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 includes items from:
World News Service
University of the Cumberlands
Ministry, politics converge in Charlotte
By Shawn Hendricks, Biblical Recorder Managing Editor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — While politics was the biggest draw in Charlotte during the week of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), many North Carolina Baptist churches in the area saw the large out-of-town crowd as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.
Getting around the Charlotte area, however, came with many challenges. Tight security and closed roads often made it difficult to access some of the areas where ministry was taking place.
Several National Guard soldiers and a Humvee blocked the entrance to a makeshift military base where N.C. Baptist Men volunteers provided needed help. On the base, a few miles outside of downtown Charlotte, the team of volunteers carried out their own special mission – sorting, washing, drying and bagging freshly cleaned clothes for troops who helped with security in Charlotte.
“These guys are doing an outstanding job,” said Staff Sgt. Danny Smith, who was picking up a load of laundry. “It’s a benefit to us especially with the way the missions are running. It would be hard for the soldiers … to sleep and then do laundry and then [go] right back on mission. This has been 100 percent very affective.”
“We try not to get used to it,” he said with a laugh. “We can’t pack them up and take them with us in the field.”
By the end of the day, the team had washed nearly 100 loads of laundry.
Volunteers pointed out that the large volume of laundry couldn’t have been done without the help of N.C. Baptist Men’s portable laundry station, complete with 10 washers and 10 dryers.
“[The volunteers are] amazing because they have a one-day turnaround,” said First Sgt. Barbara Campbell, who has served in the National Guard for more than a decade.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this because there wasn’t anything in place for us to have our laundry done with what’s going on out there.”
Campbell added she especially appreciated the artwork drawn on the plastic bags of clean clothes that were provided by Sunday School classes. When time allows, volunteers also like to write Bible verses on the plastic bags.
“[We appreciate] words of encouragement,” added Campbell. “It’s good to know someone’s praying for you.”
A couple miles away another N.C. Baptist Men’s team, invited by the state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, helped set up medical equipment. They also provided a medical unit to help support other emergency crews from around the state in case of an unexpected crisis situation.
Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer of N.C. Baptist Men, described the opportunity as a “high security event.” He estimated there were about 30,000 law enforcement and emergency response personnel in the Charlotte area that week.
While Brunson admitted there were some initial concerns about N.C. Baptist Men’s involvement with a political event, he said the need outweighed the politics.
“This has everything to do with having our volunteers in places where they can respond to disasters,” he said, “and where we can serve county and state emergency management people in Jesus’ name.”
For Baptist Men’s volunteer Sharon Chilton-Moser, who led the medical team, opportunities to share Jesus were everywhere they turned.
“The beautiful part is when you’re sharing the love of Jesus you don’t have to do it by throwing tracts and Bibles at people,” she said. “You [can] do it with your life, with your hands and feet first. Then they ask you the question ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘What’s different about you?’ Who needs a tract at that point?”
Meanwhile uptown, other N.C. Baptists were also sharing the love of Christ as opportunities developed around them. But ministry in the heart of the city wasn’t easy – especially since rain was in the forecast most of the week.
Throughout the week, helicopters circled around the city. In many places traffic moved at a crawl while protestors drew crowds with their signs. Some shouted into megaphones under the watchful eyes of law enforcement.
While many locals tried to avoid the downtown traffic, and many streets were blocked off or difficult to access, volunteers from throughout the Metrolina Baptist Association were there in force.
Near First Baptist Church, close to the corner of Third and South Davidson streets, a group of volunteers handed out water bottles and the Gospel of John booklets. Other teams made their way through the city handing out Christian materials and inviting people to various outreach events.
Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, admitted he was initially tempted “to be as far away from Charlotte as [he could be] that week.”
But – similar to Brunson’s decision to involve N.C. Baptist Men – the opportunity outweighed the politics – and the inconveniences.
“The way I look at it, as an associational missionary, is they’ve come to our mission field,” said Lowman.
