Thank You, First Baptist Church of Jefferson City.

Today the messengers to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention voted to not seat the messengers sent to the meeting by the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Tennessee. The overwhelming majority of TBC messengers voted to not seat the messengers from Jefferson City because their church recently called a woman to serve as their pastor.  My personal interest is that I could very well still be opposed to the idea of women pastors if it had not been for the life and witness of a Tennessee Baptist Convention employee.

I enrolled at Roane State Community College for my sophomore year of College. My dad had passed away that summer and staying close to home seemed like a good idea. Before classes started, I had already been introduced to Windie Wilson. She was the BSU Director at the Baptist Student Union at Roane State, a ministry of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. My home church, First Baptist Church of Rockwood, was without a pastor during this time. Somewhere between December and May of that academic year, I realized that the way I thought and felt about women being ministers had changed. I never had any sense that changing my views on women in ministry was Windie’s intention. She was just doing what God had given her to do in that season of her life. She was leading the BSU, doing Bible studies, organizing events, planning mission trips, listening to and loving students. By the time we were packing our bags to head out to our various summer mission assignments, I realized that what Windie had been doing was being my pastor.  Looking back, I am really glad my mind was changed. If it had not been, I might never have married Reverend Patti Sunday-Winters.

Today, I give thanks for all the Tennessee Baptists who had a hand shaping and enriching my journey. At the same time, I pray for the day when all Tennessee Baptists come to understand that God really does mean for our “. . .sons and daughters to prophesy,” and that there really is “. . .no longer male or female: for all of (us) are one in Christ Jesus.” In the meantime, I celebrate the life and witness of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. The Kingdom of God and all of God’s creation will be better when more of us know what you know. Yes, God does call women to preach and lead churches. Yes, women can tell the story of Jesus in a way that is edifying and formative for those seeking to follow Christ. Yes, women have a voice that ought to be heard, believed and followed. First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, for having the courage and the wisdom to demonstrate the depth, the height and breadth of God’s love, thank you.

Advertisements

Former Vol with a Faith-Filled Future

While most of the football watching public was fixated on Tim Tebow last weekend, I was hoping that his Denver Bronco teammates, Robert Ayers and Britton Colquitt, would play well.  Ayers and Colquitt are former University of Tennessee Volunteers.  As the game progressed, I could not help but wonder what Denver’s team would look like if Al Wilson, another former Vol who used to play linebacker for Denver, was still playing.  Together, he and Tebow would provide some excellent leadership.  New England beat Denver in rather convincing fashion which meant that former Vols Jerod Mayo and Shaun Ellis, who both play defense for the Patriots, came away winners.

To me, watching former Vols play is what makes the NFL interesting.  Arian Foster is the reason I pull for the Texans.  Peyton Manning was the reason I used to pull for the Colts.  Stanley Morgan was the reason that I started cheering for the Patriots when I was just a boy.

Recently, on two occasions, I have had the opportunity to watch, and more importantly hear another former Vol.  Both times, at the Greater Knoxville Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet and at the Karns High School Football banquet Inky Johnson told his story in a way that was moving and powerful.

Inky is not playing in the NFL today because of an injury he suffered in the 2006 game against Air Force. It was an injury that not only cost him a professional career, but almost cost him his life.  What he has done since that day, the way he has handled adversity and the way he has allowed God to work in his life, is what gives power and meaning to his speaking.  The great thing about Inky’s story is that young people listen to him.  He connects with them and gives them something to think about as they make choices in their lives and face their own difficulties.  Young people hear stories all the time.  There is always someone, a parent or a teacher, trying give them direction and advice; but young people don’t always listen.  They listen to Inky, and the words he shares with them are words that they need to hear — for that matter, they are words that we would all do well to hear and to take to heart.

“We always have a positive outlook when we face trials ( not that were always happy) but because of what the trials can produce in our lives!”

“Be worthy of the sacrifices that the ones have made who came before you!…This is why I dedicated my book to my grandmother.”

“No matter what angle you view it from….We all have the responsibility to make this world a better place before our time is up!”

“Life is about your LEGACY–And that is how people or a place is made better as a result of being around you or because you were there!”

“When you allow your fear to rule you or hold you back you make your fear more powerful than GOD!”

“All I am trying to do is be a blessing to the ones who can’t pay me back!”

