Baptist News Summary: 'Lord protected us,' Baptist pastor says of gunman


'Lord protected us,' Baptist pastor says of gunman

VIDOR, Texas (BP) – "The Lord protected us," a Texas pastor proclaimed after police arrested a masked gunman more than 250 miles away who cited the specific church as his destination.

"There is an overwhelming recognition that the Lord protected us and provided for us," Terry Wright of First Baptist Church in Vidor told Baptist Press Jan. 2.


Police in Seguin, Texas, 254 miles southwest of Vidor, contacted the pastor after arresting 33-year-old Tony Dwayne Albert II, whom police said was dressed in tactical style clothing, had a loaded gun and said he was headed to the church to fulfill an unspecified prophecy.

Albert told the Seguin Police Department he was headed for First Baptist Church of Vidor.

According to reports, police arrested Albert after responding to a call from Las Mananitas restaurant in Seguin.

"We're very grateful that the man was caught," Wright told BP. "We also know that he needs help. He has some problems, evidently, and we ... pray for his well-being, that through this, somehow or another, there be a spiritual impact in his life.

"I prayed for him this morning," Wright said.

99-year-old pastor receives Green Beret status

PEARLAND, Texas (BP) – After World War II, decorated Army veteran Jesse Whitley returned home and became a soldier for the Lord, serving as a Baptist pastor and preacher for more than 45 years.

"Sgt." Whitley, who celebrated his 99th birthday Dec. 14, received renewed recognition on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, with Green Beret status for his service in a special forces unit nicknamed "the Devil's Brigade."

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, World War II veteran Jesse Whitley, 99, received his Green Beret from Sgt. Justin Mayrant of the 19th Special Forces based in San Antonio. BAPTIST PRESS photo

It came as a surprise to Whitley, who faced combat action with the First Special Service Force against the Japanese in Alaska's Aleutian Islands and against the Germans in Europe.

At the culmination of the event, Whitley received a Special Forces Tab and a Green Beret presented by Sgt. Justin Mayrant of the 19th Special Forces unit based in San Antonio.

"I can't imagine me being this important to anyone," Whitley said in the interview. "It made me feel humble. And I still feel humbled by that award. It was a thing that I'd hoped I would see when I came back to America. It took it a long time ... and I thank God that people will get a chance to recognize that American soldiers out there -- our servicemen -- need our support.

Pro-life gains and losses in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) –  The Ohio state Senate last week came one vote short of overriding a veto by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on a bill that would have protected babies from abortion after a detectable heartbeat. Kasich, a Republican, said he vetoed the bill for the second time in two years because it would saddle the state with a costly court battle and would ultimately be declared unconstitutional.

On the same day Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill he signed a measure making "dismemberment abortion" a fourth-degree felony for abortionists.


During the dismemberment procedure, most commonly used during the second trimester, abortionists kill and extract an unborn child by removing it piecemeal from the mother's womb. The new law, which goes into effect in March, bans the practice unless the unborn child is already dead, with exceptions for rape and danger to the mother's life.

Ohio becomes the 10th state to pass legislation to block the practice, but only two other states  –  Mississippi and West Virginia  –  have been able to retain their laws after pro-abortion groups filed suit. Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas have all faced legal challenges to their dismemberment bans, with some legal battles ongoing.

Bill Tolar, prof who 'stands large' in SBC, dies

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Bill Tolar, a preacher-scholar who provided transitional leadership at key junctures for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and multiple Southern Baptist megachurches, died Dec. 29 following a battle with cancer. He was 90.

A faculty stalwart at Southwestern for more than 30 years, Tolar served as the seminary's acting president in 1994 after then-president Russell Dilday's departure amid the Southern Baptist Convention's Conservative Resurgence. As a biblical backgrounds and archaeology professor, his students included then-future SBC presidents Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley, Morris Chapman, Jack Graham, and Ronnie Floyd.

Bill Tolar, a longtime SWBTS professor and administrator, died Dec. 29. He was 90. BAPTIST PRESS/file photo

Among his more than 50 interim pastorates were First Baptist Church in Dallas, Houston's First Baptist Church, and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Tolar preached his most popular sermon "The Creation: Chance or Choice?" more than 100 times to thousands of Southern Baptists – the last delivery apparently coming less than four months before his death. He also preached multiple times at the SBC Pastors' Conference.

Tolar "stands large in the history of our convention from the influence he's had on many of our key leaders," said Draper, SBC Executive Committee ambassador and retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Greear to launch 'Who's Your One?' with associations

DURHAM, N.C. (BP) – A Jan. 31 simulcast for associational leaders will help launch Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear's "Who's Your One?" evangelistic initiative among the 1,000-plus associations within the Southern Baptist network.

"Who's Your One?" encourages every Southern Baptist to intentionally build a relationship with one person over the course of 2019, share the Gospel and invite that person to trust Christ as Lord and Savior.

SBC President J.D. Greear, who will address associational leaders during a Jan. 31 simulcast, called Baptist associations "a valuable partner in cooperation." BAPTIST PRESS/BILL BANGHAM

Sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the Yates Association, the simulcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time and feature Greear's introduction of "Who's Your One?" to Yates Association pastors as they gather for a luncheon at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham. Other associations that sign up online will receive login information to broadcast the event live.

Following Greear's address, Johnny Hunt, NAMB's senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, will introduce a "Who's Your One?" evangelism kit being produced by NAMB for release in February. The kit is designed to help pastors lead a multi-week emphasis in their churches encouraging every member to become more focused and intentional about evangelism.

Freedom of Christian artists defended in ERLC filing

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has urged the Arizona Supreme Court to protect the freedom of two artists to operate their business in keeping with their Christian beliefs.

The ERLC, joined by eight other parties, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Dec. 20 requesting the state's justices reverse a lower court's support for a Phoenix ordinance requiring Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski to use their painting and calligraphy business for same-sex weddings. The owners of Brush & Nib Studio in Phoenix contend the law forces them to communicate a message in violation of their faith.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has urged the Arizona Supreme Court to protect the freedom of artists Joanna Duka (right) and Breanna Koski (left) to operate their business in keeping with their Christian beliefs. BAPTIST PRESS photo

Oral arguments before the Arizona high court are scheduled for Jan. 22. The case is one of several in the courts that involve the clash between the legal status of same-sex marriage and the rights of business owners who have declined to offer their services for gay weddings.

The Phoenix ordinance prohibits "places of public accommodation" such as Brush & Nib Studio to refuse service based on multiple categories, including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression." The law also bans owners from displaying on a website or by other means its unwillingness to provide services because of any of these classifications.

In challenging the ordinance before it was enforced against them, Duka and Koski said the city's interpretation of its law not only violates their religious freedom but unlawfully restricts their artistic expression. They said they serve people regardless of sexual orientation but will not provide services for same-sex marriages.

Nat'l CP 4.5% under YTD budget projection

NASHVILLE (BP) – Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in December were 4.50 percent below the projected budget for the first quarter of the current fiscal year. And they were 0.19 percent above the amount received during the same period last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee Interim President and Executive Vice President D. August Boto.

As of Dec. 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget totaled $46,315,254.71, or $86,029.25, above the $46,229,225.46 received through the first three months of the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The December total is $2,184,745.29 below the $48,500,000 YTD allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

Bill Tolar, Cooperative Program, ERLC, Green Beret, gunman, J.D. Greear, pro-life