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August 2007 Issue

From the Report of the Executive Committee President to the Southern Baptist Convention, June 12, 2007

The Executive Committee makes a conscientious effort to lead Southern Baptists by example. Although it is done without fanfare, the Committee has taken every precaution to be ever conscious of the Convention's welfare.

Our Committee members, who function as trustees, have routinely demonstrated their love for Christ, a steadfast loyalty to our Convention, and a realization that we do not have all the answers but with God's guidance we will work to give our Convention our best counsel based upon a thorough study of the issues.

The Executive Committee's responsibilities are stated in the Bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention. Why is this so? It is because the Committee is a direct extension of the Convention. Therefore, the overriding objective of the Committee is to make decisions and offer recommendations with what it believes to be in the best interest of the entire Convention.

The welfare of the Convention is first and foremost in every consid...

From the President's Address to the Southern Baptist Convention, Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In the 1920s, leaders of France were painfully aware that Germany's devastating victories in World War I could be repeated. Much thought was given to how to defend their country from a possible German attack. One of the generals, Marshall Pétain approached the minister of war, André Maginot about a massive engineering project which would defend the eastern border of France. After much discussion, the leaders were convinced as to the need and the Maginot Line was built. It was a system of over fifty forts with hundreds of artillery emplacements and turrets connected by a vast system of tunnels. It enabled France to quickly organize a defense against a German attack. It was an absolute engineering marvel. One interesting fact is that it had a pressurized air system which would keep poison gas on the outside. Most military tacticians thought the Maginot Line would be held indefinitely. It ran from the Swiss border on the south to the Ardennes Forest in the north. Later, after...

In my report entitled "Leading by Example" to the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, I noted that the Executive Committee in February had adopted the following statement about the Baptist Faith and Message:

"The Baptist Faith and Message is not a creed, or a complete statement of our faith, nor final or infallible; nevertheless we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

It must be noted that the SBC Executive Committee adopted the statement for itself, and perhaps as a model others may choose to follow, but not as a recommendation for other entities or the Southern Baptist Convention. Had it been drafted as a recommendation to the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention it might have been constructed dif...

I had a college friend who played basketball in prep school with Pistol Pete Maravich. My friend could also score with the best of them. Their prep school program had several other athletes that had been selected by major college programs. When I heard him list all the "stars" on his prep team, I asked if they ever lost a game. He smiled and indicated that they didn't have a winning season. How could that be possible, I wondered? The answer was surprisingly simple. There weren't enough basketballs to go around. They were all shooters gunning for their own stats, and no one truly valued teamwork.

When I think back on that conversation, I wonder if the same is not true of the church. The church growth movement has made several positive contributions to the modern day church, but it has also ha...

Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, a pastor for more than twenty-five years, was elected June 11 as vice president for Convention Relations for the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

Oldham, an outgoing member of the Executive Committee, has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tennessee, since 1986 and also has served as an adjunct instructor at several educational institutions.

"He is a brilliant theologian, a man of incredible integrity, and a distinguished leader as a pastor and among pastors," Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, told Baptist Press. "He is a world-class researcher, skilled writer, and most of all an outstanding Christian.

"Sing shares my vision for expanding the Convention Relations office to more directly advance the theological discussion in the Convention and the country, while also serving as a spokesman to interpret to the public Southern Baptists' beliefs."

Doing God's Will from a Kingdom Perspective

In August 1998, Bill Merrell, then executive editor of SBC LIFE, wrote an editorial concerning the role SBC LIFE should play in our Convention. He called his article "SBC LIFE: Why and Whither?" Nine years later, as I begin my tenure as executive editor of this publication, let me summarize a few of my thoughts concerning this same question.

1 Southern Baptists Are Confusing to the World. We are held together with what John Sullivan called a "rope of sand with strength of steel." No entity in Baptist life exercises ecclesiastical authority over the local church. In Baptist polity, the local church is at the top of the pyramid; the national convention, state conventions, and associations exist to support the local churches, to elicit and combine our resources and energies to accomplish Kingdom-sized, or God-sized, tasks.

Most Baptists are aware of our "big ticket" ministries: ...

Southern Baptists meeting in San Antonio on June 12-13 re-elected Frank Page as president, focused on a call for repentance, and passed a motion identifying the Baptist Faith and Message as the denomination's "only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs" while saying it's not a creed but a guide.

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, Page was elected unopposed, one year after he surprised many observers by being elected on the first ballot in a three-man race. Page this year used his first presidential address to say the denomination must repent of its "hubris" and "arrogance" in order to hope for revival.

With more than 8,600 messengers in attendance, it was the first annual meeting held in San Antonio since 1988.

"For thirty years we've been trying to raise baptism levels among non-revived churches among non-revived people who've lost their passion for the lost," said Page, addin...

