Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Morning Star News
World News Service
In latest Alumni Academy course, Timothy Paul Jones addresses family ministry
By Matt Damico
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) -- The call to disciple the next generation belongs to parents, said The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Timothy Paul Jones during the most recent Alumni Academy course, Jan. 9-10.
Jones, who in addition to his role as professor of leadership and church ministry is editor of the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry, is the author of Family Ministry Field Guide: How the Church Can Equip Patents to Make Disciples, which provided much of the content and structure for the two-day course.
Recognizing the gap that exists between what Scripture demands of parents and what is actually happening in the homes of Christian families, Jones encouraged those in attendance — which consisted primarily of pastors and youth ministers — to teach the parents in their churches, especially the fathers, how to disciple their children according to the expectations that Scripture places on parents. The way to do this is to create a ministry driven by grace, rather than a ministry driven by prescription.
The importance of grace in family ministry is why, Jones said, the instructions given to parents in Deuteronomy 6 did not work.
"Deuteronomy 6 is not wrong, but it's not enough, because it's not the whole story," Jones said. "Jesus delivered all that God's law and justice demanded," Jones said. Pastors, preachers and youth ministers should not, then, "proclaim Deuteronomy 6, saying 'Do this, do this, do this,' without also turning towards Christ, in whom all is done already."
On the other hand, Jones urged those in attendance to avoid telling church members that "whatever you're doing is okay," but rather that God has provided means — through the church, the Spirit and the Scriptures — to pursue faithfulness in raising children.
"We want to proclaim to our people the fullness of the story that is centered in one God, a story of grace and a story that's passed from generation to generation," Jones said. "That's the big picture of what we want to happen in family ministry."
During the first night of the two-day course, Southern Seminary professors James M. Hamilton Jr. and Thomas J. Nettles joined Jones for a panel discussion about family worship, with the Hamilton and Jones families modeling how they each do family worship, respectively.
"I learned from Don Whitney that we ought to read the Bible, pray the Bible and sing the Bible," Hamilton said, as he led his family in reading a Psalm, a New Testament passage, singing the doxology, reciting the Apostles' Creed and praying the Lord's Prayer.
Jones led his family through a reading in Hamilton's recent children's book, The Big Story of the Bible, a reading and subsequent discussion from the Gospel of Matthew and then a time of family prayer.
Steve and Candice Watters, authors of Start Your Family and founders Boundless a webzine for teenagers, led the first session on Friday morning about helping young adults move toward marriage. The next session featured a discussion between Randy Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost of Southern Seminary, and David E. Prince, assistant professor of Christian preaching, about using sports as a means of discipleship for kids.
Alumni Academy offers ministry enhancement and ongoing theological learning to the institution's alumni free of charge. For a nominal fee, attendees may bring members of their church staff with them.
The next scheduled Alumni Academy course will feature Boyce College dean Dan DeWitt teaching through his forthcoming book, Jesus OR Nothing, May 22-23, 2014. More information about Alumni Academy is available at www.events.sbts.edu.
'Proselytism' conviction of convert from Islam in Morocco overturned
By Middle East Correspondent
CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) -– An appeals court judge in Morocco today overturned a conviction against a Christian convert from Islam who had been sentenced to 30 months in prison for alleged proselytizing.
The judge in the Court of Appeal in Fez dismissed the case against Mohamed El Baladi, 31, because of lack of evidence, sources close to him said.
"The case has ended," said one source close to El Baladi who requested anonymity. "The file will be closed on the 13th of February after a routine administrative process is finished."
On Aug. 28, in the remote town of Ain Aicha, Taounate Province, 50 miles from Fez, security officials arrested El Baladi for alleged proselytizing of two Muslims after someone complained to police about a conversation he allegedly had with them about his faith. During the arrest, police insulted El Baladi for leaving Islam and tried to force him to reveal names of other
converts to Christianity.
Police eventually raided his home, where they seized several Christian CDs, books and magazines, along with the 5,000 dirhams, sources said.
On Sept. 3, no more than a week after his arrest, a court in Taounate found El Baladi guilty of attempting to incite at least one young Muslim to leave Islam and sentenced him to 30 months in prison, along with fining him 1,500 Moroccan dirhams (US$182). (See Morning Star News, Sept. 13, 2013.)
Human rights advocates said his hearing was irregular at best, with authorities finding El Baladi guilty without any legal representation and handing down the fine exceeding the maximum allowed by law. The penalty for violating Article 220 of Morocco's penal code regarding "proselytism" is six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500 dirhams (US$60).
The penal code describes proselytizing as any attempt to stop someone from exercising their religious beliefs or from attending religious services. It is also illegal for anyone to employ "incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion."
