Baptists urged to reach out to victims of sexual exploitation

By Patricia Heys
CBF Communications

ATLANTA-Sexual exploitation is a worldwide issue, Lauran Bethell told an audience at a special interest session of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Bethell, an American Baptist Churches USA global ministry consultant, led a panel discussion on sexual exploitation Jan. 31, at the Georgia World Congress Center. Panelists included Lia Scholl, founder of Star Light Ministries, Inc.; Susan Omanson, of the NightLight ministry center in Thailand; and Charity Marquis, who started a branch of NightLight ministries in Los Angeles.

Prophetic preachers take varied approaches

By Ken Camp & Jim White
Baptist Standard & Religious Herald

Photo: Rod Reilly

ATLANTA-One preacher offered an oblique endorsement of a presidential candidate, and another firmly defended the separation of church and state.  One urged Christians to link prophetic imagination to concrete practices, and another cited the specific example of tearing down walls that divide.

The four preachers—two African-American, one Anglo and one Hispanic—participated in a conference on prophetic preaching during the New Baptist Covenant celebration in Atlanta.

Baptists called to combat ignorance about religious liberty

By Jeff Huett
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

ATLANTA-In an increasingly pluralistic culture, ensuring religious freedom for all requires more education about religion, further understanding about the proper relationship between church and state, and an emphasis on the historic Baptist principle of religious liberty, said a panel at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration. 

Cheryl Townsend-Gilkes, professor of Sociology and African-American Studies at Colby College in Waterville, Me., suggested that the very definition of religious liberty in America "fosters and sustains tremendous religious and cultural diversity." However, she warned, "the tremendous religious and cultural diversity sometimes challenges our commitment to the separation of church and state."

Justice won't be justice until Christians are engaged

By Norman Jameson
Biblical Recorder

ATLANTA-America's treatment of both criminals and victims will never be a "justice system" until Christians engage in a restorative process, said panelists during a special interest session on engaging the criminal justice system at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta Jan. 31.

Hugh Kirkegaard, a community chaplain in Toronto, said Christians must "re-engage" the criminal justice system because it was evangelical Christians in the late 18th century whose views shaped development of the U.S. penal system, with rehabilitation as the goal and punishment as the method.

Christians called to 'welcome the stranger'

By Robert Dilday
Virginia Religious Herald

ATLANTA - Church members may disagree over political solutions to the immigration issue, but they can unite around ministry to immigrants who already live in the United States, a Texas Baptist immigration services advocate said Jan. 31.

"Immigration has become a political issue," said Richard Muñoz, director of the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) in Dallas.

Seminary president suggests practices to nurture 'capacity for the sacred'

By Jennifer Harris
Missouri Word & Way

Photo: Mark Strozier

ATLANTA-Seminary president Molly Marshall urged Baptists to recognize the Holy Spirit as "God's nearness to us."

"The Holy Spirit is God's means of formally indwelling us. And the Holy Spirit is our means of communion with Christ and access to God. So when I speak about the Spirit of the Lord, obviously I'm going to talk in a Trinitarian context," said Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan.

Churches can provide significant response to health care needs

By Carla Wynn Davis
CBF Communications

ATLANTA-When Jimmy Lewis was pastor at First Baptist Church in Morrow, Ga., he and another local pastor had a dream—to meet the growing unmet health needs in the county.

Six months later, with the help of volunteers and donated resources, he helped open a free health clinic.

That was 12 years ago. Lewis—now pastor of First Baptist Church in Jasper, Ga.—shared the story during the "Reaching Out to the Sick" special interest session at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, Jan. 31 in Atlanta.

Workshop challenges New Covenant Baptists to seek peace

By Bob Allen
Baptist Center for Ethics

Photo: Rod Reilly

ATLANTA-Humans are caught "in an inextricable network of mutuality" that requires nations to overcome differences to work together for peace, Baptist ethicist Paul Dekar said Thursday at a special-interest session on peacemaking at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta.

"There is no great technique that is going to bring peace," said Dekar, evangelism and missions professor at Memphis Theological Seminary. "We bring peace when we begin living peaceably with our neighbors."

'Incarnation' is key for Baptists engaging policy, speakers stress

By Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press

Photo: Joel McLendon

ATLANTA (ABP)-Christians should become involved in transforming public policy, a diverse group of Baptists heard Jan. 31, because Christ first set the example by transforming the world and bidding Christians to follow.

"God believed in incarnation so much that he hasn't given up on it yet," said Suzii Paynter, director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission. "It didn't end with Jesus. It continues."

Individual, church response crucial to alleviating poverty

By Carla Wynn Davis
CBF Communications

Photo: Carla Davis

ATLANTA-Breaking the cycle of poverty begins with taking seriously the Bible, people in need and the church's call to respond. And speakers reminded participants at a Baptist gathering that addressing poverty isn't optional for Christians and churches who are serious about following Christ.

These ideas, along with motives and models for alleviating poverty, were explored by panelists Jan. 31 during the "Breaking Cycles of Poverty" special interest session at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta.