Evangelicals' USA Today ad affirms SBC for family stance
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A full-page ad in USA Today Aug. 26 voiced the affirmation of 131 evangelicals to the Southern Baptist Convention that "you are right!" in holding forth the Bible's teachings on marriage.
"At a time when divorce is destroying the fabric of our society, you have taken a bold stand for the biblical principles of marriage and family life. We thank you for your courage," the ad stated. The ad also appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of WORLD, an evangelical magazine based in Asheville, N.C.
The ad was initiated by Dennis Rainey, executive director and co-founder of the FamilyLife ministry division of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Among those signing the USA Today affirmation are Franklin Graham, of Samaritan's Purse ministry, and Anne Graham Lotz, of AnGeL Ministries, two of evangelist Billy Graham's children; Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet; Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson and his wife, Patty; Campus Crusade founders Bill and Vonette Bright; Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney and his wife, Lyndi; Dallas-area African American pastors and popular speakers Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes, along with Evans' wife, Lois; and Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, and his wife, Marti.
The ad notes an expanded list of names of evangelicals supportive of the SBC family stance is posted at the Internet site, www.youareright.org.
SBC President Paige Patterson said he is "profoundly grateful" to Rainey and the other signatories, who described themselves in the USA Today ad as "pastors and lay leaders, civic and business leaders, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers representing a variety of denominations."
Said Patterson, "It does exhibit, in the light of a good deal of contrary criticism, the extent to which the evangelical community does still understand clearly what the Bible says about the family." Patterson is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said, "We are encouraged that many Americans are hearing and responding to God's Word in these matters. It is imperative to maintain the integrity of the family unit."
The SBC family stance was adopted at the June SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City as a new article to the convention's 1963 Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement.
The SBC article describes marriage as "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime." It also notes, "The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. … A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. … A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
The evangelical leaders' USA Today ad states to the Southern Baptist Convention:
"You are right because you recognized that the family was God's idea, not man's, and that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for a lifetime.
"You are right because you called husbands to sacrificially love and lead their wives.
"You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership.
"You are right because you affirmed that the husband and wife are of equal worth before God.
"You are right because you reminded us that children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.
"More importantly, you are right because your statement is based on biblical truth."
Rainey, who is based in Little Rock, Ark., announced during the Christian Booksellers Association annual meeting in Dallas that he was gathering the names of evangelical leaders supportive of the SBC family stance.
In a news conference July 15, Rainey said the "intense firestorm" the SBC stance faced in the national media prompted him to contact a cross-section of other evangelical leaders, both husbands and wives, to sign an affirmation: "I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention."
Rainey told the media, "… the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians would not only agree with (the SBC) statement, but embrace it unashamedly as the timeless truth of Scripture."
"Today's families," he said, "desperately need spiritual direction, moral guidance and a clear authoritative definition."
Quoting Abraham Lincoln's words, "The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people," Rainey said the family is "the backbone of the Christian church and of society as a whole. History shows that if any society wants to survive, it must uphold, strengthen and continue to build upon the biblical institutions of marriage and family."
Unfortunately, many Americans "have little or no concept of how to maintain a successful marriage and how to raise children to become responsible adults," Rainey said. "In addition, a growing number of educators, politicians and members of the media are attacking and redefining the family, creating a vast amount of confusion about what a family is. Many people today proclaim that 'family values' are important, but the gradual shift to moral relativism has led to a great debate about what 'family values' ought to be."
An analysis of the biblical doctrines addressed in the SBC family article is being carried in the September issue of SBC LIFE, published by the convention's Executive Committee. The author of the article is Chad Brand, assistant professor of Christian studies at North Greenville College, Tigerville, S.C. Copies of the publication may be requested by calling (615) 244-2355.
Baptist Book Stores become
LifeWay Christian Stores
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The national chain of Baptist Book Stores, owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, became LifeWay Christian Stores on Aug. 27.
The change was announced with the opening of a 75th location in Franklin, Tenn., near Cool Springs Mall. Both the Franklin and downtown Nashville stores will use the LifeWay name immediately.
After several years of operating under several names -- including Baptist Book Stores, LifeWay Christian Stores and a variety of established names of acquired individual stores -- transition to use of the new name for all locations in the chain will begin in January 1999, according to Mark Scott, vice president of the retail group for LifeWay Christian Resources. He said the change will include catalog services and the Internet commerce site at www.lifewaystores.com.
