TAB launches new website

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 — 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 Thanks for your readership, partnership and help as we take this next step.

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Electronic bingo in all forms officially ruled illegal in Alabama


Greenetrack in Greene County in August 2015. (Photos by TAB staff)

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.

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Together: Kevin Wilburn


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.”


Kevin Wilburn

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.

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Together: Mike Satterfield


MONTGOMERY (Maggie Walsh) — When Mike Satterfield, founder of Field of Grace Ministries, said, “He got,” participants yelled “up.”

We serve a risen Savior, Satterfield said during the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference, and He is no longer in the grave. But instead of the truth of our living God being an uncontainable exclamation, we too often treat it like the best-kept secret in our lives, he said.

“The Bible has told me the best-kept secret in town and I can’t keep it to myself because secrets are hard to keep. And I refuse to keep this secret.


Mike Satterfield

“Why are you down in the mouth? You’ve got a Word from the Savior that can’t keep you down,” he said. “It’s fulfillment of prophecy. It’s gospel good news.”

It’s about more than just going to church — it’s about being the Church, Satterfield said. What does that mean for Christians?

“We have to believe it, receive it and spread it,” he said, adding that before you share who God is with the rest of the world you have to share Him at home. God can overcome anything the world hurls your way, Satterfield said.

“You ought not be walking in death sentences when we have a life-giving message.

“All of us need to be about the business of letting the world know that He is of the business of washing this world.”

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Together: Bob Pitman


MONTGOMERY (Maggie Walsh) — Bob Pitman, of Bob Pitman Ministries, urged unity to participants of the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference, saying, “There are a lot of things that would divide our togetherness but the one common bond, the one common uniting person, is Jesus Christ.”

In this world there are a lot of things to divide us, Pitman said, but Christ is so much bigger than any divisive element the world throws at us.

Referencing Luke 4:14–30, Pitman spoke about the time Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth.

“Jesus grew up in Nazareth, where He lived 30 of his 33 years. He participated in family life, in business life, in community life, in spiritual life. He participated in every kind of life He could participate in and yet there was no sign (as you came into town) that said, ‘Welcome to the hometown of Jesus.’”


Bob Pitman

Why is that? Because Jesus never performed a single miracle until He left his hometown, Pitman said. So when He returned home in the midst of His ministry, people were curious.

While in Nazareth, Jesus did three things.

First He made the “unmistakable declaration” that He was the Messiah. Then He spoke an “undeniable revelation” where He revealed what the crowd was thinking and what was in their hearts.

“Jesus dared to suggest that God loves Gentiles as much as He loves Jews,” Pitman said, which made the crowd murderous.

And finally He departed from them in an “unexplainable separation,” escaping a hostile crowd by simply passing through their midst.

“How did that happen?” Pitman asked.

“I don’t know,” he said to a chuckling crowd, closing with the challenge to participants to “talk [to others] about the source of our togetherness — Jesus.”

“There are a lot of things that would divide our togetherness but the one common bond, the one uniting person is Jesus Christ. He loves people of all colors, races and ethnic backgrounds.”

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Alabama pastor calls for ‘frank’ conversations about Calvinism


Rick Patrick

FORT WORTH, Texas (TAB) — Alabama pastor Rick Patrick would like to see intentional “frank” conversations happening among Southern Baptists related to how Traditionalists and Calvinists can better co-exist in the denomination.

“I believe we have thousands of Traditionalist Southern Baptist churches starved for resources and ministry initiatives that make sense within a more Traditionalist ministry paradigm,” he said. “The overwhelming number of Calvinist resources and ministry initiatives are like square pegs in round holes.

“This lack of alignment at the national level compared to the state, association and local church level has produced much of the tension,” said Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sylacauga. “Over the past decade, the leaders we have chosen as our entity heads, speakers and authors have been much more Calvinistic than the average Southern Baptist.

“We need some frank conversations regarding practical solutions to get us all on the same page.”

Patrick — who said he affirms Calvinists’ rights to share their beliefs and practices — made headlines with his Nov. 29 chapel sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, about the importance of salvation doctrine.

Using Hebrews 2:1–3 as his supporting text, Patrick’s topical message was structured around three points of application — that we not neglect the story, study nor significance of salvation.

“The first section was basically a personal testimony and has engendered little critique,” Patrick said. “The second section was criticized as a commercial, but might more charitably be referred to as a lecture reviewing current books and resources in Traditionalist theology.

“The thesis of the third section was that salvation is the most important thing that ever happens to anyone, so whatever else we get wrong about God, we must be certain to get salvation right,” he explained. “This theme was developed by tracing various doctrines of reformed theology that come along for the ride when one embraces Calvinist soteriology.”

“In addition to these doctrines, some practical ministry applications that flow from these underpinnings were then explored prior to the conclusion.”

For instance, near the end of his 5,000-word sermon to current students of his alma mater headed by President Paige Patterson, Patrick said:

“Southern Baptists cannot help but wonder what is happening as we increasingly embrace the Presbyterian view of salvation doctrine, church government, mode of baptism, avoidance of the altar call, use of beverage alcohol, approval of societal missions funding and so on.