Authorities on Sept. 26, 2013, made the unusual decision to release him from prison until his appeal hearing. There were two scheduled court hearings for the appeal, one on Oct. 10, which was postponed, and one scheduled for Dec. 26, when the judge was absent; a previous report from Morocco published by Morning Star News that the court heard arguments on that date was later found to be inaccurate, although long-denied defense arguments were filed and the hearing was rescheduled for today (Feb. 6).
Having a conversation about one's faith is not generally considered proselytizing in Morocco, but sources confirmed reports that El Baladi was set up by an uncle with whom he had a previous dispute. The uncle hired two teenage boys to feign interest in Christianity, and police were on hand to arrest him for proselytizing minors when he met with them a second time (see Morning Star News, Oct. 11, 2013).
Strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) condemns apostates from Islam to death, though that is not the case in Morocco. Moreover, converts from Islam in Morocco say the government tends to prosecute more noticeable evangelists. A quiet Christian convert is unlikely to run into problems other than from family, but "active" Christians who attempt to tell others about their faith will likely face harassment from authorities, especially if they live in a rural area or a small city.
Police monitoring of converts, including phone conversations, is common, one convert from Islam said.
The West has generally applauded Morocco's new constitution of 2011, which provides for a fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty for those accused of breaking the law. But a fatwa issued in 2012 by the governmental High Council of Ulemas, the highest religious authority in Morocco that called for the execution of converts, has caused concern among human rights and religious freedom advocates.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI is seen as a moderate, but Islam is the official religion of the state, and the king's titles include, "The Defender of the Faithful." Christians are also suspicious as his government shares power in a coalition that includes the Justice and Development Party, which is considered to have links with the Muslim Brotherhood; the group calls for a society governed by Islam.
On Dec. 28, 2005, Christian convert Jamaa Ait Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years in prison for proselytism and for destroying the goods of others by burning two abandoned telephone poles touching his property.
In March 2010, the government expelled at least 33 Christian foreign residents from the country. Among them were 10 adult Christians, along with their children, who were running The Village of Hope, a foster daycare center for orphans. The foster children were turned over to the care of people they did not know.
In addition to the expulsions, roughly 81 people were declared "persona non grata" for alleged proselytizing.
There are about 8,000 Moroccan Christians out of a population of almost 35 million people, according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State.
International students enjoy home at Mississippi College
CLINTON, Miss. (Mississippi College) -- Mississippi College is thousands of miles away from his native Nigeria, but Joseph Oladele Afolabi discovered the Baptist-affiliated university is a comfortable place to earn his master's degree.
"I like Clinton," the 30-year-old finance major said as he reflected on his first few weeks at MC in the new year. "It is peaceful, and the people are friendly."
A 2009 accounting graduate of the University of Lagos in a Nigerian city of more than one million people, Afolabi relishes the close-knit environment on the Clinton campus. It's easy to get to know professors, he says.
Afolabi is part of an uptick in MC's international population to 252 students this winter. That's up by 50 students from the fall with the latest international students coming from such nations as China, Bangladesh, India and Saudi Arabia.
There are nearly 820,000 international students attending colleges in the United States in Fall 2013, a jump of 7 percent from a year ago, reports the New York-based Institute of International Education. China is the leader with 236,000 college students in the USA or nearly double the number of second-ranked India.
Afolabi says he will use his MC education to become a financial analyst in Nigeria.
Salman Alahmari, 27, of Saudi Arabia is working on a master's degree in public relations and corporate communications at MC. He hopes to join the business world in his native land. But for right now, he's happy with the people he's met at Mississippi College and around the Magnolia State.
"I enjoy hanging out with friends I have discovered all over Mississippi," Salman said. "I feel it's a second home for me. This is a good place and environment to help students."
A friend from Saudi Arabia at Mississippi College encouraged him to come to MC. And now, after a few weeks, he wants to spread the news to bring more people from his Middle East nation to the university in metro Jackson.
Salman's discovered some new things outside his MC classrooms in the School of Business. "I had never seen snow in Saudi Arabia," he said, but was delighted to see snowflakes for the first time in his life in Mississippi in late January.
Students from Mississippi and around the nation say the international students at Mississippi College add a great deal of diversity to their education and expand their knowledge of other cultures.
The growth in international enrollment this semester didn't happen by accident. Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard credits Global Education Office director Mei-Chi Piletz and her staff for working hard to recruit and advise international students.
They've worked diligently to process applications and help international students to adjust to life in the USA and Mississippi College, he said.
"Our goal is to increase enrollment steadily, along with the services to assist these students in their academic progression," Howard said. "We have a devoted faculty and staff who go out of their way to make our international students feel welcome in our classes and on our campus."
