LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The approval of a homosexual bishop within the Episcopal Church would represent a “tragic turning point” in church history as well as an abdication of biblical authority, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on CNNfn Aug. 4.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president appeared on the cable network’s “Market Call” to discuss the possible approval of open homosexual Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
His approval at the ongoing Episcopal Church General Convention could lead to a split in the worldwide Anglican Church, of which the Episcopal Church is a member. Robinson, a divorced father of two, was elected bishop of New Hampshire in June but needs the approval of the national body. A vote in the denomination’s House of Bishops Aug. 4 -- which would have been the final hurdle -- was delayed because of allegations of pornography and inappropriate conduct.
“For a church to move to ... elect a homosexual bishop is to abdicate biblical authority in such an extreme way that it raises questions about the whole integrity of the church,” Mohler said.
He called it a “tremendously tragic turning point” in both American and worldwide church history, adding that Robinson’s approval could lead to “schism not only in the Episcopal Church” but also to splits “across many denominational lines.”
Mohler appeared via satellite alongside Susan Russell, director of communications for Integrity USA, an organized group of Episcopal homosexuals.
Robinson’s approval by the national body would represent the “church compromising to the currents of the day,” he said.
“This is exactly what the Scripture itself warns that the church must not do -- to be tossed to and fro by every passing wind of cultural change,” Mohler said. “In this case, the culture has [been] set against the Word of God. Most tragically, we see a church moving to join the culture over against clear biblical authority.”
The Bible is “absolutely clear” that homosexuality is a sin, he added.
“[F]or a church to endorse homosexuality it has to turn its back on Scripture [and] it has to set itself against biblical authority,” Mohler said.
Russell, though, said she believes that Robinson’s approval would help grow the denomination. According to studies, the Episcopal Church lost 5.3 percent of its members in the 1990s and approximately 28 percent of its members from 1961 to 1998. Saying the Episcopal Church has always been “a people of compromise,” she acknowledged that she approaches Scripture differently from Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations.
“I think the Episcopal Church is poised on what we call a kairos moment, offering to the world a vision of a progressive inclusive gospel, which is another step forward,” she said, asserting that a schism is not imminent. Russell pointed to the threat of schism in the 1970s when the Episcopal Church approved women priests.
“The same threats of schism were all around, and in my experience as an ordained woman in this church, the ordination of women has only strengthened our ministry and enhanced our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Christ Jesus to those yearning to hear it,” she said.
“I believe this step forward on behalf of gay and lesbian people will do the same thing.”
But Mohler said the two issues -- women’s ordination and homosexual bishops -- are related.
“An argument can be made that the decision to ordain women and the decisions the church has made concerning divorce have led very, very clearly to this decision concerning homosexuality,” he said. “I do not believe those issues are unrelated. They are tragically related in this case, and I think what we see is a breaking down of this church’s defenses against compromise on biblical authority.”
It is “very sad” as an outsider to watch what the Episcopal Church is doing “in the name of Christianity,” Mohler said, adding that “millions” of Christians are watching with “great concern.”
“This is a tragic break, not only with the moral and theological tradition of this church, but with Christian teaching based in scriptural authority throughout 2,000 years of Christian history,” he said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—A new weblog at Crosswalk.com features regular analysis of theological, ethical and cultural issues from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The weblog or “blog” as it is commonly called, allows Mohler to engage issues immediately as they arise during the course of a day. Mohler, who regularly appears on television, radio, and in print, said the weblog is a particularly valuable forum because it offers the opportunity for immediate response to breaking issues.
“Those who know me know that the issues that really concern me are theology, the great ethical issues of the day, the intersection of Christianity and culture and the responsibility of Christians to develop a Christian worldview,” said Mohler.
“We are living in a fast-paced society in which response really can’t wait days, weeks, or even 24 hours. That is what makes the blog an exciting way to communicate, analyze, think, and even think out loud in print.”
Mohler plans to provide at least one major posting per day. Some days there will be multiple postings as events of particular days demand.
Mohler calls the weblog the “Mars Hill” of the Internet, referring to the apostle Paul’s sermon delivered before a gathering of Greek philosophers on the famous hill in Athens, Greece. That is, the weblog is rapidly becoming a pivotal forum within the contemporary marketplace of ideas.
Not only will the blog allow Mohler to help Christians think biblically about the issues of the day, but it also gives him the opportunity to minister to a new audience as a writer and cultural analyst.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity because it will allow me to post, for immediate publication, the ideas and responses and analysis of what is going on in the world today,” he said.
“It is an extension of my ministry in the media and in writing and in public speaking. Through the blog, I can speak to people who I would otherwise never be able to reach.”
