invited them to pray to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

To view a recording of the stream click here.
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 5:46pm
FORT WORTH (BP) -- Meeting via video conference Tuesday (April 7), the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved structural changes including the elimination of the School of Preaching, which is being folded into the School of Theology. And while trustees postponed adoption of the fiscal year 2021 budget until mid-July, if necessary, the school acknowledged it has instituted budget cuts of about 25 percent, including faculty and staff layoffs.

The trustees also authorized the SWBTS administration to make distributions from the seminary's unrestricted endowment. The decisions were part of the seminary's response to the severe economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're going to come through this," SWBTS president Adam W. Greenway said in his report to the trustees. "We're going to come through this stronger than ever before. We're going to come through this in a way that I believe is only going to glorify God."

Like some of its peer institutions, SWBTS has been forced by the pandemic to make rapid adjustments -- including the closure of campus and moving all classes online for the spring and summer terms -- as well as significant longer-term changes. In his report to trustees, Greenway told trustees they were called to make "difficult decisions," but that they would allow the seminary "to not merely survive but to thrive moving forward."

Trustees voted to rescind, effective immediately, a motion adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2015 to establish the School of Preaching as a separate school of the seminary. All areas of responsibility assigned to the School of Preaching -- including faculty, curricula, degrees, centers and programs -- have been reassigned to the School of Theology.

"The ability to rightly understand the biblical text and to faithfully interpret the Scriptures as the written Word of God lies at the core of the mission of the School of Theology, and it is incumbent upon us to keep these disciplines inextricably linked in the training of pastors and preaching," Greenway said after the meeting. "Administratively separating the academic disciplines of hermeneutics and homiletics by graduate school structure does not best serve our students nor accurately reflect our institutional commitments. This structural change in no way impacts current preaching students, as they will continue to receive the best homiletical instruction with all the same curricular and degree offerings that exist currently.

"We remain fully devoted to the task of training text-driven preachers for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and look forward to the discipline of preaching resuming its natural place of prominence back within its original and longtime academic home at Southwestern Seminary, the School of Theology."

Greenway said David L. Allen, who has served as dean of the School of Preaching, will continue in his faculty role as distinguished professor of preaching and as director of the Southwestern Center for Text-Driven Preaching, overseeing the seminary's Preaching Source online resources, as well as conferencing and events related to preaching and preachers.

Other cuts were not detailed during the trustees' meeting. But in a statement Monday (April 6), SWBTS said it was discontinuing its archaeology program "as part of campus-wide budgetary reductions necessitated by the financial challenges associated with COVID-19," and described the move as "unavoidable."

"As part of our institutional reset, we will no longer offer degrees in archaeology because they are incongruent with our mission to maximize resources in the training of pastors and other ministers of the Gospel for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention," the school said in the statement.

In recommending adoption of the fiscal year 2021 budget be postponed until "on or before July 15, 2020," John Rayburn, chairman of the business administration committee, noted the budget is normally adopted during the trustees' spring meeting. He said postponement was necessary because "the coming months are hard to predict" amid the pandemic.

"We've decided we need a little more time to watch what happens with this and all that's going on in our world today before we can really come up with a realistic, informed budget," Rayburn said.

SWBTS' fiscal year 2020 budget is $34,815,439. In a statement released Wednesday (April 8) to Baptist Press, the school said it would achieve "budgetary reductions of approximately 25 percent campus-wide through a combination of faculty and staff position deletions, furloughs, and discontinuation of certain academic programs. These actions realign expenditures with reduced revenue projections while undergirding mission-critical academic programs and continuing the institution's renewal begun last year."

Trustees also authorized the seminary's administration to "execute special endowment distributions as needed on or before Dec. 31, 2021, up to the total amount of the unrestricted portion of the seminary's endowment," which was last reported as $13,310,454.

"This is to give our administration the flexibility to deal with whatever comes up that they need to deal with," Rayburn said, "because, again, we don't know what all of the ramifications and effects of this COVID-19 are going to be."

Trustees approved a routine annual recommendation from the committee to authorize the administration to designate any excess available funds at the conclusion of the current fiscal year for various purposes.

The trustees elected three faculty members who had been serving under presidential appointment. Jonathan W. Arnold was elected associate professor of church history and historical theology; Chris S. Osborne was elected professor of preaching and pastoral ministry; and Carl J. Bradford was elected assistant professor of evangelism.

The trustees also approved nine new degrees and the revision of several degrees.

In Scarborough College, trustees approved the Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and the Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. In the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries, trustees approved the Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Education; and in the School of Church Music and Worship, the Master of Theology.

The trustees voted to revise certain degrees within the Terry School, including the Master of Arts in Christian Education, Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Educational Ministry. Also, the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions has been revised and renamed the Master of Arts in Great Commission Apologetics.

"Our administration is doing everything they can to make sure our degree offerings are going to produce the highest caliber servants and ministers, missionaries and leaders that our convention, communities, and world can see," said Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the academic administration committee and pastor of First Baptist Church of Georgetown, Texas.