Be on the lookout for an event where you might be able to hear Inky speak.  It will be well worth your time.  Meanwhile, you might want to pick up a copy of his book, Inky: An Amazing Story of Faith and PerseveranceIn the meantime, pray for him.  His trials and challenges are not over, but he is endeavoring to do a good thing for God and for people.  Let us encourage him and give thanks that there are voices in this world that are speaking good and not evil, hope and not despair, compassion and not bitterness.

Shakespeare, Football and Faith

If you follow college athletics, and college football in particular, you have been intrigued in recent days about schools switching conferences. There was talk for a time of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech leaving the Big 12 Conference and joining the Pac-10 Conference.  As it turns out, Texas was just trying to get a better deal from the Big 12, and used the threat of leaving as leverage to do so.  In the midst of the frenzy, Nebraska did leave the Big 12 to join the Big 10. The Big 10, which now has 12 member schools instead of 11, will no doubt continue to refer to itself as the Big 10. They seem to think that the historical value of the name is more important than whether or not it provides an accurate description of their conference. Meanwhile, Colorado has left the Big 12 to join the Pac-10. There is no word yet as to whether the Pac-10 will now be the Pac-11 or not.

Those two defections leave the Big 12 with only ten member institutions. Again, there is a bit of  an “accuracy in labeling” issue. Can the Big 12 still be the Big 12 if they only have 10 schools? One thing is for sure, they can not be the Big 10; which, while it does have 12 schools, still has prior claim to the Big 10 moniker. So what will the Big 12 do? Rumor has it that there is a possibility that Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University might be invited to join the Big 12. If this were to happen, it would be a reunion of sorts. TCU and SMU used to play ball with many current members of the Big 12 in what used to the Southwest Conference before it was dissolved some 17 years ago.  “The wheel has come full circle. . .”

Years ago, when the fundamentalist began their takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, T. C. Pickney was a leader in that effort. Before they gained control of the Southern Baptist Convention, many of them were not eager to support the mission efforts of the convention.  Moderates tried unsuccessfully to make support of the Cooperative Program a litmus test of sorts. They argued that elected leaders of the SBC should come from churches that support the Cooperative Program with at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts. The fundamentalists countered that argument by saying they should not have to support that with which they did not agree. Their success in taking over the Convention proved that they were right. Ironically, T.C. Pickney, at this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, made a motion that one of the qualifications of being an elected leader in the Southern Baptist Convention be membership in a local church that gives at least 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. Maybe now they wish they had not been so right. They are discovering that taking over something is easier than taking care of something.  “The wheel has come full circle. . .”

As we look together toward our future as the people of God in this place, we ought to ever be humbly aware of how little we can actually see. As we discern together the direction God might have for us, we ought to do so with the same faithfulness and willingness to sacrifice that motivated the widow to cast her coins in the temple treasury so long ago. What we are doing 10 or 15 years from now is not the most important thing for us to know. Neither is knowing where and how we will be expressing our faith or with what other groups or individuals we will be working with to share the love of Christ.  What is important, vitally important, is knowing Who has called us, has saved us, Who has commissioned us to go into the world with words of life.  Some things are just too far into the future for us to see, whether we are talking about tomorrow or next year; but what is possible for us to always know is that God is with us and will be with us.  More than that, God will not stop calling us, stop inviting us to join in the task of living and telling the story of God’s great love for every person, in every nation, in all of God’s creation.

Future, Forward, Faith is about asking questions, dreaming answers, and listening to one another.  We may have all kinds of questions about our future. We may explore an array of ways to go forward. Yet, our questions about faith will not be as uncertain as perhaps those about the future and going forward into it are. This is true because yesterday, today, and tomorrow God’s desire is the same. God wants to be in an intimate, loving relationship with everyone in the human race. That includes each one of us. God not only wants to be in that kind of relationship with us, God also wants us to be a part of introducing others to that kind of relationship.

Therefore, the questions about our faith will be more about us than they are about God. As we go forward into the future together, how will our faith grow deeper, richer, and broader? Will we be more in love with God? That depends to some extent on us, on how we answer some of those questions, and on the ways we choose to serve our Lord. Ultimately, we circle back to the cross of Calvary and sacrificial love. That amazing love calls us to sacrificial living. If the cross is before us, our faith cannot help but grow deeper, richer and broader.