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Ken Hall fired as Baylor’s senior vice president

By Ken Camp

A former CEO of Buckner International and former president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas has involuntarily become a former senior vice president of Baylor University.

Ken Hall, who has served as senior vice president for development and strategic initiatives at the Waco, Texas, school since January 2013, “no longer will be serving at Baylor,” President Ken Starr announced in a letter to the university’s faculty and staff.

Hall KenHall ceased to be employed by Baylor at the conclusion of homecoming weekend, Starr wrote in a Nov. 4 letter announcing the “unfortunate news.”

In his letter, Starr offered no reason for Hall’s dismissal. Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media communications at Baylor, said the university does not comment on personnel matters.

“I was notified Friday afternoon [Oct. 31] that my services no longer would be needed,” Hall said, adding he received official written notice Monday, Nov. 3, and he was terminated without cause. “It’s been a wonderful couple of years at Baylor, and I am grateful for the experience. The judge [Starr] obviously felt he needed to go in another direction.”

Hall served on the 10-member presidential search advisory committee that helped bring Starr to the university. Starr also noted Hall’s time as a BGCT-elected member of Baylor’s board of regents “where he served with great distinction” before accepting the senior vice president’s position.

“He has been a wise counselor to all his executive council colleagues, especially in regard to Texas Baptist life,” Starr wrote. “He effectively reorganized and refocused our university development office, and his energy and creativity have helped Baylor reach historic milestones in private giving. In short, Ken Hall has made a positive and enduring impact on Baylor University. For his many talents and his able service to Baylor University, we are immensely grateful.”

Hall expressed appreciation to his colleagues on Baylor’s executive council and the university’s development staff.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Hall said. “Baylor is a great, great place doing kingdom business.”

Hall served as president and CEO of Buckner International from 1994 to 2010 and as CEO there from 2010 until his retirement in April 2012.

He was elected to a one-year term as BGCT president in 2003.

A Louisiana native, Hall earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Texas at Tyler and master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also is an honorary alumnus of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University.

Hall and his wife, Linda, have two grown children, Kevin and Kayce.




Faith community challenged to put a face on poverty, hunger

By Ken Camp and Jeff Brumley

A politician’s challenge that the faith community put a human face on poverty can happen only if Christians build relationships with the poor and hungry, according to a Baptist minister who lives and works with impoverished populations.

U.S. Rep. Joacuin Castro, D-San Antonio, told the Together at the Table Hunger and Poverty Summit at Baylor University that the religious community can help debunk myths about poverty and personalize the plight of people in need.

“We have to demythologize hunger and poverty. … There are many folks, unfortunately today, who are detached from the facts about poverty in our country,” said Castro, pointing to unfair stereotypes about lazy people who abuse public assistance.

Joaquin Castro

“At some point in our nation, we went from giving people the benefit of the doubt to assuming the worst,” he said. Castro noted the challenges faced by the working poor, including some who labor at multiple jobs but cannot earn a living wage.

Castro said he feels grateful for and impressed by faith community efforts “to humanize poverty, to give a human face to poverty, and to remind us of the traditions in the Bible where aid to the poor is fundamental in Christianity.”

Building relationships vital

But doing that isn’t as simple as it may sound, said Joshua Hearne, executive director of Third Chance Ministries and abbot at Grace and Main Fellowship, a new monastic community in Danville, Va.

To be able humanize the homeless or hungry, Hearne said, it’s necessary to do more than donate clothing or food to ministries that serve those populations, Hearne, who was not at the summit, told ABPnews/Herald. Even simply serving in food lines is often not enough.

What’s necessary is to forsake comfort zones for the risky business of building relationships — and even friendships — with those in need, Hearne said.

Engaging in “poverty tourism” — where individuals or groups parachute into ministries for brief periods of service — do nothing to build relationships between those doing the giving and those in need.

JoshuaHearneWORSHIP

“The most important thing is to have actual reciprocal relationships with people whose lives are different from our own.”