To access the Mohler weblog, please see:
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn a Texas sodomy law will eventually be seen as one of the profound moral turning points in American history on par with the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a radio audience last week.
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the court’s June 26 ruling in the Lawrence vs. Texas case is a frightening landmark because it establishes homosexual practice as a constitutional right.
Worse, according to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, it establishes a fundamental right for each person to define his own existence, Mohler said. The result of a legally protected right to self-definition will be that no behavior will ultimately be deemed immoral, he said.
Mohler discussed the ruling on the July 23 broadcast of his weekly radio show “Truth On the Line.”
“I think we are going to look back to June of 2003 and say that that was when America began to lose all moral sanity on the issue of sexuality,” Mohler said. “And if you have no moral clarity on sexuality, then eventually, you have not moral clarity on anything. Because, if sexuality isn’t moral, nothing is.”
“I am claiming that this decision will be remembered as being of the same significance as Roe v. Wade in 1973. I realize that is quite a claim, but I’m not alone in making it and I believe I am on pretty solid ground in making that claim because, in terms of America’s moral character, nothing is more fundamental than sexuality.”
Mohler said the decision underpins a doctrine that is at the heart of the gay rights agenda: the right of persons to constitutionally define their own existence.
Though the U.S. Constitution nowhere sets forth such a right, Mohler pointed to the language in Kennedy’s majority decision as establishing by fiat this new “constitutional law.” In penning the majority decision Kennedy argued that human liberty presumes “transcendent dimensions,” that allow absolute self-definition, Mohler said.
Mohler applauded Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote a scathing dissent. In it, Scalia warned that the logical conclusion of the court’s sweeping action will in time “take root in America’s constitutional traditions [so] that eventually nothing is immoral.”
“Justice Kennedy says that [self-definition] is a fundamental right,” Mohler said. “If you have the fundamental right to determine your own existence, then you can certainly have a fundamental right to sodomy, because you can define yourself as a homosexual, of which sodomy is the logical expression.
“Does that seem like nonsense to you? It did to Justice Scalia as well. But this is now the law of the land.”
The Texas decision overturned a 1986 precedent in which the Supreme Court ruled that homosexual conduct is not a constitutionally-endowed right. In that case—Bowers vs. Hardwick—the court upheld the right of the state of Georgia to forbid sodomy.
Mohler said the fact that the court abruptly overrode this precedent only 17 years after it was set is a clear signal that the court sees morality as having evolved.
“That (‘evolved’) isn’t a word they used, but that’s exactly what they argued,” Mohler said. “The majority of justices said, ‘listen, there once was a time when basically everyone thought that homosexuality was wrong, but we’ve outgrown that, we’ve moved beyond that.’
“This court, in its majority, even went on to quote the European court of human rights to make that case. That raises the interesting constitutional issue, and that is whether the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in light of European courts. God help us from that. Look at the chaos of Europe.”
The entire broadcast of “Truth On the Line” is archived and can be heard at http://www.truthontheline.com/listen.html.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--If anyone doubts that God is moving among Hispanics, just look at the numbers.
In 1999, 29 people of Hispanic heritage served through the International Mission Board in global missions, according to records kept by Jason Carlisle, who works with Hispanics at the IMB. Today there are 80, including 22 new workers in 2002.
A conference July 18-19 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is another indicator. More than 175 people -- mostly church members rather than pastors, and an equal number of men and women, participated in the two-day event.
They drove in from as far away as South Carolina, New York and Michigan as well as states near Kentucky. And they weren’t all Southern Baptists.
Rene Disotaur brought 10 members of the Christian congregation he pastors in Louisville.
“We know this seminary has a great reputation and we want to learn more about Jesus,” Disotaur said.
The Hispanic Leadership Conference was a low-budget, grassroots event built on relationships.
Twyla Fagan, a former IMB missionary journeyman in Argentina, organized the conference. She is now director of Great Commission ministries in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary.
“This conference was a dream for many years for many people,” Fagan said. “Dr. [Thom] Rainer knew of the need for more Hispanic leaders.” Rainer is dean of the Billy Graham School.
Many Hispanics don’t have the educational background to pursue an M.Div. degree, Fagan said. She and Rainer talked about leadership training that would be effective; the idea for a Hispanic leadership conference grew out of their discussions.
“We hope to do this on an annual basis,” Fagan said. “We hope to grow it into a weeklong event and that people would know to set aside the third week in July for training.”
Starting last January, Fagan drew on people she knew in the Hispanic community to help with and attend the conference.
