Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Diversity in the Southern Baptist Convention

I just watched online as the Southern Baptist Convention - the denomination with which my church affiliates - voted by a cheering acclamation a black man to be our denominational president for the first time.  Frankly, I was moved to tears, seeing the unanimity and joy of those assembled, and then watching a clearly humbled Fred Luter come to the podium and simply say, "To God be the glory for the things He has done."

Southern Baptists didn't have a good or righteous start when in 1845 they separated themselves from the Baptists to the North over the issue of slavery.  Clearly their reasons for establishing a new Baptist group was not based on anything espoused in Scripture, but was solely motivated by cultural economics and secular politics.  That is unfortunate, since Christians are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God before they owe allegiance to any state or flag of man's making.

As those generations died off, and the American Civil Rights movement (led most prominently by a black Baptist pastor from Atlanta) began to right racial wrongs held over from the previous era of blindness, Baptists in the South slowly began to change from the past sins of their fathers.  In the late '90's at a Southern Baptist Convention (at which I was in attendance), the group put forth a resolution expressing repentance from the sin of racial prejudice.

Today, that change took a very large step toward turning words into action.  As I looked via the camera at the crowd on their feet and applauding with "Hallelujahs" and "Amens" I was looking at a very white crowd.  But, that's mostly who makes up Southern Baptist Churches.

This will not mean now that every Baptist church will suddenly become racially diverse.  Churches tend to reflect the communities in which they are located, and not all communities (ours for example) is very integrated.  Yet our church is racially diverse at a higher percentage than our town.  My guess (and hope) is that is because we value everyone regardless of their color and refuse to allow race to be any kind of issue here.

I also know that churches tend to be comprised of people who are "alike".  First-time guests to a church are more prone to return when they look about and see others who look like them, whether it be age, race, tattoos or whatever other cultural identification.  So, there will always be Southern Baptist churches that will be predominantly white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.  Always...not because others are not welcome, but because people want to worship where they are comfortable.  Like it or not, that's a fact of life.

At the same time I'm not ignorant of the fact that within our own Baptist association of 65 churches in our region there are some - maybe many - all white churches that either through practice or unwritten rule would not accept believers of other colors into their congregations.   Perhaps today's election will spark a change.

Such churches should now consider whether they want to remain within the SBC fold.  Sure, the president of our denomination has no power or authority over any church.  We all know that.  Baptists are autonomous.  But why belong to a denomination whose president would not be welcome as a member in your church?  How great a hypocrisy!

My hope is that those churches within our denomination who are today shaking their heads and will continue tosecretly or quietly ostracize other races from their membership would do the honest thing and pull out of the Convention so that the remainder of us can be unhindered by their testimony and move forward to reach all people to discover life in Christ.

We used to sing it when I was a child.  "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight".  It is good to see it begin to be lived out in word and in deed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

65Roses4PattySue Trust Fund

In 2005 my wife Gail along with Tricia's parents Don and Agnes created a trust fund designed to assist Tricia with the collateral expenses that would come with her CF treatment and eventual transplant.  At that time we sent out letters to family and friends, inviting them to give if they chose to do so.  

The result was extremely helpful as Nathan and Tricia spent 9 months living near Duke University before and after the transplant. 

However, as her health improved, and trips to Duke became less frequent, the trust fund lost its steam.  Now, with her status very much changed, and already this year multiple trips to Duke, including the current hospitalization for rejection, we have reinvigorated the fund.  Below is a letter that appears on a Facebook group for donors.  

If you are not in that group and would like to be able to donate via PayPal, I've added a button at the top left of this blog site for your convenience. 

If the idea of donating is offensive to you, we are sorry.  Please refrain from negative comments.

Dear Friends of 65Roses4PattySue,

Amazing as it sounds, this past April 2 marked the 4th anniversary of the night Tricia was wheeled into an all night surgery that would give her a life-saving “new” pair of lungs. If you’ve followed either Nathan’s or Tricia’s blogs or their Facebook posts, you know how that while Tricia’s much healthier than pre-transplant, her overall health has been and will always be a roller coaster ride. But, who would have thought that she would again be able to play softball, sing in the choir and most of all mother her Gwyneth Rose?

Another milestone just passed as well. Tricia turned 30 on May 13. So, the Lawrensons, Kirschners and all who love her have much for which to be thankful.

