News Articles

SBC President Patterson calls for Clinton to resign

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson has called for President Clinton to resign for his own good and that of the country.
In asking Clinton to remove himself from office, Patterson has joined a list of Southern Baptists, public officials and newspapers favoring resignation for the scandal-ridden president. Patterson’s call for resignation is noteworthy because Clinton is a member of a Southern Baptist church in Little Rock, Ark.
The calls for Clinton to resign have increased as the weeks have passed since the president admitted Aug. 17 he had an improper relationship, interpreted as a sexual one, with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and had been misleading about it. Many religious and political leaders, including members of Clinton’s party, called his admission inadequate and harmful.
Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., told Baptist Press in a telephone interview Sept. 8 he is calling for Clinton to resign first “out of concern for him, because here’s a man whose personal life and home and spiritual life (are) in disarray. And no man walking through those kinds of things is in a position to lead anything.”
Clinton should be “devoting himself to rectifying his relationship with God and his family,” Patterson said.
“Second, we cannot continue forever to present our young people with the travesty of preachers and political leaders failing to live by the mandates of God. And the very fact that the nation seems not to be that concerned about the president’s morality is a sure indication that too steady a diet of this has already had a catastrophic effect.”
Polls since Clinton’s admission show about two-thirds of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, while at least one survey found the same percentage believe his behavior in the Lewinsky matter has nothing to do with his performance in office.
“And finally, I ask him to resign so that he will not put our nation through the further financial difficulties and public embarrassment of extensive revelations of his own conduct,” Patterson said.
The government already has spent enough money on the investigation of the president, and an “impeachment hearing would be quite expensive,” he said.
Patterson said he would like to tell the president, “however it looks to the contrary, that we love him and we have redoubled our efforts to pray for him at this particular time that God would give him both forgiveness and discernment.”
Patterson’s call for the president to resign was first reported by the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer-Times after he was asked his opinion by a reporter following a Sept. 6 sermon at First Baptist Church in Linden, N.C. The article by Earl Vaughan Jr., the paper’s religion writer, was in the Sept. 7 issue. A portion of the article was distributed by the Associated Press. Linden is located between Raleigh and Fayetteville.
Patterson, one of the architects of the SBC’s conservative resurgence initiated in the late 1970s, was elected without opposition at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
The call by the SBC’s president for a Clinton resignation follows such requests by Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; David Gushee, ethics professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; and Wayne Ward, retired theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and a personal friend of the Clintons.
In addition, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, called for Immanuel Baptist Church, where Clinton is a member, to exercise biblical discipline with the president. Immanuel, like many Southern Baptist churches, has not practiced discipline, including the removal of members, in recent decades but has handled a moral transgression as a private matter between the individual and a minister, a staff member told Baptist Press.
The calls for Clinton to resign have mounted recently. Republicans such as Sens. John Ashcroft of Missouri and Dan Coats of Indiana, as well as House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both of Texas, have called for resignation.
While Rep. Paul McHale of Pennsylvania is the only Democratic member of Congress to request Clinton’s resignation, a growing number of the president’s fellow party members have criticized his behavior.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a longtime friend of Clinton and a moderate voice among Senate Democrats, called for a “public rebuke” of the president in a highly critical speech on the Senate floor Sept. 3. Lieberman called Clinton’s behavior “immoral” and said it has had a negative effect “on our culture, on our character and on our children.”
Other Democrats endorsed Lieberman’s comments. One, Sen. Daniel Moynihan of New York, said he believes Congress should stay in session until it settles the matter of impeachment of the president. Moynihan called the situation a “crisis in the regime” on ABC’s “This Week” Sept. 6, according to The New York Times.
The Times also reported Rep. James Moran, D.-Va., said on a Fox news program Sept. 6 he thinks “we’re bound to go through with impeachment proceedings.”
The report by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr on potential impeachable offenses by Clinton may be delivered to the House of Representatives as early as this week, according to some news reports. The House will determine whether to impeach the president. If a majority votes for impeachment, the Senate would determine Clinton’s fate. A two-thirds majority would be required in the Senate to remove him from office.
Newspapers calling in editorials for Clinton’s resignation, according to a report in The Washington Times, include the Atlanta Constitution, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Daily Oklahoman, Denver Post, The Orlando Sentinel, San Antonio Express-News and The Washington Times.
Several liberal to moderate columnists have endorsed resignation, according to The Washington Times. They include Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal, Judy Mann of The Washington Post, Lars Erick Nelson of the New York Daily News, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan.