Plenary speaker Guillermo Montalvo was a longtime friend, holding several university degrees in Mexico and now a doctoral student at Southern as well as pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. He spoke on characteristics of biblical leadership, the process of training leaders and Hispanic leadership in the 21st century.
Juan Sanchez, Ruth Salazar, Carlos De la Barra and Fagan led workshops on prayer, and on ministry to men, women, youth and children.
The worship team came from Fagan’s church, Iglesia Bautista Getsemani in Bloomfield, Ky.; her pastor, Carlos De la Berra, led workshops on men’s ministry.
Participation was nearly double what she had anticipated, Fagan said.
“It’s obvious there’s a pent-up need for training in the Hispanic community,” she said. “We had to add extra sessions of some workshops in order to accommodate everyone.”
Those who came had roots in many nations -- Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and more.
Bibiano Librado of Woodruff, S.C., came with his wife, Josefina, and three young daughters as part of his training to be a pastor, he told translator Molly Sills. Because of his limited formal education, he has much to learn, he said, before he goes back to Mexico to pastor there.
Librado is an assistant to his pastor, Ponciano Acevedo of Mision Bautista Calvario in Lincolnton, N.C., who had brought him to the Hispanic Leadership Conference in Louisville to learn more of what he needed to know to help his pastor more effectively and to become a pastor himself, Librado said in Spanish.
Baltazar Alonzo Pables, born in Guatemala, was one of many sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention to attend the conference.
His street punk appearance, with pants slung low and hair slicked back, masked what he said was a strong interest in the ways of the Lord.
Two years ago, he explained, he was bored, so when a woman he’d passed on the street invited him to church, he went.
“It was good to hear about God,” Pables said. “It was interesting.” He was in the habit of drinking, but God took that from him, he explained to translator Sills, and now he is studying his Bible all the time though he doesn’t know what his future holds.
“I come [to the conference] to learn,” he said.
Florencia Naranjo of Louisville said as a child in Mexico, whose father took her to an evangelical church, she had heard many of the things she was hearing at the conference, but she disregarded them years ago and life took a downward turn.
Now, three months back in church after a long absence, she is absorbing all she can of the Bible and the ways of God and His people. The training she was receiving at the conference was to help her learn; not until she learns more will she be able to teach a Sunday School class and help her church in other ways, she acknowledged.
In Fagan’s opening remarks at the Hispanic Leadership Conference, she explained the purpose of the event.
“This conference is about methods and strategies, but most of all, it’s about learning to be like Christ,” she said. “We need leaders who search for God’s face.
“I think God is going to use Hispanics to reach out to the United States and hopefully to revive all the churches,” she added. “This conference is to help everyone participate in the Great Commission.”
Carlisle of the IMB talked about missions in the United States and around the world.
“Now is the time for the Hispanic people,” Carlisle said. “Where is God in the midst of all these Hispanics coming to the United States? As he did with Israel in Egypt, God is preparing Hispanics to reach the nations. He brought you here to bless the nations.”
A missionary movement among Hispanics is growing, Carlisle said. One example is the adoption of a city in Iraq by Hispanics, who work through a similar relational culture to spread God’s love to people who have never felt it before.
Mexican soap operas are popular the world over, and evangelistic television programs in that style are being dubbed into a local language to reach into a restricted-access country, Carlisle said, adding, “People love these!”
More Hispanic missionaries are working outside the Spanish-speaking world than are working in it, the IMB strategist said. He spoke of Hispanics with unusual ministries in regions unnamed for security reasons.
A Hispanic man from Los Angeles skilled in graffiti now is a muralist with a ministry in an artist’s colony in one of the Last Frontier countries.
A woman called to missions felt thwarted because she thought she had no skills and cried out to God, “All I can do is cook!” She now has a thriving Mexican restaurant in another country where about 20 believers worship.
In the conference’s closing session, Montalvo spoke on the challenges and opportunities for Hispanic leadership in the 21st century.
The world is changing, he said. Social, moral, family, cultural and religious values all are declining in the secular world.
For Hispanic churches, the problem lies in making people realize the relevance of God’s Word to their lives, Montalvo said.
“We need to change the strategies or messages to make them more applicable to the public that we are trying to reach,” he said. “We need to study the culture and social dynamics.”
The message doesn’t change, but just as Jesus spoke of easily understood illustrations meaningful to the people of his day, so should today’s pastors and leaders, Montalvo said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — John Divito has a passion for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Mormons and it is a passion driven by an insider’s perspective.
