Church must address culture of death, writers urge in seminary magazine

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade underscores the need for the Christian church to shine light in a culture of death, writers in the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine conclude.

The magazine tackles such life-and-death issues as abortion, euthanasia and cloning in view of the Jan. 22 anniversary of the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states.

A publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the magazine includes feature articles by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and William Cutrer, a Southern Seminary professor who is also a practicing medical doctor.

Sadly, abortion has become an accepted part of the American culture, Mohler writes.

“The nation’s conscience is no longer seared by the scandal of abortion, and abortion on demand has become a routine part of everyday life,” he writes. “... Thirty years later, can we rebuild and recover? The signs are not hopeful. Three decades of post-Roe v. Wade experience reveal a downward spiral from abortion to euthanasia, from embryo research to human cloning, from assisted suicide to advocated infanticide.”

The church, he asserts, must promote a pro-life message.

“The believing church is now perhaps the last outpost of moral sanity in the culture of death,” Mohler writes. “If recovery is to come, it must arise in a new generation who sees through the moral insanity and possesses the courage to reverse course before all moral knowledge is lost. Let us pray that God will give us that generation -- before it is too late.”

Land agrees.

“Christians, in particular, have an obligation to confront these critical moral and ethical issues with a scriptural response,” he writes. “These are hard questions, but God’s Word gives the simple but indisputable answer: Human life from conception onward should be protected, not endangered.”

Land tells the story of how, as a high school student, he was confronted with the realities of abortion in biology class. A classmate brought in a 12-week-old fetus, displayed in formaldehyde. Land protested to an administrator and it was eventually removed.

“The little baby was so undeniably human that I was deeply disturbed to see him displayed in such a casual, callous, disrespectful way,” Land writes.

Cutrer, professor of Christian ministry and a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, serves as medical director of a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Louisville. He notes that while the unborn child is an obvious victim of abortion, others also suffer, including the mother.

He describes “post abortion syndrome” (PAS), which affects women with symptoms of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and even suicide.

“For those like me who have invested our lives as caregivers into the broken realities of these women and their partners, we see PAS as a dangerous, sometimes subtle and confusing collection of problems,” he writes. “PAS may remain repressed with women in denial for years or even decades as they cope with apparent ease. Then, for perhaps 20 percent or more of abortion survivors, various symptoms appear.”

The church, Cutrer argues, should reach out to such women.

“[T]here is hope in Christ,” he writes. “These women, and the men who have fathered their children, can benefit from sound spiritual counsel. The pain is profound but forgiveness is real. Their understanding of ‘self’ -- often expressed in phrases such as ‘I killed my baby’ or ‘I am a murderer’ -- can be rebuilt by the power of the Holy Spirit. Healing comes in community. Thus, the church, while speaking boldly and clearly against abortion, should become a safe place for those who have chosen abortion.”

Land says he sees “shimmering rays of hope” for pro-lifers.

“Today’s pro-life movement is without precedent in American history,” he writes. “Never before has a grassroots movement grown to such proportions without the sponsorship and support of any of society’s elites. We have succeeded in making abortion a frowned-upon procedure by most Americans, even if they are not yet prepared to make it illegal in most cases.”

The church, Mohler asserts, must not remain neutral in sanctity of life debates.

“We must let light shine in darkness,” he writes. “This means, in part, that the church must be a culture of life, in the midst of the culture of death and the death of the culture. The church must contend for life -- life in the biblical sense -- at every level. This means contending for life in the womb and in the nursing home, in the hospital ward and on the streets. Everywhere, we must be those who stand for the culture and sanctity of life, for we know that the culture of life can never be predicated upon the authority of man, but only on the authority of God.”

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73-year-old earns doctorate, intent on continuing ministry

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Seventy-three-year-old Charles Williams is the embodiment of the famous “never surrender” speech which Winston Churchill delivered during the darkest hours of World War II.

Williams’ commitment to those well-known words bore fruit yet again in December. The Monticello, Fla., native graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving a doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree in church consultation. He now holds seven degrees alongside more than 40 years of experience in ministry.

“I adopted Churchill’s advice a long time ago,” said Williams, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. “And that is to never give up. I think the secret to success is not necessarily intelligence but perseverance.”

Williams’ story is one of perseverance and accomplishment. In his seven-plus decades of life, Williams has served as pastor for eight churches in Kentucky, Georgia and Florida, attended six different colleges, receiving degrees from five of them, and held seven different positions within Christian education.

The veteran minister now holds the honor of being the oldest person to receive a degree through Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

“When I first asked [an official] at the Graham School if I was too old to enroll in the program, their reply was the only way that my enrollment would be a problem is if I were too young and inexperienced,” Williams said. “So I went into the program with 40-plus years experience.”

Williams’ list of degrees reads like the synopsis of an academic catalog. It includes bachelor, master of theology and doctor of theology degrees from Luther Rice Seminary, a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College, a master of arts degree from Pepperdine University and a doctor of education degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Williams began his educational pilgrimage in 1961 and by 1978 had earned six degrees. His decision to add a seventh from Southern Seminary came as a result of a new direction in ministry.

After serving as a pastor and Christian educator for many years, Williams is now putting his vast pool of knowledge to use for local churches, offering consulting services for congregations that are in decline both spiritually and numerically.

Williams is presently working with eight small rural churches that are in decline. He does not charge small churches for his counsel. He recently bought a motor home that he and his wife use to travel for consultation visits to these small churches.

“Since I have this motor home we are able to park at the church, so the churches do not have to pay for a place for us to stay,” he said. “Many of these areas are somewhat remote and don’t have hotels or motels.”

Williams and his wife, Georgia, have two children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

At the outset of his ministry, Williams’ only goal was to spend the remainder of his life as pastor of a rural church. But while attending Luther Rice Seminary, then located in Jacksonville, Fla., in the mid-1960s and pastoring a church there, Williams realized God had also called him to work in Christian education.

In the years since, he has served as a teacher, dean and executive vice president for Luther Rice. In 1981 he organized the Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies in Jacksonville, of which he remains president. The school offers theological education for ministers who desire to remain in the fulltime pastorate.

Williams hopes his decision to work for an additional degree later in life will serve as encouragement and inspiration for fellow ministers.

“If I can use this to encourage and inspire others, that will be great,” he said.

Thom Rainer, dean of Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School, said Williams’ vast knowledge will be of great use to local churches.

“Charles has vast experience in the local church,” Rainer said. “He is the first to complete the consultation emphasis in the doctor of ministry in evangelism and church growth. He will be able to apply his experience and training to help churches all over America.

“I am impressed with his work and tenacity. I really think he can be an invaluable asset to many churches.”

Williams does not have any plans for retirement. Genealogy says he may have many years left in ministry, with Williams noting that his mother is 93 and still strong and healthy.

“I feel that I have 15 to 20 years of active ministry left in me,” he said. “I am starting my third career within ministry now and don’t plan to retire anytime soon.”

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