“It is naïve to think that we can gradually reform our beliefs without simultaneously reforming our practices.

“And the question we must ask is whether or not these reformed practices are making things better or worse.”

Following Patrick’s sermon, Patterson responded to the “rude behavior on the part of a few students who had … walked out to show their displeaure.”

“If I held Presbyterian beliefs, I would be a Presbyterian,” Patterson said. “If I held charismatic beliefs, I would probably affiliate with the Assemblies of God. If my only difference with Presbyterians were that I favored only baptism of adult believers rather than the baptism of infants, I would probably be conflicted, but I might affiliate with Primitive Baptists.”

Clarifying the original reports of his statements, Patterson posted a Dec. 2 blog explaining, “Let it be clear that I asked no one to leave the [Southern Baptist Convention]. … I expressed what I would do just as every Baptist is free to do and especially as is our custom in the academic world.”

To read Patrick’s full sermon, visit

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70-year-old roll book shows ‘crazy connections’

By Grace Thornton (The Alabama Baptist)

It was the talk heard round the world, the day that Gilbert Guffin had a conversation with an auto mechanic in Walker County.

The mechanic — Edmond Eddy — also was a preacher. Not a pastor, he said — just a preacher.

“I feel I have been called to be a pastor, but all I am is a preacher, and I am a poor one at that,” Eddy said. “I can’t be a pastor because I don’t know how.”

That conversation stuck in Guffin’s brain, and it wasn’t long before he was teaching the first Baptist Seminar class with the sole purpose of training preachers like Eddy.

As the story goes, 19 students gathered for that first class in September 1942. Some of them had never been inside a college before, and one of them had been taught to read by his wife, according to Samford University’s Ministry Training Institute (MTI), which grew out of that class.

‘Cool story’

Kevin Blackwell, MTI executive director, said, “It’s a pretty cool story — a really rich history.”

What was happening in Walker County caught the attention of Harwell Davis, then president of Howard College (now Samford), and it wasn’t long before he asked Guffin to move the class to Howard instead and expand it to reach the entire state.

“He (Guffin) moved from his pastorate at First Baptist Jasper to start the Howard Extension, which became the Samford Extension, which became MTI,” Blackwell said.

And it became the model that the Southern Baptist Convention encouraged colleges and seminaries to spread to offer training to as many as possible.

And spread it they did.

By September 1947, 21 extension centers were in operation across the state. By 1952 there were 44.

“As far as we know, what Gilbert Guffin started was the oldest extension work in any higher education in the U.S. — not just Baptist, that’s generally speaking. No one else was doing it, secular or spiritual,” Blackwell said. “It was kind of a watershed moment for academics in general. The program grew to national prominence.”

That’s why when Scott Guffin, pastor of Liberty Park Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, recently found a brown notebook in the bottom of his dad’s office closet, he knew pretty quickly that it was significant.mti-archive-1-rgb

“My dad passed away back in February, my brothers and I got together with my mom to go through his office,” Scott Guffin said. “It was filled to the brim with decades’ worth of stuff.”

His dad’s first BB gun was there. So were elementary school textbooks from the 1920s.

And so was a little brown notebook with “Roll Book” written on the front.

“It didn’t look old to me, but when I opened it up, it said it was from the Baptist Seminar and it was dated 1946,” Scott Guffin said.

He realized it was actually his grandfather’s.

“I remembered that what he started with the Baptist Seminar became the Howard Extension,” he said.

So he called Blackwell and said, “I’ve got something I know you’re going to want to see.”

It was a historic find, Blackwell said.

“The book … actually precluded the actual Howard Extension courses,” he said. “It’s from the year that the Howard College board of trustees voted on the extension program and announced it to the convention.”

So, naturally, he called it a privilege to share the book with messengers at the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting Nov. 15 during Samford’s report at Eastmont Baptist Church, Montgomery.


“It’s extremely newsworthy,” he said, because of what it started.

But, he added, the extension program hasn’t forgotten where it came from.

As Scott Guffin was reading through the names written in his grandfather’s roll book, he saw one that looked a little familiar.

“There’s a guy in my church whose last name is Banks, and I knew he had family at First Baptist Jasper,” Scott Guffin said. “Greg Banks — he’s a doctor here, we’ve been friends over the years, he’s operated on my wife and he was part of the pastor search committee that brought me to Liberty Park.”

So the name M.D. Banks caught his eye.

“I sent Greg a text and said, ‘Are you related to anybody named M.D. Banks?’ And he said, ‘That’s my grandfather — why?’”

Turns out M.D. Banks was an itinerant preacher in Walker County, kind of like Edmond Eddy. Banks planted churches. And he took classes from Gilbert Guffin.

“It’s just so amazing,” Scott Guffin said, “all the crazy connections that you have in life, and how crazy is it that the guy who was responsible for bringing me to this church, our grandfathers knew each other.”

Not only that, he said — they were part of making history.