It will be hard for large numbers of Christians to demythologize anyone without doing so, he said. But eating with, instead of simply serving, the poor makes it much easier to do what Castro’s suggesting.

“It’s easy to dismiss ‘the homeless,’ but it’s very difficult to dismiss someone we have dinner with every week,” Hearne said.

‘Demythologize poverty’

“What the faith community can do first and foremost is demythologize poverty and help people understand there is, of course, a preeminent place for compassion in American society as we approach these challenges.

“Religion can help ease the tensions that sometimes divide us. … The faith community is a thread that can bring people together. … When it works best, faith brings people together in the strongest way possible, perhaps in a way nothing else can,” he said, citing the example of evangelical Christians in calling for immigration reform.

Ken Starr

Castro participated in a question-and-answer session with Baylor President Ken Starr in the concluding session of the Hunger and Poverty Summit, sponsored by the Texas Hunger Initiative in conjunction with Feeding Texas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Office.

Castro told his family story, which Starr called “an embodiment of the American dream.”

A family meets the American dream

Castro described how his orphaned grandmother moved from Mexico to Texas at age 6 with her 4-year-old sister to live with her closest surviving relatives.

She never made it beyond the fourth grade and worked as a maid, babysitter and cook to provide for her only child, Rosie, Castro’s mother.

Castro’s mother was the first member of her family to attend college, and she became a political activist.

Castro and his brother, Julian — former San Antonio mayor and now U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — both graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School.

“My story is like the story of so many Americans,” Castro said, characterizing his family narrative as “common to so many of our families.”

However, both moral responsibility and enlightened self-interest should inspire the United States to do more to enhance opportunities for socio-economic advancement, he insisted.

“I believe that just as there is an infrastructure of transportation … the beauty of America is that we can all come together to build out an infrastructure of opportunity that allows each of us to get where we want to go in life,” Castro said.

The “infrastructure of opportunity” not only means providing better access to quality education and health care, but also creating a climate for economic growth, he noted. In terms of public policy, he pointed to the need to increase the minimum wage and expand Medicaid in Texas.

Assign blame accurately

“We didn’t get into $18 trillion [national] debt because we helped poor people too much,” he said. “We got into this problem because there was a select group of very wealthy people, mostly on Wall Street, who quite frankly helped wreck the economy.”

 “We’ve got to remember that when we start to assign blame on those who are on the lower socio-economic rungs. … We need to be honest and accurate about how we got here.”

At the same time, Castro called for case management strategies to move individuals and families who receive public assistance from dependency to self-reliance.

“We need, essentially, an exit strategy. Say: ‘We’re going to help you out when you need it. What is the exit strategy to help you get you back on your feet?’” he said.

Coming together

Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, a project in the Baylor School of Social Work, launched in partnership with Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission, echoed the same theme.

“Coming together offers the only answer to the question of hunger and the only solution to the problem of poverty,” Everett said.




Complex problem of hunger demands collaborative response, say advocates

By Ken Camp

Hunger in America represents a complex problem that defies easy solutions and demands collaborative responses, Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America, told a gathering of anti-hunger advocates at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Feeding America represents 200 food banks and 61,000 food pantries and meals programs across the country that provide more than 3.2 billion meals to more than 37 million people.

“But what’s needed is 8.5 billion meals to feed 49 million people,” 16 million of whom are children, Aiken told the Together at the Table Hunger and Poverty Summit at Baylor.

MiddletonThe Texas Hunger Initiative — headquartered in Baylor University’s School of Social Work and launched by Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission — sponsored the summit in conjunction with Feeding Texas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Office.

“None of us can solve hunger alone,” Aiken said.

Clients served by the food and meal programs associated with Feeding America report making tough choices due to inadequate resources, he noted: 69 percent choose between buying food or paying utility bills; 67 percent choose between food or transportation costs; 66 percent choose between food and medicine; and 57 percent choose between food or payments for housing.

“Hunger doesn’t exist in isolation,” Aiken said. A complex web of circumstances creates the climate that produces hunger — loss of a job, loss of a spouse, serious illness or insufficient hours of employment, among other factors, he noted.