The Things We Accept, But God Forbids; Part Two: Slander

We've all probably seen it, and most of us have been tempted to participate. One of our brethren holds a differing view and automatically becomes a target for criticism. Often there is a good-natured exchange of harmless bantering, but what about when it moves beyond being "good natured" and "harmless?" What about when the differences center on theology, or methodology, or interpretation of Scripture? What about when the focus shifts to the person's record or behavior, present or past? And what about when such comments question the character and impugn the reputation of a brother?

When we look at the pattern displayed by many of our own, it appears that we view harsh, personal criticism — expressed both publicly and privately — as perfectly acceptable. In fact, it seems to be the norm in many circles — when you listen to conversation at our denominational gatherings and when you read the blogs, it appears to have become a default react...

The Southern Baptist Convention opened a new chapter in the denomination's outreach to homosexuals on June 12.

James T. Draper Jr., former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, joined Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on the platform at the annual meeting in San Antonio to announce Bob Stith as the Convention's National Strategist for Gender Issues.

Stith, who will work with the Convention's Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force, officially assumed the new position on June 1. He recently stepped down as pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, after serving at the church for thirty-seven years.

It was Stith who introduced the motion at the 2001 Southern Baptist Convention meeting that called on the SBC to "establish a task force to inform, educate, and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions."


Warren Peek of Nashville, Tennessee, has been unanimously elected as president of the Southern Baptist Foundation, Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, announced June 11.

Peek will replace Michael W. (Mike) Weeks, who retired June 30.

"During these five years, Weeks has done a tremendous job in choosing money managers and assisting us in the management of the funds of the foundation," Chapman, chairman of the foundation board of trustees, said of Weeks during the Executive Committee's June 11 meeting in San Antonio. "But Brother Mike says that it's time to spend more time with his grandchildren.... Fortunately, there was one person on our minds that might be just the precise individual that God would have for us at this time."

Chapman said he and Weeks agreed that Peek was the ideal man for the job, not only because of his accomplishments but because of his familiarity with the foundation, having ser...

Randal A. Williams has been named director of Seminary Extension, succeeding William Vinson, who retired May 1 after leading the Southern Baptist education entity six years.

Williams, 50, earned a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006 and in recent years has been an instructor at Southern Seminary and its Boyce College undergraduate program and an adjunct professor at the Baptist College of Florida and at Luther Rice Seminary in Georgia.

Williams was pastor of Victory Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville from 2001-04.

Seminary Extension, a ministry of the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention based in Nashville, Tennessee, exists to provide ministers and laity with the opportunity to take classes close to home through independent study, the Internet, and at more than five hundred extension centers across the country. Some hours may be transferred to other institutions or counted toward...

Is your church experiencing serious struggles? Every church I've encountered that is genuinely trying to serve the Lord does! And the temptation can be to let our focus on evangelism slip while we address the struggle. Here's the testimony of Dr. Thomas Strong, the pastor of Metairie Baptist Church, Dean of Leavell College, and Professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and the church demonstrate how a church can respond to overwhelming obstacles.

We have just completed our third semester of FAITH at Metairie Baptist Church — on the edge of New Orleans. God has done a tremendous work within and through the church. After the hurricane, much was uncertain — we didn't know whether we would even have a church. But God has provided and protected our facility. Many of our members left the area and have not returned — about 30 percent. But many of those who did return came back to the city with both broken and r...

When I was young I remember singing the song We Will Work, Work, Work Until Jesus Comes. It was tiring just singing it. We have bought into the Protestant work ethic. Is your job the Stress Factory? Should our generation stamp our T-shirts with Gotta Go? We are late for the next thing we have to do. I would guess that none of us have heard a sermon on rest. That may be why people sleep through sermons entitled "We will work, work, work until Jesus comes."

The pace of life is as important as the principles. Many times it is our pace that keeps us from practicing His principles. Have you been late for a flight? How do you act? Are you encouraging to all those around you? Do you help little ladies with their baggage? NO! I have actually run over little old ladies on the way to a flight. Why? The pace of my life when I am late is all about me. We act like jerks when we are late — I know, because I have been one.

Jesus came that we might h...

Teacher Wins Right to Withhold Union Dues Because of Beliefs
by Erin Roach

Just as the left-leaning National Education Association geared up for its annual meeting in Philadelphia, a teacher in Ohio won the right to withhold her dues because her religious beliefs conflict with the labor union's political positions.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ruled June 22 that an Ohio law violated the First Amendment rights of Carol Katter, a Roman Catholic mathematics and language arts instructor who opposes abortion.

The state law had limited the category of employees who may opt out of unions because of religious beliefs to those who have "historically held conscientious objections," including Seventh-day Adventists and Mennonites. But Frost said the law discriminated against Katter because of her religion.

With 3.2 million members, t...