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Together: Chuck Kelley


MONTGOMERY (Maggie Walsh) — During the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference, Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gave participants a “satellite look” at what’s happening in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19 mandates believers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

What God is offering in this verse “isn’t a suggestion … or a possibility to work on,” Kelley said. “God is saying, ‘This is what I’m expecting you to do: make disciples.’ This is His expectation.”

Kelley then shared a “stunning” chart that showed that although the number of SBC-affiliated churches has grown, baptisms have lessened. What does this mean for the SBC?


Chuck Kelley

It means “the world is doing a better job of pulling our people out of churches than we are doing of pulling lost people out of sin,” which has led to Southern Baptists fast becoming a “shrinking presence with a diminishing voice in our nation.”

“Southern Baptists are closer to losing the South than we are to reaching North America,” he said.

The convention-wide issue, Kelley said, is Southern Baptists not making disciples of their local communities. And how the SBC improves the Great Commission-health of its churches is a life or death issue for the convention, he said.

So what’s the way forward?

By owning the problem, living distinctly within the culture, seeking gospel conversations outside the walls of the church and seeking spiritual awakening, Kelley said.

“We have to teach our people to live distinctly within the culture. If there’s not a noticeable difference … there will be no punch to our gospel; our words will have no power.

“I need you to know how high the stakes are if we will not seek God’s stirring. … I am a man of immense hope because … I know what God can do and I have no doubt in that and I know of His ability to work even in these circumstances,” Kelley encouraged participants.


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Bomb kills at least 25 in Cairo cathedral

CAIRO, Egypt (RNS) — At least 25 people were killed and 35 were injured after a blast near Cairo’s main Coptic Christian Cathedral in Egypt on Dec. 11, according to reports from the Egyptian state-sponsored Middle East News Agency (MENA).

MENA reported that around 10 a.m. someone threw a bomb into a small chapel attached to the St. Mark’s Cathedral in the Abbassia district, Egypt’s main Coptic church. The attack occurred just days after another bombing in Cairo that killed six policemen.

Egyptian security officials and investigators inspect the scene following a bombing inside Cairo's Coptic cathedral in Egypt December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egyptian security officials and investigators inspect the scene following a bombing inside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral in Egypt on Dec. 11.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (RNS)

Photos and video showed shattered windows and deteriorated roofing in the aftermath.

The blast took place as a Sunday mass being held in the chapel was about to end and coincided with a national holiday in Egypt marking the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, according to reports.

St. Mark’s Cathedral is the seat of Egypt’s Orthodox Christian Church. It’s spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, is based there, according to the Associated Press.

The last bomb attack, which occurred on a main road leading to the pyramids at Giza, was claimed by a militant group believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population, have complained about discrimination, according to the BBC.

In 2013, four Coptic Christians were killed in religious violence. Mourners went to St. Mark’s cathedral, where many chanted slogans against Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. Violence erupted after the service between mourners and local residents, resulting in two deaths.

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American pastor Brunson serving in Turkey imprisoned for ‘terrorism’ charges

Norine Brunson stands below Izmir's Detention Center, where her husband, Andrew, had been held since Oct. 20. (World Watch Monitor photo)

Norine Brunson stands below Izmir’s Detention Center, where her husband, Andrew, had been held since Oct. 20. (World Watch Monitor photo)

IZMIR, Turkey (World Watch Monitor, TAB) — A Turkish judge sent Andrew Brunson to prison in Izmir, Turkey, on Dec. 9 — 64 days after the American pastor and his wife, Norine, were detained Oct. 7 under Interior Ministry deportation orders.

Although Norine Brunson was released Oct. 19 and given an extended permit to remain in the country even though her visa had expired, Andrew Brunson has been held since Oct. 20 at the Harmandali Detention Centre on the northern edge of Izmir.

The 48-year-old pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church was transferred overnight Dec. 8 to a counter-terrorism center before being brought before an Izmir court Dec. 9 for interrogation.

The Protestant pastor heard for the first time at the hearing the allegations filed against him, which apparently prompted his arrest and lengthy detention. According to the officiating judge, the “terrorism” charges came from a “secret informant.” The court ruled that the files on Andrew Brunson’s case would continue to remain inaccessible to his lawyer, who had not been allowed to meet him until the Dec. 9 hearing.

In April, after filing a routine application to renew their residence visas, the Brunsons had received no response for six months. When they arrived at their home Oct. 7 they found a written summons requesting them to report to the local police station with their passports. On arrival they were immediately taken into custody.

According to Norine Brunson, the pastor’s lawyer confirmed that her husband was accused of links with the Fetullah Gulen movement, which is accused by Ankara, the capital of Turkey, of instigating a failed military coup against the Turkish government in July. The pastor is now incarcerated at Izmir’s Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison.

In a wide-ranging crackdown to identify and prosecute the suspected coup plotters and their sympathizers, the Turkish authorities have suspended or jailed tens of thousands of judges, prosecutors, military personnel, journalists and educators on terrorism charges over the past five months.

The Brunsons, who have three children studying in the U.S., have lived in Turkey for the past 23 years.

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