“Personally, I couldn’t abandon this mission field I look out the window at every day.”
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, also saw the DNC as an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored.
Harris spoke one afternoon at a forum on politics and religion hosted by First United Methodist Church in downtown Charlotte. It was one of many similar events held during the week of the DNC.
Harris and RJ Davis, minister of evangelism and outreach at Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte, were the lone Southern Baptists on a panel of more than a dozen people.
The panel also included a Muslim, a Mormon, a Jewish rabbi and a host of other religious and political leaders.
“We have a responsibility not only to be stewards of the gift we’ve been given [to vote] but also to be salt and light,” Harris told the crowd that was made up of many college students from the area. “And that means … we must, we must be involved in the process.”
Davis urged those in attendance to vote according to their values.
He described his first voting experience in 2000 when he was admittedly “uninformed.”
“I had just graduated college,” he said. “I didn’t know too much about either party.”
Davis decided to ask his parents for advice.
“They said their reasoning behind the way that they were voting was because [that] person and this platform closely aligned with the values that we shared,” he said.
Davis said those “deeply rooted” Christian values that he and his family shared helped him decide which way he needed to vote. “Now I can say that no longer am I uninformed.”
Toronto’s public school board slams huge rent hikes on churches mostly unprepared for battle in the public square
By Les Sillars
TORONTO, Ontario (World News Service) — When New York City announced last spring it intended to evict religious groups from public school facilities they rented for weekend services, churches fought back with a very public campaign. In June they won a court injunction against the city allowing the churches to stay, for now.
Meeting space is nearly as tight in Toronto as New York, but the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in late August informed churches renting public school space that, beginning Sept. 1, faith-based organizations no longer qualified for reduced rates available to other charitable non-religious organizations, such as the Girl Guides. With only a couple of days’ notice these churches saw their rent doubled, quadrupled, or worse, with another 44 percent hike for all renters scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
The rent increases could drive out many of the hundreds of churches now meeting in Toronto public schools. And Canadian churches lack the experience, inclination, and legal advocacy groups that the New York churches had to duke it out in the public square over what strikes many as religious discrimination.
“There’s a general outcry, but the churches are pretty scattered,” said Dan MacDonald, pastor of Grace Toronto Church, which meets at the Rosedale Heights School for the Arts. “I don’t think churches know what to do.”
School board spokesmen have said the decision was made in February to help close a $110 million (Canadian) budget gap. Opening schools for permit holders, including athletic clubs and other community organizations, cost $11 million more than it generated. The changes should cut that shortfall by $2.2 million.
“Although religious organizations are mostly ‘registered non-profit’ bodies, the Board has determined that the cost of running religious services will no longer be subsidized,” according to the TDSB website.
TDSB representatives did not return phone calls from WORLD but the board claims that fee changes are “not about making money from our community partners; we are taking steps to recover the actual costs involved.”
MacDonald is skeptical. In some cases the TDSB already was making money renting to churches, he said, not losing it. Grace Toronto’s former rate for several classrooms, the auditorium, and the cafeteria in the downtown school was $1,550 per week for four hours. Wages for district janitors and other support staff is $715 per week, a difference of more than $800 (less the cost of power and heating). On Aug. 30 MacDonald received two days’ notice that the rent would be roughly doubled on Sept. 1 and hiked again in January. The new annual fee: about $190,000.
“The way they’ve treated us is unconscionable,” MacDonald said.
Yet Canadian media have so far largely ignored the story and most churches are uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves. Canadian congregations traditionally shy away from politics as too worldly, MacDonald said. Besides, he added, people feel that it’s “unchristian to cause a stink, unless there’s a really good reason.”
“But more important than just the cost issue, it seems to me, is the blatant discrimination against religious groups in general, and Christian churches in particular,” said Julian Freeman, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church of East Toronto, a church plant of 70 that meets at Greenland Public School in the North York district in the city.
