Monday, December 27, 2004
I thought I would start by posting a little bit of the decision process that Gay and I have gone through to decide on Wake Forest.
The first, and most important thing, is that we both feel that God is leading us to Wake Forest. When we finished our visit to Wake Forest, we both had an overwhelming feeling that this was where we were supposed to be. We were both very impressed with Brite, but we had a few concerns about the number of CBF churches in the area, and the lack of a CBF church with a contemporary service in the area. There are plenty of CBF churches in the area around Winston-Salem, and the church that meets in Wait Chapel on the campus has a contemporary service on Sunday nights.
One of the things we had heard about Wake Forest was that it was very academic and not ministry oriented. So, this was one of the questions I asked while I was there. The students told me that starting in the second year, you have to do internships. During his address at the luncheon, Dr. Bill Leonard, the dean of the divinity school, said that his goal was to train students who could both preach the gospel and had the academic knowledge to be able to answer the tough questions. I also asked the admissions director about this, and he told me that out of the last class, only 3 students had gone on to further academic study; the rest were in ministry positions. He said they had opportunities for internships in whatever field interested me, from internships at North Carolina CBF to local churches and hospitals.
Financial Aid and housing also affect this decision. Brite had great student housing at good rates, and I was nominated for a CBF leadership scholarship there. That would cover my tuition and probably most of my books. I haven't received an offer for financial aid at Wake Forest yet, but that should happen in the next couple of weeks. As far as I know, it is still possible for me to receive at Wait Fellowship which would pay for my tuition, books, fees, and a living stipend. That fellowship would relieve a LOT of the pressure on me and Gay, so it is definitely something for everyone to pray about. As for housing, the cost of living is low enough in Winston Salem for us to buy a condo or a small house with what we should make on selling our house. That would save us from having to pay tax on what we make on the house.
Both Brite and Wake Forest had excellent libraries and facilities. Personally, I know more about the faculty at Wake Forest, but I have been told that the faculty at Brite is also excellent. Gay and I have heard Dr. Leonard speak on a couple of occasions, and we have always been impressed with his knowledge and insight. We met Dr. James Dunn, the former director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, at CBF this year, and had lunch with him while we were at Wake Forest. We are both huge supporters of the BJCPA, and the work Dr. Dunn has done with them. I read Dr. Charles Kimball's book, When Religion Becomes Evil, and thought it was excellent.
Gay asked me yesterday if I was disappointed that we weren't going to Brite. I said I was a little disappointed, and that I have nothing bad to say about Brite. We were treated very well there, and we both really liked Fort Worth.
Gay and I would both appreciate your prayers about the financial at at Wake Forest. As I stated earlier, the Wait Fellowship would take a lot of pressure off of the both of us.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Moravian Love Feast in Wait Chapel at Wake Forest
We just finished the Christmas Eve services at Bayshore, and they were beautiful. This marked one year since the sermon that convinced me that I was being called into ministry.
The advent theme this year at Bayshore is "Fear Not." And, I have to admit that I have been a little bit scared since I was accepted at Wake Forest. That acceptance all of sudden made things very real. I now know that next August, Gay and I will be moving to Winston-Salem, NC. I wonder if I can do the college thing for 3 years. Wake Forest is probably one of the most academically challenging programs out there, and I wonder if I can do it. Can I learn Greek and Hebrew? I know for a fact that I can do it, but it can still be very frightening at times.
I am thrilled that I was accepted at Wake Forest, and I am looking forward to studying there. I know God is going to be with me throughout the whole experience, and I also know that most things worth having require a lot of hard work. But, I don't think I could do it without Gay. She has been so supportive throughout this whole thing. I've said it before, and I will say it again, I am very lucky to have her. I think she is one of the reasons I wasn't called into the ministry earlier; I was on the track I was on so that I could meet this amazing woman.
The night was also a little bittersweet for me, because these were the last Christmas Eve services I will work at Bayshore. I have always enjoyed working these services, and I love the people at Bayshore. Although I will go to Bayshore for Christmas Eve services in the future, it won't be the same. But, the time has come to move on, and I accept that.
Merry Christmas, and thanks again for all of your prayers and support.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University
I received my letter of acceptance to The Divinity School at Wake Forest University today! It said I was recommended for merit scholarships, and that I would be receiving an offer for financial aid in the next 2 weeks. I then have 30 days to accept or decline their offer of admission.
So, it looks like Gay and I will be headed off to Wake Forest next fall. I'll post some more over the next few days, as I have more time to put my thoughts together.
I added a Weather Channel module to the right column of the site to let you see the current weather in Winston-Salem. (Remember, Wake Forest is in Winston-Salem, the old Wake Forest campus in Wake Forest, NC is now Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.) You can visit the website for the Divinity School by clicking here.
I would like to thank everyone for all of their prayers and support!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I will post some more once we get past Christmas.