But too many Americans — conservatives and liberals alike — offer simplistic explanations for poverty that results in hunger, economist Linda English told summit participants.

Some people try to explain poverty by citing individuals causes — defects they see as inherent in poor people in terms of their ability, aspiration, work ethic or willingness to delay gratification, said English, clinical assistant professor in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Others point to structural causes as explanations for poverty, she noted. Conservatives blame a welfare system that they assert creates disincentives for work and dependency on public assistance. Liberals blame barriers in economic, political and social systems that restrict opportunities for advancement.

“Which explanation is correct? None of them in isolation,” she said. “Poverty is not a uni-dimensional problem. The poor are a heterogeneous population.”

English pointed to interlocking factors involving the individual and society as a better explanation, and she noted how scarcity affects economic behavior.

“Having less than you feel you need affects decision-making and behavior,” she noted. And the less a person has, the greater the sense of urgency and the less consideration of long-term impact.

For example, a middle-class family and a family in poverty each might miss a utility payment and have to pay a penalty. While it might represent a minor inconvenience for the middle-income family, it could prompt a poor family to seek out a payday loan without regard to the long-term consequences, she noted.

Focus on the local

Communities can make a significant impact on reducing hunger and poverty when they understand the problem at a local level, Rebecca Middleton, chief operating officer of the Alliance to End Hunger, told a breakout session about creating hunger-free communities.

“The things that are driving food insecurity in Arlington, Va., are not necessarily the same things driving food insecurity in Arlington, Texas,” she said.

For all its complexity, in one sense, the problems of poverty, hunger and food insecurity can be reduced to a simple truth: American children are hungry, and Americans must remedy that problem, said Audrey Rowe, administrator for Food and Nutrition Service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2013, one in five American households with children was food-insecure, and 360,000 households faced food insecurity so severe parents reported children were hungry, skipped a meal or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.

“This is the United States of America. How do we let that happen to our children through no fault of their own?” Rowe asked.

“We need to make a commitment to our children, realizing they are the most precious commodity we have. We need to make a commitment that we are not going to stand by and let children and families go hungry. … We all have a role and a responsibility. We need to take it seriously.

“We can all make this happen. It is our moral responsibility. It our God-given purpose.”




Baylor professor disputes reports of religious, church decline

By Terry Goodrich

Reports of religion’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, says Byron Johnson, co-director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Close examination of data from the General Social Survey and other data sources show that across 40 years, church attendance has varied only slightly, Johnson wrote in the Heritage Foundation’s recently published 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity: The Social and Economic Trends that Shape America.

Headlines are “misleading, inaccurate and biased,” Johnson wrote, referring to reports that Millennials are leaving the faith of their parents; that young people under 30 are deserting the church; that women are rapidly falling away from religion; and that the “nones” — those without religious affiliations — have doubled in recent decades.

Johnson challenges media accounts that suggest a consistent — if not dramatic — decline of faith in the nation’s culture. He said that analyses of data from the General Social Survey and data from the Baylor Religion Survey support trends opposed to those being commonly reported.

The General Social Survey is a sociological survey used to collect data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States. It is conducted with in-person interviews by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago of adults (18 and older) in randomly selected households.

The Baylor Religion Survey is a random sample of 1,714 individuals across the country. Designed by Baylor scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization, it includes more than 300 items dealing with religion and the attitudes, beliefs and values of the American public.

For example, they found that Millennials, like the vast majority of Americans, consider themselves religious. Because options abound, however, many people switch churches for varied reasons, often to a different denomination from the one in which they were raised.

“This change does not mean that they have departed the faith,” Johnson said, noting that many change to more theologically conservative churches than those of their childhood. “Switching churches is a fascinating subject, and if anything, it’s a marker of religious vitality, not decline.”

byron johnson130

While surveys “perennially find that younger people are less likely to attend church, reflecting the fact that many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings once they are out on their own,” church attendance rates recover once they marry and have children.

