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BP Ledger, Feb. 4 edition

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.

Today's BP Ledger contains items from:

Morning Star News

Hardin-Simmons University

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Charleston Southern University

Uptick Seen in Sudan's Purge of Foreign Christians

NAIROBI, Kenya, (Morning Star News) -- Three South Sudanese took an airline flight out of Sudan tonight after authorities ordered them to leave the country because of their Christian activities -- the latest in a rash of expulsions as the Islamic regime rids the nation of Christianity, sources said.

Dozens of foreign Christians have been ordered to leave the country in the past two months, and many others have fled to Kenya as authorities have stepped up pressure by denying visa renewals and by other means, the sources said. The three Christians ordered to leave the country on Monday (Jan. 28) had been jailed earlier this month.

Sudan's Ministry of Interior, in conjunction with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), ordered a South Sudanese couple, Anthony and Cecilia Jamu, and a pastor also from South Sudan, Ismail Bashir, to leave the country within 24 hours, sources said. Accused of aiding Sudanese churches, Cecilia Jamu was arrested when she was linked with an associate from Germany, Jasmin Neuman, who was deported on Jan. 7.

For many years Neuman had cared for children in Omdurman (opposite Khartoum on the River Nile) who had taken refuge from conflict in Darfur.

After Cecilia Jamu's arrest, her husband was also later jailed, leaving their children to be cared for by friends, the sources said.

The government incarcerated Pastor Bashir also on Jan. 7 for his involvement with a Christian radio station owned by Sudmedia, they said. The government suspected the radio station had ties with a Korean pastor, Kang Bomjin, who along with his wife Sune Kang had been deported on Dec. 10 because of their Christian activities.

Before his deportation, Bomjin owned a farm that Sudan's intelligence service confiscated, forcing him to sell his cows, sheep and other animals at throw-away prices, sources said. The pastor received no compensation for the land.

Another foreign Christian, Ronald Ssemuwemba of Uganda, had been living on Bomjin's land. Also accused of engaging in Christian activities, Sudanese authorities early this month arrested and beat Ssemuwemba after linking him with Christian organizations - confiscating his passport, laptop and cell phone before ordering him to leave the country, sources said.

Ssemuwemba, who had lived in Sudan for five years on a student visa, went into hiding with friends until he was found and deported on Jan. 5.

"The Christian atmosphere in Sudan is alarming and frightening," said a Christian source in Khartoum. "This crackdown at the moment for foreigners who are suspected to be Christians in the country is alarming."

The source, who like the others requested anonymity for security reasons, said the government is declining to renew visas of many foreigners suspected of being Christians.


Sudan does not allow missionary visas, and those deported were in the country on tourist, work or humanitarian visas. Besides South Sudanese, many of the deported foreigners were from the United States, Europe or South Korea, sources said.

The government of President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for crimes against humanity, has reportedly indicated that foreigners will find it more difficult to renew visas, and it has reiterated its policy that all arriving foreigners must register with the immigration department within 24 hours of arrival.

A Kenya government source noted that many foreign church workers, especially Western Caucasians, have been leaving Sudan on short notice at a high rate, with most of those going initially to Kenya.

Harassment, violence and arrests of Christians have reportedly intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. South Sudanese have been ordered to leave the country following the new republic's secession, but thousands are reportedly stranded in the north due to loss of jobs, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan.

South Sudanese Christians in Sudan have faced increased hostilities due to their ethnic origins - though thousands have little or no ties to South Sudan - and their faith.

On Dec. 19, security forces arrested at least four staff members of Sudmedia, a non-profit company that produces Christian songs and films, and interrogated them because the manager, Nehemiah Lopai, is a South Sudanese national and a Christian. The staff members, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, were released the following day.

Schools Shut Down

Similarly, authorities in Khartoum have ordered the closure of two Christian-run schools, sources said.

Security agents on Jan. 3 arrived at the Christian-run Aslan Education Center for English, arrested three staff members and interrogated them about evangelizing Muslims, sources said. At least two of them were beaten during interrogation and were warned not to reveal the incident to Western media or churches, sources said. The head of the center, whose identity was not disclosed, had already been arrested and deported to the United States on suspicion of undertaking Christian activities.

All facilities and assets of the center, which provided English-language instruction to some 500 adults in Khartoum, were confiscated by security agents, including computers and laptops.

Additionally, a primary school in Khartoum run by Aslan Associates, Nile Valley Academy, will close at the end of the academic year in April after the government found it was not teaching Islamic religion - long required by law of all schools in Sudan - and was not separating male and female students. Sources said NISS, in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education, made the determination to shutter the institution.


Secession has brought other changes. Christians were surprised to find that Christmas was not officially observed as a public holiday in Sudan last month, and church leaders complained that government permission for a Yuletide "March for Jesus" was withdrawn one day after being granted.

"They have denied us Christmas holiday this year for the first time since South Sudan separated in 2011," one source said.

The source said government officials stated only that the situation in the country does not allow for such marches.