Piletz says the staff at her office worked long hours, and thanks faculty and staff at the university for welcoming international students.
"This is just the beginning," Piletz says. "We are now working on students' retention through our mentoring program and our collaboration with dedicated professors across campus. We want our international students to realize that MC offers a nurturing environment that a lot of big state universities might not be able to do."
M.D. Mynul Byzid, 29, a graduate student in finance, is happy with his Mississippi College experience after just a few weeks. He comes from a city of millions in Bangladesh, but enjoys the peaceful community of 26,000 people in Clinton. "I like the education system here and heard that Mississippi was the Hospitality State," he said. "I would recommend my cousins and friends to come to Mississippi."
The bulk of MC's international students are natives of China, including mathematics major Tianmen "Robby" Chen. A new student at Mississippi College in January, he wouldn't want to be anywhere else. "MC is a Christian school. I got baptized last year," said the 27-year-old senior. There are other reasons he's satisfied. "The international office is really good. They make me feel like I'm home."
A key Christian college group quickly fires a president—and tries to regain its footing
By J.C. Derrick
WASHINGTON, D.C. (World News Service) -- The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), with 119 members and 55 affiliates, provides off-campus programs for Christian students and development conferences for administrators. Operating from offices near Capitol Hill, it tries to protect Christian schools from government encroachment in areas ranging from faculty hiring to Obamacare-mandated provision of abortion pills.
Threats from within and without are hitting the CCCU as it prepares to host on Feb. 12-14 in Los Angeles its quadrennial International Forum on Christian Higher Education -- the largest Christian higher-education gathering in the world. Along with discussing demographic challenges and shrinking budgets, members will chart the future of the Council itself: Within the past year the CCCU lost its president and three of its four vice presidents.
Over the past three months I've looked into the CCCU's firing last October of its 57-year-old president, Edward O. Blews Jr., after only ten months in office. I interviewed two former CCCU presidents, seven college presidents (including three former CCCU Board chairmen), other college administrators, and three former staffers. I found two stories: one about an organization trying to find its way in a shifting economic and political climate, and one about a man who "took a hacksaw" to an important organization.
After an 18-month search, the CCCU Board in 2012 tapped Ed Blews to replace the retiring Paul Corts, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration. Fellow students at Seattle Pacific University had elected Blews student body president, but SPU says he never earned a bachelor's degree there. Blews did graduate from Thomas Cooley Law School, which accepts certain students without a bachelor's degree, but the State Bar of Michigan has no record of his ever passing the bar.
Blews spent 28 years in a lobbying role at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, a four-person operation without the size and scope of the CCCU, which has 72 full-time employees. "He was probably overwhelmed by the complexity and the diversity of institutions," said Bob Andringa, the CCCU president from 1994 to 2006: "It's an entirely different ballgame at the federal level than the state level."
Critics say Blews lacked sufficient education and experience, but Board members such as Messiah College President Kim Phipps, then the Board's chair, enthusiastically backed him. Blews in his CCCU inaugural address said, "I answered my phone to hear a commanding female voice that sounded suspiciously like Kim Phipps saying, 'Ed. This is God. And she is calling you to the CCCU presidency.'"
Blews' inaugural celebration was the first such bash in the Council's history, complete with giveaways for attendees: pens and golden bookmarks engraved with Blews' name. He brought in as entertainment the acclaimed but typically off-color Capitol Steps, a political satire group that charges $9,500 per hour—an amount roughly equal to a college's annual membership dues. The CCCU website's account of the event began, "In an inspiring and compelling ceremony marked by an extended standing ovation.?…"
Three former CCCU employees—WORLD is giving them anonymity because they could lose their current jobs—describe the work environment Blews created in nightmarish terms: He would berate staff, sometimes in front of colleagues, in meetings that could last for hours. They say Blews tracked which employees complimented him, and during his first staff meeting laid out on a table dozens of congratulatory letters to himself. The Spring 2013 issue of the CCCU's Advance Magazine had 18 photos of Blews. Staffers say he had to approve everything. "You felt like you needed permission to go to the bathroom," one former employee said. "It became this paranoid, Soviet culture."
Inconsistency marked Blews' tenure even in lobbying, his area of strength. He officially protested Obamacare's abortion pill mandate to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but his communications strategy wasn't robust. In July, days after HHS released its final rule, Inside Higher Ed ran a story quoting leaders of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, but noted that the CCCU declined to comment. Some CCCU member presidents saw Blews as unresponsive to their concerns.
