A press release service from related organizations in the Baptist network.

Baptist women work together in social justice initiatives

After a five-year retirement, Thomasina needed to return to work. Yet, she lacked computer skills for today’s jobs. She soon got a fresh start at Women Mentoring Women, a six-week course designed to help equip unemployed and underemployed women.

Building relationships with 15 women, aged 30 to 65, over the six weeks, Dollie Hamlin, a director of the program, explained that the focus of the program was on helping participants “reinvent” themselves and learn “new ways of going after what the world has to offer.”

Held at St. John’s Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, N.J., the course gave Thomasina just what she needed. She mastered the art of applying for work online and landed a customer service job.

Cassandra grew up in a dysfunctional family where addictions were a way of life. In 2008 she entered a six-month residential transitional living program, The Next Door, in Nashville, Tenn., for women addicted to drugs or alcohol. A proud graduate and now an employee at the program, Cassandra said she is “giving back something that was freely given to me.”

“Once you get clean, your life will be overwhelmed with wonderful, beautiful things,” said the 29-year-old.

She has earned her high school GED and her drivers license. She is now married and hopes to adopt a child soon.

The Next Door program, led by Linda Leathers, has been so successful that additional programs have been opened in Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Tennessee WMU executive director–treasurer, Candy Phillips, said, “The Next Door is a wonderful example of missional women taking action in their local community to make positive change.”The Women Mentoring Women initiative and The Next Door program are two of six projects in North America receiving life-changing grant money from North American Baptist Women’s Union, one of seven Continental Unions that make up the women’s department of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Together, the seven Continental Unions represent women in 132 countries and 229 national Baptist women’s organizations.

The North American Union is comprised of 16 member bodies within the United States and Canada, with more than three million member women.

Saying three million women is “a lot of woman power,” newly elected NABWU president Moreen Sharp, extolled the “strength in numbers” in her acceptance speech at the NABWU assembly in Nashville in October 2012, a meeting that convenes once every five years. The 2012 meeting attracted 220 women, with one-third of attendees coming from Canada, including Sharp, who is NABWU’s first president from Western Canada.

Elected to a five-year term, Sharp encouraged attendees, “We are women with compassion, and we are a powerful force as we unite together.”

Much of NABWU’s focus is on resourcing and networking Baptist women who are touching the lives of women and children suffering injustices and disadvantage in our society. Individuals being reached include refugees to North America, youth at risk, people trapped in human trafficking and prostitution and others.

In her acceptance speech, Sharp noted that there are many Baptist women “out there” to whom God has given a passion to “do something.” Yet, many, while seeing a need, have no idea how to follow through and make a difference, she said.

“These women need resources and encouragement,” she said, emphasizing that networking among Christians is imperative in today’s disconnected society.

“Networking would allow [those who are working in particular ministries] to have others who can give input when they are stumped, encouragement when they are discouraged, or share prayer concerns that they may not feel free to share with others who don’t understand or are outside their particular area of ministry.

“Networking is a key initiative that needs to continue and grow ever stronger. As a North American organization, we have a unique place in networking women who are working towards bringing God’s heart and values to this world.”

Modern technology, including the possibility of online training and video-conferencing, allows for quicker and more far-reaching connections today than in the past.

“Technology is our friend. The potential is massive,” she said, as she discussed how women could sit in front of their computers and “be taught by those who have gone before them.”

Such connections have a strengthening effect, Sharp believes.

“The more connections we make between our member bodies, the stronger they all become. The stronger we all become,” she said.

The North American Baptist women also look beyond their own continent as they join with other Baptist women throughout the world in prayer during the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer every November. The five-year (2010-15) theme for the day of prayer is “In Step with the Spirit,” with the 2012 focus on joy.

“We are intricately linked with Baptist women from around the world,” explained Sharp.

Linked in prayer, some Baptist women have participated in the World Day of Prayer through a Facebook page. Others, on the other side of the world, walk for days for the opportunity to “pray with their sisters.” In some places, hundreds of women come together to pray; in other places, only two or three women gather in prayer.