Ueckert said the new bachelor's degrees, specifically, were "a great indication of the vision for Scarborough College to flourish and become everything it can be for the Kingdom of God moving forward."

The trustees also approved a recommendation to amend the seminary's bylaws. They adopted the Nashville Statement for the first time and reaffirmed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood "as official guiding documents" expressing the seminary's "convictional standards, expectations, and beliefs," and functioning as "proper interpretations" of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which serves as the seminary's Confession of Faith and is signed by faculty.

Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst, Texas, was reelected as chairman of the board of trustees; Danny Roberts, executive pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas, was reelected as vice chairman; and Jamie Green, retired speech-language pathologist in Katy, Texas, was reelected as secretary.

In his report to the trustees, Greenway noted that conducting the meeting via video conference was a "history-making moment" necessitated by guidelines discouraging in-person meetings during the pandemic. He assured trustees that "when challenges come to Southwestern Seminary, Southwestern Seminary always stands ready to meet the challenge."

"We have, for now over 112 years, navigated a world that was filled with depression and war and strife and all of the other challenges that would have made lesser institutions crumble and fail," Greenway said. "Southwestern Seminary is not, as our founder B.H. Carroll said, a 'two-by-four' institution. This is, indeed, an institution with a heritage that is unparalleled, with opportunities set before us that I believe are very unique and distinct. And in this moment of crisis, there is a calling upon each of us ... to rise up to meet the challenge.

"It does mean a call to difficult decisions. It does mean a call to fiscal prudence. It does mean a call toward making cuts today that will enable us to not merely survive but to thrive moving forward."

Levant closed the meeting by inviting fellow trustees and administrators to remember that Easter Sunday is just a few days away.

"In these uncertain times, we have to remember that Sunday is coming," Levant said, reflecting on the disciples' uncertainty between Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. "We have to remember that the tomb was only a pause; that it was not the end, but was only the beginning -- of our salvation, of eternal life, of God's plan."

"And I have that same faith for our seminary," he continued, "that God still is going to be using Southwestern, not just in this generation, but in the generations to come. And I have the same faith that we have given our president and his administration the necessary tools to keep moving the seminary forward in these times of uncertainty. ... The sun never sets on Southwestern Seminary."
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 5:34pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Children who come from hard places need to have the chance to feel safe and loved, said Randy Lee, residential parent with Louisiana Baptist Children's Homes.

Lee and his wife have served as "house parents" at an all-boy residential home since 2014.

Feeling a call to children's home ministry while serving as a worship leader and children's pastor, Lee said the journey to his current role took five years as he waited on God's timing and prayed for opportunities.

The children he now cares for come from homes where there was sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect.

"They come out of very tough circumstances and have no idea what a healthy family is supposed to look or feel like," Lee said.

Showing the children that a better home life is possible and telling them as much as he can about a God who loves them are his biggest desires, Lee noted.

However, many of the children want to go back to their original homes, even if those homes are dysfunctional.

"Our role is to guide them through this transition time and love them through it," Lee said. "Some return home, some are adopted and some may go to other foster homes."

Lee and his wife oversee every aspect of the boys' lives, seeking to make it as normal as possible, while acknowledging that there is nothing normal about being in the foster care system.

"Normal" life includes taking part in sports and going to doctor appointments, youth group activities, movies, school events and other outings.

"The goal is to do all the things that kids normally do and have a godly influence wherever we can," Lee said.

But with the recent developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, those normal life events that Lee worked so hard to provide have been mostly eliminated.

"An event like COVID-19 can really be tough on the kids," Lee said. "I do not know if they fully understand how global this is and what a historic time we are in. They just know that they can't see friends or go anywhere. This event has put a lot of pressure on us to keep these kids busy and engaged and not let them just drift through the days. At times this can be very challenging."

Lee said they have tried to develop an alternative schedule for the boys to follow to get them into a positive routine.

But without the ability to go to school, the boys in the cottage have had trouble feeling independent and occupied, Lee said.

"Most of our boys are well behind in school and have not been good students," Lee explained. "By no fault of their own, they have lots of catch-up to do in their education."

Perry Hancock, president and CEO of Louisiana Baptist Children's Home, said the resident home parents, like Lee, have taken on more responsibility with the closing of schools and recreational activities.

"Cottage parents are now cooking all meals," Hancock said. "Before, the schools and our part-time cooks provided meals. In addition, cottage parents are providing supervision for online school assignments. They are also serving as a recreation staff for the children. We normally have a recreation staff after school for the children. So every day is a full day of work for our cottage parents."

However, as the situation has progressed, Lee said it has been encouraging to see the boys adapt to distance learning and show some social initiative.

"They have really stepped up and are focused and hardworking," Lee said. "They are getting out of the house and playing with the other kids on campus and learning healthy play."

Although they utilize technology like Netflix and video games for downtime, Lee said, they are also encouraging the children to see that there are other things they can do with their free time.

Several of the boys have taken up the guitar during their recent downtime.

Lee, who plays in his church's worship band, said he has begun teaching the boys guitar in a group setting.

