Sunday, May 27, 2007

Let's Hope it Doesn't Come to This in Tennessee

A recent ABP article, Missouri conservatives organize against their former movement, is worth a look.
"We are concerned that these two forces -- a political powerbroker machine and a spirit of legalism -- will lead to the destruction of the Missouri Baptist Convention..."
It is possible to go too far in a movement's effort to swing a convention away from liberalism. In Misouri, it is interesting that some of the very conservatives who led that movement seem to understand what "too far" looks like. Let us hope that it doesn't come to this in Tennessee.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Belmont Students Blogging Mission Experiences

One of my friends at Belmont University emailed me a story about a student's post in Brazil. Nothing brings more joy to my heart to hear of young people sharing their faith and witnessing the changes that God makes in new believers. If I was still physically able to jump up and down for joy, I would be doing it now.

There are Belmont University groups in Brazil, Cambodia, and Africa who are blogging this summer. I stayed up late last night to read them all once I found them.

Cary, a volleyball player who is part of Belmont's Sports Evangelism team serving (no pun intended) in Brazil wrote the following:
"I am truly witnessing the power of God in every activity we do here. Never before have I seen so many children, and never before have I felt the Holy Spirit working constantly through me. God has sent each and every one of us here for a reason and I feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing team."

Dr. Jeff Overby, a Belmont business professor posted his thoughts on a day when the twenty student in his group learned of apartheid from individuals who suffered through an ugly era in South Africa:
"As we would witness during the day (and throughout the previous days for that matter), the people of this amazing country are managing to overcome a terrible page in history called apartheid and countless other calamities such as the AIDS pandemic to find hope and joy instead of hate, hopelessness and despair."

Shannon, a nursing student at Belmont, shared this in her blog post from Cambodia:
"Saoly...shared with us his experience from the khemer rouge. he talked of how he witnessed starvation and cannibalism. he told us of how his father died at his side from starvation. though saoly surrvived, he experienced much pain throughout pol pot's regime. he showed us his scars from coining. coining is a traditional cambodian pain reliever. many people here in cambodia still do it today. they take burning hot coins and rub them on their bodies to distract them from the pain they are having in another area."

I know there are Tennessee Baptists who believe that Belmont has become too liberal and has somehow drifted away from her original mission. After reading posts like those that I quoted, frankly, I do not care what label someone choses to place on the institution. I will recommend Belmont to any Tennessee Baptist student who wants to get off the ministry sidelines and get into the game.

Thank you, Belmont, for letting these stories get out from under a basket.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

One Year Ago Today - Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University

One year ago today, Tennessee Baptists gathered at Two Rivers Baptist Church to set the wheels in motion for legal action against Belmont University. The legal action has been inching its way through the process since October...and other than the publicised skirmishes, it has been pretty quiet.

I am hopeful that next year, the situation will look more like this:
1. Tennessee Baptists (as a collective convention) will have little or nothing to do with Belmont University (if/when the lawsuit is finally settled). The divorce is already evidenced by the absense of coverage of significant campus events by the Baptist & Reflector.
2. Belmont will have to work harder than any of the historically Baptist colleges to prove that they are true to their word in maintaining a Baptist heritage and a Christian identity. It won't be easy.
3. It would not be surprising to see Belmont reach out to any number of Tennessee Baptist Churches and their college-bound students to encourage an ongoing presence of Baptist students on campus...perhaps some will consider Belmont a mission field.
4. There will be Baptists on the Board of Trustees at Belmont...and regardless of their liberal-to-fundamentalist barometer reading, they will be Christians, will act accordingly, and do what is best for the students and the institution.

I would still like to see some accountability on the $750,000 line item in the TBC budget for legal fees the Belmont committee. No one should be proud of the fact that three quarters of a million dollars has been stolen away re-allocated from the missions and ministries budget of Tennessee Baptists. I, for one, would like to see where every penny of that money is going. I do not want to see another line item in the next budget for more of the same.

I'm ready for all this to be over even if it means another round of Chick-fil-a with all the (other) rowdies at another called convention meeting. We have more important things to do...doesn't the TBC need to help Carson-Newman find a new president?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Congratulations Dr. Bill Sherman

We claim him as a Tennessean, although he might still consider himself a missionary to Tennessee from Texas. The press release from Baylor University tells the story well:

The Baylor Alumni Association will honor Joy Fenner of Garland, Texas, and Dr. Bill Sherman of Fairview, Tenn., with the George W. Truett Distinguished Church Service Award, during Baylor University's morning and afternoon commencement exercises on May 12 at the Ferrell Center.