For the first 19 years of his life, Divito—a master of divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Late last month, Divito spent one week passing out Gospel tracts and discussing the Gospel with Mormons at the church’s annual Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah. Divito worked with Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM), an apologetics group for which he serves as a staff member.
MRM is one of many Christian groups who attended the 37th annual pageant with a mission of converting Mormons from a false gospel to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The pageant is essentially a two-hour Mormon play during which 2,000 years of the church’s history is played out on stage. The drama runs nightly for two weeks each June and draws thousands to the small town of Manti, the site of the Manti Temple, a giant castle-like structure completed in 1888.
Though the message of MRM and other Christian groups was not warmly received, 11 persons made professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
“Quite frankly, many of the Mormons were not interested in taking the literature, and many refused to talk,” Divito said. “There were periodic announcements coming out of the sound system, one of which warned people about reading the information not published by the LDS church.
“The Mormons I did talk to believed they were Christians, so they wanted to understand why we were out there saying that they were not true believers. I would show them that our understandings of who God is is different and our gospels are incompatible.”
Divito learned the difference between the false message of Mormonism and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ after spending much of his life as a Mormon.
He completed many of the steps necessary to progress in the Mormon faith. He was baptized in the church at age eight, received the Aaronic priesthood at 12, had a temple recommend, and was baptized for the dead in the Mormon temple. Much of Divito’s family remains within the Mormon church.
When he turned 18, Divito faced a difficult choice: go on a mission expected of men his age or go to college. He opted for college, which turned out to have profound eternal implications.
While attending Southwest Missouri State University, Divito began to date an evangelical Christian. He sought to convert his new girlfriend to Mormonism, and to shore up his missionary efforts, Divito decided to read Christian materials designed to refute Mormonism.
Soon, Divito’s studies took a strange turn: he began to see the fallacies of Mormon doctrine alongside the veracity of Christian teaching. He began to attend a campus ministry and regularly heard the Gospel.
Before long, he was convinced of the truth of Scripture, convicted of his sin, and converted by the grace of Christ.
“The evidence they gave me was well documented and easily verifiable,” Divito said. “As a result, I began having a crisis of faith. Was everything I had ever been taught through the Mormon church wrong? After my studies, I found out what I believed was indeed wrong.
“Over time I came to realize that I was a sinner and that Mormonism did not have the answer. I could never be good enough to make things right with God, even by keeping the ordinances of the church and the law of the Gospel. Worst of all, I knew that I deserved punishment for my sins.”
He was converted in 1996. The next year, Divito married Jennifer, the girlfriend who had been pivotal in his pilgrimage into the marvelous light of Christianity. Divito is a second-year master of divinity student and is one of the first enrollees in a new apologetics track at Southern Seminary.
Divito hopes to continue dialoguing with and ministering to Mormons and other groups who are following false gospels.
There are several pivotal issues that Christians need to address when witnessing to Mormons, Divito said. Unlike orthodox Christianity’s Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, Mormonism stresses gaining eternal life through works.
Mormons believe that Christ’s atoning work purchased sinners’ resurrection and ability to be saved, but the sinner must appropriate eternal life through his own works. Divito said it is important to stress God’s standard as given in the law—that God demands perfection, but this is a perfection we ourselves cannot accomplish.
Because of this truth, Christians need to point out Christ’s imputed righteousness to Mormons, Divito said. That is, in biblical salvation, a transaction takes place in which Christ’s perfect righteousness is credited to sinners.
Said Divito, “After all, the book of Mormon itself says that ‘no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of God?’ This is where the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is essential.
“All true believers in Christ are perfect because they are in Christ and He is perfect. This perfect righteousness is not our own, it is Christ’s. Christ took not only our sins upon Himself on the cross; He also accredited us with His righteousness. This is the glorious truth of His Gospel.”
Divito said Christians should avoid chasing “rabbit trails” on Mormon doctrines such as baptism for the dead, preexistence, and historical church issues. Instead, they should focus on the Gospel.
Most Mormons are not well-versed in their faith’s history or theology, Divito said. Many of them know little about the Scriptures and base their faith on practical and moral issues, he said.
A Mormon’s foundational beliefs rest primarily on subjective feelings, because members of the LDS church are taught that the Book of Mormon’s validity is established by the “burning of the bosom,” which is said to be the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.
“As a result, when speaking with a Mormon, it often will not be long before they will start to bear their testimony,” Divito said. “They ‘know these things are true’ because they think they have had feelings given by God.
“We are dealing with two very different truth claims. This is one of the most difficult and important hurdles to overcome in witnessing to Mormons.”
Dealing with Mormons can be challenging, but believers must finally trust in the Gospel, he said. Divito points out that his own conversion is a testimony to the Gospel’s inherent saving power.
