BP Ledger, Sept. 22, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.

Today's BP Ledger contains items from:

World News Service

National Religious Broadcasters

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

University of Mobile

Harvest Bible Chapel sorry for church discipline

By Daniel James Devine

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (World News Service) -- Harvest Bible Chapel, a Chicago-area megachurch with seven campuses and about 100 church plants around the world issued an apology over the weekend for harshly censuring three former elders last year.

James MacDonald, an author and the senior pastor of Harvest, read a statement to the church saying he and the current church elders met last week with the three men and asked for their forgiveness: "I wish to announce that the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel have unanimously agreed to lift all discipline from Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh and Dan Marquardt."

Last year, as WORLD reported, Harvest excommunicated Phelps and Slabaugh and indirectly censured Marquardt after the three resigned the elder board in protest of what they said was a "culture of fear and intimidation" and a lack of transparency among church leadership. After Phelps, Slabaugh, and Marquardt joined five other former elders in signing a private letter of concern sent to the remaining elder board, the board initiated church discipline: In a video shown at the church's campuses in September 2013 and posted online for two weeks, the elders said Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh were trying to "discredit and destroy our pastor" and displayed a "persistent spirit of superiority and self-righteousness." The elders said the two men were no longer welcome at Harvest and asked members to cut off contact: "Avoid these former elders at all costs, lest you incur great detriment to your own soul." Marquardt, who had already begun attending another church at the time, was indirectly mentioned in the video.

"We immediately realized that we erred in the manner in which it was done and in what it implied," MacDonald said this weekend of the discipline proceedings, adding he and church leadership had failed to offer a "biblically required restorative component."

"We met with these three brothers to ask for their forgiveness and seek reconciliation," he continued. "Specifically we apologized for the harsh language we used to characterize them. We made statements about their character and actions that were hurtful and proved to be untrue." MacDonald said there were still "differences" of perspective remaining between the church leadership and the three former elders, but said they had "agreed to be at peace with us and with Harvest."

He concluded: "We urge the members of Harvest Bible Chapel and the Christian community to accept these brothers as valued members of the body of Christ. ... We also ask the forgiveness of the wider Christian community that has watched this painful episode unfold."

The three former elders confirmed to me they had accepted the church's apology.

After multiple former Harvest members and elders raised questions on a blog called The Elephant's Debt about the church's leadership, including questions about MacDonald's undisclosed salary, Harvest announced several changes aimed at increasing accountability. Last September the church joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and the elder board also announced this February MacDonald had voluntarily downsized to "a smaller home in Elgin," Illinois, and had taken a "significant salary reduction," although it did not state his current salary. The church struggled with a 21 percent decrease in contributions and other revenue between 2011 and 2013.

The current elder board has 33 elders, including MacDonald. Harvest restructured its elder board in 2009 when the board transitioned from a model of about 8-10 men to a larger one that eventually grew to around 30 people. Another restructuring occurred last year, when the church created an "Elder Leadership Team" of half a dozen or so elders.

According to a change in the church's constitution that Harvest announced last year, the Elder Leadership Team will have "final authority in all matters relating to the church, including compensation, buying or selling property, and accountability of senior staff." The full elder board approved the constitution change this summer.


NRB presents 2014 Faith & Freedom Award to Rep. Frank Wolf

WASHINGTON, D.C. (National Religious Broadcasters) -- The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) presented its 2014 Faith & Freedom Award to Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) on Wednesday, September 10.

Congressman Wolf, one of the House's leading advocates for human rights, is the most senior of the 11 members of the House of Representatives from Virginia.

Serving in his 17th term in Congress, Congressman Wolf sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where he is the chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee. He also serves on the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and State and Foreign Operations subcommittees. In addition, he is the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan organization that works to raise awareness about international human rights issues.

"Congressman Wolf is a passionate man of faith and a champion for life and liberty here in America and throughout the world," remarked NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson. "We are privileged to honor Congressman Wolf with the Faith & Freedom Award and look forward to the good work he will do in the years to come. We particularly appreciate his prophetic call to stand up against the current persecution of Christians, which has reached epidemic proportions."

NRB annually presents the Faith & Freedom Award to a stalwart defender of religious liberty at its Capitol Hill Media Summit, the annual gathering of the NRB President's Council in Washington, DC. Past recipients include former Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS); former Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN); Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR); Alan Sears, President & CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom; Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA); and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).

About NRB

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a non-partisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.


