Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Florida Baptist Convention
South Carolina Baptist Convention
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (two items)
Compass Direct News
Israel Antiquities Authority
East Texas Baptist University
Charleston Southern University
$31.6 million CP budget recommended for 2012
Committee takes initial step to 50/50 split between national, state funding
By Barbara Denman
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention)--The first step to divide Cooperative Program receipts 50/50 between Florida and Southern Baptist mission causes was taken by the State Board of Missions' Budget-Allocations Committee Aug. 11 as it approved a 2012 Cooperative Program budget of $31.6 million.
The proposed 2012 budget allocates 40.5 percent for the Southern Baptist Convention, a half percent increase over the 40 percent earmarked in 2011. With the budget formula presented at the meeting in Jacksonville, the national percentage is expected to increase to 50 percent in seven years.
Meanwhile the percentage allocated to the state convention will decrease from 60 percent to 50 percent within seven years. No reductions are expected in allocations to Florida's agencies and institutions. All reductions will continue to come from the Convention's program budget.
The 50/50 division of Cooperative Program funds was approved by messengers of the Florida Baptist State Convention in November as recommended by the "Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence" task force.
Board member Chris Coram of Jacksonville served as chairman of a Board workgroup studying the GCR recommendation and how to implement the 50/50 division, which developed the formula presented at the meeting.
He said the seven-year plan approved by the Budget-Allocations Committee at the meeting will "protect the efficiency and integrity of the work of the Convention," while increasing the percentage to the national mission causes.
The financial plan "calls for Cooperative Program receipts to grow by an average of 4.76 percent per year from 2013 to 2018," said Coram, "which can only be done as churches increase Cooperative Program giving."
"To achieve this goal as quickly as possible we join with the Imagine If GCR task force in calling upon every church to increase Cooperative Program giving each year to a sacrificial level."
Coram said the committee sought to take a "faith" approach believing that receipts will increase despite "uncertain economic times. But our God is a god of everything and can do anything."
"If receipts increase as called for in the plan then $7.8 million dollars in additional funding to the SBC will be realized," Coram said. "Funding to our state agencies/institutions will increase by $1.2 million and funding to the state Convention programs -- including church planting -- will increase by $1.6 million."
To accomplish the percentage division, the committee designated three percent of the Florida budget as "shared ministries," which mutually benefit the worldwide mission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the work of Florida Baptists. Shared ministries items designated were international partnerships, theological education, stewardship development and Cooperative Program promotion.
The concept of shared ministries, affirmed recently by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, recognizes that some of the ministries conducted by the state convention directly support the efforts of the national convention in fulfilling the Great Commission, explained Coram.
The shared ministries will be taken off the top, said Coram and the national and state convention will divide the remaining 97 percent of the budget. Coram said he hopes that within seven years, the state convention could absorb all financial obligations of the shared ministries, "so we will be truly at 50/50."
Along with the new percentage division, the committee wrestled with a decrease in funding provided to the state convention from the North American Mission Board. At this time, the amount of money earmarked by NAMB for jointly funded ministries sponsored by both entities is not known.
This time of transition will be seen in recommendations brought to the Board in its Sept. 23 meeting to outline changes in the organizational structure of the Convention's personnel to incorporate GCR recommendations.
The 2012 proposed Cooperative Program budget of $31,600,000 is a 1.94 percent increase over the 2011 budget of $31 million.
The monies will be distributed between SBC programs, $12,414,060 or 40.5 percent; shared ministry items, $948,000 or 3 percent; Church Protection Program for Florida Baptist pastors, $600,400 or 1.9 percent; church planting assistance for new churches, $1,264,000 or 4 percent; Florida Baptist program budgets, $12,640,840 or 40 percent; and Florida Baptist institutions and agencies, $3,732,700 or 11.82 percent.
In this budget proposal, church planting will receive a $300,000 increase in funding, following through with another GCR recommendation.
Funds allocated for institutions and agencies will be divided between the Baptist College of Florida, $1,959,200; Florida Baptist Children's Homes, $1,358,800; Florida Baptist Witness $339,700; Florida Baptist Financial Services for Florida Baptist Retirement Centers, Inc. $75,000.
During the meeting, Board members reviewed line items of each program budget asking questions and making suggestions for additional cuts or increases.
Clayton Cloer of Orlando requested additional funds for capital improvements at the Baptist campus ministry locations. Spike Hogan of Jacksonville suggested retiree benefits should be reconsidered. Tim Passmore of Bradenton proposed decreasing historical expenditures.