“I get the impression that some individuals believe Mormons are harder to win to Christ than others,” Divito said. “But all unbelievers are dead in their trespasses and sins, as Ephesians 2:1 says, and the salvation of Mormons is no more difficult for God than that of any other believer.
“We should trust in Christ and in the power of His Gospel, boldly proclaiming God’s truth to all people, including Mormons.”
EDMOND, Okla. (BP)--When Robin Fiechtl’s second daughter was born, Fiechtl cried for three hours.
It wasn’t because she was disappointed her second offspring was also a girl, and it wasn’t even post-partum blues.
Fiechtl’s cries were tears of happiness and praise because all 7 pounds, 12 ounces and 21 inches of Delaneigh Elizabeth were perfect.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
If the baby made it to term, she was supposed to be either terribly deformed, brain-dead or born with little chance to take her first breath. And the outlook throughout the pregnancy wasn’t bright for her mother, who also faced possible death.
Fiechtl’s pregnancy with Delaneigh was a surprise to her and husband Dan, who were so wrapped up in 2-year-old daughter Isabel that they had not even thought of another child.
However, when Fiechtl, who was an athlete throughout high school and college, had hip surgery and was scheduled for an X-ray, she thought she had better check to see if she was pregnant before submitting to the test.
“We got the shock of our lives when the pregnancy test came out positive,” Fiechtl recounted. “I had had a miscarriage when Isabel was 8 months old, but we had not talked about more children.”
Robin and Dan met while they were in college at the University of Central Oklahoma and knew they would be married after their first date. Dan, who is from Kansas, works in sales for Weyerauser, and Robin, a native of Midwest City, Okla., has a degree in nutrition and dietetics. However, she got pregnant about a year after they were married in 1998 and has been a stay-at-home mom.
Shortly after she discovered she was pregnant for the third time, she started bleeding. Doctors could not find any fetal tones and told her she miscarried. But when she went back for an ultrasound the next week, she discovered she was carrying a four-week-old fetus.
Because she continued to have bleeding, doctors did a scope and then said the baby looked fine. More problems led to tests of Fiechtl’s gall bladder and colon. The problems seemed to be with her instead of the baby. She was hospitalized 10 times during the pregnancy and eventually had gall bladder surgery.
“I was scared because I was taking so many medications,” Fiechtl said. “Doctors assured me none of them would cause birth defects, but I spent a lot of time doing research to make sure. After all, it was my baby we were talking about, not theirs.”
At 12 weeks, Fiechtl went into labor, and doctors discovered a blood clot in the uterus the same size as the baby.
“They told me if the clot broke loose, I could bleed to death in 10 minutes and would lose the baby,” she said. “That’s when they started suggesting we abort the baby.”
Fiechtl, a member of Country Estates Baptist Church in Midwest City, said she told doctors abortion was not an option, that the pregnancy was in God’s hands.
“Sometimes I got so mad, I wanted to throw things at them,” Fiechtl admitted. She said that even her family and church members suggested she might want to think about ending the pregnancy.
“They did it out of love because they were concerned about me,” Fiechtl said. “I even got a letter from a woman in my church who said I needed to be a more responsible mother to the child I already had.”
She said in October things really began to get bad, with bleeding about every other day, and in November, when they found out she was carrying a girl, Fiechtl’s water broke and she lost about half of the amniotic fluid. The baby was deprived of oxygen for four days, and an ultrasound showed no brain function.
“I was told the baby’s brain looked like mashed potatoes,” Fiechtl said. “This was the lowest point of the pregnancy. I got on my knees and gave everything to God, telling Him I was willing to accept whatever was going to happen.”
Fiechtl said she and Dan decided she would go into labor, deliver the baby and say goodbye to her.
“I was not willing to allow someone to suck my baby out of my body in pieces,” she said. “I was going to deliver her and have a funeral.”
She said she realized how loving God is to let her hold her baby and then take her into His arms.
“We planned on an early delivery, planned for the worst and talked about how we would do a funeral,” Fiechtl said. “We were distraught but content with whatever God was allowing to happen.”
During a January check-up, doctors said the blood clot was growing with the baby and it needed to come out. But in February, there was no sign of the clot.
“There was no medical explanation for the clot being gone,” Fiechtl said. “It dissolved on its own.”
Doctors at the time said the baby was growing on track and there was some brain activity.
Fiechtl again went into labor at the end of February. It was stopped, but the amniotic fluid was half of what it should be.
Fiechtl was scheduled to have labor induced on April 9. But on April 7, she woke up her husband and told him she thought she was in labor. When they got to the hospital, she was told she had a bladder infection and was experiencing spasms.
