MONTGOMERY (Jennifer Davis Rash) — Alabama’s Jeff Sessions will be sworn in as U.S. Attorney General this morning (Feb. 9) and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange will step right into the Sessions’ vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Gov. Robert Bentley announced his appointment of Strange to the seat last night (Feb. 8) and publicly presented him this morning at 9:10 a.m. Bentley and Strange are headed to Washington this morning so Strange can be sworn in today.
For the full story, visit thealabamabaptist.org.
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (Grace Thornton) — Pastor John Price said he doesn’t know yet how the fire started in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Orange Beach. And he doesn’t know why.
But he does know he’s grateful for the provision of God through the buildings the church still has and the gracious response of the Alabama Baptist community.
“We appreciate folks’ prayers,” he said. “Been so blessed to have all of our sister churches here call and offer their prayers and offer to help, and we’ve been grateful for the community of Baptists around the state rallying to support us.”
The fire, which started a little after 5 a.m. on Jan. 31, quickly engulfed the church’s worship center in flames, according to Jimmy Nichols, deacon chairman.
The exact cause is still unknown, but officials have told church leaders they believe it was not begun by criminal activity.
“By the time the fire department was on the scene, flames were shooting from the roof,” he said. “The structure is still standing, but about half of the building inside has been damaged by fire.”
The church lost musical instruments and hymnals, and the adult and children’s Sunday School space suffered smoke and water damage. Insurance adjusters don’t yet know the extent of the damage to the other end of the building, which housed educational space and the church offices, Price said. “We are in a wait-and-see kind of mode with that.”
But the church is already switching gears to ready for services in its old worship center, a building that’s been housing youth group gatherings and other activities since the new sanctuary was built in the mid 1990s.
“Our immediate plan is to just roll right into the buildings we already have,” Price said. “We’re blessed to have our old church worship center and facilities still standing and ready to go. Between that and our insurance coverage, we know we have what we need to recover fully.”
Not only that — he said he also believes this will be a time of “renewal and reinvigoration” for the church.
The members of the congregation will each process what happened differently, he said, but as a whole, “we are sad about the building but at the same time realizing that God’s going to work through this. There will be positive to come out of the negative. It’s an opportunity for a new day at First Baptist Church of Orange Beach.” (Debbie Campbell contributed)
BIRMINGHAM (Neisha Roberts) — The last time Hayden residents voted on the legalization of alcohol sales they voted to remain “dry” in 2015 with only five votes. But on Jan. 24, voters determined the city would become a “wet” city in 2017 with 153 votes in favor and 121 votes opposed.
The referendum will not go into effect for 60 days but will make Hayden the fourth city in the “dry” Blount County to become “wet” as it legalizes alcohol sales.
Look for a full story in the upcoming print edition of The Alabama Baptist.
ADEL, Ga. (BP) — Southern Baptists throughout the Southeast have started responding to a deadly storm system that reportedly claimed the lives of at least 19 people from Georgia to Mississippi over a two-day period this past weekend.
Severe weather, which lasted through Sunday night in the region, extended into South Carolina and north Florida. According to the Associated Press, 39 possible tornadoes were reported in the Southeast.
Alabama wasn’t impacted as much as Georgia or Mississippi by the storms, according to Mark Wakefield, disaster relief and chaplaincy ministries strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, but there still are pockets of damage throughout the state. Wakefield said he has heard a report of a retired director of missions in the state whose home was destroyed by the storms.
Disaster relief teams from Elmore and Tuskegee Lee Baptist associations began serving this weekend in local impacted areas. Wakefield says Alabama Baptist volunteers are standing by and prepared to help if needed by other state Baptist conventions in the region.
In Georgia at least seven people died in the small town of Adel and more lost their lives when a twister hit near Albany. Georgia Baptist Mission Board disaster relief leader Stuart Lang says chaplains are heading into the impacted regions of the state today (Jan. 23) as Georgia Baptists begin the process of assessing needs.
“There’s really not much we can do now because counties are still in search-and-rescue mode,” Lang said. “They’re still trying to catch their breath and figure out what happened yesterday.”
Lang says the first unit will likely not arrive in the area until Tuesday at the earliest. He expects that first unit will probably serve in Albany. It will be several days before the volunteers will be able to serve in Adel, one of the hardest-hit locations in the state, because they must wait for approval by the county government. Currently, there is a curfew in the town.
Lang noted chaplaincy will play a large role in Georgia Baptist’s response to the disaster. At least 14 of those who were killed throughout the region were in the state.
Mississippi Southern Baptists have set up a base of operations at Petal Baptist Church in Petal, Miss., outside of Hattiesburg. Forty volunteers are on the ground already providing hope and healing for the region. Mississippi feeding teams are supporting Red Cross efforts and serving through Petal Baptist for a total of 2,500 to 3,000 meals per day.
Don Gann, who directs disaster relief efforts for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, expects Mississippi Baptists to provide meals throughout the week. A team of Louisiana Baptists is also on the way to an impacted region of the state.
Gann noted that William Carey University, a Mississippi Baptist school in Hattiesburg, was hit hard by the storm. Nearly all of its 30 buildings were reported to be damaged. He said that disaster relief teams were available to help the college if needed as well.
To donate to Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, visit sbdr.org/donate/.
WASHINGTON (RNS) — In one of his last official acts, President Barack Obama has designated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, and other civil rights landmarks as the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
The designation protects the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in that city, where Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had their 1963 campaign headquarters, as well as Kelly Ingram Park, where police turned hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters.