John Sullivan, executive-director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention assured Board members that their suggestions will be reviewed and additional information will be provided during the September meeting.
The proposed budget will be considered by the State Board at its Sept. 23 meeting and then by messengers at the Florida Baptist State Convention meeting, Nov. 14-15 in Coral Springs.
S.C. Baptists begin digesting GCR report
Conversation heats up on recommendation regarding seating out-of-state trustees at SCBC universities
By Butch Blume
GREENEVILLE, S.C. (South Carolina Baptist Convention)--A week and a half after its Aug. 1 release, the report of the South Carolina Baptist Convention's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force had generated modest feedback at its official web page.
Likewise, discussion of the report's recommendations via other online media -- including blogs, Twitter and Facebook -- was light. The Baptist Courier received two letters in support of the report.
At the GCR report's web page (http://www.scbaptist.org/gcr-report), readers were encouraged to submit both comments and questions, and task force chairman Ralph Carter responded online to the questions.
As of Aug. 11, two readers had posted comments praising the recommendations proffered in the report, and three readers questioned some of the report's proposals, including one that would allow SCBC ministry partners -- the three Baptist universities, in particular -- to seek trustees from outside South Carolina.
At the heart of the GCR report are recommendations that, if adopted by SCBC messengers in November, would increase South Carolina Baptists' contribution to the International Mission Board by nearly 22 percent over the next three years and move the SCBC toward a true 50/50 split of Cooperative Program receipts with the Southern Baptist Convention over the next five years.
To pay for the initiatives, the report calls for cuts to the SCBC's seven ministry partners (Anderson University, The Baptist Courier, Charleston Southern University, Connie Maxwell Children's Home, North Greenville University, South Carolina Baptist Foundation, and South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging) and recommends that pastors encourage their churches to increase CP giving.
At the GCR report's web page, one reader commented: "There is nothing in this report I cannot wholeheartedly endorse. The obvious trade-off between funding and trustee selection for the was extremely fair, while at the same time retaining veto powers for the convention. The most exciting part of this report for me is the increase of funding going toward international missions. We are making what I believe to be proper course corrections for the future."
Another reader expressed concern over recommendation 9 in the report, which calls for allowing the SCBC's ministry partners to have as many as five of their 25 trustees from out of state. "This could be a deal-breaker," the reader posted. "If we are South Carolina Baptists and our money is coming from South Carolina Baptist churches, then we should have only South Carolina Baptists on these boards."
Carter posted a reply, focusing on the three SCBC-affiliated universities and noting that they would receive cuts ranging from $130,000 to $170,000 under the GCR report's proposals and that trustees "bear a moral responsibility ... to assist the universities financially as much as possible."
"Limiting our institutions to finding trustees who can be of great financial assistance within the state of South Carolina does narrow the field considerably," Carter said. "By being able to look to neighboring states it opens the door to find untapped resources -- evangelical Christian businessmen and women who have a heart for Christian education as well as graduates of our institutions who live outside South Carolina.
"If these are men and women who love God, are conservative theologically, members in good standing of a cooperating Southern Baptist church, why would we not welcome their help? We work with other states to do missions on a national and global level, why not employ their help in educating our students?"
Another reader described America as the "third most lost nation in the world" and said that 80 percent of churches in South Carolina are either declining or maintaining the status quo. "Would it not be better," the reader asked, "to try with a greater amount of effort and money to reach the millions of lost people here than to increase our resources to other areas before we reach our own people for Christ?"
Carter responded by noting that South Carolina Baptist churches last year received $500 million in undesignated offerings. Of that amount, he said, $29 million was forwarded to the SCBC, and $6 million was spent outside North America. He said that for each dollar SCBC churches in South Carolina spend to reach a world of 7 billion people, they spend $81.30 to reach a state of 4.5 million people.
"While a person in South Carolina can live and die and never receive the gospel," Carter said, "he can't perish without passing literally hundreds, if not thousands, of churches in his lifetime. He will have ignored billboards, personal invitations to attend a variety of church activities and, hopefully, at some point, someone will have even shared with him on a personal basis the gospel of Christ.
"But here is the staggering difference: About half the known people groups of our world have never even once heard the gospel. Additionally, the world seems hungry and receptive to the gospel in many places while we all recognize that many in our home state are gospel-hardened.
"We need revival in South Carolina, just like every other state in our nation," Carter said, "but money is not the answer to our crisis. For the most part, our churches, while feeling a huge crunch at the moment due to our economy, have ample resources. Our greater need is to witness a movement of God. I believe if we will demonstrate a renewed sense of urgency for the lost of our world, it will move the heart of God."