"All the boys see me playing my electric guitar every Sunday," Lee explained. "I have tried to give lessons a few times since we have been here, but most of the boys who took part were too young and they lost interest. This is the oldest group we have had, and there is more ability."

Although only one of the boys is interested enough to spend time practicing on his own, Lee said the others just enjoy strumming along, having fun with the lessons.

Finding ways to develop relationships with the boys in the home is difficult, Lee explained, but creating opportunities for engagement, learning and fun experiences is key to walking them through the current pandemic.

School sessions meet through online platforms such as Zoom, as do many of the children's sessions with counselors.

"We've all been reminded how precious relationships are," Jen Lee said. "We've been able to have many conversations about how none of us can control what's going on, with the exception of staying home and staying safe, but God sees all and knows all. He is aware of our situation and every need."

Hancock said other parents have also reported that relationships within the home are strengthening during this time.

"Our cottage parents have said that the crisis has provided an opportunity to talk with the children about God's provision through the difficult times of life," Hancock said. "Most of our children have come from very difficult places. It would be easy for them to have a fatalistic view of the future in the midst of this challenge. Our cottage staff is assuring them that this will end and we will be able to move forward. Life is good even in the midst of a storm. God is going to see us through this storm."

Other children's homes around the country are experiencing similar challenges, but dedicated staff and supporters are rising to them.

"We have a staff who are here because God called them there," said Russell Martin, president of Missouri Baptist Children's Homes.

Michelle Glassford, director of communications for Alabama Baptist Children's Homes, said donors have stepped up in support of the homes as well.

"It has been encouraging to hear from so many of our church partners and donors who are aware of the needs we have in serving children and families," Glassford said. "They are doing all they can to help meet those needs, even as they themselves face challenges. They have reached out to provide food and household donations, financial gifts and prayers."

Rod Marshall, president of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes, said the ministry is still fulfilling its mission to protect, nurture and restore children and families through Christ-centered services.

"During times of crisis, and perhaps especially a true global crisis, it is not uncommon for the weakest, smallest, youngest and most fragile to be ignored," Marshall said. "No one intentionally ignores children and the fatherless, but they do not have a very loud voice, and they can go unheard during a global panic.

"Our response to the most vulnerable is an expression of our love for our Savior. Our ministry is the Gospel in action on a daily basis, and this situation is no different."
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 5:29pm
Tony Evans to host virtual "Kingdom Man" event
By Joy Allmond

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Tony Evans believes there are few moments in life when our need for God is as evident as right now. He also believes it's a pivotal time for men to lead in their homes, churches and communities with conviction.

That why he's delivering a message specifically tailored for men through a virtual "Kingdom Man" event, "Kingdom Men Calling," streaming concurrently on the LifeWay Men and Tony Evans Facebook pages at 8 p.m. CDT Friday (April 10).

"When men come together, God will watch over our land," he said. "The attack from this virus is an invasion. But if God sees men humble themselves before Him, submit to His authority, repent and get right with Him, then He will see us and respond."

Teaching from Exodus 34, Evans will challenge the men of this generation to step up, to meet with God and to place themselves under His Lordship -- in unity.

"God told men to gather because there would be a collective impact when they gather," he explained. "God responds to unity. It gets His undivided attention. John 17 tells us God's glory will show up when there is oneness among His people."

Evans hopes this Good Friday message will not only take root in the hearts of the men who participate, but will also transform the homes they're called to lead and the churches where they've been placed to serve.

"Families need to see what it's like when men operate at the kitchen table -- bringing their families together not just for eating, but for blessing, instruction and modeling," he said. "And we want them to take a responsibility in the churches -- not to consume, but to contribute -- so all the needs of a church can be met to make it strong and impactful."

Lastly, Evans hopes "Kingdom Men Calling" will challenge men to unify during the current pandemic, which has revealed a critical need for the presence of godly men in communities.

"Their presence needs to be felt in school boards, the athletic arena and the public square," he said. "They need to speak into a culture influenced for righteousness and justice, so both are walking side by side for good. God calls us to both right relationship with Him and with each other."

Ultimately, Evans says, he hopes the men logging on for "Kingdom Men Calling" have a transformation of their lives and priorities.

"I want them to understand the implications of being a Kingdom man and prioritize their position under God so He can work through us to transform not only our lives, but everything men touch and are responsible for managing and taking care of under God," Evans said.

Also featured are Evans' sons, Anthony -- a worship leader, songwriter and author, and Jonathan -- an author, speaker and former NFL fullback. LifeWay President and CEO Ben Mandrell will kick off the event with prayer and opening remarks.

After the event, participants are encouraged to download the fasting and prayer guide at TonyEvans.org that has been created as a way for men to further personalize the "Kingdom Men Calling" experience.

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Free LifeWay resource for at-home children's ministry
By Aaron Wilson

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Jesus may have said, "Let the little children come to me," but in these strange times, churches are telling kids and their parents to stay at home.

Such is the paradox children's ministries are facing as they seek to introduce kids to Jesus while also practicing social distancing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

To help address this challenge, churches around the world are making use of LifeWay Kids at Home, a free discipleship resource that allows families to watch Bible story videos and download activity pages and conversation starters.