NAMB staff challenged to spend
an hour each day alone with God
By James Dotson

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The leader of one of the world’s largest evangelical missions organizations challenged North American Mission Board staff Sept. 1-3 to spend up to an hour daily alone with God in personal prayer.
Dick Eastman, international president of Every Home for Christ based in Colorado Springs, Colo., was one of the principle speakers during the second annual “Days of Spiritual Focus” for NAMB staff, conducted simultaneously at NAMB offices in Alpharetta and Fort Worth, Texas.
The emphasis included worship through song led by music evangelists Jeff and Joy Earle, teaching, and directed prayer in a variety of formats. Prayer was offered for personal and corporate renewal, as well as intercession for specific needs in a variety of NAMB’s ministries and for spiritual awakening around the world.
Staff members also were asked to fast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day as part of the spiritual emphasis, with many staffers choosing to fast the entire three days.
Eastman, author of the classic book on prayer “The Hour That Changes the World,” along with a number of other titles, told how God had revealed to him early in his ministry the importance of prayer. In the early ’70s he discovered the value of a daily appointment with God in a personal prayer closet for a full hour every day. He said it has helped him not only see prayers answered consistently on a global scale but also made him more attuned to God’s leadership and direction.
“I’ve become convinced that the key to a praying church is a praying leader, and we as leaders in the body (of Christ) ought to be mentors to those who are coming up and set an example in prayer,” he said.
Other speakers at the conference addressed the attitudes that can affect an individual’s relationship with God.
In describing the nation of Israel’s on-again, off-again relationship with God as they traveled toward the promised land, NAMB President Bob Reccord encouraged staff to examine their own motivations.
“Which do you desire more, the hand of God or the heart of God?” he said. “… God said, as you celebrate my presence I will give you my provision, but my provision will never be given to you until you are ready for it.”
The person who desires the hand of God more than the heart of God, Reccord said, will be:
— focused more on the problem than the problem-solver.
— focused more on what God can do for them than who he is to them.
— focused more on talking than on listening.
— focused more on output than intake. “Do you ever find it tempting instead of spending time at the feet of God, to spend all of your time doing things for God?” Reccord asked.
Randy Singer, NAMB’s executive vice president and a former trial attorney, detailed a series of “indictments” keeping the nation from God’s blessings. One of those was an “indictment of envy” against a Christian community that too often has been unwilling to work together for the common cause of Christ.
“I pray at NAMB we never say, ‘God bring revival through the North American Mission Board,'” he said. “… I pray that we say, ‘God, bring revival through whatever agency you choose to bring glory to yourself.” One of the hallmarks of the year-old agency has been cooperation with like-minded evangelical groups to achieve common goals of evangelization.
Kerry Skinner, an associate in NAMB’s office of prayer and spiritual awakening, challenged staff members to examine their own lives for the sins that are keeping them from experiencing an unfettered relationship with God.
In his own life, Skinner said, the problem was a root of anger and bitterness that hindered his relationship with God for an extended period — even while he was spending time daily in prayer.
“People can’t see what’s wrong because they don’t understand what sin is,” said Skinner, who with Henry Brandt is co-author of a study course on the topic of sin titled, “The Heart of the Problem.”
“Many times the sin we have in our life we will say is really not that bad, and ‘I can handle this.'”
He noted the tendency often is to “manage” sin rather than to truly acknowledge it and offer repentance.
“It’s a serious issue to say, … ‘God, search our heart.’ It’s another to say ‘God cleanse me.’ Because with a lot of people, they have had sin so long its like a family heirloom,” Skinner said.
NAMB’s three days of spiritual focus were also marked by an emphasis on personal encouragement. Employees wrote “encourage-grams” to colleagues — an idea borrowed from World Changers youth mission trips. And staff were asked to pray for and write to trustees, missionaries and chaplains on pre-addressed postcards.
“I want to remind us why we exist,” Reccord challenged the staff at one point. “It is not to fill a nice building. It is not to have a job. … You exist here because of a call of God. You exist here to minister to other folks. And you exist here to support a mission force.”
(BP) photos posted in SBCNet BP Photos Library by NAMB bureau of Baptist Press.

