One out of five Southern Baptist missionaries overseas — or nearly 1,000 total — have volunteered to leave their posts to help the denomination’s mission board deal with its financial straits. That’s in addition to the departure of a third of the staff of the International Mission Board, also mostly through a voluntary program.
Barrett Duke didn’t grow up with pets and never gave the welfare of animals any serious thought. Then he met Rusty — the golden retriever who stole his heart.
Duke discovered what most animal lovers know: that Rusty was more than just a random assortment of cells wrapped in fur. He had a personality and intelligence and a will that was all his own. When he lost Rusty to cancer, it was like losing a family member.
“Rusty was such an incredible animal, it changed my perspective on God’s creation,” Duke told me.
The Southern Baptist Convention will cut as many as 800 employees from its overseas missions agency to make up for significant shortfalls in revenue, officials announced Aug. 27.
The International Mission Board anticipates an annual budget shortfall of $21 million this year, following several consecutive years of shortfalls.
The developments are particularly painful for a denomination that was founded as a missionary-sending organization and that prides itself on making Christian converts across the globe.
As Southern Baptists prepare to interview Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 4, a group of mostly younger pastors is challenging the methods used by the old religious right and urging a broader agenda and more qualified support for the Republican Party.
“There’s a whole generation of guys coming up saying we’re tired of being the lapdogs of the GOP and, worse than that, being tossed away like a Kleenex after the election is over,” said Ryan Abernathy, 40, teaching pastor at West Metro Community Church in Yukon, Okla.
“I know a ton of people saying we should no longer be blindly giving our allegiance to one political party.”
The Rev. James M. Dunn, a religious liberty advocate who worked the corridors of Washington power for two decades to defend the separation of church and state, died on July 4.
He was 83, and died of a heart attack at his Winston-Salem, N.C., home, said Cherilyn Crowe, spokeswoman for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
After retiring from leading the committee in 1999, Dunn taught at Wake Forest University’s divinity school in Winston-Salem, serving as a professor of Christianity and public policy until 2014.
The findings show that as many as 45 percent of Americans will look at the church brand on the sign out front — Catholic or Baptist or Methodist or whatever — and drive past, thinking it is “not for me.”
And yet, McConnell said, the survey reveals an openness in most people — if not a very theologically deep one — to stopping by, even if they declare no religious identity, the “nones.”
“Many people view a church like the ice cream parlor down the road. They think, ‘When I’m in the mood, I can go.’ Church leaders can take it as good news: People haven’t ruled them out. But they have to be a little unsettled at how little people are thinking about this,” said McConnell.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is no stranger to the pulpit — or politics. The former Fox News Channel host announced May 5 his bid for the GOP nomination for the White House. Here are five facts about this Southern Baptist’s perspectives on faith.
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has denounced reparative therapy, the controversial idea that people who are gay or have same-sex attraction could become straight.
Joining a chorus of other religious leaders who have departed from a once-popular therapy, some evangelical attempts at reparative therapy have been “severely counterproductive,” Moore told a group of journalists during a press conference at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference in Nashville on Oct. 28. He also gave similar remarks to the conference of about 1,300 people.
“The utopian idea if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with, I don’t think that’s a Christian idea,” Moore told journalists. “Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change.”
Moore said evangelicals had an “inadequate view” of what same-sex attraction looks like.
Fred Luter had a lot of firsts in the last year: first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention; first time chairing the denomination’s annual meeting, this week, in Houston; and recently, first-time missionary.
“It was inspirational, but also very humbling in a lot of instances, just to see how some people are living,” Luter said, days after returning from Ethiopia and Uganda.
Struck by the poor living without running water and by missionaries willing to “leave the comforts that we have here in America,” Luter wants more members ofhis New Orleans congregation — as well as more of the nation’s 16 million Southern Baptists — to take overseas missions seriously.
In particular, he wants more of his denomination’s relatively small black population to serve as missionaries.
Nearly 35 years after conservatives launched a takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, a new divide is emerging — this time over the teachings of 16th-century Reformer John Calvin — that threatens to upend the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
When Southern Baptist delegates gather for their annual meeting next week in Houston, they’ll be presented with a report, “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension,” that focuses on the growing popularity of Calvinism among Southern Baptist pastors and seminaries.
At stake are fundamental beliefs on who can be “saved,” the need for evangelism, and whether Baptists will retread familiar battlefields on the proper roles of men and women.