One of these churches is Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston -- a church that typically sees about 1,000 children and leaders in their children's ministry each Sunday.

"We began using the Kids at Home curriculum on March 14," said Rhonda Glasgow, a member of the church and mother of two children ages 9 and 11. "We watch the material right after the entire family watches our church's online Sunday sermon. This gives our kids a sense of normalcy."

Stephanie Chase, kids minister at Champion Forest Baptist, said she longs for her church to be able to gather together again physically, but is excited for how God is using this season of social distancing to spiritually strengthen families.

"Our ministry's goal is to equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their children," Chase said. "This 'disruption' has actually helped our church equip parents to disciple their children now more than ever. Through this curriculum, parents have access to Bible content, video, games and activities -- everything they need to do children's ministry at home."

Since LifeWay Kids at Home released in mid-March, it has been viewed in all 50 U.S. states. It's also helped take the Gospel to the nations as individuals in 63 countries have already accessed the material.

"We launched LifeWay Kids at Home as a way of serving churches here in America that we knew needed a short-term solution for helping families facilitate kids worship time at home," said Chuck Peters, LifeWay Kids director of operations. "At that time, I hadn't considered that it might reach a global audience.

"The truth is, families all over the world have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It's thrilling to see how God is using LifeWay Kids at Home in places like Abu Dhabi, Australia, India and Malaysia just as He is in California, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey and Ohio."

LJ James, a small group leader at Redeemer Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., says the curriculum has helped him and his wife facilitate discussions with their 7- and 8-year-old boys about how worship extends beyond just Sunday mornings.

"As we studied the material about the crowds welcoming Jesus with praise, we were able to talk with our kids about how their actions can praise Jesus too -- whether it's through singing, sports, schooling or play," James said.

Users can access the Kids at Home experience through LifeWay's Digital Pass platform by following these steps:

Step 1: Go to lifeway.com.

Step 2: Login or create an account (free).

Step 3: Click the LifeWay Kids (or Preschool) at Home icon on the main page of Digital Pass.

Step 4: In the LifeWay Kids at Home interface, download activity pages and conversation guides (button at top right).

New sessions are updated weekly at midnight on Thursday nights so families can have fresh content every weekend.

In addition to Kids at Home, LifeWay is also assisting children's ministries by providing free access to current Bible study content from Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible and The Gospel Project.

And through April 13, LifeWay will provide free content for a 2020 Family Easter Event to lead families through the story of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection as it happened throughout the week. More information about these resources can be found on LifeWay.com/coronavirus.

Ministry leaders such as Chase see such resources as a way for families to fulfill the mandate God gave His people in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to repeat God's words to their children, specifically when they are sitting at home.

"There are no baseball or dance practices right now. School is taking place at home," said Chase. "Now, more than ever, we need to redeem the time and make the most of the opportunity to disciple our children."

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Chuck Register named associate executive-director treasurer of Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
By Staff

CARY, N.C. (BP) -- Chuck Register, executive leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's (BSCNC) Church Planting and Missions Partnerships group for the past 11 years, was named the BSCNC's associate executive-director treasurer on Tuesday (April 7) by a vote of the state convention's executive committee during a regularly scheduled meeting.

The meeting took place through a video conference call in order to abide by a statewide stay-at-home order and limits on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Register's appointment came following a recommendation by BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. In his new role, Register will work closely with Hollifield, N.C. Baptist churches and the state convention's board of directors in a variety of capacities. He will continue his current responsibilities as executive leader of the Church Planting and Missions Partnership group even as he takes on additional responsibilities related to the associate executive director-treasurer role.

Register succeeds Brian Davis, who resigned effective March 31 to begin a new role in the FaithHealth division of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Hollifield praised Register as a strategic thinker, visionary leader, effective pastor and strong denominational leader, as well as an outstanding expository preacher who possesses a heart for personal evangelism and missions.

"Chuck is very passionate about reaching the nations with the Gospel," Hollifield said. "He has given excellent leadership as a member of our executive leadership team, and he has helped the state convention make great advancements in his areas of responsibility."

Prior to joining the Baptist state convention, Register pastored churches in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. Register also served on the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees.

Register thanked committee members for their vote of confidence and said he looks forward to helping the state convention fulfill its mission of assisting local churches through his new role.

"I look forward to standing next to Milton and helping him fulfill his role to pour our lives, ministries and resources into the local church," Register said. "We want to do everything we can to make sure that every single North Carolina Baptist congregation is a healthy, growing, Christ-honoring body of Christ."

Along with Register's appointment, Hollifield will assume oversight for the majority of the BSCNC's Administration and Convention Relations group, which had been headed by Davis. However, the BSCNC's Strategic Focus Team is being reassigned from the Administration and Convention Relations group to the Church Planting and Missions Partnerships group in an effort to bring better alignment to ministry assignments.
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 4:31pm
Gateway receives $250,000 gift to help students in crisis
By Staff

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) -- Gateway Seminary has received a $250,000 gift to assist with student scholarships, focused on helping students continue their studies in the midst of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The value of these new scholarship funds cannot be overestimated," Gateway president Jeff Iorg said.