Eleven of the 24 administrative staff members in Washington left the Council in 2013, taking with them seven decades of institutional knowledge. Andringa said the departed employees played critical roles, and cited Kyle Royer as "a terrific CFO" who had been with the Council 24 years. Blews' solution: bring in a temporary accountant two days a week. Office disarray led to confusion about plans for February's Forum: When the Board unanimously ousted Blews in October, registration was still not online and the program was still unset.
Philanthropist Roberta Ahmanson, the opening-night keynote speaker at next month's Forum, says the CCCU Board should have more carefully reviewed Blews' educational background: "If they did know, then they really need to do some soul searching about why they went ahead and hired him." I contacted Kim Phipps and the current CCCU Board chair, Chip Pollard, president of John Brown University, but they both declined to comment. I left voicemails for Blews and visited his home in Washington, but he did not return my messages.
BLEWS' TENURE CAME as the council already faced significant challenges. According to the most recent data available on GuideStar, which collects nonprofit financial reports, member dues accounted for only $1.4 million of the CCCU's $12.6 million budget in 2011. Three-fourths of it, $9.5 million, came from off-campus student programs, including a journalism program in Washington, a film-studies program in Los Angeles, and study-abroad programs in countries around the world.
Former employees confirmed enrollment in those programs is down dramatically in recent years, as more institutions create their own study-abroad programs and seek to keep student dollars on campus. Some schools are saying scholarship money cannot be used for off-campus courses. Former president Andringa, now a nonprofit ministry consultant, said many campuses suffer from dwindling denominational support, have already deferred campus maintenance, and have mandated hiring and salary freezes.
The CCCU Washington administrative staff is barely half the size it was a year ago. Blews' contract may leave the CCCU in a financial bind: When he first met the staff in July 2012, he boasted that his "ironclad five-year contract" could not be voided even if he was fired with cause. No former employee would reveal to me the details of the contract, but according to GuideStar, Blews' predecessor had an annual salary of almost $320,000. If Blews was making that amount and the contract is as ironclad as he thinks it is, the Council could pay as much as $1.6 million over five years—a lot of money for an organization that cleared only $33,299 in fiscal 2011.
Blews may sue the CCCU over his dismissal, and this would create more uncertainty for an organization that, according to Andringa, has "lost a lot of credibility, unfortunately, in the last year." Although acting CCCU president Bill Robinson made Forum planning his top priority, and registration went online days after the firing of Blews, as of mid-January the Council was still scrambling to secure enough registrants to cover the Los Angeles hotel contract.
Former CCCU president Corts told me the CCCU is a crucial defender of Christian institutions' right to hire only believers: Without that right, Christian institutions cease to be Christian and "all the rest is for naught." The Obama administration has argued the religious exemption to laws against hiring discrimination should not exist, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled unanimously in favor of keeping it. "It's such a fragile thing," Corts said. "In virtually every Congress there is legislation introduced to take that right away."
Colorado Christian University vice president Christopher Leland said it's becoming increasingly difficult to convince accrediting bodies that educational excellence can go together with a uniquely Christian vision: "We have a lot of Christian colleges and universities who are doing a lot of good work and need help." Some CCCU members want an organization that will engage not only Congress and the Department of Education, but scholars and writers who critique higher education.
Andringa said Christians should rally around the CCCU: "The Council is critical to the body of Christ in the next several decades." Without accountability, says Ahmanson, scandals are inevitable: "It's time for evangelical institutions, especially in higher education, to assess their boards.?…?They need to also understand that being supportive means asking hard questions."
Kenison announces retirement plans
BRIDGETON, Mo. (The Pathway) -- At the January 28 meeting of the Missouri Baptist Children's Home Board of Trustees, Raymond R. "Bob" Kenison announced his plans to retire as President of both the Children's Home and the MBCH Foundation. His retirement from the Children's Home will be effective June 30, 2014. He will retire from the MBCH Foundation on December 31, 2014.
Kenison joined the staff of Missouri Baptist Children's Home in January, 1978 as a development officer. In October 1980 he became the Administrator (now called "President") of the Children's Home.
During his lengthy tenure at the helm of MBCH, the Children's Home has grown from an agency primarily providing services in the St. Louis region to a state-wide agency with campuses in Bridgeton, Peculiar and Mt. Vernon and regional offices in Jefferson City, Kansas City, Joplin and Springfield. The Children's Home has also grown into a family of corporations which include Missouri Baptist Children's Home, MBCH Children and Family Ministries, MBCH Foundation, MBCH Properties and the MBCH Professional Development Institute.
A number of events designed to honor Bob Kenison and his legacy at MBCH will be scheduled throughout the year.
Russell Martin, Executive Vice President of Missouri Baptist Children's Home and President of MBCH Children and Family Ministries will become the interim President of the Children's Home on July 1.
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