In Freeman’s neighborhood, a school provides free space for Muslim prayers on Friday afternoons. That’s a case of “religious accommodation” for students as opposed to a permit for an outside group, he agreed, but “on the surface it looks profoundly unfair.”
Grace Fellowship’s monthly rate went from $990 to just over $4,000.
“The changes to the permitting policy specifically target ‘faith-based groups’ alone,” Freeman said. “The TDSB must be called to account for this.”
That won’t be easy, and nor will finding new meeting places in a city of 2.6 million, where rents are already high. But Grace Fellowship has been studying Genesis.
“We’ve seen how the Lord consistently provides for His people,” Freeman said. “It’s neat to see how, when the hard times come, God has been preparing us for them.”
Used by permission.
Bluefield College Partners with Tazewell County to Create Dental School
BLUEFIELD, Va. (Bluefield College) — Bluefield College in Bluefield, Virginia, in partnership with the Tazewell County (VA) Board of Supervisors and the County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) unveiled a plan of historic significance for higher education and economic development in southwest Virginia during a ceremony, Friday, September 14.
In front of a crowd of leaders and dignitaries from both the state and local level, Tazewell County officials and Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive announced their collaborative plans to build and open a dental school at the County’s new regional business and technology center known as The Bluestone.
To be officially named at a later date, the new dental school, according to BC and County officials, is designed to address the growing shortage of dentists and dental care professionals in southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia.
“Dentists and professional dental care are limited in Central Appalachia, but this new dental school will address that problem,” said Dr. Olive, “and begin to fill our understaffed clinics with the personnel needed to provide rural residents with sufficient oral care.”
In addition to offering the doctor of dental medicine (DDM) degree, the dental school will have the potential to offer programs in dental hygiene and dental therapy for students interested in other oral care disciplines. These programs, said County administrator Jim Spencer, will not only address the shortage of dental professionals in Central Appalachia, but also improves access to quality oral care.
“Through partnerships with local and regional clinics, our hope is to provide sliding scale dental care for uninsured low income citizens,” said Spencer. “It’s heartbreaking to see so many people suffer from oral problems and associated ailments and not be able to get the help they need. This new school and its supportive programs in dental care and nursing will help address that longstanding problem in our region.”
According to planners, the new dental school will recruit qualified applicants primarily from the Appalachian region with a mission to have these students return to their communities to provide dental and health care. Toward that end, the dental school will rely on partnerships with rural outreach clinics to implement a block scheduling system for students that will keep overhead and tuition as low as possible. The idea is that graduates who incur less debt for their degree can afford to pursue primary care practices in Central Appalachia instead of higher-paying specialties in urban areas.
“We don’t want to educate and export our graduates to urban areas,” said Dr. Olive. “We want them to stay at home to provide quality care to communities that are losing dentists and to mentor future dental students.”
Students in the program will also participate in rigorous community service projects designed to inform and educate public school students about tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, hygiene, nutrition, and exercise so that future generations of Appalachian residents can help break the cycle of poor health outcomes in their communities.
“The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority has a proven track record of cooperation with Bluefield College as evidenced by our partnership to allow the College use of the former Pocahontas High School building,” said IDA chair Doyle Rasnick. “This new dental school is just another great example of the ways in which the County is working with the College to advance this region and to improve the lives of the residents of southwest Virginia.”
In addition, the economic impact of the dental school, the County said, will include hundreds of new direct and indirect jobs and millions of dollars annually as a result of an increased demand for housing and services and the creation of ancillary businesses. In fact, once fully developed, The Bluestone will provide 680 acres of mixed used development. Of the 680 acres, 180 acres are envisioned for business development.
Located alongside U.S. Route 460 between Bluefield, Virginia, and Tazewell, Virginia, at the gateway of Virginia’s e-Region and part of the Virginia Enterprise Zone, The Bluestone is an urban development in a rural setting where you can work, live, play, and learn. In addition to being the first development for The Bluestone, the dental school will be just the third of its kind in the four states that represent Central Appalachia.