A recent survey of Gateway students found they are facing a variety of new challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly half of the respondents expressed concerns about the financial consequences of the pandemic and their ability to continue their studies.

"Many students are enduring significant decreases in work hours or loss of employment, unexpected childcare costs and shifting ministry responsibilities," Iorg said.

During the move from the Bay Area to southern California, the seminary committed to a number of conservative fiscal policies and technology enhancements. Those policies, along with investments in educational technology and training, have paid dividends during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We are in a position financially and educationally where we can focus our current fundraising efforts on scholarships and student support," Iorg said.

The Seminary maintains a benevolence fund to assist students in precarious situations. Iorg anticipates an increase in fund requests as the pandemic exacerbates the financial difficulties some students are facing.

"This situation is unprecedented but it is giving us an opportunity to concentrate on helping the most important people at Gateway -- our students," he said. "For years, we have used the phrase 'the mission matters most' in organizational decision-making. Our mission centers on students preparing for their ministry callings and contextualizing the Gospel in their communities. We are not going to compromise that priority."

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New Seminary Track programs added to Boyce College curriculum
By Forrest Strickland

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Boyce College is adding two new Seminary Track programs to its academic offerings. The two new programs will be a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration combined with a Master of Divinity as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Communication combined with a Master of Divinity. The Seminary Track program at Boyce College is a five-year curriculum which allows students to earn both a Bachelor of Arts from Boyce and a Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

"One of the programs I believe in most at Boyce College is our joint baccalaureate and Master of Divinity program, because of its power, stewardship, and opportunity," said SBTS president R. Albert Mohler Jr. "With the Business Administration and Communications tracks, this is going to provide even more opportunities for ministry, not only in the church but also in the workplace. What our world needs right now is a generation ready to go with urgency into the pulpit and into the world, and these two new programs are powerful demonstrations of what it means to maximize stewardship to the glory of God and in service to the Gospel of Christ."

"The Business Administration and Communication tracks are the first Seminary Tracks Boyce College has offered that help prepare students for leading effectively in the marketplace and for service in the church," said Dustin Bruce, dean of Boyce College. "It aims to equip students for ministry in a changing world, whether as a pastor, church planter, missionary or bi-vocational pastor.

"From small-town America to the megacities of Asia, our graduates are entering into a changing ministry context. By combining two of our most versatile marketplace degrees with our flagship ministry degree, Boyce College and Southern Seminary are coming together to equip students to serve the cause of Christ in an ever-changing world."

David Bosch, associate dean of academic strategy and business program coordinator, helped spearhead the creation of these degrees. Bosch considers the new program a tremendous opportunity for students not only to receive the theological education that is required for pastoral ministry, but also the marketplace and business skills that are necessary for the effective operation of churches.

"What a great opportunity for an individual to save time and money in being equipped for ministry," Bosch said. "This degree is beneficial to those who want to engage in business as mission both domestically and internationally. It is also ideal for the bivocational minister. Lastly, it is perfect for those that want to be an executive pastor of a church or a leader in a faith-based organization. This degree is innovative as we have not watered down either degree. Now is the time to be holistically equipped for ministry, and this degree does that."

Both degrees are 199 hours and could be completed in five years. In the Communication track, students will take classes like Introduction to Communication, Media, Culture, and Society, Interpersonal Communication, in addition to the core curriculum for both degrees. The Business Administration track allows students also to choose their area of emphasis: entrepreneurial management, non-profit management, or financial and accounting management.

Prospective students can find more information here.


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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 4:22pm
SEATTLE (BP) -- As pastor of Epic Life Church in Seattle with only five employees, Keith Carpenter sees the Paycheck Protection Plan loan as a godsend during a devastating economic downturn prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. So does pastor A.B. Vines, whose multisite New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., employs about 50.

But some pastors have theological and ethical concerns with the loan, which is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"The purpose behind the loan is to keep people employed," Carpenter said Tuesday (April 7), just a day after he applied. "I don't see a problem with doing it at all. It's being wise stewards of the resources God provides, and if not anything else, you can pass those resources on in some way to others who might be hurting, in the long run."

At least two pastors, Bart Barber at First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and Anthony Hicks of Clifton Baptist Church in Franklinton, La., have discouraged their congregations from applying for the loans offered under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress last month.

"Generally speaking," Barber wrote in a blog, "if it takes an act of Congress to make it happen, there's more going on than just a loan from a bank."

But others, including Southern Baptist ethicists Russell Moore and Larry Lyon, said they do not see ethical compromises in receiving the loans. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which Moore leads, joined a bipartisan push to clarify that religious liberties of churches would be protected under the loans administered by the Small Business Administration.

The loans are included in the CARES Act, initially funded at $2 trillion and designed to relieve economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed thousands and stymied the economy. President Donald Trump said Tuesday (April 7) he'll work to add more money to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was initially funded at $350 billion.

Businesses -- as well as churches and other faith-based nonprofits -- with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive loans covering up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll, with a cap of $10 million per loan, to cover expenses like payroll, utilities and rent or mortgage payments.