Happy Holidays Everyone!
Friday, December 10, 2004
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
I received my letter of acceptance to Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University today! If you have reading this blog for a while, you know that Brite was my first choice for a long time, and is now a very close second choice. The letter also said I would be nominated for a CBF leadership scholarship. I am very excited that I was accepted at Brite, and I would be completely happy to go there.
Now we wait to hear from Wake Forest...
Monday, November 29, 2004
"I hear you are entering the ministry," the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. "Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?" And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else's. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching of the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace. I will condemn you to death.I can't emphasize enough what an amazing experience this has been for me. I hope this quote helps all of you understand just a little bit more.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Noelle Lynn Larkin
Gay and I have a new niece! Gay's Brother Shane and his wife Dana welcomed Noelle Lynn Larkin into the world this week. She was 9 lb. 5 oz. and 22 inches long. Shane and Dana live in Columbus, Georgia. We were honored to be asked to be the baby's Godparents. If you would like to see some more pictures, they are available here.
I thought I would get back to what happened after I returned from CBF in Charlotte. While we were at CBF, we purchased a few books by a couple of the speakers we heard: Tony Campolo and Brian Mclaren. While I was reading these books, I started to get the feeling that this was something that I wanted to do, and the more I read, the more I began to feel that it was something that I had to do.
One morning at church, an odd thing happened. Our minister of congregational life, Nancy Burke, came into Gay's office one morning and asked me if I thought I was being called into ministry. She said that she had woke up that morning thinking about me. I told her that it didn't matter, I couldn't leave my dad's business.
I guess you could say I started trying to run away from this calling. I tried really hard to make other business options work out, but it seemed that the harder I tried, the more I failed. Partnerships that I thought would happen in my father's business failed, and I lost clients in my own business. I can also remember driving in my car alone and just being overcome with emotion whenever I thought about going to seminary. But, rather then answering this calling. I came up with another excuse. I was too old to start over again.
I started thinking that I would be 36 when I finished school with an MDiv, and did I really want to start over again at 36. I thought I could do it if all I had to think about was me, but I didn't know that I could drag Gay through all of that. We would have to move and give up the house we both love. We would both be leaving family and friends, and moving to a place where we knew very few people.
I kept this argument up for a while. Bayshore has 3 services every Christmas Eve. We have a family pajama service, and 2 candlelight services. I can remember Gay telling me that night how tired she was, but I can remember is feeling really energized. I told her that I looked at these services as a ministry, and I really enjoyed doing them.
I felt God talking to me all during the candlelight services. I kept up the same argument, I was too old. My former pastor, Dr. Tom Pinner, was preaching that night, and the topic of his sermon was the wise men. To summarize, he said that the wise men came late, because they missed the birth, and that it was never too late to do what God wants us to do.
I have come to realize now that I am only late in my timing. I am the one who thinks that I should have my career and family established and be settled down by the time I am 35. In God's timing, I believe I am right on time. I never felt a call into ministry before a couple of years ago, so it is not something I have been ignoring. I think God has his own reasons for calling me at this point in my life, and although I don't know what those reasons are, I am now completely comfortable with my decision.
So, I asked God to let me know for sure that this is what he wanted me to do, and not pursue a new business opportunity I had working with churches. There is an old saying that you need to be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. In a couple of months, the business deal I had with another company fell through, and I really felt God telling me that this was my answer.
It was then that I really started sharing my decision with a few select people. Gay and I spent a lot of time talking about it, and we finally came to a decision that we were going to start investigating schools. I told a few of the ministers at Bayshore one Sunday, and I clearly remember waking up the following morning. For the first time in a long, long time, I didn't wake up on Monday morning with a feeling of fear and dread about what the future held. I woke up feeling great. I was completely comfortable with what the future now had in store. I remember thinking, "Wow! This is really different, and I like it!"
In my next post, I will write about how Gay and I started looking at schools.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
CBF Florida Essay
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
I'm sorry it has taken me a couple of days to write a conclusion for our seminary visits, but Gay and I have both been really busy getting back into the swing of things.
First, I want to thank everyone who prayed for us during our travels. The trip was very safe and productive. We ask for your continued prayers as we wait for word from the various schools, and try to determine where God wants us to be.
And now for the question everyone is asking: What did you decide? Gay and I both feel that The Divinity School at Wake Forest University is our first choice, and Brite Divinity School at TCU is a very, very close second. The only thing I didn't like about Brite was that I was unable to find a local CBF church with a contemporary worship service, but I already know of at least one CBF church with at Wake Forest with a contemporary service.
We were impressed with the faculty at both institutions; both were very open about their strengths and weaknesses. We talked several students at both institutions, and all thought they were receiving an excellent education. Most importantly, we both feel a huge sense of peace about both schools. We both think we will be happy either at Brite or Wake Forest.