“I told them I thought I knew the difference between labor contractions and bladder spasms, but they sent me home,” Fiechtl said.
By the time they reached their house, she said the contractions were really strong, so they rushed back to the hospital, where Delaneigh was born later that day.
“We didn’t know what we would face,” Fiechtl said. “I had already mourned her loss, knowing I was going to deliver her and she was going to die. I, along with the medical professionals, didn’t think she could survive all my surgeries, medications and being deprived of oxygen.
“What a miracle when a perfect little baby was laid on my stomach.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A radical clash of worldviews rang clear in a news story on the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down a Texas sodomy law that aired Sunday on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the ruling damages the institution of family and sets a judicial precedent that could usher in even more radical laws such as the legalization of gay marriages.
“This is a very, very damaging decision, not only to the institution of the family and to the moral fabric of our nation, but to the judicial precedent,” Mohler said. “We can only imagine what could follow from the logic of this decision.”
Reporter Allison Aubrey interviewed leaders from two other religious faiths, both of whom viewed the ruling positively.
While Mohler asserted that homosexuality is a sin according to Scripture, Rabbi Lewis Barth, dean of The Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, Calif., said adherents to reformed Judaism view such biblical passages as outdated, reflecting values of 2,500 years ago. Reformed Judaism embraces homosexuals just as they are, he said.
“We know in this case that between 12 and 15 percent of every human society is gay or lesbian,” Barth said. “Once one knows that, then those people ought to be welcomed into our society because that’s who they are.”
William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston, Mass., said homophobia—not homosexuality—is a sin. He hailed the court’s decision as an example of American democracy despite the fact it overturns a law put in place by legislators who were elected by the voters of Texas.
“For us, homosexuality is not the sin, it’s homophobia, which oppresses and harms persons,” Sinkford said.
“The court’s decision is not only a victory for bisexual, gay, and lesbian and transgender people, it’s really a victory for all Americans. As I said, it is an example for me of the best of American democracy, where we are affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all citizens.”
Mohler said the most loving action for Christians toward all people, including homosexuals, is to proclaim the biblical truth of God’s redeeming grace toward sinners.
“What we need to do is have the honest compassion to tell people the truth redemptively,” Mohler said. “Unfortunately, these days, that’s just written off as politically incorrect. But a minister of the Gospel, a Christian pastor, has to be far more concerned with being biblically correct than politically correct.”
To hear the story via RealAudio, click on:
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson was elected the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, June 24.
Trustees voted unanimously in public session to extend a call to Patterson, who recently completed 10 years of service as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He becomes the second Southern Baptist statesman to serve as president of two SBC seminaries.
A native Texan, Patterson, 60, is a third generation Southern Baptist preacher. His father, T.A. Patterson, once served as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., chairman of the Council of Seminary Presidents, praised the selection.
“The election of Paige Patterson as president of Southwestern Seminary is one of the great moments in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “Dr. Patterson is one of our greatest leaders, and the Martin Luther in the reformation of our convention and the recovery of biblical inerrancy and authority.”
Patterson is the “obvious man” to take Southwestern Seminary into “its next golden era of theological education,” Mohler said. “He is Texan to the bone, courage in every inch, passion in every breath, vision in every thought, and driven by the Gospel in every dimension.”
In a press release issued by Southeastern Seminary, Patterson said it was the “clear call of God” that was taking him to Southwestern Seminary, a place that he added he loves “profoundly.”
“Our departure comes not as result of dissatisfaction of any kind,” he said. “To the contrary, a president has never enjoyed such support and counsel from a governing board, such camaraderie and stimulation from a faculty and staff, such encouragement from a board of visitors, or such love from students.”
Patterson himself was ordained at First Baptist Church Beaumont, Texas, at age 16. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and a Th.M. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
After serving as pastor to churches in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, Patterson became president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, now Criswell College in Dallas. Under his leadership, the center grew from an unaccredited Bible institute into an accredited college offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. He left Criswell College for Southeastern Seminary in October 1992.
Patterson was president of the SBC from 1998-2000. Texas Monthly magazine described him as a “modern prophet” who would soon become “one of the most important theologians in American Protestantism.” The Raleigh News and Observer included Patterson in its list of the top 100 people who helped shape North Carolina in 1999.
The article said that Patterson was a “conservative revolutionary” and “a tireless advocate of evangelism” who reshaped “what had been a moderate biblical seminary into one of the most conservative theological schools in the country.” The article also said that Patterson was committed to “the reliability of Scripture.”