Southwestern Seminary’s faculty
updating education for 21st century
By David Porter

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With President Kenneth S. Hemphill’s challenge that “we cannot do business as usual” in the 21st century, the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, voted unanimously to begin changing the design of education at the seminary.
After lengthy discussions during a two-day retreat, the faculty of the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest seminary approved five recommendations from a presidential committee on “Theological Education in the Twenty-First Century.”
The recommendations, which Hemphill said are designed to make seminary graduates “more responsive to local churches and their changing needs,” call for:
1) the development of a common core learning experience utilizing an interdisciplinary-team approach to instruction as a formative gateway to theological education.
“The common core learning experience,” Hemphill explained, “would ensure that all students — music, theology and educational ministry — leave with essential training in leadership, evangelism, spiritual formation and Baptist distinctives.”
2) the core learning experience to include such areas as Scripture, heritage, worship, leadership, character and evangelism and missions.
3) the writing and adoption of a general description of competence for ministry that enumerates the attitudes, knowledge and skills pertaining to the core learning experience as well as those pertaining to other essential tasks of ministry.
4) the appointing of a workgroup by the faculty committee to develop a pilot course in the area of leadership as a first step toward the core learning experience.
5) the exploration of opportunities for collegial development among the seminary’s three schools.
Hemphill called it a “significant decision to get a faculty of this size” to unanimously say Southwestern is going to make critical changes in theological education in the 21st century.
“I think it was the first step in the essential reengineering of the seminary,” Hemphill declared during the Aug. 21-22 retreat. “What is the 21st century church going to look like, and what are we going to have to do to prepare students to be effective in that context?
“I think you’re going to see theologians, educators, musicians and counselors coming out of this school who have a sensitivity to the local church, knowledge of soul-winning and leadership abilities and, at the same time, have a real understanding of teamwork.”
The five recommendations were based on priorities generated by a blue-ribbon committee made up of pastors, laymen and alumni; input from the Association of Theological Schools (the seminary’s accrediting agency); Lilly and Pew Charitable Trust studies; and dialogue with faculty, trustees, administration and denominational leaders.
Priorities included increased integration of the seminary’s three schools, core competencies, collaborative learning and bivocational ministry.
Faculty members called the recommendations a good start. Daryl Eldridge, dean of the school of educational ministries and a member of the Theological Education in the Twenty-First Century committee, commended the faculty for their “willingness to make major changes in the way we’ve done business.”
Eldridge summarized three areas of major change under consideration involving the equipping of ministers for the next century: “Better collaboration among the schools, an emphasis on practical experience and priority of relationships in ministry.”
Eldridge, who was named the new chairman of the presidential committee, said the next step for the faculty is developing pilot courses in leadership and spiritual formation and “utilizing faculty teams to discuss ways in which we can bring the three schools together and model teamwork.”

Ministerial continuing education
underscored by seminary president
By David Porter & Cindy Kerr

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Pastoral search committees in the future should give top consideration to candidates who participate in continuing education, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill speaking at a Aug. 21-22 faculty retreat.
Because of the critical nature of the work, “it is important for church search committees to emphasize ongoing study” in the same way other professionals are required to be re-accredited on a regular basis, Hemphill said. Other denominational leaders have supported his suggestion, Hemphill added.
Major challenges the seminary will face in the 21st century, Hemphill said, involve continuing education, teaching techniques in a 21st-century environment, globalization of the multicultural makeup of both students and faculty, bivocational training, flexibility and customization of degree programs and schedules, and relationship skills.
Hemphill said a new, approximately $21.5-million leadership development conference center under construction on campus will expand opportunities for continuing education and will help address the challenges of first-time training opportunities for pastors/staff currently serving and expanded lay theological training.
Hemphill said globalization is becoming a reality at Southwestern as evidenced by the record 37 international students who began studies this fall — bringing the total number of international students enrolled to more than 180 — and a rising number of African American and Hispanic students enrolling at the seminary.
Hemphill said providing additional housing was a “crisis issue” for the seminary, noting 139 students were placed on a waiting list last May. He reported the seminary bought and refurbished Garrett housing, and other renovation of existing housing is helping.
In his address to the Southwestern faculty, Hemphill said the implementation of recommendations from a presidential committee on “Theological Education in the Twenty-First Century” will help the seminary better prepare ministers for the challenges that will face them. Hemphill said he appreciated the faculty’s enthusiastic response to the recommendations from the presidential committee and challenged the committee to expand its work.
“Southwestern Seminary has a sure foundation,” Hemphill declared. It is reflected “in our great heritage of missions and evangelism, in our theological commitment to teach according to the Baptist Faith and Message and to the inerrant Word of God, and in our relationship to the churches.”
Southern Baptists have a right to know Southwestern will remain faithful to the covenant “One Faith, One Task, One Sacred Trust” signed by the six seminary presidents at the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. “We will honor the covenant we’ve made to our churches,” Hemphill promised.
“It is, however, one thing to give lip service to Scripture as inerrant and infallible and another to incarnate the truth,” said Hemphill as he urged the faculty to treasure the Bible by hiding it in their hearts, “to know it — not just what others say about it — and to teach and preach it with confidence.
“I want you to be fully involved in your church, association and state activities,” Hemphill challenged. “Encourage churches to be generous to the Cooperative Program in its historical form.”
Speaking from Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:18-22, Hemphill reminded faculty of the biblical foundation of their work. “Southwestern’s task has eternal consequences. Forty percent of all Southern Baptist pastors and 50 percent of our missionaries will be trained on this campus,” he said. “The International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board will only do as well as we do.
“Our work requires supernatural empowering,” Hemphill said, warning the faculty not to “get where we think we can do this work with one hand tied behind our backs. We must remember that God’s presence and power are required.”
“Our mission mandates our unity,” Hemphill said, referring to Jesus’ words in verse 22, “Make them one as we are one.” “In our unity we reflect his glory.”