Wake Forest has some excellent financial aid programs. I have started the application process for the Wait Fellowship, which would pay for tuition, books, fees, and includes a living stipend.
My application is complete at both institutions, and they will both start considering applications in late November or early December.
I ask for your continued prayers for guidance on this journey. Pray for the financial aid process at both schools. And finally, continue to pray for Gay and I, although we know this is God's will for our lives, that doesn't mean it is easy.
I found the following scripture very appropriate for the current situation:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope! --Jeremiah 29:11
Keep watching this blog for updates. I am also going to pick up where I left off before we left and talk more about my experiences over the past year and a half.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University (Click for a larger picture)
Today Gay and I made our last visit. We visited The Divinity School at Wake Forest for their "Discovery Day" Event. There were about 15-20 other students visiting with us. Much like Brite, the school is directly connected to the chapel pictured above. The morning started at 9 am with a presentation from the admissions director. He gave us a lot of great information on Wake Forest including admission policies, financial aid packages, and general information. This was followed by a question and answer session with a group of students. This session lasted about an hour, and I found it to be extremely informative. After this, we broke up into 2 groups to tour the campus, followed by a lunch with the dean of the Divinity School, Dr. Bill Leonard, and other staff members.
The impression I had coming into Wake Forest was entirely different with the one I left with. Wake Forest is the smallest school we visited in terms of the number of students. They limit the number of students they admit based on the amount of financial aid they can provide. They attempt to provide each student with at least 85% of their tuition through scholarships, grants, and endowments. There are a few scholarships that can provide full tuition and fees along with a living stipend. Obviously, Gay and I both found this to be very attractive. This dispelled the first misconception I had about Wake Forest: I assumed it was going to be very expensive.
The second thing I had been told about Wake Forest was that it focused on the academic more than practical ministry training. From what I observed today both from talking to the faculty and the students, the school appears to emphasize both academic and practical training. Each student is required to take a course called "The Art of Worship" for each of the three years they attend. The students plan a weekly worship service, and are required to participate in internships beginning in their second year. Students have the option of doing their internships in local churches, hospitals, Hospice, and many other diverse ministry settings. The students all thought they were getting a good balance of practical and academic training. The ministry opportunities available at Wake Forest were very similar to those offered at the other schools we visited.
We had the privilege of having lunch with Dr. James Dunn. Those of you who know him, know he can be a bit kooky, but he is a Baptist legend. Dr. Dunn is the former director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and is now a professor at Wake Forest. I was a bit shocked to find out that he is doing an interim in Virginia that requires him to fly back and forth every week. This surprised me, because I think Dr. Dunn helped craft the first amendment when it was originally written. (Hardy, are you laughing?) The great thing about Dr. Dunn is that he always tells you exactly what he thinks, and we had a great lunch with him. We were able to talk to the dean, Dr. Leonard, after lunch, and we were also able to spend some more time with the director of admissions, Scott Hodgins. He told us that North Carolina CBF is located right down the street from the university, as is the local Baptist association which he described as being very CBF friendly.
Gay and I were both very impressed with what we saw at Wake Forest. Luckily, I don't have to decide right now where I am going to go to school. I'll post some more about Wake Forest and some additional pictures once I get back to Tampa.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Campbell University (Click for larger Picture)
We spent some time on Thursday back at Campbell. We remembered the camera this time, so we took a couple pictures. We also spent some time looking around the area, looking at housing options, and visiting with another student.
The highlights of the day was talking to one of the students, Chad. We spent about 45 minutes with him, and we think we really got an accurate picture of the school. He was a transfer from Southwestern (big move both geographically and theologically) and compared the education he was receiving at Campbell very favorably with the education he was receiving at Campbell. Everyone at Campbell treated us very well, and we really appreciate the time they spent with us. There was a great sense of community at Campbell, which is something Gay and I have placed a high priority on when visiting different schools.
One of my concerns has been that Gay and I would make different decisions at the end of this trip. On our way from Campbell to Wake Forest yesterday we talked a lot about everything we have seen so far. Thankfully, we are both on the same page. We still both feel that we are being led to Brite, but we also know that we don't have to make this decision immediately. We still have plenty of time for more prayer and discussion, and we know that we will end up right where God wants us to be.
It has been raining all day today in Winston-Salem, so we haven't been able to do very much. We have explored a few housing options, but mostly from the dry of our Hotel room. Our Wake Forest visit is scheduled for tomorrow, and we are heading home tomorrow night, so I probably won't post about Wake Forest until Sunday. (BTW, this is Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, not Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. This has been a point of confusion for a whole bunch of people, so I thought I would post a clarification.)