The association presents the award each spring to individuals who exemplify the life and career of George W. Truett and reflect the meaning of Baylor's motto, "Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana." A graduate of Baylor in 1897, Truett went on to pastor the largest Baptist congregation of his era and hold several prestigious positions in Baptist organizing bodies. During his nearly 50-year ministry at First Baptist Church of Dallas, Truett also served as president of both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance.

Sherman will receive the honor at the 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony, while Fenner will be honored at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

A 1954 Baylor graduate, Sherman later earned another bachelor's degree and his doctorate in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

During his career he has led six congregations from Texas to Tennessee and is currently pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairview, Tenn. In addition, he has been president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and a trustee of Belmont University, and he has served on the boards of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, Christian Life Commission and Southern Baptist Foundation.

Sherman also has worked abroad with volunteer missions to many countries including Jamaica, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Thailand and Malaysia. During his 30 years as pastor of Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville, Sherman filled more than 900 missions assignments in Bold Mission Thrust (my emphasis).

I remember what happened at Woodmont Baptist Church after Bill made his first mission trip to Guatelama in the late 1970's. If you've ever heard Bill say, "If that doesn't light your fire, then your wood is wet", then you know how that one trip tossed a match into a dry tinderbox and set that congregation on fire for missions. I had no idea that 900 assignments were filled during the Bold Mission Thrust era, but I do remember Bill suggesting (in half jest) that membership at Woodmont meant that you needed an up-to-date passport.

Bill is a true Baptist. He has been maligned by conservatives as being 'moderate' and somehow liberal... but in my eyes, Bill represents the best of what Baptist leadership should be. He is a friend to conservatives and liberals and understands what it means that we can learn to disagree, agreeably. Congratulations, Dr. Sherman for this well deserved honor!

I look forward to reading about Dr. Sherman's accomplishments in the Baptist & Reflector... but I am not holding my breath.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More Belmont Student Athletes Prepare for Mission Trip

I have often thought that the only time I open my mouth is to change feet... just as soon as I spout off about 'hiding stories beneath a basket', a quick Google of 'Belmont' and 'Missions' brought up the Rio Journal 2007. It looks like Betty Wiseman and the Belmont University Volleyball team will be off to Rio, Brazil in a week or so. My prayers go with them even now.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More to the Belmont Hoops Story than Academic Success

The Nashville City Paper released an article today, Belmont Hoops a Model for Academic Success. In a city where the sport's news has focused on the antics of a wayward Titan, it is certainly good news to know that Coach Rick Byrd understands better than most that his players are students first and athletes second:
"Last week, the NCAA released its academic progress rate report and the BU hoops program fared as well as any in the country. The program ranked in the top 10 percent among all Division I programs in the nation. What’s more, it did so for the second year in a row. Only six programs have managed to accomplish that while also qualifying for the Big Dance both years."
There is more to this story
Look at some of the names of the players who played against Georgetown in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament: Justin Hare, Keaton Belcher, Andrew Preston, Will Peoples, Josh Goodwin, Matthew Dodson, and Andy Wicke. Now match those names with team members who traveled to Venezuela last summer on a missions trip. Here's what Paul Scott, IMB Missionary inVenezuela, had to say about these players from Belmont:
"Hundreds of people came to know Christ during the twelve days of this mission trip. I don’t know all their names and I doubt that I would even recognize their faces, but I do know this one*. We praise God for the Belmont University Basketball team. Thank you for coming to Venezuela. Thank you for being faithful to God’s call. We are literally eternally grateful."

I thank God for people like Rick Byrd and Betty Wiseman at Belmont University. In spite of a Baptist convention that chooses to slander the good names of the university's leaders and trustees and ignore the good works that happen on Belmont's campus, these Christian teachers and coaches understand and demonstrate the very best of Christian education and service. Well deserved kudos to Belmont's men and women who work hard in the classroom, represent themselves well on the playing field, and humbly serve in unique platforms for ministry across the globe!

*"this one" refers to Josey Scott, missionary son of Paul and Shelley, who became a Christian during the Belmont team stay in Venezuela.