EDUCATION BRIEFS: NOBTS, city partner to fight crime; news from the 6 SBC seminaries

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Leon Cannizzaro Jr., district attorney for Orleans Parish, noted the power of prayer during his first community outreach prayer breakfast, held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Photo by Michael McCormack
The newly elected official called together clergy members from across the parish to seek prayer and partnership in his efforts to combat the growing crime problem in New Orleans.

About 125 religious leaders convened to hear from Cannizaro Feb. 12 at the event sponsored by Baptist Community Ministries, a foundation launched in 1995 with proceeds from the sale of Southern Baptist Hospital in the city.

"I want to thank you for your thoughts, for your prayers and your support," Cannizaro told the ministers. "People have asked me, 'What can I do to help you?' My most basic and standard answer has been, 'Please pray for me.' I know we are not going to solve our problems in Orleans Parish unless we go to that higher authority."

Cannizzaro was elected at a low point in public trust in the city's criminal justice system. He follows an unpopular district attorney who resigned in October 2007 after a tumultuous five-year stint in office. Portions of the city have experienced a dramatic spike in violent crime, especially since Hurricane Katrina.

In January, Cannizzaro's office received its first high-profile murder case: the armed robbery and shooting death of a French Quarter resident. The crime garnered much attention because the suspects in the case are in their early teens.

"Let's be very honest. We have a city in crisis," Cannizzaro said.

Cannizzaro mentioned the deep distrust of the entire criminal justice system among many of the city's residents, noting that the prosecution of violent crimes often is short-circuited by the reluctance of witnesses to testify. Victims and witnesses often fear retribution, and some even fear the police.

Religious leaders could help encourage witnesses to participate in the justice process, he said.

"I'm going to ask you to go into your congregations and go into your communities, and I'm going to ask you to encourage people that see things to get involved," he said. "We want to make a difference with regards to the violent criminal conduct that is going on."

Cannizzaro also pledged his support for the many mentoring and crime prevention programs sponsored by area houses of worship. One of his goals is to keep low-level offenders from becoming career criminals. He closed the two-hour meeting with a question-and-answer session.

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary, voicing appreciation for Cannizzaro's initiative, told Baptist Press, "Problems as complex as crime in New Orleans will not be resolved without the deployment of both public and private resources at the neighborhood level."

Kelley said New Orleans churches "have been the backbone of neighborhood physical recovery [following Katrina]. They must also play an active role in the moral recovery we so desperately need," he said.

NOBTS PRAYS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA -- As President Barack Obama took the oath of office, students, faculty and staff at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary gathered around the altar during the first chapel service of the new semester and prayed for the nation and its 44th president.

Chuck Kelley, the seminary's president, asked the campus community to pray that God's wisdom would be made known to the nation's new leaders.

"We celebrate the fact, Father, that an African American man was able to be elected president of this nation, a nation that has stood in the world proclaiming its openness to people of all races and all backgrounds and all creeds," Kelley prayed. "And we thank You, Father, that that has been demonstrated for the first time in the life of this nation with the election of an African American to the office of president of the United States."

Kelley also acknowledged the need for repentance for the nation's many sins and pleaded for God's mercy.

"The list of our sins is great and far too long," Kelley said. "The list of our iniquity is shameful as we look at ... our moral behavior as a nation, the lack of justice for people within in this nation, and the problems that we have accepted and tolerated and simply looked at as just part of the landscape.

"There are so many ways that we as a nation have disappointed You ... and have not been emblematic ... of You as a God of righteousness and a God of holiness, a God of justice and a God of love," Kelley added.

"We pray for the leadership of Barack Obama, and we ask, Father, that You would give him supernatural wisdom and direction and that You would turn his heart and his head in the right direction, that he might be the kind of leader who would embody the things that You hold dear and precious."

Kelley prayed for the president's safety and decision-making and that his family would be nurtured. He also prayed for the national character.

"We pray that in this day of celebration, in this day of the transition of power, that it will also be a day when Your people look deeply [into] our own souls and search our hearts before You, that where there be sin in our hearts, You might bring about correction; where there be a lack of faith in our souls, You might teach us faith. Where there be hesitation about picking up the mantel that You are assigning to us, You would give us the courage and the boldness to pick it up."

SOUTHWESTERN HOSTS WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP SUMMIT -- In 1990, a small group of women attended a Women's Leadership Consultation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, sharing a commitment to equip women for Kingdom ministries. What was to be a one-time event quickly developed into an established conference, rotating annually between the six Southern Baptist seminaries.

Photo by Hope Knight
The consultation reconvened on Southwestern's Fort Worth, Texas, campus this year with the theme "Count It All Joy: Living, Serving, Leading in Difficult Times," based on James 1:2-4.