Carter told the Courier he recently met with associational directors of missions from across the state and "received a very favorable response" to the GCR report. "They were complimentary of the committee, its report and the spirit of the report," Carter said. "Several voiced the fact that they thought it would bring healing over an issue that has divided us for the last few years."
Judge twice turns back pro-life group
WASHINGTON (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) -- A federal court has delivered a double setback to a pro-life organization regarding its 2010 election advertising about the new health-care law.
Judge Timothy Black, whom President Obama nominated in 2009 to the federal bench in Ohio, ruled Aug. 1 a defamation lawsuit by former United States Rep. Steve Driehaus against the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List could go forward. Black also dismissed a SBA List lawsuit that challenged an Ohio law it says infringes on freedom of speech.
In 2010 election campaign ads in Driehaus' Ohio district, SBA List said the Democrat congressman voted for taxpayer-funded abortion in supporting the health-care legislation that has been dubbed "Obamacare" by its critics. Driehaus denied the measure funded abortions and sued the organization for defamation.
Driehaus had presented himself as a pro-lifer but had only a 33 percent, pro-life voting record during the 2009-10 congressional session, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
In his opinion, Black agreed with Driehaus. "The express language of (the health care law) does not provide for taxpayer funded abortion," Black wrote, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That is a fact, and it is clear on its face."
The SBA List and the country's other major pro-life organizations sharply disagreed, contending the new law authorized federal funding of abortion and/or federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion. The NRLC and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops undergirded their positions in detailed documents. (NRLC's explanation in the form of a 24-page affidavit by Federal Legislative Director Douglas Johnson may be accessed online.)
"The SBA List's speech was true, or at the very least it was its protected opinion about the meaning of Obamacare," said James Bopp, a lawyer for the SBA List.
"In order to be defamatory, the speech must obviously be false and cause injury, but it must also be made with actual malice," Bopp said in a written release. "That's a legal term that means that the speaker either knew the speech was false and said it anyway, or the speaker recklessly disregarded finding out whether the speech was true or false. That plainly was not the case with the SBA List."
The organization "researched Obamacare themselves, and they also read the opinions of other groups that also concluded that Obamacare provided taxpayer funds for abortion services," Bopp said. "Yet this court found, in spite of that, and in spite of the fact that their speech is true or at least their protected opinion, that their speech might be defamatory. This ruling means that anybody criticizing a candidate is in danger of a defamation claim."
Black threw out the SBA List's challenge of a state law that empowers the Ohio Election Commission to bar political ads it considers false. The SBA List argued the law violated its free-speech rights.
"An unelected commission should not have the ability to decide what is true and false speech, nor tell us what speech we can and cannot hear," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a written statement.
Driehaus lost last year's election to Republican Steve Chabot, whom the Democrat had defeated in 2008.
Dutch doctors widely support euthanasia
WASHINGTON (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) -- Doctors in The Netherlands overwhelmingly support euthanasia, a new survey shows.
The July 21-27 poll of 800 general practitioners included the following results, according to LifeSiteNews.com:
* 86.5 percent of Dutch physicians would grant in principle a request for euthanasia, and only 7.9 percent would not.
* 89.1 percent disagree with this statement: "Euthanasia has no place in general medical practice."
* 68.1 percent said they had euthanized patients in the last five years.
64.6 percent felt "under pressure" on an occasional or regular basis to perform euthanasia.
Meanwhile in France, a doctor has been charged with the euthanasia deaths of four elderly patients.
Nicolas Bonnemaison, 50, an emergency department physician in Bayonne, has admitted he administered lethal injections during the last four months, according to the website BioEdge.com, which based its reporting on an Aug. 12 account in the newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur.
Bonnemaison does not regret his actions, viewing the lethal injections as acts of compassion, his lawyer said. If he is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Church Building in North Sudan in Ruins as Hostilities Grow
Presbyterian congregation sees little hope of rebuilding amid growing anti-Christian sentiment.
KHARTOUM, Sudan, August 23 (Compass Direct News)--More than seven months after Muslim extremists burned its church building, a Presbyterian Church of the Sudan (PCOS) congregation is still afraid to meet for worship, according to Christian sources.
The Rev. Maubark Hamad said his church in Wad Madani, 138 kilometers (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum, has not been able to rebuild since the Jan. 15 devastation due to the congregation's meager resources.
"Nothing has been done for the burned church building; so far it has not been rebuilt," he told Compass by phone.