However, recent research confirms if people do not marry, and if they do not have children, there is a real decline in church attendance — a finding that is particularly striking among the poor and less educated. On the other hand, many who do not attend church regularly, especially the elderly, consistently report high levels of religious commitment and belief.

In 2007, 38 percent of women, compared with 26 percent of men, described themselves as “very religious,” according to the Baylor Religion Survey. Such a gender gap has been consistent since 1991, according to GSS data.

The number of atheists in America has remained steady at 4 percent since 1944, and church membership has reached an all-time high. Inaccurate perceptions may exist in part because traditional surveys do not ask respondents enough questions to accurately sort out religious affiliations.

Johnson noted that some of the “nones” indicated not only that they regularly attend church but even provided the name and address of their church. “The knee-jerk reaction that all ‘nones’ are unaffiliated — or atheist — is false,” Johnson said.

Related story:

White evangelicals feel heat of religious decline, surveys show




Study: Youth experiment less with alcohol, drugs when plugged into church

By Jeff Brumley and Terry Goodrich

Young people are less likely to try alcohol and drugs if they attend religious services regularly and self-identify as religious, a new Baylor University study has found.

The study suggests that youth who feel connected to a “higher power” may experience more purpose in life, and therefore be more inclined to avoid chemical substances when faced with hardships in life.

But that’s only going to be true in churches and families where God is presented as loving and forgiving and not as a judgmental rule giver, according to some adult Christians who are now in recovery.

In interviews with ABPnews/Herald, they warned against seeing church and youth group attendance alone as antidotes to the lure of drugs and alcohol. Those recovering from substance abuse say they became addicts and alcoholics despite consistent worship attendance and strong identities as Christians.

Even the Baylor study acknowledges its findings don’t hold true for all youth — a lesson North Carolinian Ben Hawkins learned all too well.

Hawkins, a member of two churches including First Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C., said he felt continuously depressed and disconnected from God growing up, despite regular attendance at Mass and other events at the Catholic parish in which he was raised.

It didn’t take him long to find substitutes.

“All my stuff started when I was 12 — that was the first time I got drunk and that’s when I had my first joint,” Hawkins said.

BenHawkinsHis alcohol habit grew to include the use of cocaine, prescription medications and other drugs. It all resulted in being jailed 10 times for DUI, five of which resulted in convictions.

But plugging into a 12-step recovery program and into church has turned Hawkins’ life around, he said.

Hawkins said he isn’t sure that anything would have prevented his descent into addiction because “I am wired this way.” But it might have helped if the religious environment he was raised in had presented faith to him in a more meaningful way.

“Keep learning about God interesting,” he advised churches and parents. “Keep the kids engaged — that gives them a head start.”

‘Daily spiritual experiences’

The study of 195 juvenile offenders was done by researchers at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. It appears in the journal Alcohol Treatment Quarterly.

Juvenile offenders in the study were referred by a court, mental health professional or physician to a two-month residential treatment program and were assessed by researchers at intake and discharge through interviews, medical chart reviews, drug screening and reports by youths, parents and clinicians.

Study findings, which support a growing body of research, suggest that young people who connect to a “higher power” may feel a greater sense of purpose and are less likely to be bothered by feelings of not fitting in, said researcher Byron Johnson, co-director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Researchers used four measures: alcohol or drug use; craving for alcohol or drugs; prosocial behaviors (service to others); and self-centered or narcissistic behavior.

Forty percent of youths who entered treatments as agnostic or atheist identified themselves as spiritual or religious at discharge, which correlated with a decreased likelihood of testing positive for alcohol and drugs.

“Daily spiritual experiences” such as prayer or worship also were associated with “a greater likelihood of sexual abstinence, increased prosocial behaviors and reduced narcissistic behaviors,” researchers wrote.

Johnson noted that fewer adolescents today are connected to a religious organization than were youths of previous generations. Twenty-five percent of the millennial generation — people born between 1980 and 2000 — were not attached to any particular faith, Johnson said, citing a 2010 Pew Research report.