“We are very excited about our agreement with Bluefield College to develop a dental school in Tazewell County,” said Mike Hymes, chair of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. “National studies indicate that jobs in healthcare will be one of the fastest growing areas in the future. The economic impact of this school will be significant and will provide employment diversification for our area. Establishing a dental school will allow Tazewell County to participate in growing good paying jobs while providing affordable healthcare service to area residents.”
Plans are to recruit and enroll the school’s first students by the fall of 2015, contingent on additional fundraising and pre-approval by national and regional accrediting agencies, including the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Made possible by county, state and regional partners and a variety of funding sources, the dental school venture between Bluefield College, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, and the Tazewell County IDA comes just a year after the College launched a new nursing program to provide RN-to-BSN degrees for local health care professionals and to address the region’s shortage of registered nurses with four-year college degrees.
A private Christian college founded in southwest Virginia in 1922, Bluefield College also just recently unveiled a new special education major in its nationally recognized Teacher Education Program and revived its intercollegiate football program after a 71-year hiatus.
“In 1922, Bluefield area business leaders established Bluefield College to serve the higher education needs of this region,” said Dr. David Bailey, Jr., chair of the BC Board of Trustees. “Now, some 90 years later, Tazewell County leaders and Bluefield College are responding to yet another critical need, a need for more dentists. I am excited to be involved in this partnership, an historic venture in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
For more information about the College or the proposed dental school, visit the BC web site at www.bluefield.edu, or call 800-872-0176. To explore the new Bluestone regional business and technology center, visit www.thebluestone.org.
Former atheist shares testimony at University of the Cumberlands
WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (University of the Cumberlands) — During the first week of September, University of the Cumberlands (UC) students were treated to a few days’ visit with a traveling Englishman. Dennis Pethers, a former atheist, visited UC and the Williamsburg community to offer his interesting perspective on Christianity, and although many enjoyed listening to his accent, it was his story of transformation from an atheist to a believer in Christ that was the highlight of the visit.
Pethers was invited to campus to give his testimony on a three-campus tour through Baptist Campus Ministries and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Because of his unique perspective on Christianity, coming from an unchurched home and believing that God-believers were “foolish,” his story offers a fresh understanding of Christianity to people who were raised to believe in God.
Like many English people—and unlike many in the Bible Belt of the U.S. who grow up with church being a focal point in their life—Pethers grew up in a life without church, knowing nothing of Jesus. As a teen he began studying evolution and believed that science held the answers; humans must have evolved according to Darwin’s theories.
Pethers’ transformation began when he was 19, while working at the insurance company Lloyd’s of London. While on the job his boss gave him the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and asked him to read it. Not wanting to say no to his employer, Pethers took the book. Although he was familiar with Lewis’ children’s books, fairy tales hadn’t prepared him for the astounding truth of the existence of God that he was about to read.
Pethers read “Mere Christianity” while riding the train to and from work, but would keep it hidden in a newspaper so others wouldn’t see he was reading about God. Once finished, Pethers became convinced that there was a God, so he continued studying. It was reading about Christ in the Bible that changed him forever.
“Reading about Jesus blew my mind; it rocked my whole world to know that He is God and that He would die for me. I was massively impressed, overwhelmed, actually, that He believed in something enough to die for it.”
The experience so totally changed Pethers’ outlook that he decided to devote his life to telling others about Jesus, much like the way his employer had done. He now encourages others to do the same, and he did so with the students at UC and Williamsburg community. The notion is to be a part of the lost lives daily, to build real, lasting relationships with the lost and show them Jesus first-hand. Although his idea sounds simple, Pethers said some are intimidated about sharing Christ.