The World Day of Prayer promotes an offering, with monies collected evenly divided between NABWU’s grant projects and BWA’s women’s department and international projects. One of the seven Continental Unions prepares the World Day of Prayer materials, with the 2012 resources being prepared by the Asian Union.

Additionally, because the Baptist World Alliance is a registered non-government agency at the United Nations (UN), the BWA women’s department sends representatives to the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. NABWU was represented at the 56th session in late February/early March 2012 by Linda Weber, NABWU’s president from 2007-2012, along with several others. The primary theme was the empowerment of rural women and their role in eradicating poverty and hunger.

George Bullard, General Secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship said, “NABWU is a vital missional movement among Baptists. We are all more effective in ministry because of the prophetic actions of women related to NABWU.”

In addition to Sharp, NABWU elected the following five officers at its October 2012 assembly in Nashville: Lisa Lohnes, vice-president, Baptist women’s day of prayer promotion, project grants, and prayer partners; Ruby Fulbright, vice-president, leadership and mentoring; Angelita Clifton, vice-president, communication and promotion; Stacey Benn, secretary; and Darlene McGilberry, treasurer (beginning in January 2013).

For more information about the North American Baptist Women’s Union, visit the website www.nabwu.org.

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Featured Article
Essay scholarship contest focuses on religious diversity, ‘Christian nation’ claims

Essay scholarship contest focuses on religious diversity, ‘Christian nation’ claims

WASHINGTON— High school juniors and seniors can win up to $2,000 for college in the 2013 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee. Essays must examine religious diversity in America and evaluate the claim that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.”

For the 8th annual contest, the scholarship money doubled for the top two prizes. Grand prize is $2,000 and airfare and lodging for two to Washington, D.C. Second prize is $1,000, and third prize is $250.

High school students in the graduating classes of 2013 and 2014 can enter by writing an essay addressing the following topic:

The United States of America was religiously diverse at its founding. Its population included numerous Protestant groups, small Catholic and Jewish populations, those who practiced traditional Native American religions as well as those who practiced African religions. The United States has become even more religiously diverse, yet Christianity has remained the majority faith tradition since the country’s beginnings. Today, some Americans assert that the country was founded as a “Christian nation” while others contend that statement is a myth. Using the Constitution and writings of the Founders, research and evaluate the claim that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.” Include a discussion of the current implications for religious freedom for all people in a democratic country in which the majority rules in elections and ballot initiatives.

Essays must be between 800-1,200 words, and they must be mailed – along with registration forms – and postmarked by March 1, 2013, to be eligible. Contest forms and details are available online at www.BJConline.org/contest.

Winners will be announced in the summer of 2013, and the grand prize winner will be recognized at the BJC board meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 2013.

Essays will be judged on the depth of their content, the mastery of the topic, and the skill with which they are written. Students should develop a point of view on the issue and demonstrate critical thinking, using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support their position.

Visit www.BJConline.org/contest for complete contest rules. If you have questions, contact Cherilyn Crowe at 202-544-4226 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The Baptist Joint Committee is a 76-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.

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Featured Article
Longtime Baptist Journalist Dies at 85

Longtime Baptist Journalist Dies at 85


John Roberts was Decorated Army Veteran, Longtime Baptist Courier Editor, and Gardner-Webb University Friend


Boiling Springs, N.C. – With heavy hearts, officials at Gardner-Webb University and those within the Baptist community are saluting the life of a man who claimed that his time at Gardner-Webb guided him to fulfill his life’s purpose.  Dr. John Roberts, the retired editor of the Baptist Courier and recipient of an honorary doctorate from GWU, died Wednesday, Aug. 15.  He was 85. 


“It was on these grounds and within association with this institution that I found who I am, and what God would have me to do with my life,” Roberts shared during a 1987 GWU commencement address.  “No matter where I am or where I serve, Gardner-Webb is and remains a key influence, a major landmark in my life.  That is simply who I am.”