Patterson’s previous posts and influence among Southern Baptists prove that he has a track record for success in theological education and church life, according to Denny Autrey, a Southwestern Seminary trustee and chairman of the seminary’s presidential search committee. He said that the committee was “unified” in its desire to call Patterson for his gifts in pastoral ministry and scholarship.
“We received numerous letters of recommendation, but more for him than any other candidate,” Autrey said. “We had two options. We could have taken the top two or three candidates and held interviews and invited them back for subsequent interviews or we could have called the number one candidate. Our committee chose to look at all the resumes, but we agreed upon Patterson as the first candidate to discuss.”
The search committee and Patterson first met for five-and-a-half hours, after which the search committee wished to proceed with the interview process. Patterson said that he would like to pray about the opportunity and, after several weeks of prayer, he also agreed to move ahead with further meetings.
Autrey said that Patterson well fits the qualifications for the presidency set forth by the faculty, staff, administration and students of Southwestern in questionnaires provided by the search committee. The new president, he said, must be able to gain the trust of faculty, staff and students; shape and lead the seminary over the next 10 years; exercise oversight in all matters; listen and communicate effectively internally and externally; and cultivate donors and raise endowment support.
He also said that the new president should display in his character personal maturity and family values, a personal call to seminary education and proven leadership as an administrator in the field of higher education. The president should also demonstrate openness and acceptance of all people and identify with the heritage of Southwestern. Patterson met all of the qualifications, Autrey said.
Retiring Southwestern Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill said that he supported the decision of trustees concerning the future of the seminary.
“Dr. Patterson has been used by God to build a great seminary at Southeastern,” Hemphill said.
Under Patterson’s leadership, Southeastern Seminary grew from 500 students to nearly 2,300. He initiated the “Scholarship on Fire!” capital fundraising plan, which will provide for a new library, campus center and other renovations. He also oversaw more than $18 million in campus construction and renovation and pioneered church planting relationships between Southeastern and the New Hampshire Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board.
Patterson also developed a respected faculty at the North Carolina seminary, Hemphill said.
“If you look at the excellent faculty he has assembled and the growth and enthusiastic student body that have been drawn to Southeastern, you will discover an eloquent testimony to his credentials to lead Southwestern. His passion for missions and his great heart for the world will suit him well to lead the greatest mission-training institution in the world,” Hemphill said.
Southern Seminary’s Mohler said that Patterson “will take Texas by storm” and “win the hearts of Texas Baptists to the great cause of Gospel and truth as represented by their beloved Southwestern Seminary.”
Mohler said that Southern Baptists “will greet this news with great excitement and joy.” He added that “we will be praying for Southeastern Seminary as they await their new leader. This we know: God will provide a leader to build on Dr. Patterson’s legacy at that great school.”
Hemphill announced his retirement from Southwestern April 8 in order to serve as national strategist for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative. He said that he and his wife, Paula, were grateful for the nine years of service God gave them at Southwestern. He also said that he and his wife “stand ready to assist Paige and Dorothy in any way possible.”
“I urge the faculty, students, alumni and friends of the seminary to join me in praying for and supporting Paige and Dorothy as they come to Southwestern. No institution of higher learning has greater kingdom impact than Southwestern,” Hemphill said.
Copyright (c) 2001 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press
PHOENIX, Ariz.—The health of a seminary is most clearly seen in the kind of ministers it produces, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Wednesday at the annual Alumni Luncheon of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A seminary may have letters of approval from academic and accrediting agencies, but if it does not produce ministers that preach the authentic Gospel to the glory of God, then they are nothing, Mohler told the assembly of some 410 people.
“You really find out what a seminary is when you look and listen to its graduates,” Mohler said.
“That’s when you find out [when you see] just one alumnus of this school who is faithful in teaching and preaching the Gospel, faithful in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth in obedience to the command of the Christ and fulfillment of the Great Commission. You (the alumnus) are our letters of commendation.”
Mohler recently marked the 10th anniversary of his election as president of Southern Seminary. Within the past decade, the school undergone a transformation from an institution moderate in its teaching and doctrine to one that is a leader within conservative evangelicalism.
Speaking on 2 Cor. 2 and 3, in which the apostle Paul called the churches his “letter of commendation,” Mohler said the proof of Southern Seminary’s profound change is in the ministers it has produced.
The seminary has also increased greatly in enrollment, facilities, faculty, and annual events. Both the turnaround and the growth is entirely the work of God, he said.“After 10 years as president of Southern Seminary, all I can say is, only God could do this,” he said.