We appreciate everyone's prayer and support while we have been on our trip. We both feel blessed to have been able to take this trip together, because we both realize that we are partners in this new endeavor.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Gay and I visited Campbell University Divinity School today. The school is located in the tiny town of Buies Creek, NC, which is about 30 miles outside of Raleigh. Fortunately, I have a lot of family in this area. My mother's father grew up only a few miles from Campbell.
I was hoping I would finish this trip with everything being crystal clear, and that may still happen. Gay and I were both very impressed with the people we met at Campbell and with the programs they offer.
We had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the faculty and staff. We had lunch with the admissions director, the church relations director, and the professor of preaching, Dr. Roy DeBrand. We also talked to several other professors and the dean over the course of our tour. They said they have more church positions for students than they have students to fill them, so getting ministry experience in a nearby church should not be difficult. They have some inexpensive student housing, and we also looked at some other housing in the area that was not very expensive. We spent time talking about financial aid, and the admissions director thought I was a great candidate for the CBF Leadership scholarship, which is something I have been interested in at each of the schools we have visited so far.
I need some time to process everything I have seen and heard so far, so I will write some more about my experience later.
Monday, November 08, 2004
McAfee School of Theology on Mercer's Atlanta Campus
Today, Gay and I visited the McAfee School of Theology on Mercer's Atlanta Campus. The first floor of the building houses the classrooms and offices, and the second floor houses the National CBF offices.
Going into today, McAfee was probably my second choice, and it probably still is. As I have mentioned earlier, both Gay and I really feel called to Brite, and although we understand that may change, nothing I experienced today made me change my mind.
We arrived at McAfee about noon. We toured the campus with one of the students, Susan Fraley, whose home church is Faith Baptist Church in Kentucky. This is significant because Faith is one of Steve Hadden's (Bayshore's new pastor) former churches, and she says she remembers Steve very well. The facilities were all very nice, and we enoyed our tour. We had lunch in the student Cafeteria, and were able to get all of our questions answered. I will be returning here for a scholars day in February when I will compete for scholarships.
After lunch, I took Gay back to the hotel to rest, and I attended a class in Evangelism and Missions. Before class, I was able to talk to several more students, one of which had great things to say about Brite. He was from Ft. Worth, but he wanted to go to school elsewhere. He asked me what schools I was investigating, and he said they were all great schools. He said the most important thing was to visit and find out where I fit, and in his opinion, I would get a great education at any of the schools I am looking at. The topic of the first hour of class was why people leave a church; I found both the professor and the class to be very interesting and came out of the class with a very positive impression.
Going to a class made me realize a couple of things. The first is that this is really going to happen. Before today, seminary was just something that was out there in the future, but today made it seem very real. I am going to be spending the next 3 years of my life in classrooms again, which is something I never thought I would do again. The second thing I realized is that not only is God calling me to do this, but he has now blessed me with the real desire to do this. During the class, I found myself wishing that I was doing this for real and participating in the discussion. Shortly after we were married, I told Gay I never wanted to go back to college, but that has now changed, and I know that change is just one of many Gay and I will be going through over the next several years.
Gay and I are having dinner with Bo and Gail Prosser tonight. Bo is CBF's national coordinator for congregational life. Gay and I have met him on several occasions before, and it is something we are really looking forward to.
Tomorrow we are off to North Carolina, and we will visit Campbell on Wednesday.
Friday, November 05, 2004
I had my interview and visit at Brite Divinity School today. Brite has been my first choice, and where both Gay and I have been feeling God leading us to go. I saw nothing today that changes that opinion.
The morning started with an interview with the admissions director, Dr. Hagadone. He was extremely friendly, and I felt more like we were having a chat. Gay participated in the interview as well, and he asked here on several occasions if she had any questions and what her concerns were. Dr. Hagadone answered all of my questions, and I was pleased with all of the answers.
There are several things I like about Brite. First, it is not a Baptist school, but it has a Baptist studies program. This program was developed to provide an alternative to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) which is also located in Fort Worth. I think I will find studying with students from other denominations both interesting, educational, and useful in my future ministry. By being exposed to other denominations, I will be better able to relate to people from these denominations in my future ministries, and I will still learn what I need to know about my own denomination in the Baptist studies program. All students accepted to Brite receive an automatic grant for 70% of their tuition. Although I don't plan to base my decision on finances, this doesn't hurt. Since Brite is not a Baptist School and has fewer Baptist students, there is less competition for CBF scholarships, and Dr. Hagadone thought I was a great candidate for one of those.
After the interview, Dr. Hagadone took us on a tour of Brite and the rest of the TCU campus. Brite is connected to the TCU chapel and the TCU department of religion. Brite students plan the weekly Tuesday morning worship services in the chapel, and the speaker is often a Brite senior. TCU's library is located immediately adjacent to Brite, which I am sure will prove to be extremely convenient. We then toured the administration building, student center, and other areas of the TCU campus. After this tour, we were able to see a class, although it was ending because all classes end by noon on Friday. Every classroom is Wi-Fi (wireless network) enabled with powerpoint and projector capabilities. (This is true of the entire seminary building and library as well.)
