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Articles by Joni B. Hannigan

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Sensitive to the need for greater diversity in leadership and increased participation of ethnics, the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly June 14 to ask for greater accountability regarding their involvement in SBC life.

During a news conference after the vote, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: "I want ethnic pastors and leaders to also have the opportunity to express their love for Southern Baptists in Christ. We have to work together."

It was Kim who asked messengers at the 2009 SBC annual meeting to study how ethnic churches and leaders could better partner with others to serve the SBC. After a two-year workgroup study of the motion, the SBC Executive Committee approved a ten-part recommendation for the Phoenix meeting, citing the "need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life."

For the first time in history, the convention will ask its entities to provide...

It's a New Day!

The first of several conferences teaching pastors the basics of debt-free living — named It's A New Day: How Will You Spend It? — aims at "liberating people from the bondage of debt," according to one of its organizers.

The new focus is not another capital campaign or a new way to raise Cooperative Program funds to support Southern Baptist missions and ministries.

Tackling financial bondage will help people "choose who to serve, because if they are in bondage to debt...they are not free to choose to serve God," Bob Rodgers, the SBC Executive Committee's vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, said in a panel discussion during the March 22-23 conference in Orlando, Florida.

The initiative is tailor-made for Southern Baptists in a collaborative relationship with Crown Financial Ministries. Last year, messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, voted to move the ministry assignme...

President George W. Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, thanked volunteers from the Tennessee Baptist Convention Disaster Relief operation and members of First Baptist Church in Pompano Beach October 27 for preparing more than twelve thousand meals since an early morning arrival the previous day.

Hurricane Wilma, a strong, Category 3 storm, left Florida October 24 after cutting a swathe through Alligator Alley and walloping structures and trees along the highly populated East Coast corridor stretching from Vero Beach to Miami, leaving millions without power.

At Pompano Beach, the Bush brothers for nearly an hour shook hands with relief workers and encouraged those who waited in long lines at a walk-up feeding station to take hot meals home.

"I appreciate you. I am glad you are here," President Bush said to workers. "Thank you."

To dozens of reporters, President Bush said he was grateful to see people helping each other out....

Thanking Southern Baptists along with other faith-based groups such as the Salvation Army, President George W. Bush visited hurricane-stricken Florida for the fifth time in six weeks September 29-30, eyeing damage to a citrus farm in Lake Wales hit by three of four hurricanes since August 13, before visiting with a Southern Baptist disaster relief worker in Stuart.

"Despite week after week of strain, faith-based groups, like Southern Baptists and the Salvation Army, are setting up kitchens to feed the hungry," Bush acknowledged in Lake Wales September 29, while also bringing attention to the Red Cross and the National Guard for operating shelters, distributing supplies, and keeping the streets safe.

Bush also mentioned the Southern Baptist Convention's relief efforts during a September 30 appearance at the Martin County Red Cross headquarters in Stuart, battered by both hurricanes Frances and Jeanne.

According to Florida Baptist Convention Disaster R...

Noting that America's freedom did not come without loss of life, a former Army chaplain who was with the first troops to enter Baghdad last year said people critical of the war in Iraq should take a few cues from history.

"Go back and look at how many Americans lost their lives for freedom in 1776," Huey Bratton said at a July 2 Independence Day service. "It takes loss of life — and sometimes a lot of it — to maintain freedom."

Bratton, who was a chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, spoke about his experiences in Iraq at The Church at Ponte Vedra in the coastal town just outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

On behalf of the military still serving in the Middle East, Bratton said their biggest need is to know the American people support them and that the country "stays united to fulfill the cause."

"I think from a soldier's standpoint, they need to know that their count...

Encouragement And Hope From Southern Baptists

Baptist relief workers from Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina, in Jordan to provide assistance to Iraqi refuges, began visiting in homes Sept. 7 and joined in a healthcare effort Sept. 9.

The workers originally were scheduled to go into Baghdad, Iraq, to begin delivery of 46,000 food boxes collected by Southern Baptists for needy families there. When security concerns diverted the team from Iraq to Jordan, Baptist workers in Jordan tried to arrange for a portion of the boxes to be delivered to some of the estimated 500,000 Iraqi refugees living there.

Difficulties with the between-country administrative red tape involved in redirecting the boxes, compounded by the closure of ports in the Middle East during the soaring temperatures in August, prevented the team from being able to deliver any of those boxes to refugees in Jordan.

Sept. 7, the relief workers were able to visit some refugee homes, giving a limited amount of baby supplies and othe...

They are attacked and shot at. Bombs go off randomly and danger lurks on every patrol. But the chaplains under Captain Scott Riedel's unit know one thing for certain — "God's heart is in Baghdad."

"God can work anywhere," Riedel said in a recent interview with the Florida Baptist Witness over a satellite phone from the U.S. Army's 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment's headquarters in Baghdad.

Riedel, in Iraq's capital since June, said he believes Baghdad "is a place where people are seeking the Lord."

"Not only the soldiers, but the local population, is seeking the Lord," he said. "They are eager to hear the Word; they are hungry here."

He is a 1995 graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where he met his wife, Susan. Riedel first served the Army in a variety of positions related to air defense and infantry. After seminary he completed clin...

Despite seven straight years of growth in the Southern Baptist Convention's primary funding mechanism — the Cooperative Program — Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, said he predicts the end of the convention if the method is dismantled.

Speaking to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans June 12, Chapman said the convention's unique system of cooperation has led to what is referred to as "the most effective Christian missionary enterprise in the world" and the envy of other denominations because of its "cooperative spirit, ... missions, ... giving, and ... Bible teaching literature."

The Cooperative Program is the method by which Southern Baptists fund the Convention's missions agencies, seminaries, and other ventures as nearly 41,000 SBC churches contribute to and through their state conventions.

"But as I look across the horizon, I see the red flag of...

Is it a spiritual discipline or a spontaneous response to a deepening relationship with God? And why are Baptists more known for their feasting than fasting?

Fasting: A Discipline?

Fasting is both an Old and New Testament teaching, mentioned more times in Scripture than baptism, says Don Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Whitney, spiritual formations professor at Midwestern Seminary, defines fasting as a "Christian's voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes?' In order for God to bless a fast, it must be God-centered in its purpose and not "coerced ," he adds, calling fasting the "most feared and misunderstood of all the spiritual disciplines." As evidence, Whitney points to the lack of sermons addressing the subject. Yet, Whitney writes, Jesus "expects us to fast?"

"... In the strictest sense, Jesus did not command f...