‘Be more,’ collegians urged
at CrossSeekers celebration
By Chip Alford & Terri Lackey

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Be more.” That was the simple two-word challenge issued to more than 3,000 college students and older high school students throughout the “CrossSeekers: Celebration of the Covenant” at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Sept. 4-5.
The phrase was printed on a banner in the main auditorium and referenced in several messages, music concerts and conference sessions. And during the closing session of the event, 2,337 students responded to that challenge by signing the “CrossSeekers Covenant,” a six-point document calling them to a lifestyle of integrity, spiritual growth, an authentic and consistent witness, service, purity and Christlike relationships.
“I think this is another good illustration of how this covenant is touching something in the hearts of today’s Christian college students. They want to get serious about their faith and this is proving to be a great vehicle to help them do it,” said Bill Henry, director of National Student Ministry, which sponsored the two-day celebration. The Southern Baptist ministry, part of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., launched CrossSeekers last year as part of an intentional focus on transformational discipleship.
While initiated by Southern Baptists, the movement has gained the support of other Christian groups, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Prior to the New Orleans event, 19 CrossSeekers rallies had been held in 11 states and more than 6,000 students had signed the covenant. The New Orleans conference, the first national CrossSeekers event, was held to celebrate that response and foster continued participation in the movement. While the majority of participants came from the deep South, more than a dozen states were represented, including Ohio, Montana and New York.
Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries in Raleigh, N.C., was the first to challenge the students. In today’s politically and morally changing world, the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham urged them to remember that “character counts.”
“What you’re hearing is what you do in private has nothing to do with your public life — character is not important. … But that is a flawed philosophy,” Lotz said. “Sooner or later, you will end up in destruction; your life will collapse.”
Sadly, values like integrity, fidelity and honesty are being “trashed” by today’s society, Lotz said, encouraging the Christian collegians to stand apart from the crowd.
“You don’t call it an inappropriate relationship; you call it adultery. You don’t call it ‘misleading the public;’ you call it a lie. You call it what it is and you ask God to forgive you. … He loves you, he forgives you, he saves you and he will live in you.”
She urged students to hold fast to their convictions and belief in the inspired Word of God, avoiding ungodly peer pressure or “fear pressure,” the fear of taking a stand for Christ because of negative consequences.
“You put God first and it may cost you. So what?” she asked. “When God gave his Son for you, he gave his best for you. What a privilege to give him something that costs us.”
Carey Casey, senior vice-president of FCA, challenged the young people to use the talents God has given them to lead others to Christ.
“You can make a difference. You are somebody,” he said. “Don’t bury your talents. You are gifted in ways nobody else is gifted.”
He pleaded with the students not to wait until they graduated, married or had their first child to witness to others.
“Go at once. It is a fact that you are needed as a witness on your campuses. You have a ministry right where you are. Don’t wait; don’t be lazy; don’t sit around saying, ‘I’ll wait until I graduate.'”
However, Casey said, it isn’t enough for the students to verbally witness to others about Christ. They must also lead lives of superior character.
“Don’t bury your talents in a moral sense. You must keep yourselves sexually pure and stay away from drugs and drink.”
Dave Edwards, a popular Christian author and speaker based in Oklahoma City, told students many believers today “have forgotten the awesomeness of God.”
“We have to begin to understand the transcendence of God. He is above his creation and beyond mankind. He’s bigger than anything you will ever face.”
Throughout history, Edwards said, God has related to his creation through covenants, adding: “The safest place for your generation to be is in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The students also heard from Christian athletes like Danny Wuerffel, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and a former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida; and Cameron Mills, a member of the University of Kentucky’s 1998 national championship-winning basketball team.
“Being a quarterback for the Saints is kind of like being a Christian; it’s not where you’re at, it’s where you’re headed,” Wuerffel said. He challenged students to turn their lives completely over to God’s leadership.
“At some point in our lives we have to get down on our knees and say, ‘Lord, I’ve tried it my way … and that’s not making it. I want to put it in your hands. … And that’s not something I did once; I have to do it every day.”
Mills reminded students there is only one way to heaven — “through the blood of Jesus Christ.” He showed them his NCAA championship ring, but said: “This ring is just a filthy rag. It’s not taking me anywhere. My Jesus is taking me to my real championship.”
Students also enjoyed concerts by some of today’s leading contemporary Christian artists, such as Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Third Day, Jennifer Knapp and MercyMe. Several of the artists also led conferences where they interacted with students and answered questions about living a Christian life amidst temptations related to fame and success.
What’s next for CrossSeekers?
Henry said NSM is exploring options for regional conferences next year in Florida and Oklahoma. Several “transitions” conferences for juniors and seniors in high school also are in the works for 1999. In addition, NSM is releasing several CrossSeekers resources in the coming months, all built around the six-point covenant.
“We’ll do all we can to keep the fires burning,” Henry said. “But CrossSeekers has always been about the students. And I don’t think they’ll let this flame die.”
(BP) photos from the CrossSeekers celebration posted in the SBCNet BP Photos Library.