Carpenter said he intends to maintain his five-person staff at Epic Life Church in Seattle, which according to terms of the program would allow the loan to be forgiven.

"We're confident we're keeping all of our employees, and because of that it really seems like a very wise thing to do, that the government has given us this opportunity to kind of have some more money for ministry purposes," Carpenter said. "There's no strings attached as far as we can see. At this time, we haven't had to lay off anyone, but we don't know what the future's going to hold. The government I believe is rightly seeing 501c3s [nonprofits] as legitimate businesses in the states, and for them to keep people employed I think is a really good thing."

Vines, an ERLC trustee, had initial concerns about the loan, but he said those have been adequately addressed.

"I read that there were no loopholes or attachments of us to them [the banks]," Vines said. "There's no binding agreement that you now have a deed to our church or you govern us, there's nothing like that. And at the end of the day, it was about taking care of my people. We have laid nobody off at any of our locations. ... I don't want to lay God's people off."

Many of New Seasons' members are employed in the service, entertainment and education professions, Vines said, which are heavily impacted by the economic downturn. Loan recipients have until June 30 to ask for forgiveness. Vines will accept the loan as a grant, unless he finds the money is not needed.

"We'll get the money; if we do fine, we'll give the money right back," Vines said. "But I'd rather have a safeguard than no safeguard. If we come out of this thing fine, whatever amount we get, we'll turn around and give it right back to them."

Lyon, an ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the fact that the loans are forgivable makes them more useful to churches.

"If used in the ways that Congress intends, such as maintaining operations and payroll, then the forgiven loan becomes more like a public resource or public good that is provided by the government," Lyon said. "This could be likened unto the fire department, public roads, and water lines. Churches use these services within their communities and these services are financed principally through taxes.

"Churches do not typically deny these public goods on the grounds that if they are used then the government may possibly impose stipulations that alter the faithful preaching of the Bible," Lyon reasoned. "While the analogy is imperfect, the point remains, churches who take the stimulus loan with the intent of using it as it is meant to be used would not violate any biblical principle."

Ethical issues would arise, Lyon said, if churches misuse the money, because "then the churches are being deceptive and are violating the Scriptures."

Barber wrote blogposts Monday and Tuesday explaining why he'll counsel First Baptist Church of Farmersville against taking advantage of the federal stimulus package. In a post Monday, he referenced 17th Century Baptist pioneer John Smythe, who counseled churches to survive on tithes and offerings; and the biblical story in Genesis 14 of Abraham refusing to accept spoils of war from the king of Sodom, so others would know that only God had prospered Abraham. But Barber clarified in a follow-up post Tuesday that he was speaking only for himself, and that he was not attempting to tell others what to do.

The ERLC's Moore does not see the money as government loans, but as bank loans secured by the government.

"The loans themselves, whether to a church or to a hardware store, are not from the government at all, but, as always, from banks. The government's role is simply to guarantee to the banks these loans, in case of default. That does not privilege or penalize any religion in any way different from any other entity," Moore wrote in a column posted last week after Congress passed the CARES Act.

"Some church leaders are uneasy with the fact that some of these loans may turn out to be forgivable," Moore said. "Again, though, this is not government funding. It would be, of course, if the SBA declared that, say, loans would be forgivable for churches and not for other similar bodies, but that is not the case."

Hicks, pastor of Clifton Baptist in Franklinton, La., said he prefers not to take loans to preserve the separation of church and state, even as he acknowledged that religious liberty concerns surrounding the loans had apparently been resolved.

"I realize there are churches that are in different circumstances and they have to make decisions for themselves," Hicks said. "We personally [Clifton Baptist Church] are not going to take advantage of it, because even though supposedly, things ... have been worked out ... there [sometimes] are strings there that we don't know about until later."

Many Southern Baptist state conventions are working to inform pastors of the new resource and in some cases, assist them in navigating the application.

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the Florida Baptist Convention are among many groups providing online resources to help churches navigate the CARES Act and the paycheck protection loans. Bobby Thomas, president and CEO of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, said in an April 6 video that the foundation has already guided churches through the loan application process. Meanwhile, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC) executive director Leo Endel said he does not expect many of its 200 member churches to apply for the federal loans.

Florida Baptist Convention executive director Tommy Green expects many Florida churches to apply for the loans. The state convention has posted several related resources at flbaptist.org.

"We are not counseling churches to do it or to not do it, we're just trying to help them with the best information as everybody else is," Green said. "We have many churches that I know are going to be making application, and we have some that probably will not make application for it. As a convention, we realize that there are churches that are in immediate peril and need. A lot of churches ... don't have reserves and they're pushing week to week or month to month, financially."

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, Endel said he was seeing interest in the loans only among the few larger churches in the convention.