Among possible reasons that adolescents may opt not to experiment with drugs are religious instruction, support from congregations, or a conviction that using alcohol and drugs violates their religious beliefs, Johnson said.

“Changes in spirituality during treatment may serve as the ‘switch’ that moves youth off the track of substance dependency and onto the track of recovery and enhanced well-being,” the article concluded.

‘Only a matter of time’

One who made that switch was Cody Royer, a state representative for Celebrate Recovery in Missouri.

Being present at church will help neither youths nor adults if their faith isn’t built on solid spiritual ground, Royer said.

“Even in recovery, just saying ‘I believe in Christ and I come to church’ doesn’t necessarily eliminate addiction for some people,” he said.

codyRoyerRecovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and CR, which is a Christian-based program founded at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, can work hand-in-hand to help Christians acquire or re-acquire a faith that can help in recovery, he said.

Churches can help, too, as long as their teachings about addiction, drugs and alcohol are not judgmental.

Even someone who believes substance abuse is wrong will be powerless to resist on that basis alone. “It’s only a matter of time before that’s not going to work,” said Royer.




Study: Seminaries do little to train pastor to help mentally ill congregants

By Terry Goodrich

People struggling with mental illness often turn to pastors for help, but seminaries do very little to train ministers in how to recognize serious psychological distress and when to refer someone to a doctor or psychologist, according to a Baylor University study.

As a result, “many people in congregations continue to suffer under well-meaning pastors who primarily tell them to pray harder or confess sin in relation to mental health problems,” researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of Research on Christian Education.

Nearly half of all Americans will meet diagnosis criteria for at least one mental disorder in their lifetime, and in a given 12-month period, more than 25 percent of Americans meet that criteria, said lead researcher Matthew S. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

Baylor ProfThe article — “Training and Education of North American Master’s of Divinity Students in Relation to Serious Mental Illness” — is based on a survey of 70 seminaries in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, with 14 church traditions represented.

Earlier research by Stanford showed that many families affected by mental illnesses leave the church, and that many church communities seemed to ignore their need.

An overwhelming majority of Americans — 95 percent — claim to believe in God and 42 percent report attending church in the past week, according to previous research. “Perhaps for these reasons, clergy are pursued more often in times of emotional distress than other professions, and perhaps more commonly than psychologists and psychiatrists combined,” the current study notes.

Complicating the issue is that some antagonism exists between clergy members and psychologists. That is largely because clergy do not fully understand all the services psychologists provide, and psychologists tend to be less religious than the general population, according to previous research by Stanford.

While pastors should not be expected to make psychiatric diagnoses, they do have a “gatekeeper” responsibility to provide interventions for which they are qualified or to refer an individual to an appropriate professional, Stanford said.

Because pastors are often concerned about the role that sin may play in psychological distress — and how that will be handled in therapy — they are more likely to refer congregants to psychologists who share their religious values.

Counseling courses

Most of the counseling classes offered by seminaries focused on premarital counseling, couples counseling, family counseling or grief counseling. The survey showed that 59 (88 percent) of the seminaries offered courses in which the topic of mental health was addressed in some way, although it may not have been a counseling course. And of the 30 seminaries who did offer counseling courses, only 21 offered a course or courses specifically dedicated to mental illness, according to the study.

Students often were not able to find time in their program requirements to take counseling courses as electives, said directors of master of divinity programs. And even if they did, “there was a distinct lack of counseling elective options for the M.Div. student who wants to become a pastor,” the study found.

While seminaries offered many types of internships, none were in organizations in which students would regularly interact with mentally ill people, researchers said.

Seminaries were asked to provide their official stance on the subject of mental illness, but they overwhelmingly responded that no such official stance exists.

Because there is no cohesive theological position on mental illness, Christian congregants throughout the nation do not receive a similar standard of referrals, respect and support from their pastors and other congregation members, the study concluded.

“In order for the church to move past the belief that all mental illness is the result of spiritual warfare or a personal failing, the church must come together to discuss the views of mental illness and establish a systematic stance on the topic, taking into consideration both the biological and spiritual aspects of sin.”

