Baptists Called to Action as Watchtower Comes to NC

Former Jehovah's Witness George Kesterson doesn't mince words about his previous faith. "Our hope is to put the Watchtower out of business in Salisbury," says Kesterson of his new work in the North Carolina town. As director of Watching the Watchtower, he trains Southern Baptists and other church members about Witness beliefs and teachings. Last year, Jehovah's Witnesses opened an assembly hall in Salisbury — an 88,000-square-foot facility that serves as a regional training center for 367 Jehovah's Witness congregations in six states. Kesterson responded with a campaign to educate residents and an interstate billboard advertising a recorded message refuting Witness teachings.



Cleaning, Singing; It's All the Same to Rebecca St. James
by Tim Ellsworth

Three years ago, shortly after moving to the United States from Australia, contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James found herself cleaning houses and raking lawns to help her family make ends meet. "We were left with no income, no car, furniture or family to fall back on and my mum pregnant with my sister," says St. James, who is a member of FBC-Franklin, TN. "One thing it really taught us was about servanthood, because we would work together as a family. We just saw what a joyful experience it was to clean people's toilets."

"You just stop worrying about your own little needs and focus on the other person's needs," says the 18-year-old. "I almost see what I'm doing now as a furtherance of that cleaning ministry." St. James, a Dove Award nominee, will release her second album this month.

"God is doing amazing things," St. James says. "I am always saying, 'It's God. There's no other way to explain it. It's just God.' He is everything to me. He's the only reason that I can keep doing what I'm doing."



Merrell and Hankins Join Executive Committee Staff

Bill Merrell joins the Executive Committee staff as vice president of convention relations. His duties will include editing SBC LIFE, writing materials and pamphlets, producing video and television clips, all designed to explain who Southern Baptists are and what they believe.

Previously, Merrell was director of communications at the Christian Life Commission, director of missions for the Comanche-Cotton Baptist Association in Lawton, OK, and pastor of several churches in Oklahoma and Texas, most recently Country Estates Baptist Church, Midwest City, OK. In addition, Merrell has been active for many years in denominational work, including serving on the Resolutions Committee, the Committee on Nominations and the Committee on Committees. On a state level, Merrell served in a variety of capacities with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, including president of its Pastors' Conference.

David Hankins joins the Executive Committee staff as vice president for convention policy. His duties will include providing staff leadership to the Implementation Task Force, the Convention attorneys and the bylaws workgroup of the Executive Committee as well as reviewing governing documents of the SBC, its Executive Committee, boards, commissions and institutions to determine when changes should be considered.

Hankins served eight years on the Executive Committee, including two as chairman, and for the past 10 years was pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, LA. Active in denominational life, Hankins has been an officer of the SBC Pastors' Conference, chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee, member of the SBC Committee on Nominations and is currently president of the Pastors' Conference of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.



The Golden Arches Outpoll the Christian Cross

The McDonald's hamburger logo (the arched M, "Golden Arches") and the Shell Oil symbol are better known than the Christian cross, according to a survey of 7,000 people in six countries. However, best known of all, the survey found, are the five linked rings of the Olympic movement. Of those surveyed, 92 percent correctly identified the Olympic symbol. The Shell and McDonald's logos were each recognized by 88 percent of those surveyed. The cross was correctly identified by 54 percent, while 36 percent recognized the United Nations symbol.

Ecumenical News International



U.S. Business Interests Sanction Persecution
by Tom Strode

Some American businesses are supporting the persecution of Christians by repressive foreign governments, according to witnesses before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee. Despite claims to the contrary, "religious freedom has deteriorated in both (China and Vietnam) as trade has been renewed," says Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's program on religious freedom. "And what we're seeing is that, unfortunately, a number of American companies are incorporating local practices." Shea cited the case of Gao Feng, a Chinese Christian who was arrested for "praying without authorization." He missed work for a couple of weeks at the Chrysler Jeep plant in Beijing because of his detention. Chrysler fired him because he did not have an official reason for his absence, Shea says.



Nonprofit's Sale of Religious Merchandise Ruled Tax Exempt

A nonprofit organized to advance religion through the staging and production of musical concerts did not encounter unrelated business income by selling T-shirts and other items with religious messages. The sales all occurred during the nonprofit's concerts and were conducted by volunteers. Paid employees of the nonprofit only supervised the volunteers. As such, the IRS ruled the activity was substantially related to the nonprofit's exempt status.

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