"We began to see women who were faithful followers wanting to know how to deal with the trials that come our way in the manner that God wants," Terri Stovall, dean of women's programs at Southwestern, said of this year's emphasis. "We never knew that once the time of the conference arrived that our nation would be at a place where few of us are untouched by difficulties."

Featured speakers included Iris Blue, Jenny Broughton and Florence Littauer, who Dorothy Patterson, SWBTS professor of theology in women's studies, described as "some of the women I most admire" for their dedication to God in tough times. Though the women are from diverse backgrounds, each of their testimonies revolves around finding delight in God in the midst of adversity.

Photo by Hope Knight
Breakout sessions on the family and home, leadership and service were taught by women ranging from lay leaders to women's studies scholars from across the country.

Southwestern offered several continuing education workshops and courses as optional supplements to the conference. For academic credit, women could take ministry in the home, introduction to women's ministry or biblical counseling for women, or they could attend a pre-conference workshop by Littauer on public speaking.

"I will never again sit at a conference without saying a prayer of thanks for the hard workers behind the scenes," said Gabrielle Pickle, who served as one of the consultation's student interns. "This opportunity has taught me that big things can be accomplished for the Kingdom with just a handful of dedicated people who use their talents for Kingdom work."

Watching women from various walks of life come together to learn and apply biblical truth provides testimony of the SBC's commitment to support women in spiritual growth and ministry involvement, consultation organizers said. In the midst of building friendships, Patterson said each woman was "stretched, encouraged and equipped for future service to Christ."

SOUTHWESTERNERS SHARE THEIR FAITH -- Personal evangelism produced divine results at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as faculty, staff and students reported 27 professions of faith during the "50 Days/50 Ways" evangelism emphasis last fall, which comprised the second half of a yearlong "100 Days of Evangelism" initiative in honor of the seminary's centennial anniversary.

Harvey Solganick, professor of humanities in the College at Southwestern, participated in evangelism efforts with his church and used the Christmas season as an opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to Jewish family members. His efforts were rewarded when his brother agreed to attend a Messianic congregation with him.

"My brother had terminal cancer and had only a year to live, so I asked him to dedicate his life and accept Yeshua as Lord," Solganick said. "I had been witnessing to him several times during our evangelism effort days, and finally he agreed."

Solganick's brother died less than one week later. "This evangelistic moment was valuable to me personally as I know I will see my brother again in his glorified body as a brother in Christ," he said.

Since his brother's funeral, he has continued correspondence with several Jewish relatives and is praying for their salvation.

Many of the participants witnessed 50 or more times during the campaign. Min Su Lee, an M.Div. student from Korea who lives on campus and has no unbelieving friends, targeted local shopping centers, parks and universities. Despite language difficulties, Lee used tracts and evangelism surveys to engage people with the Gospel.

Kent Sanders, the seminary's director of alumni and denominational relations, went with a team from the institutional advancement office to witness and pray with people in downtown Fort Worth. At one of the bus stops, a woman Sanders was talking with mentioned a former Southwestern student who had ministered to her and shared with her. Sanders remembered the student, who had been at Southwestern nearly 15 years ago.

"When you think of the odds of encountering just one among thousands on the street when you go out on a witnessing visit and that person had already been touched by a Southwestern graduate," Sanders said, "it really gets your attention. God is causing the efforts of Southwesterners to bear lasting fruit."

Mike Bishop, an M.Div. student who often makes himself available to take students into the community to model personal evangelism, had the opportunity to lead seven people to Christ while training other students in evangelism.

"I make [evangelism] intentional everywhere I go," Bishop said. "Every conversation we run into and every person that God draws across our path is truly a divine appointment. We can be so much more effective if we speak for Jesus when we see the opportunity."

DAVID PLATT ADDRESSES SUFFERING -- In times of suffering, David Platt said believers have the perfect chance to hear from God and see His greatness revealed.

Teaching primarily from the text of Job 42, Platt, who is pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., spoke at a chapel service at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

"God is good. He is sovereign," Platt said. "He knows what He is doing, even when we wrestle with it."

Considering Job, who lost everything but kept his faith in the goodness of God, Platt said, "We think [because we've suffered] it's time for answers. What we get from God are questions that reveal His greatness. Maybe what we need are not answers but presence."

Platt said just as his wife often doesn't need answers to problems but simply needs her husband's presence, too often believers fail to see that instead of answers they need to experience God's presence.

God's greatness and power is revealed in the midst of Job's struggles, he said. Just as Job acknowledged in the first verse of the chapter that God can do all things, Platt emphasized that God is sovereign even over spiritual forces.

"He is sovereign over angels. He is sovereign over demons. He is sovereign over Satan," Platt said. "Satan is not sovereign. God is."

Satan is not sovereign over disease or other struggles, the Alabama pastor said. "Satan does not decide when we breathe our last breath. God does."

