Rainer encouraged as LifeWay faces challenges

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 30, 2012 5:22 PM
Rainer encouraged as LifeWay faces challenges
RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) -- "We Christians are often too timid, lacking the boldness to move where God wants us," LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer told Southern Baptist entity's trustees during their semiannual meeting.

"I often see the challenges facing LifeWay, and wonder about our next step," Rainer said in his report to the trustees during their Aug. 27-28 meeting at LifeWay's Ridgecrest Conference Center. "But then I am reminded the God we serve is in charge, and I begin to see things from a different perspective. I have never been more challenged at LifeWay, and I've never been more optimistic."

Rainer spoke openly about the challenges facing the publishing entity, including the sluggish economy, dramatic changes in how churches "do church" and digital and technological demands.

"For most of our history, LifeWay has been a print organization," he said. "Now we're moving rapidly into a time where digital is not just a transitional stage. It is the new reality. Digital resources are where our churches and individuals are and will be."

Rainer said he is "incredibly encouraged by the level of excellence in our technology division. It used to be that technology was a resource we needed, but now it is the main thing for much of what we do."

He cited the "incredible success" of the launch of the new Gospel Project Bible study curriculum, the first quarter of which is in its third printing, as an example of meeting the needs of churches and individuals.

"We're not going to stop with the Gospel Project," he said. "We're planning other curriculum launches and re-launches. We're not going to be satisfied until we've brought curricula to the bride of Christ that is deeper and more relevant to churches and individuals."

Rainer also said challenges remain at Glorieta Conference Center. "The decision last year to find another owner for Glorieta was very hard," he said. "We thought we'd found a potential buyer (in Olivet University), but, there are some questions to be answered theologically. We're having a third party do a theological review and that is exactly where we are right now."

Later Rainer told Baptist Press he believes a final report on the theological compatibility of Olivet and its movement should be available "in weeks, not months."

Rainer said he is encouraged with "the incredible turnaround of B&H Publishing Group, which was once an afterthought but is now a strategic part of our organization;" with LifeWay Research where "pastors can find out what is taking place in churches and the culture"; and, with acquisitions like WordSearch, Student Life and Auxano consulting.

"Our reward is not financial though," Rainer said. "Our reward is seeing what God is doing in churches and individuals through our resources. It is exciting to wake up every morning and see how LifeWay resources are impacting the bride of Christ."

SUBSIDIARY FOR CHINA

Trustees addressed a number of business issues during the meeting, including approval of a for-profit subsidiary "to facilitate ministry operations in the country of China." The new company, to be called LifeWay Global, Inc., will help "make Bibles, Bible study materials, training and other expertise available to churches and Christians in China," according to background information given to trustees.

LifeWay chief financial officer Jerry Rhyne explained that creation of a for-profit subsidiary is necessary because China is not granting registration for not-for-profit companies. However, Rhyne assured trustees "dividends from a for-profit company will not jeopardize LifeWay's tax-exempt status. In fact, it will help safeguard our nonprofit status."

Creation of subsidiary companies of SBC entities requires approval of the Southern Baptist Convention or the SBC Executive Committee so the issue will be referred to the Executive Committee.

SBC MOTION ON 2011 NIV

LifeWay trustees passed a motion declining to reopen a study of whether to sell the 2011 NIV Bible translation in its LifeWay Christian Stores.

The action was in response to a motion referred by the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention requesting that LifeWay reconsider its decision in February, following an exhaustive study, to continue selling the NIV translation.

Board chairman Adam Greenway, who chaired the study committee, assured trustees: "We did our due diligence. We heard from those who would be against the new translation, and those in favor of selling the NIV. There was no attempt to exclude or not consider any information that would help us decide what to carry."

Greenway, senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, repeated what he told the board in February: "Our decision to sell the 2011 NIV does not constitute an endorsement of it. We endorse what we publish, and we publish and endorse the HCSB."