Once this tour ended, we went on a tour of Leibrock Village, the apartment complex for divinity school students. This housing is another advantage at Brite. For $825 a month, we can get a 2 bedroom apartment including all utilities (electricity, phone, water, cable, and internet.) The complex opened 3 years ago, and the apartments were very nice. The tour was conducted by a student (Fester, a very interesting person) and we met several other students as well. We took this opportunity to talk to the students about Brite and Leibrock, and their comments were positive concerning both. Should we decide on Brite, this is where Gay and I will be living.
After the tour of Leibrock, we met with the director of the Baptist studies program at Brite, Ray Vickrey. Although many of our questions had been answered by this point, we were very pleased to be able to meet with him.
I still have several other seminaries to visit, and then I have some praying to do. Dr. Hagadone said the admissions commitee would be meeting at the end of the month, and that I would probably be hearing from them in early December.
I have posted a lot more pictures in my Yahoo Photos gallery. You can visit it by clicking here. Gay took these pictures, and they give you a great idea of how beautiful the campus is.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Luckily for those of you who disagree with me, this will probably be the last thing I will write on politics for a while. But I do think there are a few things that need to be said.
It is not un-American to disagree with the president or the government. We are lucky to live in a country where we are allowed to speak our mind. We all, however, need to pray for our government and leaders. More specifically, we need to pray that they will do God's will, not ours.
It is not un-Christian to vote Democrat. If you believe that the republicans have all the right answers, you are fooling yourself. The new senator from South Carolina believes that gay women and single mothers should not be allowed to teach in public schools, because of their immorality. I am reminded of the Tony Campolo sermon I heard a couple of years ago. Tony Campolo was being criticized because he "loved gays and lesbians." His response was: "So does Jesus." As a country, we need to be very careful that we do not treat others as second class citizens because they do not share our beliefs or religion, or because they are not like us. In the past, the Bible has been used to support the mistreatment of slaves and women. We need to be careful to no let this happen again.
Liberalism is not always a bad thing. One of the reasons cited by southern states when they seceded from the union was the election of the extremely liberal president, Abraham Lincoln. Liberalism has a history that is at least as proud as conservativism, and there have been and will continue to be strong Christians who identify themselves as liberals/democrats.
The continued separation of church and state is an absolute necessity. One needs only study the history of Theocracies to understand why.
The election is over and my side lost. I still love my country, and I feel extremely blessed to live in a country that allows me to participate in the political process. The election does nothing to change my political views. So, you can expect to hear from me again in two years when the democrats take back the congress! :)
January 4, 2005
Keep Your Eyes on the Goal
Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” In Joshua 3, the flooded Jordan river stood between the Israelites and the city of Jericho. The obstacles we encounter in our own faith journeys are usually not that concrete or dramatic, but any obstacle, real or imagined, can prevent us from doing God's will in our lives.
When I first felt God calling me into ministry, I took my eyes off of the goal and concentrated on the obstacles. I even thought it was my responsibility to make God aware of these obstacles as well. Although I had no doubt that full-time ministry was God's goal for my life, there were times I was too afraid to even try sticking my foot in the water. When I finally found the courage to take a step of faith into the flooded river, the water from upstream stopped flowing, and I was able to cross to the other side and put the obstacle behind me. Imagine how foolish I felt for being so afraid and forgetting that I was not alone on my journey.
God does not promise us that our journey will be easy, but he does promise to always be with us. Consequently, I would like to make a slight change to what Henry Ford said: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off of God.”
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Thursday: Fly to Fort Worth
Friday: Interview and tour Brite
Saturday: Look at housing in Fort Worth
Sunday: Continue above and fly to Atlanta
Monday: Tour McAfee in Atlanta
Tuesday: Look at Housing in Atlanta
Wednesday: Tour Campbell in Buies Creek, NC
Thursday: Look at housing near Campbell
Friday: Look at housing at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem
Saturday: Tour Wake Forest, drive back to Atlanta, and return home.
As you can see, this is going to be a crazy trip. Gay is giving up her vacation time to do this with me, and I can't tell you how much her love and support means to me.
I will be posting pictures and updates to this blog as often as I can. So, keep an eye on it starting at the end of this week.
We appreciate you prayers as we take one of the most important steps in our journey.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Gil, Gay and our pastor, Steve Hadden.
(Click on picture for larger version.)
Today was a great day. At the end of each of the services, Gay and I went down to the front of the church to inform the church of my decision to go to seminary and pursue a career in full-time ministry.