John Elgin Roberts was born in Shelby in 1926 and spent his formative years in the Kings Mountain community of El Bethel.  He graduated from Bethware High School in 1944 and served as a sergeant of intelligence in the United States Army.  He was stationed overseas in the Philippines during World War II and in Korea during the post-war U.S. occupation, where he received six medals and commendations.


Following his military service, Roberts began attending Gardner-Webb College, where he served as editor of the student-produced publication The Pilot.  In 1949, he earned his associate’s degree and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Furman University and a master’s from Vanderbilt University.  Roberts began his career as a teacher in the Gastonia (N.C.) City School district and later became director of promotion and associate director of public relations at Gardner-Webb.  In 1965, he joined the staff of the Baptist Courier as associate editor and business manager, and was promoted to the editorial position in 1966.  Following a 30-year career as editor, Roberts retired in 1996.


He was awarded honorary doctorates from Charleston Southern University, Furman University, and Gardner-Webb University.  The Outstanding Male Graduate Award, given at Gardner-Webb commencement each year, was named in his honor in 1993.  He was a recipient of the award in 1949.  Roberts also served as a GWU Alumnus Trustee in 2006.


Roberts died at the Rolling Green Retirement Community in Greenville, S.C. following a brief illness.  He is survived by his wife, Helen, six children, and eight grandchildren.


“Go from this place today in happy anticipation of finding joy, fulfillment, achievement, and success in life,” he told the graduates of 1987.  “Hope must never be abandoned.  It is the bond that links the shortcomings of yesterday to the bright promise of tomorrow.  Hope is the light that drives off despair.  It is the healing balm that eases the pain of disappointment.  Hold onto hope every day of your life.”


Funeral services are planned for Friday, Aug. 17 at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church (Greenville, S.C.) with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m.  Roberts will be buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park.



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GWU Graduate Surprised by Military Sons During Ceremony

GWU Graduate Surprised by Military Sons During Ceremony

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Dolly Wilson is accustomed to a long-distance relationship with her two adult sons. Both men have served in the U.S. Air Force for a combined 23 years (and most recently overseas). Wilson had already made peace with the fact that her sons would not be able to attend her graduation ceremony, held Monday afternoon on the campus of Gardner-Webb University.

Except that they did.

"I just don't know if my feet will ever come back down to the ground," said a beaming Wilson, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing. "It was one of the best moments of my life."

Joshua Wilson, 36 and his younger brother Jeremiah Wilson, 29, arrived on campus in the early afternoon hours on Monday. Joshua flew in from Alaska, where he is stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. Jeremiah took a few days leave from his base at Davis-Monthan in Arizona. Both brothers brought their full military regalia and were whisked away to an office far away from the graduates.

University officials helped orchestrate the moment that would become forever etched in the memory of the woman who had raised four children as a single mom and adopted a fifth child. The men stepped onto the stage as their mother's name was read. Her shoulders heaved with emotion as she saw them for the first time, dressed in their military dress blues, holding flowers and waiting for the moment they would embrace. The audience stood and cheered.

The Wilson brothers each recently returned from active tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their sisters Sarah, 34, Rebecca, 32, and Makayla, 7, each live in North Carolina, but it has been more than three years since the entire family has been together in one place. This week is a chance to celebrate their mother's accomplishments and a rare opportunity to simply spend time together.

Dolly was eight and a half months pregnant with Jeremiah when she graduated with her Associate of Nursing degree from Western Piedmont Community College in 1984. Her career has spanned from a float nurse at Valdese General Hospital to collaborating in the creation of Frye Infusion Care. She now works for Blue Ridge Health Care where she developed the Patient Navigator Program, which guides and educates breast cancer patients from diagnosis through various services.

"My mom sacrificed for us, and we never went without," said Joshua. "She is an amazing woman, an amazing mother, and today, she accomplishes one more thing, her Master of Science in Nursing. There's none greater."

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