For the week of July 15, 2004
Gifts through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program totaled $13.1 million
last month, a decrease of $1.9 million (12.7 percent) from the previous June.
Nine months into the conventions fiscal year, gifts total $142.8 million,
an increase of almost $3.8 million (2.7 percent) from the same time last year.
The total also stands $6 million (4.4 percent) ahead of budget at this time.
Meanwhile, designated gifts total $19.1 million last month, a decrease of $734,102
(3.7 percent). Overall, designated gifts total almost $171.7 million, an increase
of $22.2 million (14.9 percent) from the same time last year.
New Orleans Seminary
The executive committee of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees
approved two missions initiatives and a doctoral specialization in a recent
meeting. Trustees voted to support missionary training by approving a tuition
discount for returning Journeyman and International Service Corp missionaries.
The discount is designed to help returning workers to prepare for additional
missionary service. Trustees also approved a new 25-hour graduate certificate
in missions. The certificate is designed to offer a systematic approach for
students seeking to fulfill seminary requirements for Southern Baptist missionary
service. Currently, 20 hours of seminary is required for appointment by the
Southern Baptist International Mission Board. Instead of compiling unrelated
hours, the certificate program focuses a student on missions and ministry. Finally,
trustees approved a specialization in denominational leadership in the doctor
of ministry and doctor of education programs. The specialization is designed
to enhance the ministry of current denominational workers – and prepare
future leaders as well.
A new Web site has been announced as a means of helping pastors speak with
authority and clarity to prominent issues in the public square. “Kairos
Journal” is an online resource for pastors and seeks to help them apply
biblical truth and historical precedent to contemporary situations. “There
was a day in which when a pastor stood in the pulpit, what the pastor had to
say made a difference in the community,” said Ben Mitchell, a member of
the Kairos editorial team and consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission. “There was a prophetic word for the culture.
So, Kairos Journal is a resource to provide pastors with tools they can use
to help restore the prophetic role of the church.” Pastors use the journal
by entering either a biblical reference or a current topic of interest into
the search engine. In response to the search request, the Web site provides
pastors with a series of one-page articles that will help them prepare a sermon
on the verses or topic requested. Currently, the Kairos database includes more
than 600 articles. The editorial team expects to add articles at a rate of 10-15
each week. The journal is located at www.kairosjournal.org.
During their recent annual sessions, members of the moderate Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship approved a $16 million budget that includes some increased funding
for the Baptist World Alliance. The budget is essentially at the same level
as the current one, which was cut back after the 2002-03 budget was not met.
The 2005 budget includes $40,000 in funding for the Baptist World Alliance,
which loses $300,000 in funding from the Southern Baptist Convention next year.
The fellowship allocation to the alliance is twice as much as the $20,000 now
allocated to the group. In addition, during their meeting, the 2,400 participants
took up a pair of offerings totaling $47,670 for the alliance.
Catholic politicians who support abortion on demand are “cooperators in
evil” who should be denied public honors but could still receive communion,
the nations Roman Catholic bishops said recently. A statement adopted
on a 183-6 vote was significantly more moderate than the threats to deny communion
issued by a vocal minority of conservative bishops. While noting that bishops
can “legitimately make different judgments” about how to handle politicians,
the bishops signaled that a softer approach that seeks to “teach”
and “persuade” may be more effective than public threats. Instead,
they suggested that politicians who support abortion be denied speaking platforms
or honors at Catholic institutions, and promised to maintain communication with
lawmakers. Still, the bishops left little doubt that church teaching that abortion
is “always intrinsically evil” remains unchanged. The issue of communion
and politicians who support it has made headlines as some bishops have threatened
to deny communion to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his pro-choice
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has prepared a
toolkit to help churches prepare for participating in the electoral process.
The kit contains a variety of resources, including a multimedia CD-ROM with
links to the commissions electoral Web site at www.iVoteValues.com.
The disk also provides printable information concerning the values-based voting
initiative and ways to get involved. The kit offers legal information for churches
and pastors, sermon outlines with notes and bulletin inserts, voter resource
guide manual, voter registration forms, “Voting your Values” handouts,
a folder for organizing materials and a poster. “It is vital that every
pastor has resources in hand to aid his congregation in understanding the importance
of voting our biblically-grounded values,” said Richard Land, president
of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “The iVoteValues.com toolkit
provides pastors and other church leaders the materials they will need in bringing
this critical message to their church.” Information about the toolkit can
be accessed by clicking on “resources” at the iVoteValues.com Web
site. Kits also may be ordered by calling (800) 275-9127.
The Federal Communications Commission staff has recommended that commissioners
fine 20 CBS stations owned by Viacom Inc. $27,500 each – for a total of
$550,000 – in response to Janet Jacksons exposure at the Super Bowl
in front of 90 million television viewers. The staff did not recommend fining
the 227 other CBS affiliates that aired the Super Bowl but are not owned by
Viacom. Commissioners now must decide whether to accept the recommendation to
impose the maximum indecency penalty on the 20 stations. A decision is expected
in the next few weeks. The recommendation follows a recent crackdown on broadcast
indecency brought on by more than 500,000 complaints to the Federal Communications
Commission about the Super Bowl halftime show.
Confidence in religion
Public confidence in organized religion has inched back up after reaching a
historic low in 2002, a new Gallup poll indicates. In the poll, the percentage
of Americans who said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot”
of confidence in the church or organized religion reached 53 percent in May,
up from 50 percent last year. Confidence sank to 45 percent in 2002 – the
lowest point since Gallup began polling on the subject in 1973. The drop-off
likely was driven largely by the high-profile child sexual abuse scandals that
shook the Catholic church, observers say. Even though confidence is on the rise,
the overall level is lower than the high of 68 percent Gallup measured in 1975.
Confidence in religious organizations remained higher than confidence in any
other organization until 1993. Since then, the military and the police have