Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptist Mission Board to Cut as Many as 800 Positions

International Mission Board / RNS

International Mission Board President David Platt. Photo via International Mission Board / RNS

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.

Interview: Russell Moore on His Past Life as a Democrat, Religious Liberty, and Franklin Graham

Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, listens. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is in the spotlight after interviewing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at an evangelical conference in Nashville on Aug. 4. Moore spoke with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt about a range of pressing issues and the message of Moore’s new book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.

Jeb Bush Preaches Religious Liberty at Southern Baptist Event

Rich Koele /

Jeb Bush speaks at a public gathering in Sioux City, Iowa on July 13, 2015.

Fighting to allow people to live by their religious convictions, even if those convictions are unpopular or criticized, is a battle Jeb Bush believes the next president must lead.

The former Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate pledged to defend religious liberty in front of an estimated 13,000 evangelical pastors attending a massive Southern Baptist Convention event Aug. 4 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Southern Baptists Cozy Up to GOP After Pulling Back

REUTERS / Hans Deryk / RNS

Photo via REUTERS / Hans Deryk / RNS

When it comes to political partisanship in the 2016 presidential race, it might be said that Southern Baptists have taken one step forward and two steps back.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced in a press release that its president Russell Moore would be interviewing Republican candidates Jeb Bush (live) and Marco Rubio (via video) before 13,000 attendees at the denomination’s missions conference on August 4. Leading candidates from each major party were invited, the release states, but only Rubio and Bush accepted.

Is It Heresy for Baptists to Baptize a Baby? One Pastor’s Example Sets Off a Debate

Photo via Iakov Filimonov /

Baptism of infant in Orthodox Church. Photo via Iakov Filimonov /

In April, an influential American Baptist Churches USA pastor performed the rite, which most Baptists believe is reserved for Christians who are able to make a mature confession of faith. Although there are dozens of Baptist denominations in the U.S., the news made instant waves among those who know and understand Baptist teachings.

Before long, a Southern Baptist seminary president compared the notion of Baptists baptizing infants to vegetarians eating steak.

Southern Baptists to Open Their Ranks to Missionaries Who Speak in Tongues

Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Anita Hensley of Kansas City, Mo., at the 2013 National Day of Prayer on Capitol Hill. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Allowing Southern Baptist missionaries to speak in tongues, or have what some SBC leaders call a “private prayer language,” speaks to the growing strength of Pentecostal churches in Africa, Asia, and South America, where Southern Baptists are competing for converts and where energized new Christians are enthusiastically embracing the practice.

5 Faith Facts about Ben Carson: Retired Neurosurgeon, Seventh-Day Adventist

Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Ben Carson. Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon once best known for separating conjoined baby twins, is expected to announce May 4 that he will pursue a GOP candidacy for U.S. president. Carson is now known as a culture warrior whose criticisms of President Obama have made him a favorite of conservatives.

Here are five faith facts about him.


Charles Stanley Declines Award After Jews Question His Views on Gays

Photo via Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Dr. Charles Stanley. Photo via Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Amid a heated debate over his vocal opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley will decline an award he planned to accept from the Jewish National Fund in Atlanta on April 23.

News that the longtime pastor of First Baptist Atlanta and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention would be honored by the JNF angered many Jews who pointed to his history of vitriolic anti-gay comments.

Stanley said the award was causing too much strife within the Jewish community, and for the sake of his love for Israel, he would not accept it, according to the JNF, a nonprofit that sponsors environmental and educational programs in the Jewish state.

It was Stanley’s idea not to accept the award, JNF spokesman Adam Brill said Tuesday.

“Dr. Stanley feels that he did not want to see any further controversy and I think it’s a laudable and heartfelt decision, and we totally support and embrace it.”

Decrying Stanley’s “sordid history of virulent homophobic statements and actions,” the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) led a campaign to get JNF to change its mind on bestowing Stanley with its Tree of Life award, which was to be given to him for his support for Israel by the JNF’s Atlanta chapter on Thursday, Israel’s independence day.

“We respect Dr. Charles Stanley’s decision,” said Rebecca Stapel-Wax, executive director of Atlanta-based SOJOURN, on Tuesday.

“We are so grateful for the strong support of hundreds of people across the country. We look forward to a productive dialogue with JNF in the coming weeks and building our relationship together to support the local Jewish and LGBTQ communities and Israel.”

As One Evangelical Church ‘Comes Out’ for LGBT Rights, Others Cast a Wary Eye

The GracePointe Church choir performs during Easter service in 2014. Photo via GracePointe Church / RNS

Pastor Stan Mitchell’s announcement that his evangelical GracePointe Church would fully affirm gay members met with a standing ovation from some, stunned silence from others, but everybody prayed together quietly at the end of it.

A month and a half later, Mitchell routinely receives emails inviting him to kill himself, often including the assurance they were sent in love from other Christians. Half of his 12-member board has left, along with half the average offering and about a third of the weekly attendance — once at 800 to 1,000 people.

He’s met with dozens of disenchanted members and plans to see dozens more, apologizing almost compulsively for his handling of the issue. But there’s no going back, he says. He doesn’t even want to.

One of his biggest fears is that talking publicly about what happened at GracePointe could discourage countless other evangelical pastors who he says are ready to make the same move.

“I’m watching LGBT people finally make peace with themselves because they couldn’t get away from the authority of Scripture and what they thought it said about them,” said Mitchell, 46.

“The upsides — my God, they’re everywhere in this.”