Study co-researcher was Halle E. Ross, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Baylor.




Sociologist: Concept of God impacts power of prayer, anxiety-related disorders

By Terry Goodrich

Prayer seems to be more effective at combating psychological challenges for some than for others, a Baylor University sociologist has found.

The type of attachment a praying individual feels toward God seems to matter most in easing symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, researcher Matt Bradshaw discovered.

According to his study, people who prayed to a loving and supportive God whom they thought would be there to comfort and protect them in times of need were less likely to show symptoms of anxiety-related disorders — irrational worry, fear, self-consciousness, dread in social situations and obsessive-compulsive behavior — than those who prayed but did not expect God to comfort or protect them.

An article about the research —“Prayer, Attachment to God and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults” — appears in the journal Sociology of Religion and was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Co-researchers were Christopher Ellison from the University of Texas at San Antonio; Kevin J. Flannelly, senior researcher at the Center for Psychosocial Research in Massapequa, N.Y.; and Kathleen C. Galek, research associate with the HealthCare Chaplaincy in New York City.

While previous research has shown people who have a secure attachment to God are more satisfied with life and less depressed and lonely, little attention has been paid to psychiatric symptoms, said Bradshaw, an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor.

Prayer works … if you believe God is there

“For many individuals, God is a major source of comfort and strength that makes the world seem less threatening and dangerous. Through prayer, individuals seek to develop an intimate relationship with God,” Bradshaw said.

“In this context, prayer appears to confer emotional comfort, which results in fewer symptoms of anxiety-related disorders,” he said.

matt bradshaw BaylorHowever, those with avoidant or insecure attachments to God tend more to doubt the reliability or willingness of God to help them.

“For these individuals, prayer may feel like an unsuccessful attempt to cultivate and maintain an intimate relationship with God,” Bradshaw said. “Rejected, unanswered or otherwise unsuccessful experiences of prayer may be disturbing and debilitating — and may, therefore, lead to more frequent and severe symptoms of anxiety-related disorders.”

Researchers analyzed data from 1,714 individuals who participated in the most recent wave of the Baylor Religion Survey, completed in November 2010 by the Gallup Organization and analyzed by sociology researchers at Baylor. The study focused on general anxiety, social anxiety, obsession and compulsion.

View of God helps shape mental health

Teachings of Christianity and some other faiths use the parent-child imagery to depict the relationship between God and an individual, with one researcher describing God as “the ultimate attachment figure.” The Baylor study findings are consistent with a growing body of research indicating a person’s perceived relationship with God can play an important role in shaping mental health.

In theory, people who pray regularly may be inclined to live out their religion more faithfully, which may lead to less stress, such as marriage and family conflicts, researchers wrote. People who pray often may have more of a sense of purpose in life or have more supportive personal relations. And many people use prayer as a coping strategy.

When it comes to personal prayer outside religious organizations, however, findings by previous researchers have been inconsistent — and puzzling. Some studies indicate frequent praying has positive effects on mental health. Others report no effect — or even that people who pray more often have poorer mental health than those who pray less frequently.

“At the present, we don’t know exactly why the findings have been so inconsistent,” Bradshaw said. “Prayer is complex.”

Possible explanations

He offers possible explanations for varying findings:

• Individual expectations. Some scholars suggest that “if you expect prayer to matter, it just might,” Bradshaw said. In several studies of older adults, people who believe only God knows when and how to respond to prayer fare well when it comes to mental health; those who think their prayers are not being answered do not.

• Style of prayer. In general, meditative and colloquial prayers have been linked with desirable outcomes, including emotional well-being, while ritualistic prayer actually has been associated with poor mental health outcomes. Meditative prayer is concerned with closeness and intimacy during reflection and communication with a loving, supportive God; colloquial prayer takes that a step further by also asking for help, such as guidance in decision-making, blessings for the world or less widespread suffering.

“These requests tend to be broad, however, and are aimed at making the world a better place instead of personal enrichment,” Bradshaw said.