When crises settle down, as Tricia’s did after the surgery and the subsequent battle with lymphoma, we tend to relax and even forget that she will always be a post-transplant and cystic fibrosis patient at Duke Medical Center. When we began the 65 Roses Trust Fund nearly four years ago it was during that time of crisis. The response from so many made it possible for Nathan and Tricia to stay in Durham during her pregnancy leading up to Gwyneth’s miraculous birth and then on through the transplant, recovery and cancer treatments.

Once again we’re appealing to Tricia’s friends to re-invigorate the trust fund. In March, as you may know, Tricia was diagnosed with acute and chronic rejection after a long bout with RSV and pneumonia. This new struggle is just as threatening to a transplant survivor as cancer, and very costly. Though they have a very good insurance policy, Tricia will always require costly medications to battle rejection and her Cystic Fibrosis. While the disease will not attack her new lungs, it continues to attack her pancreas and digestive system.

She also must frequently return to Duke for checkups and tests to ensure all is still well. And all this means travel, gas, meals and other expenses above and beyond what their insurance will cover. Already this year they have driven the 200 miles to Duke multiple times, and the trips will surely continue. For example, tests results from a trip on May 14 require a return trip on May 21 for anti-rejection medication. Just the cost of gas for these trips this year has already cost them hundreds of dollars.

So we are again asking you to consider helping financially as you are able. And we promise to send annual reminders for those inclined to partner with Tricia. If you are unable, we certainly understand. But we also know that any gift makes a difference.

Because this is a trust fund gifts are unfortunately not tax deductible. Whether you can make a one-time gift or perhaps give on a regular basis, all monies given are dispersed by fund trustees and only for expenses related to Tricia’s continued medical care.

Gifts can be sent to 137 Sir Chandler Dr., Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. Please make checks out to “65 Roses 4 Patty Sue”. Funds received are disbursed by trustees (her parents and in-laws) according to actual costs relating to treatment of Tricia’s disease not covered by insurance.

We will be looking into alternative payment options such as PayPal as well.

Thank you and God bless you.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Back at Duke...a familiar place

Many of you who follow this blog do so because you first followed my son Nathan's blog and story of Tricia's battle with Cystic Fibrosis, the birth of her daughter and Tricia's transplant.

Tricia was admitted back into Duke Medical Center today for treatment for acute rejection.  Essentially what that means is that her body is attacking her lungs, and their function is being terribly weakened.

Your prayers for her are always welcome.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What you post says much about who you are

The story is told about the great 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon was the greatest-known preacher in the world in his generation. His church in London packed in as many as 12,000 each Sunday. His sermons were published and distributed world-wide and read by the hundreds of thousands. He was comparable to Billy Graham of the past generation. The only Brit possibly more famous in his day was Queen Victoria. Possibly.

If you were to read Spurgeon's biography (as I have) or his sermons or devotionals you would know how greatly this man loved the Lord Jesus. His many years of life following his conversion as a teenager were devoted to proclaiming the Gospel and winning men and women to Christ. As much as any modern man, Spurgeon was consumed with knowing Christ and sharing Him with others.

But, Spurgeon was not perfect. Like all of us, he had chinks in his armor. One of which was his passion for a fine cigar!

One day as he was walking through a London neighborhood he passed by a tobacco shop. To his utter dismay the shop owner had posted (I use that word intentionally) a sign on the window advertising a certain brand of cigar with the tagline, "The cigar Spurgeon smokes".

It was at that moment a tranformation took place in his heart and life, for he never again smoked a cigar. "I will not allow that I be known for my cigar preference. Rather Spurgeon's name should only be tied with that of Christ". (My paraphrase.) Is smoking a cigar sinful? Maybe not. But Spurgeon would not let his freedom in Christ to do so become a stumblingblock to someone needing salvation.

Do we realize that our posts on Facebook reveal something of our character and of our relationship with the Lord? I find it disarming when believers display photos of themselves or make comments that lend to a public persona that may not portray the living Christ within. What you are doing in the picture or saying in a comment may not be "sinful". But can it be a stumblingblock, causing a non-believer to doubt your relationship with a holy God?

Let's be discreet. People are watching and listening. Facebook can be a tremendous tool for advancing the Gospel. It can also be a tremendous tool for turning people away from the life-changing salvation Jesus offers if only by a comment or ill-advised photo.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. - Colossians 3:17