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Baptists Give $6.6 Million to Programs

January 31, 1998|JOHN DART

Paced by a large Orange County church, Southern Baptists in California last year gave an all-time high of $6.61 million to their mission programs in the state, nation and overseas.

The 1997 total was more than 5% higher than donations for the previous year, according to a spokesman at the Fresno headquarters of the largest Protestant denomination in California.

Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, whose membership is about 9,000, was the top-giving Southern Baptist congregation in the state with $393,185. The church has dramatically increased its donations to the so-called Cooperative Program after giving nearly $238,000 in 1996 and $136,000 the year before.

"We started about 15 Spanish-speaking churches in the Los Angeles Basin about three years ago, and we've been putting money into supporting them," Senior Pastor Rick Warren said. "As they've become more self-supporting, we've turned around and put more money into the denomination's programs."

Another sharp rise in contributions came from Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, a congregation formed from the merger three years ago of a Southern Baptist church and an independent Christian congregation. Shepherd of the Hills was not listed among the top 50 contributing churches statewide in either 1995 or 1996. But the church ranked 10th for 1997 with donations of more than $62,000.

Southern Baptists in California have more than 450,000 members in 1,680 congregations. More than 170 churches were started in the state last year--which, combined with increased giving, made 1997 "a banner year," said Fermin A. Whittaker, executive director at the state headquarters.

Other top contributors to the Cooperative Program--71% of which stays in the state and 29% goes to missions, seminaries and other Southern Baptist institutions--were Immanuel Baptist Church in the San Bernardino suburb of Highland ($280,317); First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles' Chinatown ($144,030) and Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, which sits across the street from the denomination's California Baptist College ($125,850).



Faith and coping after a sudden crisis hits was explored by Southern California writers of two books to be published next month. They are:

* "Baptism by Fire" (Bantam), by Heather Choate Davis of Mar Vista, who said she found faith as her baby daughter clung to life over six weeks.

* "When Life Hurts, a Book of Hope" (HarperSanFrancisco), by Rabbi Wayne Dosick, an adjunct professor of Jewish Studies at the University of San Diego. He writes about how he and his wife recovered from losses in the devastating 1966 Harmony Grove fire in San Diego.



The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and social activist who has been publicly supportive of the Clinton family during recent charges of sexual impropriety against the president, will speak Sunday at an Episcopal parish and a synagogue. Jackson is expected to talk about affirmative action, worker and immigrant rights, and other issues while preaching at the 11:15 a.m. service at All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena, and at a 4 p.m. community forum at Kol Tikvah Synagogue, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.

* Noted Zen Buddhist scholar Masao Abe, professor emeritus at Nara University of Education in Japan and a frequent visiting professor at U.S. universities, will give three free lectures in coming weeks at Cal State Northridge. Abe's first talk, at noon next Saturday, will compare affinities and distinctions between Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha. Reservations are required for that talk and those on Feb. 14 and March 7. (818) 677-CSUN.

* Msgr. Royale Vadakin and Rabbi Alfred Wolf will be honored tonight for their pioneering organizing efforts for Los Angeles harmony at a dinner at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles. Tunisian scholar Abdelfattah Amor, who is on a U.S. study tour of inter-religious relations, will be the speaker. (213) 383-3443.

* The use of electronic media by churches will be discussed Thursday at Fuller Theological Seminary's Travis Auditorium in a daylong conference led by the Rev. Michael Slaughter, a United Methodist pastor in suburban Dayton, Ohio, whose small congregation grew to 3,500. (800) 804-0777, Ext. 26.

* The women characters in Dante's "The Divine Comedy" will be examined in a course taught by Anita Caspary over five Tuesday nights, starting next week, at the Immaculate Heart College Center, 425 Shatto Place, Suite 401, Los Angeles. (213) 386-3116.

* "Take This Bread--a Mass in Our Time," a contemporary musical work written by Galt MacDermot, the composer of the classic rock musical "Hair," will be performed Sunday at two churches in Orange County. An 80-voice chorus from both churches will perform the work at 4 p.m. at Garden Grove United Methodist Church, 12741 Main St., and at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Costa Mesa, 420 W. 19th St. Donation $4. (714) 548-7727.



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