Today's From the Seminary includes:
New Orleans Seminary
By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS)--The Institute for Faith and the Public Square (IFPS), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's latest research center, hosted its first event April 11. Led by New Orleans Seminary (NOBTS) church history professor Lloyd Harsch, IFPS explores the role of faith in the development and application of public policy and seeks to create a forum in which church-state issues are discussed in an open, thoughtful manner.
The day-long conference, which featured more than a dozen government and ministry leaders, focused on the role of faith-based organizations in the rebuilding of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, as well as the "possibilities, pitfalls and practicality of using government funds in ministry."
ROOTED IN FREEDOM
To start the conference, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley made plain the Baptist commitment to free speech in the public square.
"We believe there ought to be a freedom for Baptists and anyone else to express their opinions in the public square," Kelley said. "We never want to control the public square. We never want to control the government. But we do think the government should not coerce religious belief and convictions, and we do believe that the public square ought to always be open to any expression of religious opinion and conviction."
Kelley, echoing the well-known Christian phrase "in the world, not of the world," challenged Christians to be "in the square but not of the square."
Dan Holcomb, long-time professor of church history at NOBTS, delivered the conference's opening presentation, which explored historical Baptist perspectives on church-state relations. From the start, Holcomb said, Baptists have called for freedom of speech and religious expression.
"Early Baptists' first cry was a cry for freedom," Holcomb said. "Baptists soon discovered that freedom is never free, that it is secured only by struggle and sacrifice."
And that theme of religious freedom, Holcomb said, is grounded in Scripture.
"The whole theme of redemption from the very beginning involved not only spiritual insight, spiritual journey and spiritual regeneration, but also a political challenge," he said. "'Let my people go,' Moses said to Pharaoh. 'They are not your people. They are God's people.'"
TO PARTNER WITH GOVERNMENT OR NOT
A major question among faith-based organizations is whether to pursue and accept government funds to cover the cost of ministry. At the IFPS conference, Perry Hancock, president and CEO of the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home, and Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House in New Orleans, offered two views on pursuing public funds.
For Hancock, the issue is settled: "The people of God should fund the ministry of God."
Any organization that accepts public funds must sign an agreement regarding how those funds will be spent. Hancock cautioned faith-based organizations to consider whether partnering with government would hamper their ability to minister to both people's physical and spiritual needs. Hancock said it's possible to adjust government contracts in order not to comprise a faith-based organization's mission and message, but he said he'd prefer that organizations reevaluate their funding priorities in order to be more effective stewards of private donations.
"Your church, my church, associations of churches, state conventions and conventions nationally must reevaluate their priorities in ministry," Hancock said. "God is most concerned with people in need. And if our churches' budgets do not reflect the heart of God, then we need to look at that."
Kelly agreed that organizations must not compromise their mission just for government dollars, but he was much more hopeful of the possibility of partnering with government and staying true to an organization's gospel witness. He said that the task of serving the poor demands that organizations find a way to achieve this crucial objective. To drive the point home, Kelley directed attention to the Katrina recovery where billions of both public and private dollars came together.
"I know at the end of the day we couldn't have done it just with private dollars," he said. "We needed both the private dollar and the public dollar to address the unbelievable needs, whether it be housing or getting schools back open."
Kelly added that faith-based organizations make up the largest partner with government when it comes to human services, education or health care - and that's the way he wants it to be.
"I would much rather government partner with faith-based groups who have a solid foundation they're building upon than to go out and partner with those who are not faith-based," he said.
EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
As part of the IFPS conference on faith-based organizations, attendees got to mix and mingle with both government leaders and non-profit leaders from a variety of organizations.
Ed Quatreveaux, New Orleans' Inspector General, spoke specifically on avoiding money and documentation troubles in an organization. Quatreveaux offered a simple message for organization leaders: "Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal." But he also said it was important for leaders to take steps to minimize the opportunities for people in their organization to steal or cheat the system.
"If you really like people, don't tempt people," he said.
In the afternoon, conference attendees could choose between a wide variety of breakout sessions led by representatives from New Orleans-area faith-based organizations. From rebuilding organizations and drug rehabilitation programs to groups that minister to at-risk youth and abused women and children, the breakout sessions offered participants a great opportunity to network with leaders from around New Orleans.
To close the inaugural IFPS conference, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and former Louisiana legislator, looked to Nehemiah as a model for faith-based organizations partnering with the government. Perkins called Nehemiah's request for support from Persian King Artaxerxes and subsequent effort to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem "the first faith-based rebuilding project."
Perkins identified three guidelines from the story of Nehemiah he said apply well to modern faith-based organizations.
First, faith-based organizations, like Nehemiah, should approach the task of ministry and the request for support with supplication and intense prayer. Nehemiah, before he even approached Artaxerxes, was broken by the poor condition of his homeland.
Nehemiah 1:4 says, "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."