"They banned the march in the last minute after all arrangements were met," the source added.

c. 2013 Morning Star News. Used with permission.


Movie Maker Tells Students the Importance of Creative Courage

ABLIENE, Texas (Hardin-Simmons University) -- Steve Taylor, director of the movie "Blue Like Jazz," spoke to students at Hardin-Simmons University Jan. 22 in conjunction with a screening of the film in HSU's Logsdon Chapel. He calls the movie an example of an unlikely pairing of art and faith.

Contrasting two paintings, one of a glowing chapel in the woods by Christian artist Thomas Kinkade, and Pablo Picasso's painting, Guernica, representing the horrors of war, Taylor said, "There is no truth in this painting," showing the embellished chapel. In contrast, he said, Picasso "is telling people a truth the world does not want to hear."

"That is where the art of courage comes in," Taylor said.

Christians have to have the courage to tell the truth, he said. "The church has abdicated its role in shaping culture," he said. By doing so, "We are not showing the world the relevance of Jesus."

In 2010, author Donald Miller, writer of the best-selling book, Blue Like Jazz, announced that after years of trying to raise money for the movie adaptation of his book, he and the film's co-creators, Taylor and cinematographer Ben Pearson, would put the project on hold.

While it looked like the film would not sweep the country as the book had, Taylor told students about the groundswell of donations from a website that made the movie possible.

Taylor told students in chapel that the money for the movie was raised in just 30 days with 4,500 donations on the website Kickstarter.com. The movie's public funding illustrates a new generation of Christians who have the courage to tell the truth, who want to see Christians creating better art.

"If Christians are negligent in telling the truth, our culture decays," Taylor said. "The Bible tells us we have to be the salt and the light of the earth." The first disciples would have been intimately familiar with preservative function of salt. Without refrigeration, meat would quickly spoil and rot unless was packed in salt. Many Christians today think that Christianity means family friendly, Taylor said, noting, "A safe Bible for the family would be a much shorter book." The role of Christians is to counteract the world's corruption, like salt preserves against decay.


"Use your God-given creativity to tell the truth. Creativity and courage will work to inspire the world. Know your Bible. 1 Corinthians tells us to know the mind of Christ. When you have that, you don't have to create Christian propaganda. The mind of Christ will flow naturally out of the work you do," Taylor said.


Southern Seminary aims for vision, innovation to Web-based education

By Aaron Cline Hanbury

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- April 2012, Stanford University president John Hennessy told a writer from The New Yorker that "there's a tsunami coming" regarding online education. It seems the evolution that occurred in newspapers and magazines is about to happen in higher education: reorientation centered around the Internet.

The Babson Survey Research Group reports that from 2002 to 2010, the number of students enrolled in at least one online course increased by almost 300 percent. Far from slowing down, these numbers seem to indicate a growing demand for non-traditional education. Just recently, large and influential universities Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invested millions of dollars in online courses and distance learning.

Hennessy's words may prove prophetic, not only as momentum grows for innovative educational models, but also as expectations among students shift from a desk-and-chalkboard education to a learning experience without geography.

This shift is no less a reality among seminary-bound students.

"We're living in a world in which probably the majority of persons called by God to gospel ministry will not be able to relocate," said Timothy Paul Jones, associate vice president for online learning at Southern Seminary. "Online education provides an opportunity for those students to receive the training they need for the ministry they're called to do without having to move their families."

David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, suggests that this shift in education, like the digital revolution in print, will ultimately see the highest quality institutions capitalize on the opportunities it affords.

"The early Web radically democratized culture," he writes, "but now in the media and elsewhere you're seeing a flight to quality. The best American colleges should be able to establish a magnetic authoritative presence online. My guess is it will be easier to be a terrible university on the wide-open Web, but it will also be possible for the most committed schools and students to be better than ever."

Better than ever is exactly what Jones and his team in the Office of Online Learning want to see from their new efforts in Internet-based education. According to Jones, who is also professor of leadership and church ministry, the seminary's past and current Web presence fails to represent the quality that students expect. Moving forward, any online program at Southern Seminary must bear the excellence that marks the seminary's on-campus experience.


"We must be aggressive in the pursuit of excellence without losing sight of who we are and the charge that we have from the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention," Jones said. "We can't lose sight of the unique, distinctive vision of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Jones says that excellent online education will provide students "no less than what they receive on campus." This means online students should be mentored by faculty and build relationships with peers — perhaps though phone calls, online forums or Skype meetings. And each facet of the Web experience must be high quality: creative videos, user-friendly learning management systems, efficient and thorough feedback.

But regardless of the quality and creativity, many educators and on-lookers like Brooks worry what a move away from desks and chalkboards could mean for genuine learning.

"The most important and paradoxical fact shaping the future of online learning is this: A brain is not a computer," he writes. "We are not blank hard drives waiting to be filled with data. People learn from people they love and remember the things that arouse emotion."

Earlier in his column, Brooks admits his hesitations: "Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? Will it elevate functional courses in business and marginalize subjects that are harder to digest in an online format, like philosophy? Will fast online browsing replace deep reading?"