For those of you who don't know. I went to Bayshore as a kid from the time I was 3 until I was about 12. When I was 12, my Family moved to Lutz, and we moved to First Baptist Church of Lutz for a few years before going to Seminole Heights Baptist. I returned to Bayshore in 1998 shortly before Bayshore hired my former pastor from Seminole Heights, Dr. Tom Pinner. I started working on Sundays for Bayshore in 2001. In December of that year, Gay started working for Bayshore by filling in for another secretary who was on maternity leave. In 2002, she was hired full time as a secretary for Nancy Burke our minister of congregational life. Both of us really feel at home at Bayshore, and we will both miss the people at Bayshore once we leave.
Nearly everyone at Bayshore has been very supportive of my decision. All of the ministers have given me a lot of good advice, written letters of recommendation, and helped me work through all of the issues and questions that have come up during this process.
It was great to have our new pastor, Steve Hadden, Nancy Burke, and Tom Pinner all standing at the front of the church with us. Its nice to know that there will be so many people praying for us as we start this journey.
We will be leaving on Thursday to start visiting schools, and I will be posting pictures and updates here throughout the trip.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I think a little bit of an explanation of CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) is appropriate here. I think many people think of the CBF as being a moderate version of the SBC. While the CBF is composed primarily of moderate Baptists, its organizational structure is entirely different.
The CBF is primarily a networking and missions organization. Unlike the SBC it does not have a publishing division, a Christian ethics division, etc. Rather, CBF partners with other organizations who perform these functions. For example, Smith and Helwys publishes the Sunday School literature used by many CBF churches, but CBF neither owns nor controls Smith and Helwys. Likewise, the CBF does not have seminaries like the SBC, they simply partner with new or existing divinity schools and seminaries. An interesting, and, in my opinion, very beneficial effect of this arrangement is the fact that there are CBF partners that are not Baptist For example: CBF partners with Upper Room Ministries, which is a Methodist organization. A complete list of CBF's partners is available here.
The CBF does not issue the kind of position statements the SBC does, such as the Disney boycott or the call increase evangelism to Jewish people. CBF believes in the autonomy of every local church, so these kinds of decisions are left up to the local church. There are, of course, many beliefs that are common to CBF churches such as the support of women in ministry, but local churches are also free to disagree. There are state and regional CBF's as well.
It is possible for a church as well as an individual to be a member of CBF, and there is plenty to do at annual CBF Meetings for either church staff or laity. I have enjoyed both of the CBF annual meetings I have attended. There is a worship service every night, and there are also "sample worship services" of many different styles offered throughout the conference. There are workshops for pastors, workshops on Baptist history, workshops on prayer and dozens of others on a wide variety of topics with a variety of speakers both Baptist and non-Baptist. Many people think that the national CBF convention is only for church leadership, but that is not the case. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I certainly encourage you to go to the next CBF annual meeting. More information can be found here.
Without CBF, I wouldn't still be Baptist.
Here are some great links for more information about CBF:
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Homepage
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida
Baptist Faith and Message 1963 & 2000 - CBF Follows the 1963 version
CBF and the Baptist Faith and Message
Differences Between CBF and the SBC - By CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal
Fundamental vs. Fundamentalist
Who We Are - Brochure from CBF
Truth about CBF
A lot of the above links are from this page on CBF's website.
I'll get back to my personal experience in the next post. But I decided I needed to talk about CBF a little before I continued. I am very passionate about CBF and the work it is doing right now. They are starting a NEW CBF church every month right now, and that is very exciting.
Daniel Vestal - National CBF Coordinator - Politics and Passion
Ethics Daily - It's Time to Choose
As I have said before, I don't believe either side has it completely right, so there better be Christians on both sides. If you haven't done so already, make sure you vote in the upcoming election. (Especially if you are planning to vote for Kerry!)
Monday, October 25, 2004
Friday, October 22, 2004
I also added a button to allow you add this blog's feed to your My Yahoo! site. I have used My Yahoo! since the beginning, and I wouldn't use anything else as my start page. You can customize it with all the news, sports, and other information you want. Give it a try if you haven't by clicking here.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Here are a few of my differences with the fundamentalists in the SBC. BTW, the fact that a takeover took place is not disputed by either side. The SBC celebrated the 25th anniversary at this years SBC Annual meeting.
Women in Ministy - I support women in ministry, beginning with Sunday School teachers and going all the way up to the pastor. Interestingly enough, there are now a number of CBF churches with co-pastors that are husband and wife. A church in Daytona Beach was kicked out their association for hiring co-pastors. The SBC has even stopped endorsing women chaplains. Without that endorsement, a chaplain cannot find employment. SBC seminaries have also started issuing "certificates" rather than degrees to women who complete the same course work as men. Our minister of music's father had to threaten to sue Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to get her an M.Div. rather than a "certificate." I plan to post my scriptural defense of women in ministry in the future.