Christian sources said they are increasingly fearful as Muslim extremists pose more threats against Christians in an attempt to rid what they call Dar al Islam, the "Land of Islam," of Christianity.
"The increased challenges now faced by many Christians in North Sudan are something for which we need to pray very hard for the Lord to intervene," said another church leader on condition of anonymity.
The PCOS building in Wad Madani was burned after a series of threats against its members by Muslims extremists, sources said.
"These anti-Christian activities continue to be growing these days, aiming to cause fear among the believers in North Sudan," said the church leader.
When PCOS leaders reported the case to police in Wad Madani, they were surprised to find officers reluctant to investigate. At press time the assailants had not been arrested.
Property damages to the church building were estimated at 2,000 Sudanese pounds (US$740); destroyed items included Christian literature, Bibles in local languages, chairs, tables and a pulpit.
"Muslims target our church because they don't want anything that is related to the church," one church member said.
Christians in North Sudan are living beneath a blanket of fear since South Sudan seceded on July 9. Just one month after the South voted for independence from the predominantly Islamic North, pressures on churches and Christians have increased, with Muslim groups threatening to destroy churches, kill Christians and purge the country of Christianity.
One anti-Christian newspaper with strong ties to the North's ruling party continuously advocates that North Sudan become a purely Islamic state and a purely Arab country. The Al Intibaha Arabic daily is well-known for provoking Muslims against Christians in Sudan.
North Sudan's predominantly Arab population has intermingled with several indigenous peoples, leading some other Arab nations to regard it as not "pure Arab," according to Operation World. Besides striving for an Arab-based ethnic-religious purging in North Sudan, Islamists may also be trying to counter estimated losses among adherents to Islam, with some estimating the Muslim population of the formerly unified Sudan recently dropping to about 55 percent from 61 percent.
Hostilities toward Christians by the Islamic government in Khartoum began to increase last year following a statement by President Omar al-Bashir, when he asserted that his second republic would be based on sharia (Islamic law) and Islamic culture, with Arabic as the official language.
Criswell Spanish track offers biblical education for pastors
DALLAS (Criswell College)--A Spanish-language Christian education track at Criswell College is available through a partnership between the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the college.
"It is time for Hispanics to have an accredited program that teaches the Bible in our language and that emphasizes the use of hermeneutical tools for proper biblical education," said Dr. René A. López, director of the Spanish Biblical Studies program at Criswell.
Course tracks offered include a basic certificate (24 credit hours), a distinguished certificate with tracks in English-language distinctives or theological distinctives (30-33 credit hours), and a biblical studies diploma (36 credit hours).
For additional information, contact Dr. Lopez at 972-693-3232 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Additionally, Dr. Lopez will be discussing the Criswell program on his radio program ("Escrituras Abiertas"), heard from 4:30 - 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on radio station 540 AM in Dallas.
The Inauguration of the First Temple Period Ophel City Walls Site and the Opening of the Exhibit of the Oldest Written Document from Jerusalem (June 2011)
JERUSALEM (Israel Antiquities Authority)--Upon completion of the excavation and conservation work at the Ophel City Wall site, visitors will now be able to touch the stones and walls whose construction tells the history of Jerusalem throughout the ages. It is now possible to walk comfortably through the built remains, in places that were previously closed to the public, to sense their splendor and learn about the history of the region by the signage and the different means of presentation and illustration.
At the beginning of 2010 archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar completed exposing the Ophel fortification complex in Jerusalem. Immediately thereafter, conservation work commenced and the site was made accessible to the public. The conservation work was implemented by the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department and lasted about six months.
The architecture at the site that was exposed includes an impressive building thought to be a gate house, a royal edifice, a section of a tower and the city wall itself. Dr. Mazar suggests identifying the buildings as part of the complex of fortifications that King Solomon constructed in Jerusalem: "... until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about" (1 Kings 3:1). In addition to the fortifications of the First Temple period, sections of the Byzantine city wall and two of its towers were exposed. This wall was built at the initiative of the Byzantine empress Eudocia in the fifth century CE. In addition to the complex of fortifications, the excavation of two rooms from the Second Temple period (first century CE) was completed, which were preserved to a height of two stories.