“We are in Phoenix, Arizona, 1772 miles from Louisville and there are so many gathered in this room who have come because, in some way or another, your life has intersected with the mission of SBTS. And we have no letters of commendation, save you.”
Mohler said he takes Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 2:17 as a warning to theological seminaries to avoid producing mere peddlers of the Gospel.
There are many today who seek to merely make money from preaching pseudo-gospels of prosperity, self-esteem, and self-help, Mohler said, but the seminary that would glorify God must avoid peddling.
“It is a warning to me 10 years later, even as it was 10 years ago, that we must not be about the task of training, teaching, preparing peddlers of the Word of God,” Mohler said.
“Though we live in an age where peddling is not only popular in the secular sphere, it is also somewhat expected in many churches. The pandering, peddling preacher will always be popular until someone gets a sniff of the real Gospel. Then the falsehood is immediately made apparent by the fact that this preacher is putting off the wrong smell.”
The school that seeks to prepare ministers to preach the true Gospel does it with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will apply the Gospel and seeks no glory for the institution, he said. In turn, a minister who faithfully proclaims the genuine Gospel will be—in the words of the apostle Paul—an aroma of life to believers and an aroma of death to those who reject Christ, he said.
While a seminary prepares ministers in one sense, ultimately the Holy Spirit calls, forms, and prepares a minister, he said.
“Along with Paul [in 2 Cor. 2], we are not seeking to get anything out of this enterprise but the satisfaction of seeing the Word of God at work and seeing God glorified in the preaching of His Word,” Mohler said.
“There is certainly preparation we can and do offer. There is education we must and do impart. There is training that is our assignment, but in the end it is the Spirit of God that makes a minister, calls a minister, forms a minister, prepares a minister. The seminary cannot lead that minister in triumph, but God does. He promises always to do so.”
Mohler said the transformation at Southern Seminary is proof that God will honor the institution that stands upon the one true Gospel.
“The world said this couldn’t happen,” he said. “God has chosen the weak things of the world the shame the strong. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. And God has chosen Southern Seminary to show that He will bless His Word and He will bless an institution that will pay the price to stand on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
“We come together, not to celebrate an institution, but to give thanks to God and to share a vision of God’s glory in what He has allowed to take place through one institution and its work and its family and its story.”
PHOENIX, Ariz. – The six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention are moving in a direction opposite to most other theological institutions, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Tuesday at the SBC’s annual meeting.
Mohler, president of Southern Seminary and chairman of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, told convention messengers that Southern Baptist seminaries are standing faithfully upon the Gospel because the denomination’s churches have held the schools accountable.
Many seminaries within the mainline denominations have abdicated from teaching the genuine Gospel of Scripture, Mohler said. The result has been a dwindling number of persons entering the ministry and a decreased passion for the things of God, he said. But the opposite has occurred within SBC schools during recent years.
Said Mohler, “What has taken place in your seminaries as a counter-revolution in the world of theological education is due to the sovereignty of God and by His provision through churches that simply said, ‘We will not allow that to happen, we will hold our schools responsible, we will remind our schools to whom they belong, and of the charge we have given them.’
“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that your six schools are proud to serve the churches of the SBC.”
SBC seminaries are not only accountable to local churches through the trustee boards they elect, but are also faithful to their respective confessions of faith as well as the Baptist Faith & Message, he said.
Mohler reminded listeners that every SBC seminary professor is required to sign that school’s respective confession of faith. By doing so, the professor pledges to teach in accordance with—and not contrary to—that confession.
While the seminaries seek to build a sound doctrinal foundation beneath their students, they also teach them the practical aspects of ministry, he said. The sound teaching of God’s inspired Word in the seminaries gives Southern Baptist churches a bright future, he said.
“We are about the task of teaching real-life ministers of the Gospel,” he said.
“Your seminaries are driven by evangelism. [They] are driven by an understanding that it is our responsibility to stand on the faith once for all delivered to the saints and to make certain that we take the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
“If you were to look at your six seminaries and you were to line up all the theological students in the United States of America studying in accreditation institutions, you would realize that Southern Baptists have a future that is not evident in many other churches.”
A brief question and answer session followed the seminary reports. One messenger asked Mohler about doctrines that are taught at Southern Seminary. In his concluding remarks, Mohler pointed out that such theological dialogue within the SBC is evidence of a healthy denomination.
“Even in the course of this report we have discussed some doctrine and some theology,” Mohler said. “Let us see that as a sign of denominational health.
“Dying denominations don’t care. Living denominations love the Gospel because [they] love the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn the Gospel, study the Gospel, be grounded in the Gospel, and brothers and sisters, let us take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”