• Perceived characteristics of God — such as loving, remote or judgmental — affect the relationship between prayer and mental health. “Our previous work has found that prayer is associated with desirable mental health outcomes among individuals who believe that they are praying to a God who is close as opposed to remote, and the results from the current study are largely consistent with this finding,” Bradshaw said.

• Differences in study design and sampling. “These are all important considerations, but a comprehensive understanding of the connection between prayer and mental health remains elusive,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do in this area.”




Baylor Alumni Association files counterclaim in dispute with university

By Ken Camp

After failing to reach a settlement with Baylor University, which has filed a lawsuit against it, the Baylor Alumni Association has filed a counterclaim asserting the school breached its license and recognition agreements and its promise to provide the alumni organization a building.

The claim seeks a judgment compelling Baylor to perform its obligations under the agreements and preventing the university from operating its Baylor Alumni Network.

In June, the university filed suit against the BAA, seeking a judgment to prevent it from representing itself as the school’s official alumni association and compelling the organization to fulfill its charitable purpose by limiting itself to providing financial aid to Baylor students.

Baylor“The Baylor Alumni Association and Baylor University spent the better part of the past month trying to resolve our legal dispute,” BAA President Keith Starr said.

Baylor regents, acting through their attorneys, gave the alumni association until Sept. 6 to approve their latest settlement offer, said Starr, no relation to Baylor President Ken Starr. The association insisted it needed more time to adopt revised bylaws, a process that requires approval by the organization’s board of directors and two-thirds approval by its members after posting a meeting notice published in the Baylor Line magazine.

“At the end of the day, our efforts at peace failed, and the timetable insisted on by the regents was unworkable,” Keith Starr said.

So, the association moved forward with its legal defense and filed its counterclaims Aug. 6 in McLennan County’s 74th State District Court.

Baylor University spokesperson Lori Fogleman expressed the school’s disappointment in that action.

“Over the course of the last two years, Baylor’s administration and board of regents have proactively engaged the alumni association in negotiations. Our most recent discussions were with yet another group of leaders appointed by the association for this purpose. Regrettably, our attempts at resolution have been unsuccessful,” Fogleman said.

“Sadly, the association appears to be unable to chart for itself or to otherwise approve a productive course forward in support of Baylor University and its students. The association’s actions today are disappointing to us all.”

Previous stories:

Baylor’s alumni association plans defense in lawsuit filed by university

Baylor University files lawsuit against alumni association

Baylor Alumni Association considers options for future

Despite ‘cease and desist’ order, Baylor Alumni Association publishes account of dispute




Baylor student, graduate die in car wreck

By Ken Camp

A Baylor University student and a recent graduate were killed in a one-car accident about 30 miles southeast of Waco. Another Baylor student and an incoming freshman also sustained serious injuries in the wreck.

The four musicians were en route to perform at an International Clarinet Association meeting at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Jack Stewart, a 19-year-old junior instrumental studies major from Dallas, and Laura Onwudinanti, 21, of Grand Prairie, who earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Baylor in May, were killed in the crash.

Jake Hale, a 21-year-old instrumental music major from Fort Worth, and Megan Ritzi, an 18-year-old incoming freshman from Fort Worth, were taken to Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple. Hale was listed in fair condition, and Ritzi was critical.

“The hearts of the Baylor University family and our School of Music are broken today as we mourn the passing of these remarkably talented students who have been taken too soon from us,” Baylor President Ken Starr said.

“We pray that God’s grace and comfort will surround the families and friends of Jack Stewart and Laura Onwudinanti at this terribly sad hour. We continue to labor in prayer for Jake Hale and Megan Ritzi, and for their attending physicians, as they are treated for their injuries. We ask the Baylor family to keep all loved ones and friends, and our School of Music faculty, staff and students, in their thoughts and prayers.”

The Dallas Morning News quoted a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper as saying the group was traveling on State Highway 7 east of Marlin about 9:30 p.m. July 28 when their pickup truck drifted off the road. The driver, Hale, overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, which hit a tree on the passengers’ side. All of the students were wearing seat belts.