The SBC, although they deny it, has become very creedal (a mandatory statement of faith.) Forcing missionaries, seminary professors, and, in some associations, church pastors and employees to sign the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000. Missionaries that wouldn't sign it were fired or forced to take early retirement if they didn't sign the BF&M. For a great comparison of the 1963 and 2000 versions, go to http://www.bgct.org/bfm/bfmcomp.pdf. They call the BF&M a "statement on doctrinal accountability," but a creed by any other name is still a creed. Firing a missionary with decades of excellent service because they will not a find a new man-made document is a sin, there is no other way to put it.
Fundamentalists typically exclude (and this is especially true of the SBC) anyone who doesn't agree with them completely. Seminary professors and even presidents were fired because they were teaching things that were not compatible with the new leaderships. Students were made into spies, and encouraged to record lectures of "suspected professors." The story of Russell Dilday is probably available by doing a Google search.
Separation of Church and state. The SBC was one of the founding bodies of the Baptist Joint committee on Public Affairs. This organization lobbies in Washington to ensure the separation of Church and state. There is a link in the links section if you would like to visit their website. The SBC no longer supports the BJCPA, and their support of the separation of church and state has eroded since the start of the takeover. Again, this is something I will post more about in the future.
The SBC is now all about control. They want to control the seminaries, control the missionaries, and even control the Bible (don't believe me, click here!) Last year the SBC pulled out of the Baptist World Alliance, another missions organization that SBC was a founding member. Two things contributed to their pull out, the admission of the CBF and the fact that they could no longer get their way in the BWA. As I said earlier, separating from "outsiders" is a characteristic of fundamentalism.
I do not agree with most of the changes made to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Take a look at the website listed above for a great comparison. Most moderate Baptists support the 1963 version.
The Mainstream Baptists site listed in the links section details many of the differences, and they are working on a timeline of the takeover, however it is not complete. There are several good books on the subject, if you are interested. There are books that detail the takeover from both sides of the issue.
Also, the book Fundamentalism by Fisher Humphreys and Phillip Wise is an excellent book on the subject.
Its getting late, and I have to go to a CBF Florida meeting tomorrow, so I will stop here for now. Have any questions, post a comment and I will be happy to answer them. I think discussion of these things is healthy and important for both sides of the issues. And I believe we can agree to disagree and still work together. That is what makes me different from the fundamentalists currently in control of the SBC.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
I read an article a few weeks ago on the SBC's website that was blasting postmoderns for, among other things, not believing in absolute truth. As someone who has recently come to realize that I think like a postmodern, I admit that I have serious problems with the concept of absolute truth.
Do I believe there is an absolute truth in the universe? Yes, I do. However, what I do not believe in is absolute knowledge of that absolute truth. In the last post on my calling, I quoted 1 Corinthians 13:9: "“For we know in part and we prophesy in part." So, according to the Bible, our knowledge is incomplete and flawed, which means our view of absolute truth could be described as looking at a jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of pieces missing. We can't see the complete picture, and we can't see how each piece relates to the whole.
The other problem I have with absolute truth is the fact that what can be defined as "absolute truth" appears to be relative to the time in which you are living. For example, the Catholic church persecuted Galileo because he was teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. This was contrary to the "absolute truth" the Church was teaching at the time, and it took them more than 300 years to apologize for their treatment of Galileo. Since it is impossible for something to be both absolute and relative at the same time, I believe this invalidates the concept of absolute truth.
To summarize, my problem with absolute truth is not its existence, but our incomplete knowledge of it. I believe that theology should constantly be in a state of evolution; we should constantly be trying to learn more about the character of God and his will for our lives. The word "absolute" does not allow for this kind of change.
John 14:6 is a verse I have heard quoted a couple of times by absolute truth proponents. It reads, "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Absolute truth proponents use this verse to say that the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus as your savior. However, neither this verse, nor any other verse in the Bible addresses the issue of what happens to a child who dies when he is too young to accept Jesus, or someone who is born with another issue that leaves them incapable of making this decision. We have theories such as the "age of accountability", and those theories are based on the character of God we see throughout the rest of the Bible. However, since it is never mentioned, we certainly can not say with absolute certainty what happens or why it happens.
I would like to propose an alternative to absolute truth, and that would be the absolute authority of God. There are simply things we don't know the answer to, and I think it is enough for us to realize that God is in control of those things and everything else for that matter. In the example I gave above, I know that God is going to do the right thing, so I don't have to worry about it. I also know that I can't save anyone, God is the only one who can do that; the best I can do is help the process along.
It is not God or God's truth that is flawed. It is our knowledge that is imperfect and flawed.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Welcome to Ethics Daily.com!: "Democrat and Proud"
Another great site is www.sojourners.com. They are the organization that published a full page ad in the New York Times entitled "God is Not a Democrat or Republican" during the Republican National Convention. There is a copy of the ad on the website.