Sixteenth Street Baptist is where four girls died in 1963 after Ku Klux Klan members detonated more than a dozen sticks of dynamite outside the church basement.
“This national monument will fortify Birmingham’s place in American history and will speak volumes to the place of African-Americans in history,” said Arthur Price Jr., pastor of the church, in a statement.
Obama’s proclamation also cites the role of Bethel Baptist Church, headquarters of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, and St. Paul United Methodist Church, from which protesters marched before being stopped by police dogs.
In his proclamation Jan. 12, Obama said the various sites “all stand as a testament to the heroism of those who worked so hard to advance the cause of freedom.”
In other acts, all timed to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which will be observed Jan. 16, the president designated the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston and the Reconstruction Era National Monument in coastal South Carolina.
He cited the role of congregations in all three areas — from sheltering civil rights activists at Bethel Baptist to hosting mass meetings at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, to providing a school for former slaves at the Brick Baptist Church, St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
The designations instruct the National Park Service to manage the sites and consider them for visitor services and historic preservation.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “African-American history is American history and these monuments are testament to the people and places on the front-lines of our entire nation’s march toward a more perfect union.”
BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — You want to read what you want to read. And you want it to be easy to use, easy on the eyes and simple to interact with. Right?
The good news is The Alabama Baptist’s new website is just that, said Jennifer Davis Rash, TAB editor-elect.
“We are excited about the look and user friendliness of our new site and the potential for how it will build an expanded community with our readers,” she said.
Paul Brandon — principal of Vehicle Media, the web designer for the new site for thealabamabaptist.org — said, “It’s a much more fresh and updated feel. It’s got neat features in terms of navigating around, so it’s easier to read and digest and get to the things you want to read. It’s a more tightly knit user experience.”
And the site is mobile responsive, so it’s much simpler to access from handheld devices, he said. “It’s cleaner and easier to use.”
Rash said it’s the product of 18 months of hard work.
“Finding a way to migrate tens of thousands of articles from a website custom built in 2007 to a new mobile-responsive site that fits the needs of today’s phones, tablets, laptops and computers has been an intense undertaking to say the least, but we are now ready to unveil the new site and all its new functions,” she said.
Do be aware that with any major upgrade such as this one there will be initial issues and we are already working on the ones we have discovered. Please share with us any complications you are experiencing so we also can tackle those.
We decided to let you help us make the final tweaks to this first phase of the new site and share with us functions you might like to see as we soon begin phase 2 of the upgrade.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your readership, partnership and help as we take this next step.
MONTGOMERY (TAB) — Two rulings by the Alabama Supreme Court today (Dec. 23), combined with a March ruling already on the books, officially clarify that electronic bingo in all its forms is illegal in Alabama, according to Attorney General Luther Strange.
In the case State of Alabama v. 825 Electronic Gambling Devices et al (Greenetrack), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State, reversing a lower court judgment siding with the casino, Strange explained in a news release. As a result, the State of Alabama is allowed to destroy the electronic bingo machines it seized from Greenetrack.
In its 29-page ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court reaffirmed its March 31, 2016, ruling in a similar case involving the legality of electronic bingo machines at VictoryLand in Macon County.
“There is no longer any room for uncertainty, nor justification for continuing dispute, as to the meaning of [the term ‘bingo’]. And certainly the need for any further expenditure of judicial resources, including the resources of this Court, to examine this issue is at an end. All that is left is for the law of this state to be enforced,” the Supreme Court said.
In the second case (Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc., d/b/a Victoryland v. Marie Hoffman), the Supreme Court ruled individuals have a right to sue illegal gambling institutions.
“Because the ‘contracts’ containing the arbitration provisions in these cases were based on gambling consideration, they were based solely on criminal conduct and are therefore void. Consequently, the provisions of those ‘contracts,’ including arbitration provisions are void and unenforceable,” the Supreme Court ruled.
Strange urged local law enforcement to do their duty to enforce the law, noting the rulings should remove any doubt regarding the legality of the machines.
“Local sheriffs and police officers in most parts of the state are enforcing our gambling laws,” he said. “The sheriffs in Greene and Macon counties must uphold their sworn duty to enforce the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court and not continue to sanction this illegal activity. As I have previously stated, my office stands ready to render any required assistance to enable them to carry out their legal duties.”
To read more on this topic, click here.
MONTGOMERY (Neisha Roberts) — Preaching from Genesis 22, Kevin Wilburn emphasized how Abraham and Isaac walked together up Mount Moriah, and walked back down together.
Wilburn, vice president of advancement at the University of Mobile, noted how Abraham and his only son “walked together” but only “after these things” took place.
“That makes you and I ask, ‘What are these things?’ In ministry you know things will happen,” Wilburn said. “Abraham had experienced some things. He had a new name. His wife had a new name. He experienced relocation, sorrow, deception and failure.”
Abraham most certainly had a vision for how he thought things would turn out in his life. In a similar way, “sometimes we have a great vision for the church we are serving.”
But as seen in verse 10, Abraham took the knife with him that he would use to sacrifice his son. He was serious about following God’s plan, and not his own vision.
“Is it possible that the vision in your life has become more important than the God that put the vision in you?” Wilburn asked participants.
With God working His good and acceptable plan in and through our lives, Wilburn said, “we better be ready to walk up the mountain with what we value most. … Because testing is going to come. And Alabama Baptists you better walk together. God is not going to bless disunity.
“We must express obedience to God’s way which is not always easy and straight. … When we put our faith in God’s plan and express obedience to God’s way we better be ready to sacrifice,” Wilburn said.