"Most of our churches are small here in Minnesota-Wisconsin, and so I'm not anticipating a high percentage of them are going to take advantage of this," Endel said. "I do think that for our larger churches, there may be more pressure for them to take a loan, so that they can cover a larger than normal staff. And so I am seeing an interest among our largest churches in taking a serious look at this."
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 2:16pm
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP) -- Canceling services due to illness is not new to Baptist life. Pandemics, epidemics and weather have all been part of our collective experience. In musty old church minutes, it's not uncommon to see statements like "services canceled due to cholera" -- or typhus or smallpox. John Newton (1732-1790), an early Georgia Baptist pastor and physician, left diaries that included Indian uprisings along with illness as reasons for canceling services.

Possibly the most feared epidemics were those of yellow fever, which periodically swept through the South, emptying cities, towns and villages. Three major outbreaks occurred in 1820, 1854 and 1876.

Joseph G. Binney was the pastor of First Baptist Church Augusta, Ga., in 1854 when a yellow fever epidemic gripped the city. Citizens were already living on edge because of reports of outbreaks in Savannah and Charleston. Within two hours of the first reported yellow fever deaths, the city was all but empty.

The Binneys at home were not aware of what was taking place outside. When they did not arrive at a predetermined location outside the city, someone was sent to fetch them. For the next several months, Binney returned each day to help minister to the sick and dying of the city. Finally, near the end of the epidemic, Binney himself came down with the fever.

None of the earlier epidemics had the impact of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. It began in the fall of 1918 near the end of World War I. This flu was especially fatal to young people. People woke up feeling fine in the morning only to be dead by nightfall.

It is estimated to have killed as many as 50 million people worldwide, including more than 650,000 lives in the United States, about six times the number of U.S. soldiers who died in WWI. Few older cemeteries across Georgia are without tombstones with dates from the fall and winter of 1918-1919.

Furthermore, after it subsided there was a lingering fear that it would return the following fall and wipe out the entire human race. Few families in America did not know the death of a family member, and certainly everyone knew someone who died of the flu.

The 1918 pandemic impacted the Baptists of the South as worship services were canceled, and the faith of many was tested. The Georgia Baptist Children's Home reported during the November Convention that 194 of the 350 children were ill with the flu.

The Georgia Baptist Convention had been scheduled to be held in Forsyth, but due to the flu there were not enough "host homes" so it was moved to the larger city of Macon. Through 1918, the members of the community housed convention messengers and provided some of their meals in local homes.

Beginning in 1919, messengers were no longer hosted in local homes. Each messenger was responsible for securing his own lodging in what was called the "Pay System." This system forced the Convention to meet in larger communities with adequate hotel space.

Possibly the greatest impact of the 1918 pandemic on Baptist life was on the launch of "The 75 Million Campaign." The argument can be made that the record offering collected in the first year of the campaign in 1919 was in part a response to the pandemic. For people living in fear, giving provided a tangible response, a way to share the Gospel in a world that seemed to be literally dying around them.

The combined missions giving in Georgia for 1918 and 1919 was greater than the previous 10 years combined. After the early record, offerings to the five-year campaign declined. The flu did not return, but the boll weevil expanded its invasion of Georgia's cotton fields. Economic hardship on the farms only deepened in the years following, which was worsened by a general recession across the nation in 1923-24.

Even though the goal fell short of $75 million, the unified giving was far greater than anything Baptists had experienced before under a competitive society system (each mission entity in competition with the others). Additional debt created in the early days of the campaign loomed over the state conventions, forcing Baptists to reconsider giving methods.

Because of the improved record of overall giving compared to previous years, Baptists adopted what became known as the Cooperative Program in 1925 -- basically single-year extensions of the 75 Million Campaign.

Without the impact of the giving in 1919 following the flu pandemic, Baptists may have returned to a societal approach to missions support.

We do not know how this current pandemic will impact Baptists going forward. We can hope and pray that just as in 1918-19, something good comes from these uncertain days. We pray that people will seek the Lord, and in the spirit of Pastor Binney, be faithful to share the Gospel and take care of each other. And we pray that God will be glorified through His people as we serve faithfully through adversity. We will by God's grace get through this together.

Pastor Binney, by the way, recovered from the yellow fever. In time, he and his wife were able to return to Burma where they had previously served as missionaries before health had forced their return to America. May we be faithful too!
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 2:16pm
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP) -- Canceling services due to illness is not new to Baptist life. Pandemics, epidemics and weather have all been part of our collective experience. In musty old church minutes, it's not uncommon to see statements like "services canceled due to cholera" -- or typhus or smallpox. John Newton (1732-1790), an early Georgia Baptist pastor and physician, left diaries that included Indian uprisings along with illness as reasons for canceling services.

Possibly the most feared epidemics were those of yellow fever, which periodically swept through the South, emptying cities, towns and villages. Three major outbreaks occurred in 1820, 1854 and 1876.

Joseph G. Binney was the pastor of First Baptist Church Augusta, Ga., in 1854 when a yellow fever epidemic gripped the city. Citizens were already living on edge because of reports of outbreaks in Savannah and Charleston. Within two hours of the first reported yellow fever deaths, the city was all but empty.

The Binneys at home were not aware of what was taking place outside. When they did not arrive at a predetermined location outside the city, someone was sent to fetch them. For the next several months, Binney returned each day to help minister to the sick and dying of the city. Finally, near the end of the epidemic, Binney himself came down with the fever.

