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Thursday, September 03, 2009

UPDATE FOR AUGUST

Urgent prayer for Fowlers' daughters. Roberta is suffering severe pain in her lower back and has been diagnosed with a totally degenerated disk. Lisa has been terminated at her profession, and is searching for another job. Carrie was involved in a car wreck, and although basically unhurt, the other party's insurance company does not want to pay for the damages. As parents, this gives us pain too. We would appreciate your prayerful concern for these women. A note of thanksgiving: Linda was awarded a prize and certificate for excellence in her care for the people where she works.
God is our only Supporter. As the present economic crunch leaves families without job support, missionary support too feels the pinch. In fact, one of our supporting churches announced that they are reducing our support to a lower level; another disbanded recently.
Perhaps some do not realize that, although our support is given in dollars, we exchange these for Eurodollars (our local currency) at the rate of $1,42 per Euro; so the US dollar is worth 70 cents. This exchange rate makes our mission support drop in value by this amount. We have felt this particularly over the last three years.
At the same time, God is our only Supporter, and He has used His people to provide our mission support. In 45 years, we have seen supporters come and go, but God came and he never left. At the same time, He said: "Mine are the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10). So, would you mind asking Him to sell off some of His cows to provide for His people?
"Faith Only," Baptism and Evangelicals. Davide Maglie, one of our young leaders, recommended that Harold check out a scholarly paper in which the author critiques Martin Luther's doctrine of Baptism, suggesting that the great Reformer compromised the famous Reformation motto: Sola Fide, according to which God saves man by his simply believing, without performing any human act, including baptism. Luther's high view of baptism, however, is generally biblically based, and his critics have misinterpreted the "faith only" concept, as do some of the Evangelicals we encounter in our work here in Italy. Therefore, Harold spent August updating his own Italian study on this question, to give it more precise focus to deal with the issue. This study is not just for that young leader?
Years ago, we heard about and met some American preachers in Christian churches who were watering down their formerly sound view of baptism. At the same time, some Evangelical Christians (Baptists, as I recall) chided other Christian church preachers, because, ironically, the Evangelicals were now convinced that the Bible gives baptism a significant place in the salvation process. They had just discovered what churches of Christ and Christian churches have preached for 200 years, and they were abandoning their "faith only" position! Astonished, they said, "It is ironic that you are embracing the very position we have now know is unbiblical, and you are abandoning the view that we have now seen to be perfectly Scriptural!" So, we need to hold the line here in Italy too.
What does this have to do with mission work? It raises the question as to whether we should "partner in evangelism" with churches clearly convinced of the neo-Calvinistic "faith only" doctrinal system. The message proclaimed in evangelistic campaigns and personal evangelism represents a rejection of a high view of baptism. But this is the Scriptural message Jesus told us to proclaim and the "faith only" message deprive the Gospel of one of the elements the Lord considered essential. We need to speak up and object, while continuing to proclaim the whole Gospel of grace, faith and obedience. And so we do.
We're gratified. At the Florence branch of Harding University's recent convention, several brethren took a stand and publicly praised our approach to unity through calm, quiet brotherly conversations that concretely express and encourage unity among our churches. Some are convinced that this approach accomplishes more than noisy disputes over plainly secondary issues. Thank the Lord; they too are seeing some of unity's happy fruit in this direction.
Love from both of us,
Harold and Enid Fowler