Monday, October 18, 2004
It amazes me how many people I have talked to can trace their calling back to one particular event, such as a revival, youth camp, etc. Well, for me, that event was the CBF General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina in June of 2003. Other than at my home church, Bayshore Baptist, I had always felt like I was nearly alone in some of my beliefs. My strong support of women in ministry, separation of church and state, and support of the democratic party are just a few of the issues being challenged by the "new" Southern Baptist Convention. (The fundamentalist takeover of the SBC is deserving of several posts in itself, and I will get to that sometime in the future.) In Charlotte, I found myself surrounded by either people or agreed with me, or people who could at least agree to disagree.
There are two particular events at CBF that were life-changing. The first was the church leadership seminar which was being led by Brian Mclaren. Brian Mclaren has become an expert on postmodern Christianity. (If you want to read about this, his books A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In are excellent places to start.) I attended this conference with an older friend from church. After the seminar, all of us who attended realized that the younger generation views the world much differently than the older generation. Once both sides realized this, we were able to relate to each other much better. It was also kind of an ah-ha moment for me because I realized that there were other people who think the way I do. Postmodernism is another topic that is too lengthy to be discussed here, and I don't know that I understand it well enough to write about it yet. Before this seminar, I didn't even know what a postmodern was, much less that I was one, and that there were a lot of other people just like me, all of whom were dealing with many of the same issues I am.
The second life-changing event occurred only a few hours later. Dr. Tony Campolo was the speaker at the worship service that evening. He hit all nearly all of the issues I think are important, and he agreed with me, and people in the audience were agreeing with him. All I could think of was, "WOW! This is really cool!" I really had a feeling of being "at home" with these people. It was an absolutely wonderful feeling. I realize that not everyone in the audience agreed with Dr. Campolo, but it appeared that the majority of the people agreed with him the majority of the time. What I really took away from this was this: it is possible to be a minister with views like mine and not have to hide those views because of the criticism that is bound to come from fundamentalists. There appeared to be a group of people out there who were able to, as our interim pastor Dr. Hardy Clemons put it, disagree agreeably.
The whole event has changed the way I look at my faith. I don't think are differences are something to be ashamed of or hidden; I think they are something to be proud of and proclaimed! Unlike the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, I see diversity as a strength, not a weakness. 1 Corinthians 13:9 says: For we know in part and we prophesy in part. Therefore, none of us has all of the answers, and the only way to get a fuller picture of the character of God and discern his will for us as individuals and collectively as a body of believers is to spend time in prayer and study together. Whenever several Baptists study together, disagreements are bound to occur. The goal should be, as my former interim pastor Hardy Clemons put it, to disagree agreeably. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with agreeing to disagree, and the chances are that neither side is completely right nor completely wrong.
In the next post, I will write about what I did with what I learned once I returned home.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Brite Divinity School
MacAfee School of Theology
The Divinity School at Wake Forest University
Campbell University Divinity School
There are 13 schools that partner with CBF, and Gay and I have reduced the list down to these four, for now. I have already been accepted at McAfee, and I will hopefully be interviewing at the others in early November. For more information on the CBF partner schools, you can visit the CBF website at www.thefellowship.info.
Friday, October 15, 2004
I think that every person's call into ministry is a little bit different. I think that God comes to us where we are, knows exactly what he needs to do for us to hear him, and that some of us will require a little more convincing than others. Some people may require the "burning bush"; while for others, a still, small voice is all it takes.
I think it is difficult for people who have not had this experience, or been very close to someone who has, to understand it. Some may think I am being overdramatic in my writing, but believe me when I tell you it comes from my heart. For me, it has been an extremely intense and personal event in my life. I think it can be as dramatic a change as getting married or having a baby. Once it happens, you are never the same. I have to admit there were times I wished it would just go away, but God just wouldn't give up on me.
I have always felt I was doing God's will in the academic and occupational decisions, and I still feel that way. I studied broadcasting in College, and throughout college I was active in the TV ministry at Seminole Heights Baptist Church, and I have been a sound technician since then as well. When I decided to come back and work for my father, I felt I was doing God's will as well. We had some success for several years, and I don't regret the decision even though the past few years have been tough. I don't believe God was calling me into full time ministry until about a year ago. So, why did he wait until I was 33, married, and settled in my first house? I don't know. That's the only answer I have right now. I may be able to figure it out some time in the future, but even if I can't, I am fine with that. There is one thing I do know. I know for certain that God is calling me into the ministry -- there is no doubt in my mind, and I consider that to be a blessing.
Because I am older, I am not the only person this decision this affects. I am very lucky that my wife, Gay, has completely supported me. She is going to be giving up a lot to support me in this, a good job, great friends, and a house that she loves. The only explanation is that she loves me more. I can't do this without her, and I am so blessed that God put this beautiful, understanding and wonderful woman in my life.
I'll write about some more of the specific events in my next few postings.