"We have been equipping churches and individuals with Christian products and services as Baptist Book Stores for more than seven decades," said Scott. "Yet with the recent acquisition of five independent stores and with several more in process, multiple names have become confusing to our customers and suppliers. The name change to LifeWay Christian Stores is an important step to present a more complete and accurate view of who we are today and to position our ministry for continued growth.
"This is another milestone in our continuing process of better serving our customers," he said. "When we started this transformation nearly five years ago, we made a commitment to provide only high-quality, biblically based resources. We feel God has honored those initial decisions; we are humbled by the way he is blessing our efforts."
Scott said LifeWay "symbolizes our mandate to serve those who seek God's direction. Just as the name LifeWay Christian Resources is rooted in Scripture, the name LifeWay Christian Stores also conveys that important message. The name is based on John 14:6 in which Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life.' And we consider it our commitment -- a promise of trust to our customers -- to faithfully provide quality, relevant materials for ministry."
James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said the LifeWay Christian Stores chain "is emerging as a leader in providing quality, Christ-centered products. Through this name transition, we are excited to better reflect the many ways we help meet spiritual needs in today's world."
Recent additions to the chain include new and acquired stores in Toledo, Ohio; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Jackson, Tenn. Stores scheduled to open or relocate in early fall include Gastonia, Greensboro and Charlotte, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Kennesaw, Ga.; and Los Angeles.
The 12,000-square-foot facility in Franklin, Tenn., is the chain's latest generation prototype store. It features a large gift section, an increased focus on children's materials and an expanded music section.
Located in the heart of the Christian music industry, the store is highlighting recording artists at special appearances throughout the opening festivities. Among those, dc TALK will premier its new project, "Supernatural," on Tuesday, Sept. 22. All stores in the chain will participate in "Supernatural Tuesday" with special discounts on dc TALK products, contests and events.
In addition to recording artists, notable authors will sign books and visit with guests during the Franklin store's grand opening period. Among those are Dave Ramsey, author of "Financial Peace" and host of the syndicated talk show "The Money Game;" Charles Stanley, author of "Power of the Cross" and "Enter His Gates;" and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, author of "Kids Who Kill" and "Character Is the Issue."
The new facility offers customers the latest music-related technology to help in their purchasing decisions. A scanning device allows customers to listen to samples of any CD in the store. Also, sound-proof booths are available for individuals to sing along with accompaniment tracks.
On July 1, LifeWay introduced an on-line store which offers thousands of products for sale via the Internet. An initiative of LifeWay's retail group, the resource is a collaboration with two other major components of LifeWay Christian Resources -- LifeWay Church Resources and Broadman & Holman Publishers.
The store offers almost all undated products produced by LifeWay and items from other companies offered by the retail group's catalog store. It is available to anyone who has Internet access anywhere in the world.
Golden Gate suspends
courses in New Mexico
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)--Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has suspended the "on-site" teaching of master of divinity courses in the offices of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, announced Rodrick Durst, vice president for academic affairs at the seminary, citing the need for additional financing to keep teaching there.
"The major reason to suspend courses ... is simply that Golden Gate lacks the resources to fund the essential administrative leadership and support necessary for on-site delivery of student services in New Mexico," Durst wrote in a letter to students in New Mexico.
Golden Gate Seminary began teaching selected courses in New Mexico in 1995 at the request of Baptist Convention of New Mexico Executive Director Claude Cone, after Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas, closed its extension site at the convention's office building in New Mexico.
Although Golden Gate has since taught nearly two dozen courses in Albuquerque, with the average of 10 students per class, seminary officials said they are unable to provide the students services which are standard at all the other places where Golden Gate carries out its educational ministry.
The program could grow into a regional campus operation, Durst said, if a campus director and administrative assistant were funded. Golden Gate does not operate any of its regional campus programs without Golden Gate leadership being "in residence" at that campus.
One of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the only SBC agency in the western United States, Golden Gate operates a residential campus in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco, and four regional campuses in southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado. The Arizona, Northwest and Colorado conventions each fund a major part of the seminary operation in those regions. Full degree programs are offered at the residential campus and two of the regional campuses.
