Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Friendly Gathering

Tomorrow after I officiate what will be my fourth funeral in the last 4 weeks, I'll be joining with my colleagues of the BGCM to host a meeting of some key leaders from the BGCT, BGAV, and Washington, D.C. conventions here in Kansas City. We met for the first time last year in Dallas at the BGCT offices with the leaders of the other "moderate" state conventions to do some networking with our counterparts in the other conventions who are engaged in similar ministries. It was a good time of fellowship and information sharing as well as mutual encouragement as we talked about things that are proving effective and the challenges to our work. We'll follow a similar format this year as well, beginning our meeting on Wednesday evening with introductions and a meal and some preliminary reflections before continuing on Thursday with some smaller group meetings. We'll wrap up with a lunch on Friday before bidding farewell to our friends and colaborers. While the other folks are visiting with us, we hope to expose them to a bit of Kansas City culture, and that translates into some good steaks and barbecue along the way. My mouth is watering already.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Recent Guatemala Trip Photos

I haven't had a chance to post anything for awhile so I thought I'd upload some pictures of some of the children that we worked with on the trip to Guatemala last month--some in the public schools and some in the VBS sessions in the local churches. The children in Guatemala are absolutely adorable.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Funeral Ministry

Last weekend was a good one as the BGCM held their quarterly board meeting at Windermere Baptist Encampment. We heard a good report from Dan Bench, CEO of Windermere about the recent court ruling by Judge Callahan and some of the positive things that are taking place at this beautiful Baptist encampment. This is the one board meeting of the year when we have a two-day meeting in a retreat setting to do some team building and visioning exercises in addition to the normal ministry team meetings and business sessions.

I returned on Saturday evening and met with the family of a long-time church member who had passed away last Thursday in preparation for officiating at her service on Monday. I learned lots of interesting and humorous things about her that I hadn't learned in my frequent visits with her over the past several years so the funeral service included a good bit of humor and joyful celebration. I attended the service yesterday of another church member who has been battling cancer for many years and passed away on Saturday. Our minister of education had been neighbors with them years ago and conducted the service.

I met with another family this morning in preparation for another funeral I'll be conducting tomorrow afternoon. This will make the third funeral I've conducted and a total of five that I've been present at in the last two weeks. I spoke with one of the funeral home directors on Monday and he has been amazed by the number of folks dying recently. He told me that one day last week there were 104 obituaries in the Kansas City paper. I was checking on the lady whose service I'm doing tomorrow in the obit. section of the paper today and decided to count the number out of curiosity. There were 85 listed today.

Funeral ministry to me is something that is very significant. With senior adult ministry being one of the things I focus on, I'm asked to do a lot of funerals. I find it to be rewarding but also emotionally challenging, especially when they come as closely together as they have lately. I'm trusting warmer weather will mean less illness and healthier people.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Judge Rules for Windermere, Against MBC

Judge Callahan issued a ruling earlier this week on March 4, finding that Windermere had acted within its rights when it changed its charter to name its own trustees. The Missouri Baptist Convention has already issued a statement that it will appeal the ruling. Coverage of the ruling by Judge Callahan appears both in the Word and Way and in the MBC's Pathway. Both articles report the same basic facts in the ruling, although MBC expresses confidence that the ruling will be overturned in appeals court. Brian Kaylor points out on his blog that whereas the appeals court did previously reverse Judge Brown's decision about the MBC not having standing to even bring the suit, two of the three judges of that appeals court had significant ties with the MBC and probably should have recused themselves from hearing the case. Those judges no longer serve on the appeals court.

I will be at Windermere this weekend for a meeting of the BGCM board of directors in preparation for the BGCM's annual meeting next month at the Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis. Dan Bench, CEO of Windermere, is scheduled to bring a report to the group and will undoubtedly reflect on this most recent ruling.

My sense is that many Missouri Baptists are tired of the ongoing lawsuits against the five agencies and would prefer to see their Cooperative Program offerings go towards missions and ministry rather than to the pockets of the lawyers who represent the MBC in this case. While I believe that to be true, I also seriously doubt that there will be a forum for them to express those sentiments, as the Legal Task Force of the MBC continues to paint an optimistic picture that the lawsuits will eventually be won by the convention and thus the exorbitant legal expenses are justifiable. Lost in all the rhetoric about the "renegade" institutions being stolen from Missouri Baptists is the fact that the five agencies in question still willingly serve all Missouri Baptists who choose to avail themselves of their ministries. The defunding of these agencies by the MBC and the efforts to harm their ministries represents a very sad chapter in Missouri Baptist history.