In an article this past October in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rick Ostrander, provost of a Christian university, writes, "I see the potential to improve education with technology, but I worry about losing something in the process. … Is the true value of higher education in danger of being lost in our rush to digitize the experience?"

Ostrander is not alone in his concern. Educators around the country emphasize the "personal element" of the educational experience, an element nearly impossible to replicate digitally.

This concern does not escape Jones.

"We recognize there are some things that can happen completely online, but we also recognize that there is a personal, face-to-face mentoring element of ministry training that cannot be replaced by an online component," he said.

Southern Seminary remains wholly committed to providing a full-orbed theological education. The school invests heavily in faculty members and the scholarship they produce. And a planned renovation project to structure the campus library illustrates the value that the seminary places on the physical, geographical nature of learning.

The challenge for a 21st-century seminary like Southern is to integrate staple elements of the seminary experience — elements like personal accountability, vigorous debate and historical context — into degree programs relevant to an academic reorientation around the Internet. Jones looks to the letters of the apostle Paul as a framework for distance learning. Often Paul sends instruction to a congregation, but he always notes his plans to visit in person.


"First of all, Paul recognizes clearly that content can be delivered well through a virtual means — for him it was letters, for us maybe it's video," Jones said. "But Paul also recognized that virtual presence cannot replace personal presence. I think that we need to take that framework to online education and recognize that some things we can do effectively digitally, but, at the same time, there is a need to train and shape men and women for ministry through personal interaction."

So in fall 2012, Southern Seminary began offering select courses in a new, more flexible format called hybrid-modular courses. This "flipped classroom" format provides course content outside the classroom, and then dedicates in-person sessions to discussion, collaboration and application projects.

In a hybrid-modular course, students meet on campus in Louisville for six days at a time and earn up to 13 credit hours. Students arrive on a Wednesday afternoon and attend class meetings all day, each day through the following Wednesday, with the exception of Sunday. The current hybrid-modular format offers students four opportunities per academic year to enroll in a six-day unit.

"The hybrid model has become one of our signatures," Jones said. "We bring together online and face-to-face. With the hybrid-modular courses, students receive content delivery online, but then discuss, apply and interact with course material in an on-campus setting along with a faculty member and fellow students."

Combining these digital course elements with on-campus interaction forms degree programs as relevant as they are timeless. With Southern Seminary Online, students from Buenos Aires to Birmingham can earn roughly two thirds of a master's degree online through faculty-taught and mentored courses. And, through hybrid-modular courses, distance students can complete the final third of a degree at Southern's historic, 154-year-old campus, with the engagement and warm-blooded fellowship that characterize the seminary experience and make it irreplaceable.

Rather than seeking shelter from the online tsunami that Hennessy predicted, Southern Seminary is facing shifts in higher education by preparing to meet the needs of the next generation of pastors, scholars, missionaries and church leaders while maintaining the identity of the institution and reinforcing its mission.

Aaron Cline Hanbury is the managing editor of Southern Seminary Magazine.


Metz named new dean of CSU's school of education

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Charleston Southern University) -- Dr. George W. Metz has been named the dean of the Charleston Southern University School of Education, effective June 1.

Currently, Metz is a professor of education at Bluffton University in Ohio. During the interview process he had three occasions to meet with Charleston Southern students. "What impressed me the most was their warmth and sincerity," said Metz. When he met with education students in the graduate program, he said, "The young professionals were phenomenal."


Metz said God's calling led him to accept the job. "CSU has warmly embraced me from the moment of my first contact," he said. "It is an inviting community." The location in Charleston didn't hurt either.

"The position itself is a wonderful opportunity," said Metz. "There is a great tradition in the School of Education. I've been asked - and I've accepted - the challenge to move the School of Education forward. First and foremost, I want CSU to become the provider of choice for area school districts in hiring and in continuing professional development."

Metz views teaching as a ministry. However, he said, "I don't like the word teacher. I like the word educator. It is a summary of a personal, professional calling.

"Coming from the state of Ohio, which not only has a Department of Education but also a Board of Regents, I am familiar with the unending scrutiny education is under. Students need to be taught to do more than just teach," he said. Metz said it is also knowing expectations and regulations and preparing educators for the classroom.

Dr. Jackie Fish, interim vice president for academic affairs, said, "Dr. Metz's expertise in a variety of administrative roles throughout his professional career is exactly what we need at CSU as we continue to grow our School of Education. I look forward to working with him and learning from him when he joins our faculty as dean of the School of Education."

In addition to teaching, Metz has experience as an administrator, has coordinated the accreditation process for Bluffton University's education department, has served as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative, has worked in financial aid and recruitment at the technical college level and has been a teacher, athletic director and principal at the PK-12 level and published numerous journal articles.

Metz holds a BA in history and political science from Western Maryland College, an MAEd in guidance and counseling from Frostburg State University and a PhD in higher education from the University of Toledo.

Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net


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