In terms of SBC funding from the Cooperative Program, the formula for determining the allocation of CP monies to SBC seminaries essentially rewards enrollment growth only at "main" residential campuses and limits the amount of CP funds based on enrollment at nontraditional regional campuses such as those operated by Golden Gate Seminary.
Nevertheless, seminary President William O. Crews said the seminary will continue working in partnership with various state conventions to provide theological education for men and women who cannot attend residential campuses for seminary studies.
"Delivering quality theological education and leadership training as close to the local churches as possible is the key to thriving in the future and vital to helping churches in the West," Crews said. "Students learn best in the context where they serve and with the relationships that have helped form them in ministry."
Durst told the New Mexico students some selected master of divinity courses are available via the Internet, and intensive summer and January course offerings will be available at the Mill Valley campus at no matriculation charge to New Mexico students in order to help them continue with their studies.
"Golden Gate leadership has been praying over this difficult decision for nine months," Durst said. "We have had several heart-to-heart talks with the leadership in New Mexico about the future of the site in New Mexico."
He added Baptist leaders in New Mexico are seeking provisions to establish a permanent Golden Gate regional campus in Albuquerque as "part of the strategy of New Mexico Baptists to reach the state and the world for Christ."
Former drunk, enemy of church
now Belizean pastor, missionary
By Wally Poor
SAN PEDRO, Belize (BP)--"My desire is to win souls. My dream is to go preach in places where the gospel has not been preached," Transito Mai says today.
But three years ago, nobody in San Pedro, Belize, would have believed he would ever say such a thing. He was an enemy of the church and of godly people.
"Before I became a Christian, I was a terrible person," Mai says. Sometimes he attacked and hit people on their way to church. One time he searched for the pastor of his mother's church to threaten him with a machete.
Mai's mother had prayed for his conversion for 20 years.
"If anybody came to testify to me, I'd tell them to go get work," Mai says. "I was like the Apostle Paul because I also persecuted the church. I was annoyed with anyone who told me to receive Christ as my Savior. I'd try to hit them and insult them."
Mai drank, smoked marijuana and begged people for money to support his vices. Sometimes he robbed people for money to buy alcohol and drugs.
One day, Mai was shocked by a sharp pain in his chest. "I said to my wife, 'You know, I believe the life I'm leading is bad.'"
At that time, his mother's church was having an evangelistic campaign. Mai went, but on two nights when he tried to respond to the invitation, something kept him from being able to get up.
At the invitation of Southern Baptist missionary Victor Stefanini, Mai began to attend church services, although sometimes he was drunk and shirtless. The missionary persisted and told him, "What you need to do is accept Christ."
"Yes, that's what I need," Mai agreed.
During one visit at Mai's home, Stefanini asked him bluntly, "Do you want to receive Christ as your Savior?" When Mai said yes, he told him he would have to pray and ask God to forgive his sins. "I can't do it for you," the missionary said.
"I prayed and cried," Mai recalls. His wife also was praying and crying.
"I immediately felt the Holy Spirit in my life," Mai adds. "When Victor left, I didn't know whether to shout, laugh, cry or run."
The next day, he went out and began to tell people he had accepted Christ. He went from door to door in San Pedro, asking people to pardon him for the bad things he had done to them. He sought out people he had discouraged from becoming Christians and urged them to accept Christ.
Within six months, he was preaching and soon was invited by the Baptists of San Pedro to become pastor of the church.
When Southern Baptist missionary Homer Hawthorne invited Mai to go with him to start work in the south of the country, he gladly agreed. Now the association of churches pays for Mai and another man to go once a month to work with new believers in the south.
"Everywhere I go, people ask me, 'How did God change your life? How did you quit drinking?'" Mai testifies. "I didn't do anything. I just trusted in the Lord. He is the one who did everything."
Character counts regardless
of public opinion, Land says
By Lee Weeks
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--While some public opinion polls indicate character doesn't matter in the White House, the church cannot accept anything less, said the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
"Character is not a strategy and character is not a tactic and character doesn't come from a poll; character is a moral decision and it is who you are," Richard Land said Aug. 25 during his fall convocation address at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
Land said America needs spiritual leaders and governmental leaders like Ezra of the Old Testament. "Ezra said the purpose and the focus and the goal of my life is to know the law of God, to do the law of God and to teach the law of God," Land said.
