Stories of interest to Arkansas Baptists ...


Angola prison ministry celebrates 20 years, new facility

The 20th anniversary of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary/Leavell College prison education program was marked with graduation in Tudy Chapel at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, La. The 278th graduate of the program was awarded a degree. Photo by Boyd GuyANGOLA, La. (BP) – Celebrating a 20-year partnership that has changed lives and deployed "missionaries," New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary/Leavell College has dedicated a new facility with expanded classroom and library space at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, La.

 The Aug. 27 dedication followed a graduation ceremony marking the program's 278th graduate.

"This has been the most spectacular day we could ever have," said Burl Cain, warden of the correctional facility. "We have a new seminary building; we doubled our capacity; and, it means less victims of violent crime."

The Joan Horner Center, an 11,000-square-foot building with a computer lab, two classrooms, an auditorium and library, was named in memory of benefactor Joan Horner, founder of Premier Designs of Dallas, who with husband Andy Horner were longtime supporters of the Angola ministry. An anonymous donor provided funds for the structure.

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Platt: No gospel drawdown despite International Mission Board cuts

PlattRICHMOND, Va. (BP) – A reduction of 600-800 International Mission Board staff and field personnel should not decrease the board's Gospel impact worldwide, IMB President David Platt told members of the media during an Aug. 27 conference call.

"Even if our income from churches were to double over the next year ... we would still have a cap on our ability to send a certain number of full-time, fully supported church planters," Platt said. IMB leaders "want to take that cap off" and "consider all of the different avenues that God created in His sovereign grace for multitudes more people to go" -- including business professionals funded by their secular employers, students funded by scholarships to international universities and retirees funded by their savings.

Platt's press conference, which also included the IMB’s executive vice president, Sebastian Traeger, occurred following a town hall meeting with missionaries and staff at which IMB leaders announced a plan to balance the organization’s budget by the end of 2017. Phase one of the plan will involve offering a voluntary retirement incentive to eligible employees. Phase two will include an opportunity for other employees to "voluntarily transition into work outside the IMB," Platt said. The issue of potential layoffs will be addressed "when necessary."

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Stress and ministry focus of new study

NASHVILLE (BP) – Though pastors are stressed about money and overwhelming ministry demands, only one percent abandon the pulpit each year, LifeWay Research finds.

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,500 pastors of evangelical and historically black churches and found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate 10 years later for reasons other than death or retirement. The study, released today (Sept. 1), was gathered from a survey conducted March 5-18.

"Pastors are not leaving the ministry in droves," said Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research vice president.

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Kentucky clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses

MOREHEAD, Ky. (BP) – A Kentucky county clerk not only lost at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday Aug. 31 but now faces a likely contempt of court ruling for again refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her deputies turned away gay couples seeking marriage licenses Tuesday morning, Sept. 1, at their office in the eastern Kentucky town of Morehead. Their refusal came after the high court denied Davis’ request to block enforcement of a federal judge’s order that she issue licenses for same-sex marriages.

Lawyers for the gay couples subsequently filed a contempt of court motion against Davis, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. David Bunning, the federal judge who previously ordered Davis to issue licenses, will consider Thursday the request she be held in contempt, according to the newspaper.

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Former embattled Atlanta fire chief Cochran now a preacher

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) – Kelvin Cochran was enjoying newfound popularity in 1981 as one of the first black firefighters in Shreveport, La., when women began following him to the fire station with their phone numbers in hand, charmed by his presence on the back of the fire engine.

The 21-year-old dated like "crazy" for four months, he said, until God woke him up one morning and changed his life.

Pastors and leaders at the 2015 Black Church Leadership & Family Conference surround former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, center, with prayer after he announced his call to preach.

"Son, this is not the life I called you to. You need to find yourself a wife," Cochran remembers God saying to him. "So I took God very seriously and I thought, rather than trying to find someone that I never met, let me just take the time and pray and think of the girl that I admired the most growing up in Shreveport."

His memories took him back to the fourth grade and a certain Carolyn Marshall, whom he found only after calling every Marshall in the Shreveport phone book. He persuaded her to invite him to the home she still shared with her mother in a public housing development.

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