Southern Seminary's Norton Hall

Band releases Be Thou My Vision

By RuthAnne Irvin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) -- Norton Hall Band's new album, Be Thou My Vision, has been named the favorite among the top five college worship albums in Worship Leader Magazine.

"Filled with stripped-down worship songs via the medium of reclaimed classic hymns, Be Thou My Vision is the all-around favorite," wrote the magazine editors in the July/August issue. "It's hard to beat beautiful production applied to cherished songs of the faith."

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's worship band released Be Thou My Vision, Sept. 1. Norton Hall Band -- named after the seminary's primary academic building -- is composed of lead singer Devon Kauflin, electric guitarist Jeff Dyke, drummer Jared Hoffman, pianist Jonatan Barahona and bass player Micah Loggins. Jacob Bozarth also played bass on the recording, and Steve Cook and Mark Owens helped produce the album.

"These songs are not about the music, but about the message: a transcendent, holy God sends his Son to take our place and save us, and through him we have newness of life," said Kauflin.

Commenting on the band's talent, Joseph R. Crider, Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of Church Music and Worship and executive director of Southern Seminary's Institute for Biblical Worship, says the band members' individual involvement in local churches is what makes Norton Hall a joy to lead.

"All of these guys contribute to the unique sound of Norton Hall, but they are most interested in serving those who gather corporately to worship Jesus Christ," he said. "I can't tell you how grateful I am for the way they model and live out servant leadership. All of them also are serving in the worship ministries of local churches."

The album contains six hymns — "Holy, Holy, Holy," "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus," "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Take My Life" — each rearranged but retaining their original tune.

"These texts have served the church for generations before us and will likely continue to do so for generations after us. By setting these texts to music we are hopefully helping others to re-engage with the wonderful message of these hymns," Kauflin said. "These arrangements are simply a small expression of God's glory seen in the diversity of his church."

The songs are "new and fresh without compromising the original melodies, and they are very similar to the way the band leads those hymns in our Southern Seminary chapel services," Crider said.

Kauflin says the album is an extension of the band's role at Southern Seminary in chapel services, conferences and other events.

"A big reason why Norton Hall exists is to serve this community at Southern Seminary," he said. "Our hope is that these songs will further encourage this community to glory in God's greatness, marvel at the work of Jesus Christ and walk by the Holy Spirit."

Be Thou My Vision is available for purchase on iTunes, and physical copies are available in Southern Seminary's LifeWay campus bookstore. The band uploaded a video for the title track, "Be Thou My Vision," which is available on its Vimeo page.

Southern Seminary also features several other bands and vocal ensembles each year. Doxology is an ensemble made of 16 seminary students from various countries, including Ukraine, Uganda, Honduras and Austria. The group released an album in 2013, He Still Saves, which features 13 modern and classic hymns. Doxology's newest album, O Great Redeemer, is set for release in spring 2015.

Other musical groups at the seminary include Southern Chorale, Cooke Hall Band and several groups from Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary. Each perform and lead worship for the seminary community throughout the semester.


Voices of Mobile Featured on In Touch Ministries International broadcast

MOBILE, Ala. (University of Mobile) -- The University of Mobile vocal ensemble Voices of Mobile will be featured on the internationally broadcast television program "In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley."

Their performance of "Rise Again" will air for a week beginning Sept. 19. To find broadcast times and stations, go to intouch.org/broadcast/find-a-station. Stanley is senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta, founder of In Touch Ministries, and a New York Times best-selling author.

In Touch Ministries programs are broadcasted around the world on more than 2,600 radio and television outlets in more than 50 languages, with a mission of leading people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church, according to intouch.org.

Voices of Mobile has performed at least six times during worship services at First Baptist Church Atlanta. The University of Mobile ensemble has been featured on Stanley's program multiple times, including a broadcast earlier this year on Feb. 23.

Voices of Mobile is one of more than 24 vocal and instrumental ensembles in the UMobile Center for Performing Arts/School of Music and School of Worship Leadership. Breland, a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and founder of TRUTH, one of the first contemporary Christian ensembles, travels with Voices as the group shares the Gospel message throughout the United States and beyond.?

About the University of Mobile:

The University of Mobile is a Christian university located in Mobile, Ala., on an 880-acre campus near Gulf Coast beaches. Approximately 1,600 students are enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Christian Ministries, School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Worship Leadership, Center for Performing Arts/School of Music, Center for Adult Programs and Graduate Programs.

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