Ezra was blessed by God, Land said, because he aspired to fulfill God's will for his life.
"God blesses not an accumulation of sophisticated techniques," Land said. "God blesses character. God blesses aspiration. God wants someone who wants to serve him, someone who is going to hide the Word of God in his heart that he might not sin against him."
Land said a rejection of the authority of Scripture from the pulpit over the last 40 years is to blame for the "pathetic idea that you can separate your character from your public life," referring to President Clinton's high approval rating following his public admission that he lied in January by denying he had a sexual affair with a White House intern.
"If you read today's headlines you will understand the consequences of a half-century of a pulpit that would have better been mute than prattling on with the dribble it preached," Land said.
"Your character defines your ministry. Your ministry comes out of who you are, and people can sense whether or not you are God's man, on God's business, in God's time with God's blessing," Land continued.
Without character, Land said, the minister is ill-equipped to be the spiritual leader. "You can get all the words right, but there is no power," he said. "You can get all the techniques right, you can get all the homiletic tricks down and it won't do any good if they see you being ugly to your wife," he said.
Land, a member of the Baptist Faith and Message study committee responsible for penning the amendment on the family approved at the Southern Baptist Convention in June, said Southern Baptists must continue to be "salt and light" in a dark and sinful world.
"The high priestess of feminism and the gurus of political correctness were enraged and they were demanding human sacrifice and they had us in mind," jested Land.
"We challenged the church of sociology and political correctness," he said. "We said that a marriage was a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman. We said that a husband had a responsibility to love his wife like Christ loved the church. It means you will always put your wife's needs before your own."
In other convocation activities, Alvin Reid, associate professor of evangelism at
Southeastern, was presented the "Faculty Excellence In Teaching Award." Reid, 39, is holder of the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at the seminary. He has written more than 60 published works in the area of evangelism, including his most recent book published this year by Broadman & Holman, "Introduction to Evangelism."
Before coming to Southeastern in 1995, Reid held the John Bisagno Chair of Evangelism at Houston Baptist University.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., Reid received a master of divinity and doctor of philosophy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Stern show is first series
to carry TV-MA rating
WASHINGTON (BP)--The new television show featuring radio shock jock Howard Stern will be the first broadcast network series to carry a TV-MA rating, according to a news report.
Meanwhile, critics of "The Howard Stern Radio Show" decried its content with such descriptions as "the dregs of the dregs" and "sewage" after the first episode Aug. 22.
Among Stern's TV advertisers was The Disney Company film subsidiary Miramax pictures, according to the American Family Association, which has opposed the CBS show and is among the leaders of a national Disney boycott.
The show was aired on 12 of the 14 CBS-owned affiliates and was distributed to non-CBS stations also, The Post reported.
The show's distributors confirmed the TV-MA rating, which is for mature audiences only, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27. The acknowledgment of the rating system's most restrictive classification came after the debut airing carried a TV-14 rating. CBS and Eyemark Entertainment, which markets the show, felt "an obligation" to use the stronger rating, a show spokeswoman told The Post.
The TV-14 rating is intended for shows containing material many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. The TV-MA rating is for shows specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.
The TV-MA rating has been used only twice on broadcast television -- for the movie "Schindler's List" and the pilot episode of CBS' "Brooklyn South" -- since the voluntary system was instituted in early 1997, The Post reported.
The initial episode of the Stern show -- which was patterned after his coarse, New York-based, syndicated radio program and included video of it -- contained upper female nudity (although superimposed black squares were utilized), lesbian kisses, foul language and humiliation of a handicapped woman.
Tim Wildmon, vice president of the American Family Association, said in a written release, "Stern's sewage is now pouring into our society on Saturday late-night television, and the brand name on the bilge pump is CBS.
"CBS executives owe the American people" an apology, Wildmon said.
Tom Shales, TV critic for The Post, said of the one-hour show in an Aug. 27 column:
"Just when you think television can't sink any lower, it stops sinking -- and plummets. Right to the bottom. Drops like a 10-ton meteorite.
"The program would give television a bad name if it didn't already have one. So all right, this gives it a worse name.
"The real shock about Stern's show is that CBS is behind it -- CBS, which still likes to imagine itself the Tiffany's of TV."
Reported by Tom Strode.