Everything in creation does not "revolve around man," Platt said, "but they exist to glorify God. Everything, all of creation, responds to the bidding of our God.... They all exalt His name."

Pointing to the myriad of mysteries found in Job 38, Platt said, "What if God is saying to Job, 'Your suffering is a mystery in the middle of 10,000 mysteries, and I am sovereign over them all'?"

Each mystery is part of God's bigger plan, which cannot be thwarted, Platt said. Even Satan's attempts to thwart God's plan only serve to advance God's purposes.

"Satan's attempts to attack the church only serve to advance the church," he said. "Even Satan's strategy to defeat God only serves to bring salvation to the sons of men."

Furthermore, God's wisdom and mercy should give comfort to those who are suffering.

"His knowledge is perfect, and His wisdom is infinite," Platt said. "With the wisdom of God to plan it, what do we lack?"

Platt noted that with the incarnation of Christ, believers can know that God's mercy is personal.

"What if the answer to the problem of evil is not so much a tightly woven theological argument but a person?"

Referring to the Book of Job, Platt said, "This book is about terrible stuff, but it calls us to trust an overwhelmingly loving and personal God who is with us. That is Christ. Are you hurting? He hurts. No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.

"Martin Luther was right when he wrote, 'A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.' Take heart in suffering. God says, 'My purpose is guaranteed. My knowledge is perfect. My power is for you.'"

SBTS LAUNCHES FAMILY MINISTRY MODEL -- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's school of leadership and church ministry has introduced a Family Equipping Ministry Model to aid parents in training their children biblically.

Designed for future associate pastors, the emphasis means Southern Seminary now offers a master of arts degree in family ministry as well a master of divinity with that emphasis. Students also may apply for a doctor of philosophy or doctor of ministry degree in family ministry. A doctor of ministry degree in family ministry is in development.

The model seeks to address a weakness in the ministry of some local churches, said Randy Stinson, dean of the school of leadership.

"One of our main concerns has been that over the last 20 years the discipleship of children and teenagers has not been as effective as it should be," he said. "One of the reasons that is true is because parents have either not been trained, not been held accountable, or both, to being the primary disciple-makers of their children.

"The Family Equipping Ministry Model espouses a partnership between the home and the church where the church oversees and equips the members of their church, in particular parents, to disciple their children."

The school of leadership developed an informal coalition with Family Life Ministries, led by Dennis Rainey, and several local churches to create the new family ministry model.

The Family Equipping Ministry Model operates with the following definition of family ministry, developed by Timothy Paul Jones, assistant professor of leadership and church ministry at Southern Seminary: the process of intentionally and persistently realigning a congregation's proclamation and practices so that parents -- and especially fathers -- are acknowledged, trained and held accountable as the persons primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children.

This definition appears in Jones' forthcoming book "Perspectives on Family Ministry" (B&H Academic, 2009).

"Many parents aren't actively rebelling against God's expectation -- they've simply never been informed of their responsibility," he said. "The church has a responsibility to train parents, especially fathers, to plan and to engage in an active and intentional discipleship process with their children."

For more information on family ministry degrees offered at Southern Seminary, call 502-897-4813 or email

MBTS HELPS SAMOANS UNDERSTAND MORMONISM -- Situated halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, the tiny country of Samoa is regarded as having an overwhelmingly religious population. Baptists aren't mentioned among the seven dominant faith groups, but Latter-day Saints rank fourth at 12.7 percent.

The growing influence of Mormons prompted a missionary there to invite two Southern Baptist experts to join him in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean to teach pastors and other church leaders.

Brian Smart, formerly of Ridgetop First Baptist Church in Tennessee, pastors the English-speaking service of Happy Valley Baptist Church in American Samoa. Having read "Mormonism Unmasked: Confronting the Contradictions Between Mormon Beliefs and True Christianity" by R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Smart enlisted Roberts and North American Mission Board interfaith coordinator Tal Davis for the January trip.

Tracing the history of Christianity on the islands, Roberts said Samoans responded positively to the initial approach of Congregational missionaries in the 1830s, but Mormons became active by the late 19th century, eventually erecting a temple in Apia.

"There are ward houses all across American Samoa and Samoa," Roberts said, distinguishing between the unincorporated and southernmost territory of the United States and independent Samoa.

"Brian asked us to come and teach the people the difference between Mormonism and Christianity and help show them that Mormonism is not Bible-based Christianity," Roberts said.

He and Davis began with a series of conferences, teaching in a different location each day, sometimes before open congregations as well as gatherings of pastors.

"The response was tremendous," Roberts said, describing a meeting that attracted 1,700 people in the capital city at the invitation of evangelical groups.

"Pastors held a service of repentance at the end of our time and said they had not been faithful enough to warn their people about the dangers of Mormonism," Roberts said.

In addition to the materials they left behind, additional resources have been sent to Smart for use in follow-up.

