Baptist Briefs: American Baptists decry religious conversion law in Burma

Baptist Briefs: Religious conversion law in Burma decried

American Baptists’ top policy-making body has expressed its “strongest concerns” over a restrictive religious conversion law being considered in Burma and has endorsed legislation in the U.S. Congress to withhold security assistance until the country, also known as Myanmar, has improved its human rights and religious liberty record. burma baptists400Last December, thousands of Baptists filled a convention hall in Burma to celebration 200 years of mission work there. (International Ministries photo)The American Baptist Churches USA’s board of general ministries adopted the two statements at a meeting in Green Lake, Wis. The conversion bill, which would require anyone wanting to change religion to seek permission from local authorities, is one of four bills the Burmese government has drawn up. Anyone applying to convert “with the intention of insulting or destroying a religion” could be jailed for up to two years, and people who compel others to convert through “undue influence or pressure” could also go to jail for a year. The other proposed laws concern marriage between people of different religions, birth rates and polygamy. Analysts view the legislation as aimed at non-Buddhist minorities.

Higher education group approves reorganization. An association representing 47 Baptist-affiliated colleges and universities approved a reorganization plan that reduces the number of paid staff members, cuts it budget nearly in half, reduces dues by 50 percent and relocates its headquarters. The International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities agreed to eliminate the paid executive director’s position. Executive Director Mike Arrington retired June 6 after six years in the post. The chair of the board will serve as president and chief officer of the association and the board, and a board officer will be elected as treasurer. A paid executive secretary will work under the direction of the president and perform tasks associated with the current associate director. The association will move its headquarters to Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., from its current Nashville, Tenn., location. Tim Fields, associate director for the past 17 years, will retire after overseeing the association’s move to Samford and the employment of an executive secretary. Elected as officers for 2014–15 were David Olive, president of Bluefield (Va.) College, chair/president; Dub Oliver, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., vice president; Mark A. Wyatt, vice president for marketing and communications, California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., recording secretary; and Jairy C. Hunter Jr., president of Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C., treasurer.

Church planter to lead CBF initiative. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has contracted with an experienced church planter in North Carolina to oversee a decade-old initiative begun to encourage and support starting new churches. Andy Hale, pastor of Mosaic of Clayton in Clayton, N.C., will take over the Decatur, Ga.-based Fellowship’s Church Starting Initiative, CBF Missional Congregations Director Harry Rowland announced. Hale, a graduate of Campbell University, launched Mosaic in 2011 in an effort to reach young adults not connecting with established churches. Clayton is a formerly rural community marked by new businesses, hospitals and rapid economic growth. Hale will remain in Clayton and continue as pastor of Mosaic while working alongside Rowland as a contractor. Rowland described Hale’s addition as a “new season” for the organization’s church-starting efforts.

CBF controller stepping down; interim named. Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Controller Larry Hurst is stepping down after 13 years to work for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, a nonprofit organization serving local governments in all 159 Georgia counties. CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter announced Gary Skeen, who served as chief financial officer for the Fellowship before becoming president of the CBF Church Benefits Board in 2000, will step in as interim director of finance and controller starting June 23. Skeen will continue as leader of the Church Benefits Board, a ministry created in 1998 by the CBF General Assembly to provide retirement benefits for ministers and staff members of churches that partner with CBF, along with CBF personnel in Atlanta and field personnel worldwide.

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