"While we may be secure in our own homes ... we can never be beyond feeling the pain of our communities," Perkins said.
Nehemiah's intense prayers, then, led to his finding favor with King Artaxerxes, Perkins said. Perkins said that Nehemiah's request to Artaxerxes provides a good model for faith-based organizations today.
Nehemiah did not use Artaxerxes' support to enrich himself or to enhance his own lifestyle. In Nehemiah 5, after Nehemiah has been made governor over Judah, he writes that "neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. ... Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall."
Perkins said a practical application for faith-based groups is to use government funds to accomplish a specific project or task, not to improve facilities or cover payroll expenses.
Finally, Perkins pointed to Nehemiah's success. In just 52 days, the wall was completed. Likewise, faith-based organizations should be focused and determined to meet the needs of their community. In this way, they, like Nehemiah, will find success.
Harsch said he was pleased with the great start for the fledgling Institute for Faith and the Public Square.
"Our speakers did an excellent job, and the breakout sessions provided an opportunity for networking among people of community interests," Harsch said. "We had a great start."
Harsch said he and other institute leaders have turned their focus to the next IFPS event, scheduled for Oct. 28-29. The two-day conference will focus on chaplaincy in hospitals, prisons and the military.
For more information on the Institute for Faith and the Public Square, go online to www.faithandpublicsquare.com or follow the institute on Facebook and Twitter.
Southern Seminary's SBTS Press
releases "A Guide to Biblical Manhood"
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS)--On Tuesday, April 12, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary released its first in-house book publication, "A Guide to Biblical Manhood," by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas. Copies of "A Guide to Biblical Manhood" are now available through press.sbts.edu and also at the LifeWay store on Southern's campus.
Southern published the book to emphasize the urgency of biblical manhood and to offer a practical resource for men of all ages and educational backgrounds. "A Guide to Biblical Manhood" was based on Southern's Biblical Masculinity class, co-taught in January 2011 by Stinson, dean of the School of Church Ministries at Southern, and Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern.
"We've written this book … with a major distinction from other manhood resources. We're convinced that what we need most are men of God. We need men who won't just stand up, but will stand on something solid and timeless. In a relativistic world, men need to understand who God designed them to be, how they are prone to sin in their manhood because of the Fall and how Jesus came to redeem them as men," Stinson and Dumas write.
"We've also written this because we've seen too many men with great gaps between their beliefs and behaviors about biblical manhood. We need men of God who are active and consistent in living out their faith."
"A Guide to Biblical Manhood" was edited and designed by the staff of Southern's Office of Communications and features original pen and ink illustrations from a Louisville artist.
Readers can find more information about "A Guide to Biblical Manhood" at press.sbts.edu.
For those interested in learning more about The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, information is available at www.sbts.edu
SWBTS' Kiesling experiences
clean slate twice over
By Rebecca Carter
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)--"Seven years ago today, this very day, I was in court facing 15 years in prison," Brandon Kiesling said. "And I stood before a judge who had every right to send me away without blinking an eye."
Kiesling, a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Seminary, shared his experience of grace, which God used to bring him to faith seven years ago, with friends of the seminary on April 5.
Kiesling used and sold drugs in high school, but since they did not affect his job performance or schoolwork, he dismissed their severity. However, his life soon tore apart when he encountered methamphetamines and his first arrest came in 2003, his junior year. Another arrest came in November. With the bond set at $100,000, he sat in jail in disbelief, and he soon stood before a judge, expecting no mercy.
Kiesling saw a veiled example of what he could receive if he placed his faith in Christ through the judge's behavior toward him on that spring day in 2004. The judge granted him a suspended imposition of sentence, allowing him a clean record if he cleaned up: "I was shown grace when I deserved judgment," said Kiesling.
When Kiesling put his trust in Christ the following Sunday, he experienced true forgiveness from God without having to clean up his life first.
"I realized God had a plan for my life, and mine wasn't working, so I got on board with His plan," said Kiesling.
Kiesling received his call to ministry the following year. After earning his B.A. in Biblical Studies, he and his wife, Alicia, traveled from their home in Missouri to Fort Worth so Kiesling could attend seminary.
God has placed a fire in Kiesling for sharing his faith, granting him the opportunity to lead six people to Christ during the past year.
Catherine was one whom Kiesling and professor Matthew Queen met when they shared door-to-door around the seminary. She started out the conversation shouting from the other side of her door as the two men stood on her porch but the conversation ended in her enthusiastically accepting Christ.
"I got the opportunity to see God's word transform a person right before my very eyes," said Kiesling.
The Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern enlisted Kiesling to serve as an evangelism team leader. In this role, he shares his faith on a weekly basis and mobilizes fellow students to join him.
Last fall, Southwestern Seminary students and faculty saw 127 people receive Christ through evangelism initiatives.
"The gospel is changing lives," Kiesling says, "not only around this country, but on this very hill where we stand today."
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net