The highlight of the excavations is the complete exposure of the gate house. The plan of this impressive building includes four rooms of identical size, arranged on both sides of a broad corridor paved with crushed limestone. The plan of the gate house is characteristic of the First Temple period (tenth-sixth centuries BCE) and is similar to contemporaneous gates that were revealed at Megiddo, Be'er Sheva' and Ashdod. The excavator, Eilat Mazar, suggests identifying the gate house here with the 'water gate' mentioned in the Bible: "... and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower" (Nehemiah 3:26). The ground floor of a large building that was destroyed in a fierce conflagration can be seen east of the gate. Mazar suggests that this structure was destroyed by the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE. Twelve very large, clay store jars (pithoi), which probably contained wine or oil, were discovered on the floor of the building. Engraved on the shoulder of one of these pithoi is a Hebrew inscription that indicates that this pithos belonged to one of the kingdom's ministers, perhaps the overseer of the bakers.
Analyses of the writing and the clay used to produce the tablet show that the document originated in the Jerusalem region. It seems that it is a copy of a letter that the king of Jerusalem sent to the king of Egypt. It was customary that a copy of this correspondence would be kept in the archives of the city Salem, which was Jerusalem in that period. The fragment of the tablet constitutes credible evidence of the status of Jerusalem as an important royal city in Canaan, which was administered as a city-state under the auspices of the pharaonic Egypt kingdom.
ETBU Students Serve Before Classes Begin
By Scott Bryant (ETBU Chaplain/Vice President for Spiritual Development)
MARSHALL, Texas (East Texas Baptist University)--Over 150 East Texas Baptist University students spent their last Saturday of the summer serving others in the Marshall community. On Saturday, August 20, ETBU students divided into sixteen groups and performed a variety of service projects both near campus and throughout the city of Marshall.
The service projects were part of the orientation activities for new students. New students had the opportunity to participate in S.M.A.S.H. (Students Making a Second Home) activities in order to be introduced to ETBU. S.M.A.S.H. is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and helps acquaint incoming students with the various aspects of student life on campus.
Blair Prevost, Director of Student Activities, said "Community service is an important tradition and part of college life at ETBU. Individual students, student organizations and various sports teams all intentionally incorporate this significant part of the Christian life into what they do. As such, we want to make sure we introduce the idea of service and community involvement to all our new students from the beginning of their time at ETBU."
Both incoming students and returning students braved the scorching temperatures in order to serve others in the local community. Community service projects included painting and cleaning at numerous Marshall ISD campuses and the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines. Projects included organizing bookrooms, painting swing sets and four-square spaces, washing walls, clearing brush and limbs, and picking up trash. The students also did service projects at My Friend's House and the Texas Heritage Camp.
The service projects were sponsored in part by ETBU's Great Commission Center and Baptist Student Ministries and are part of their on-going efforts to help encourage students to serve others during their time on campus. Director of the Great Commission Center Allan Thompson said, "Serving others in Jesus' name is the first lesson in becoming servant leaders so it seems natural to me that the first week of an ETBU collegiate lifetime involve loving God and others through service."
ETBU began the fall semester on Monday, August 22.
Charleston Southern personnel promoted in student affairs
By John Strubel
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Charleston Southern University)--Charleston Southern University has named Rev. Jonathan David Davis campus minister effective September 1.
"Just think, LORD willing, in a few short years these college students will be defining the culture," said Davis. "Therefore, it is my desire they experience the transforming power of Jesus now so that they will revolutionize their world for generations to come.
"The opportunity to impact 'the next generation' is powerful. It is my life's purpose: 'Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.'" (Psalm 71:18; NIV)
Davis has a long affiliation with CSU having served as an assistant football coach from 1991-1999 and as CSU's Fellowship of Christian Athletes director since 2003. Davis has also served as an adjunct professor in CSU's religion department since 2003.
"The addition of Jon Davis as a full-time member of the student life team as campus minister strengthens CSU's faith integration, service learning and cocurricular initiatives," said Dr. Rick Brewer, vice president for student affairs and athletics. "Jon's passion for the Gospel in evangelism and discipleship underscores our commitment to preparing graduates and transforming lives daily."
Davis is a graduate of Catawba College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Jon Davis has been a vital part of our CSU family for over 15 years. He has served the university in a variety of ways, but we truly believe that his greatest legacy will be serving as campus minister on our campus. Jon has served with me in the campus ministries department for over seven years, and he has proven himself to be a great communicator of God's Word and a friend to everyone he meets. We are excited about what God is going to do through Jon Davis at Charleston Southern University," said Clark Carter, dean of students.
Davis has served as the pastor of Summit Baptist Church since 1999. Summit meets weekly on the CSU campus and continues to impact the CSU family through intentional evangelistic and discipleship efforts. Davis will continue to assist Summit as a teaching pastor providing pulpit ministry each Sunday.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net