The trustee motion passed on a vote of 51 yes; two no; and no abstentions. The full text of the SBC motion and LifeWay trustees' response follows this story.

In other business, LifeWay trustees:

-- approved a 2013 operating budget of $509.5 million, a 3.7 percent increase over the projected 2012 end of year revenue.

-- filled a vacancy on the board created by resignation of trustee Ronnie Smith from Mississippi. The new trustee, Weldon Aultman, a banker and member of First Baptist Church in Indianola, Miss., will serve until the SBC fills the opening.

-- approved minor corrections and adjustments to some boundary lines at Glorieta following a new survey.

-- welcomed seven new trustees: Ken Bledsoe, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Aberdeen, N.J.; Millie Burkett, member of Greater Gresham Baptist Church, Gresham, Ore.; Kent Dacus, vice president of California Baptist University and member of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church, Riverside, Calif.; John Hardin, program manager the Koch Foundation and member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; Mike Inouye, retired Navy chaplain and member of Kaunakai Baptist Church, Hawaii; Mike Osborne, administrative pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Virginia; Bob Simpson, associate executive director, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and member of The Church at Severn Run, Md.; and Jay Swope, mechanical engineer and member of First Baptist Church, Nixa, Mo.

Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

The full text of the SBC motion regarding the sale of the 2011 NIV by LifeWay Christian Stores and the Aug. 28 response by LifeWay trustees follows:

SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

June 19-20, 2012

On Requesting LifeWay to Reconsider Selling the NIV 2011

During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19-20, 2012, Tim Overton (IN) presented the following motion:

Motion: That a request be made of LifeWay Christian Resources to reconsider selling the inaccurate gender-neutral NIV by allowing Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Louis Markos, author of a recent article published in the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's journal, as well as one or two other qualified translation experts who have concerns about the NIV 2011, to make a presentation to LifeWay trustees on the gender-neutral translation issue. (Dr. Patterson and Dr. Markos have agreed to speak if invited by the trustees with the support of the Southern Baptist Convention through this motion.)

LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES

Board of Trustees

August 28, 2012

The 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, approved a resolution which included a request that LifeWay Christian Stores not sell the 2011 NIV Bible translation. Although a resolution, unlike a motion, does not require a formal response or any action from an SBC entity, LifeWay's board of trustees created a special study committee to thoroughly investigate the issues surrounding the translation.

The committee gathered and studied vast amounts of scholarly research and other information including enlistment of a number of subject matter experts to speak to and answer questions from the committee. Among those who addressed the committee were Dr. Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources; Dr. George Guthrie, Professor of Bible at Union University; Dr. Douglas Moo, chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation, which translated the NIV; Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Verne Kenney and Chip Brown of Zondervan, the translation's publisher.

The committee also noted widespread support for the 2011 NIV from respected conservative Bible scholars including Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Rod Decker, Dr. Timothy George, Dr. Tremper Longman, Dr. William Mounce, and Dr. Daniel Wallace. Dr. John MacArthur has announced that he will release a 2011 NIV edition of his highly respected MacArthur Study Bible.

Committee members especially noted that, contrary to some public statements, the translation does not use gender-neutral wording for the names of God and contains no gender changes with respect to God's name. Biblical scholars also affirmed that the 2011 NIV follows translation methodologies that are embraced by the majority of Bible translators in the world. Even some biblical scholars who do not prefer the translation agreed LifeWay should provide it as a choice to its customers.

After completing the exhaustive study of the issues concerning the 2011 NIV, listening to reports from scholars, and reading testimony from Dr. Albert Mohler and others, the trustee committee dismissed all but the committee members and recommended unanimously that LifeWay's full board of trustees reaffirm the decision that LifeWay Stores carry the translation alongside other versions of the Bible, while endorsing only the HCSB as our translation of choice. The trustee executive committee and full board unanimously approved the recommendation February 14, 2012.

That decision has received widespread support from pastors, seminary presidents, Bible scholars, and others throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, and therefore, LifeWay's board of trustees believes additional action is not warranted.

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