Photo by Robin Hadaway
While Midwestern's president was addressing Mormonism, a team of students from the Kansas City, Mo., campus was deployed further west to a predominantly Buddhist country with 200 times the population of Samoa. Robin Hadaway, an associate professor of missions, taught a week-long course at a seminary and Bible school, training nationals in missiological principles, while four students taught Bible stories at an orphanage.

"One evening the team shared Christ with a Buddhist monk in a major temple," Hadaway said.

A 27-year-old student whose named has been withheld ministered to a girl near the temple and gave her a Gospel tract to meet her spiritual needs.

"She spoke very little English but now has access to the Gospel," the student said. When a security officer intervened, they disbanded.

"We will find out in eternity what happened," the student added. "God has called us to make disciples of all nations. If we are going to do that for a lifetime, we really need to learn while in seminary. Now is the best time, when we're being poured into by those who have gone before us, to learn how to do missions most effectively."

The trip confirmed her interest in serving overseas long-term, she said, noting, "It's absolutely amazing to see God work in a closed country."

GOLDEN GATE MISSIONS CONFERENCE IGNITES INTEREST -- When nearly 150 students arrived at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for the 48th annual missions conference, they were warned not to make the weekend about missions.

"The trajectory of our lives cannot be the nations; it cannot even be missions. The trajectory of our lives must be God," Michael Stroope, the keynote speaker, said.

College students from campuses across the West joined seminary students for three days at the Northern California campus of Golden Gate Seminary in Mill Valley starting Feb. 13. The theme of the conference was "Extraordinary: Everyday People Doing Great Things with God."

Stroope, associate professor of Christian missions at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, formerly directed the mission organization All Peoples and served for nine years with the International Mission Board in Sri Lanka. He also has taught as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Seminary.

"The world is desperate to see God, to see ordinary lives reflect God, to see Him embodied in a living person," Stroope said, adding that believers exist for the glory of God. "Give up your small ambitions and yield to God's larger purposes by faith."

Mark Hruza, along with 22 students involved in The Salt Company ministry at the University of Utah, drove more than 700 miles from Salt Lake City for the conference.

"I'm slowly gaining more confidence and understanding in what God wants me to do. My eyes are becoming open to what my purpose is," Hruza said.

Emilie Rutherford, from Portland, Ore., said she couldn't wait to go home.

"I really want to tell people about Christ when I get back," she said.

That's exactly what Garth Clayborn, program coordinator for the conference, was hoping would happen.

"We just want them to get inspired and to get involved in some way, to see that there are different opportunities and avenues, regardless of their skill sets," Clayborn said. "We want them to know that God can use anyone."

Students learned about some of those opportunities and avenues at eight seminars offered during the conference. Representatives from the International Mission Board and ministries such as The Crescent Project, Uttermost Sports and Fount of Mercy focused on the Muslim world, restricted access countries, sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. Four Journeyman students from Golden Gate presented a panel offering stories from the field.

David Busch led in cross-cultural and multilingual worship. On Saturday afternoon, students shared food and Christ's love with people in San Francisco. An interactive prayer room and evening café with live music rounded out the weekend.

Kayleigh Lewerenz, from Arizona State University in Tempe, said she was glad she attended the missions conference.

"I loved going back to the basics and focusing on the glory of God and not the glory of one's self," she said. "That's simple, powerful truth that can never be overemphasized."

Elizabeth Reust, a Golden Gate student, said the one big thing she was going to take away was that "it's all about God."

"It's not about going. It's not about us," Stroope told the group. "It's all about God."

SCHOLARSHIP NAMED FOR MISSIONARY -- "Theresa Thompson was a dedicated young woman with an incredible passion for the nations," Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg said as he presented her parents, Gene and Marilyn Thompson, and her sister, Sheila Wilbanks, with a commemorative plaque Feb. 14 announcing the Theresa Thompson Endowed Scholarship for Career Missions.

Thompson died of cancer in Munich on July 10, 2008, while serving with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The scholarship, announced during Golden Gate's 48th annual Missions Conference, was established by Thompson's friends and family to help mobilize young single women to become missionaries. Thompson graduated from Golden Gate with a master of divinity and master of arts and intercultural studies in 1999.

"Throughout her entire life, Theresa had a commitment and a willingness to go wherever the Lord led her," said Golden Gate Seminary missionary-in-residence Mark Wagner, who previously had been Theresa's IMB supervisor.

During her two and a half years in Germany, Thompson served in a variety of roles. As a research coordinator, she collected statistical data to help missionaries track the status of the Gospel's spread across Europe.

Memorial gifts may be sent to GGBTS/Theresa Thompson Scholarship, 201 Seminary Drive, Mill Valley, CA 94941.

Based on reports by Gary D. Myers and Paul F. South of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Michelle Myers and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Garrett E. Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Taryn R. Hutchison and Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

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