None of the earlier epidemics had the impact of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. It began in the fall of 1918 near the end of World War I. This flu was especially fatal to young people. People woke up feeling fine in the morning only to be dead by nightfall.

It is estimated to have killed as many as 50 million people worldwide, including more than 650,000 lives in the United States, about six times the number of U.S. soldiers who died in WWI. Few older cemeteries across Georgia are without tombstones with dates from the fall and winter of 1918-1919.

Furthermore, after it subsided there was a lingering fear that it would return the following fall and wipe out the entire human race. Few families in America did not know the death of a family member, and certainly everyone knew someone who died of the flu.

The 1918 pandemic impacted the Baptists of the South as worship services were canceled, and the faith of many was tested. The Georgia Baptist Children's Home reported during the November Convention that 194 of the 350 children were ill with the flu.

The Georgia Baptist Convention had been scheduled to be held in Forsyth, but due to the flu there were not enough "host homes" so it was moved to the larger city of Macon. Through 1918, the members of the community housed convention messengers and provided some of their meals in local homes.

Beginning in 1919, messengers were no longer hosted in local homes. Each messenger was responsible for securing his own lodging in what was called the "Pay System." This system forced the Convention to meet in larger communities with adequate hotel space.

Possibly the greatest impact of the 1918 pandemic on Baptist life was on the launch of "The 75 Million Campaign." The argument can be made that the record offering collected in the first year of the campaign in 1919 was in part a response to the pandemic. For people living in fear, giving provided a tangible response, a way to share the Gospel in a world that seemed to be literally dying around them.

The combined missions giving in Georgia for 1918 and 1919 was greater than the previous 10 years combined. After the early record, offerings to the five-year campaign declined. The flu did not return, but the boll weevil expanded its invasion of Georgia's cotton fields. Economic hardship on the farms only deepened in the years following, which was worsened by a general recession across the nation in 1923-24.

Even though the goal fell short of $75 million, the unified giving was far greater than anything Baptists had experienced before under a competitive society system (each mission entity in competition with the others). Additional debt created in the early days of the campaign loomed over the state conventions, forcing Baptists to reconsider giving methods.

Because of the improved record of overall giving compared to previous years, Baptists adopted what became known as the Cooperative Program in 1925 -- basically single-year extensions of the 75 Million Campaign.

Without the impact of the giving in 1919 following the flu pandemic, Baptists may have returned to a societal approach to missions support.

We do not know how this current pandemic will impact Baptists going forward. We can hope and pray that just as in 1918-19, something good comes from these uncertain days. We pray that people will seek the Lord, and in the spirit of Pastor Binney, be faithful to share the Gospel and take care of each other. And we pray that God will be glorified through His people as we serve faithfully through adversity. We will by God's grace get through this together.

Pastor Binney, by the way, recovered from the yellow fever. In time, he and his wife were able to return to Burma where they had previously served as missionaries before health had forced their return to America. May we be faithful too!
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BP News Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 1:57pm
NASHVILLE (BP) –- While the federal government is making loans available to churches to help them weather the COVID-19 economic downturn, state Southern Baptist conventions are also offering financial aid to struggling churches.

The Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) and the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) are among several state conventions that have made loans available to struggling churches. In another example of how state conventions are planning to help, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC) will discuss how best to support churches financially during a trustee board meeting April 17.

Through Tuesday (April 7), the FBC had already approved about $400,000 in signature loans to perhaps 50 churches who sought the money to continue their daily operations, according to executive director Tommy Green.

"We announced at the very beginning of this that we would be doing emergency type of loans to churches to help them cover salaries and things like that for their pastors and so forth," Green said. "So a lot of churches probably will look to us, maybe rather than the [federal paycheck] protection plan, because ... their need is not on such a large scale."

MWBC Executive Director Leo Endel said he will ask MWBC trustees to consider options to help churches financially survive the economic downturn, either by setting aside a certain amount of MWBC reserves or addressing needs case by case. Endell said about 85 percent of some 200 pastors in Minnesota and Wisconsin are bivocational, adding that plans are already in place to help those who lose their jobs in the marketplace.

"If I found out one of my [bivocational] pastors had suddenly become unemployed," Endel said, "then the state convention would try to do something for them out of our pastoral emergency funds."

Additionally, Endel will ask trustees to approve a $100,000 advance from MWBC reserves of more than $500,000, he said, to help the MWBC continue its work. Endel said he appreciated the convention's founders, who initiated the reserve fund years ago.

"Their forethought in all of this is a benefit to us now," he said. "For me, this is leaning into the preparation that our conventions have operated under since they were founded. This is what reserves are made for."

In Illinois, the IBSA plans to begin accepting applications April 15 from churches to apply for emergency IBSA loans from a set-aside of $100,000. In a webinar April 2, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said the loans were designed to provide churches with "bridge income to help them from a time of stability through this downturn and on to another time of stability."

He added: "It's really designed for churches that are kind of on the brink ... especially for our small and most vulnerable churches."
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