CrossSeekers events fun,
but hard decisions to follow
By Terri Lackey & Chip Alford

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Hip Christian music, fashionable “Jesus clothing” and heavenly Cajun food translated into a pretty cool weekend for college students attending the national CrossSeekers celebration in New Orleans, Sept. 4-5.
But when the spirited Christian fun folded into bus trips back to school, more than 3,000 students who attended the “CrossSeekers: Celebration of the Covenant” were going to have to make some pretty tough decisions about how to serve God.
Students were challenged during three energy-charged general sessions to become better witnesses for Jesus, and they were advised during Scripture-filled master conferences how to accept the challenge.
Living a Christian lifestyle will be as difficult as it is satisfying, Richard Blackaby, president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, Cochrane, Alberta, and author of the first in a series of CrossSeekers discipleship books, “Discipleship Covenant for a New Generation,” told students during one of eight master conferences.
“But you only have one life, and you don’t want your tombstone to read, ‘Here lived a mediocre Christian,'” he said. “You don’t want to waste the one life God has given you.”
Blackaby, who wrote the CrossSeekers resource with his father, Henry Blackaby, told the students living outside of the will of God is a love problem, not an obedience problem.
“There is a relationship between how much you love God and what you are doing for him,” Blackaby said. “You say you love God, but you can’t obey him. If you don’t witness, pray or read your Bible the way you should, how can you go any further with God?”
Blackaby offered the students two solutions for loving God as they should, but he cautioned they would not be easy to live out.
“Number one, God must come first in your life,” he said. “If you decide to have a relationship with God, he will be very protective of that relationship. God can tell immediately if something in your life is more important than he is.”
Blackaby used Abraham as an example of a man who loved God before all else — even his own son, Isaac. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac’s life at God’s request.
“If you want to continue to grow with God, what are you going to have to put on the altar to get closer to God?” Blackaby asked the students. “Your relationships with others? Lust? Ambition?”
Secondly, Blackaby told the students they would have to “deny themselves, take up the cross and follow God.”
“When you became a Christian, you gave up your rights. God says, ‘I am the Lord, and I have the rights to your life now.'” Blackaby said. “I don’t know what you will have to deny yourself, but if you’re not willing to do it, you will never be all the person God wants you to be.”
Oklahoma City-based Christian speaker and author David Edwards said one area where young adults might have to deny themselves is in their friendships.
In his Sept. 5 master conference, Edwards said committed Christians “have to re-evaluate our friendships if they are keeping us from doing the will of God. … Some of us have given our lives and our futures to Jesus Christ, and he has given us a new direction, but we’ve never made any adjustments in our social life.”
How do you know when it’s time to distance yourself from a potentially harmful friendship? Edwards listed several indicators, including:
— When you become the victim of “negative shaping” — taking on the characteristics of those making sinful choices. “If they were really your friends, they wouldn’t hold you back spiritually,” he said.
— When you are suffering needlessly. “When rebellious people are in the inner loop of your life, you will catch the shrapnel of their rebellion,” he said. “… But you are only called to suffer for the name of Ch