“Some think, If I’m gonna do that I either have to be really holy, or I have to be really, really spiritual, or I have to be really confident or a really great communicator,” said Pethers about sharing Christ. “I’ve found it’s far simpler than that…the most important thing is to be available, and what I mean by that is, get alongside them, become their friend, hang out with them—share life with them. And as you do that, share Jesus with them.”
During his visit to UC, Pethers visited classrooms, services on campus and a local church, and a roundtable lunch with Williamsburg church leaders. Pethers was prepared to share his story, his heart and his faith, and equally prepared when asked tough questions by students who were struggling with the existence of God.
“A lot of people are outlandish with words and tones and gestures…Pethers was very real and personable,” said junior Julie Harris (Ashland, Ky.) “He had an impacting testimony. Having an outsider with a different perspective was great for us in the Bible belt. He was really neat in a chill way.”
Dean Whitaker, BCM director at UC, agreed: “Pethers’ underlying theme is that, increasingly the American culture is becoming unaware of who Christ really is and what the gospel is, so believers’ striving to get non-believers to come to church or even to ‘get saved’ does not make any sense to the non-believer.” Hence, he suggests, Pethers’ mission to share Jesus in a more personal and relational manner.
Pethers’ idea is that believers can use the church building “very little” to reach the lost, referring to his method of “sharing life” with them.
“You will find, as you are available to people, you’ll get into conversations with people, and through that conversation you can lead them to an understanding of Jesus.”
More information about Dennis Pethers can be found at www.dennispethers.com.
New School of Music announced at Liberty
By Drew Menard
LYNCHBURG, Va. (Liberty University News Service) — Liberty University has announced plans for a new School of Music, merging Liberty’s Department of Music and Humanities and the Department of Worship and Music Studies into a large, comprehensive, and world-class university music school.
The new Liberty University School of Music will become the nation’s seventh-largest school of music with more than 700 undergraduate and nearly 400 graduate students enrolled.
Liberty plans to construct a new academic building for the school as part of a campus transformation now under way. The building will be located directly across the courtyard from Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center. Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., the Provost’s Office, and faculty from the new music school are collaborating on this project, which will include a fine arts auditorium to serve both university and community needs.
“This new School of Music is a demonstration of Liberty’s commitment to Training Champions for Christ in all professional endeavors — business, law, communication, and the arts,” said Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Liberty is dedicated to being a teaching university, and the faculty and staff within the School of Music are committed to providing an exceptional educational experience to every student, and equipping them for their career, whether in ministry or the secular realm.”
In a recent joint faculty meeting of the two departments, Godwin cast his vision to see the school grow to become the largest and most respected music school in the world. He also announced Dr. Vernon Whaley as dean of the new school.
Whaley, who joined Liberty in 2005 as chair of the Department of Worship and Music Studies, holds a Master of Church Music and Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary, Master of Arts in Music Education from Middle Tennessee State University, and Doctor of Philosophy from Oklahoma University. He earned his B.A. in Bible and Music (vocal performance) from Free Will Baptist Bible College. Whaley has more than 40 years experience as a music educator, worship leader in large churches; and professional orchestrator, arranger, and Christian music publisher.
“We are excited about what is happening here at the School of Music,” Whaley said. “The doors of opportunity are huge, and we are going to try to walk through every door of opportunity possible. I hope to lead this stunning team of faculty and student musicians to exciting levels of achievement and influence.”
The School of Music is led by a team of highly skilled faculty, including 32 full-time and 24 adjunct members. These faculty members represent a broad base of educational experience, including doctorate and post-graduate degrees from programs at some of the world’s most prestigious university music programs.
The mission of the newly created School of Music is to train and equip musicians as Champions for Christ. The school is comprised of two distinct centers. The Center for Music and the Performing Arts focuses on training musicians to serve as highly skilled performers and educators in a variety of commercial and academic markets, both secular and ministerial. The Center for Music and Worship equips highly skilled musicians to serve as worship practitioners and Christian music industry specialists within the evangelical community.